Make these 5 promises to your manager and become a great PM

I recently wrote a Twitter thread on 21 unsaid promises great product managers make to their bosses. (Link at the end)

In this edition, I talk about 5 of them and share why it is essential to make these promises.

1. Candour and transparency
2. Goal oriented
3. Openness to disagree
4. Professional growth
5. Owner mindset

Candour and transparency

Promise: When you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll be honest and transparent. If I’m overwhelmed, I’ll ask for help. If I’m unsatisfied or stressed, I’ll tell you the reasons.

Why: honesty and respect are essential to make every relationship work and thrive.

An open relationship with your boss promotes respect for each other and enables both parties to share their fears, weaknesses, and opportunities. That, in turn, allows you to ask for guidance or help when required.

Over the last 12 years, I have never shied away from sharing my vulnerabilities, letting my manager know I’m overwhelmed, or letting my manager know I’m doing well. In most situations, my manager has then offered to help. They guided me and taught me the best tricks to overcome the challenges.

I have become a better professional whenever I’ve been open about how I feel.

So, be honest with your manager, even if it means admitting mistakes and shortcomings.

Goal oriented

Promise: I will be goal oriented – I will define goals before I invest time on any projects. I will review / iterate on goals with you.

Why: a product manager’s most limited resource is – time.

If you’re not using your time to work on the highest impact tasks, you’re setting up for failure.

Before you invest time into a project/task, do this:
1. Clearly define the why before defining what you plan to do.
2. Define a clear objective of doing what you want to do.
3. Define methods to measure the impact of your objective and the desired outcome (aka goal)
4. Align with your manager on the why, objectives, and goals.
5. Repeat until both of you are 100% aligned.

This alignment will ensure that you work on the highest impact tasks always and that you measure impact in a way that everyone understands.

Agree to disagree

Promise: I will not always agree with you, but I will have an open mind, and give you a fair chance to convince me. I will expect the same from you.

Why: Many product managers believe that always agreeing with their boss is the best strategy to succeed.

As a product manager and people leader, I can say with 100% confidence that “always agreeing with your manager” is the worst strategy.

Product management as a function has no right or wrong answers, just good or bad outcomes. Two people can do very different things and reach the same result. This problem is true for all product managers and leaders, irrespective of years of experience.

In other words, just because someone is more experienced (or is a manager) does not make their approach or thought process any better than yours. And that makes it critical for you to voice your concerns if/when you have them.

Disagreement is, typically, a signal of:
1. You questioning the status quo or the default way of thinking.
2. You sharing your thought process and approach.
3. You motivating everyone to approach the situation differently.

All of the above will lead to a net positive outcome; hence, you should not fear disagreeing when necessary.

Professional growth

Promise: I am ambitious. I will share my aspirations with you. I will ask for guidance when needed. I will appreciate if you share advice when I’m off track.

Knowing what you want to do, what you’re doing well, and what you could do better is essential to professional growth. The best person to help you identify all of the above is your manager.

Hence, getting your manager’s feedback as often as you need it is critical.

Great people managers know this and ensure they regularly share feedback, define realistic professional goals, and create a plan to get there.

If your manager does not share feedback regularly, you should ask for it explicitly. If your manager does not help you identify what you need to do to get better, you should ask for it explicitly.

Sharing productive feedback and working on it creates a win-win for everyone: you know what it takes to succeed, and your manager gets better results – everyone wins.

Owner mindset

Promise: I will always have an owner mindset, and stay accountable to the tasks I own.

Why: people managers love to have team members with a high sense of ownership and accountability. High ownership gives managers the confidence that the team member will deliver on what they promised. And that empowers managers to spend their time on more strategic aspects without worrying about the execution (aka micromanaging.)

The extra time you create for managers is beneficial because managers use that time to:

1. Create visibility for you and the impact that you’ve created.
2. Re-align priorities when needed.
3. Ensure that her team is always working on the highest impact tasks.

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