If there’s one thing that I completely missed in my early months as product manager, is the notion that a product manager needs to act as a leader. Sure, I’ve heard that a PM has to serve the team, provide clarity, unblock them to build the product and so forth, but I didn’t realize that on a fundamental level, the mindset that enables a PM to do so, is the thinking that a PM needs to be the leader of a team, albeit on a specific scope compared to say a Design or Engineering manager.
As a PM, you takes the full responsibility to the team to deliver the product. From providing roadmap, aligning with different teams/stakeholders, documenting requirements through PRDs, all the way to evaluating the final deliverable so that the team knows what to iterate. The scope of responsibility may vary depending on the level of said PM. Junior PMs maybe responsible for a feature level deliverable, while more senior ones can take a more strategic view aligning closer to the business and stakeholders needs. In the end, the overall quality and value of the product depends on how well can the PM lead and guide the team. However, the overall career progression of the team members, their ability to do the delivery of the product itself, is something that will better be managed by the team’s manager, be it Design or Engineering manager.
An analogy that I can give to explain myself better is this. Imagine a PM is a tour guide, that guides group of families on a specific tour, so they can discover details in a tourist spot that otherwise might’ve been missed. So the tour guide is fully responsible for the quality of the trip experienced by the participants. However, inside the family that participates on that tour, a father takes more responsibility towards his family members that goes beyond the tour itself.
It’s a very nuanced discussion here, as you may think that an engineer performance will directly impact the quality of a product that the team produced, so a PM should also take responsibility on man management. However, I think that those are 2 different problem domains and should be decoupled. Here, the collaboration between a PM and an EM (Engineering Manager) will be paramount. A PM should contribute by providing clarity to the team, what problem to solve, what are things to be considered, what are the outcomes and what goal should be prioritized. These are quality input that EM can use to guide the team to perform and deliver their best work to enable the product to reach desired state. It’s fair to say that a PM leads a product and EM leads the team itself.
That’s why I’m still not a fan of PM tracking JIRA ticket on a daily basis and constantly bugs engineers to complete specific task. That’s not how a product is best managed.
Therefore, if you’re a PM, spend time reading book or article on leadership. It’ll do wonder for your work. You’ll team will appreciate it.