how to manage product managers

How to Manage Product Managers

Product managers bridge the gap between customer requirements, business objectives, and the development team’s capabilities. 

However, managing these dynamic individuals can be tricky. While a product manager’s work is crucial, retaining skilled product managers in a competitive job market is a constant worry. Losing top talent can disrupt ongoing projects and negatively impact team morale and productivity. 

As a leader, you must balance overseeing product managers’ work and providing support and guidance to ensure their success. 

Handling this situation requires a nuanced approach to understanding their distinct challenges and motivations. Furthermore, it entails presenting opportunities for personal and professional growth within the organization.

So, how do you up your game and develop your managers while pushing them to grow and deliver company objectives and goals? 

Read on as we explore strategies and best practices to manage and support your product managers effectively. 👇

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Challenges of Managing Product Managers 

You’re moving from being a team leader or product manager to managing product managers. 

Now, instead of focusing on your tasks, you must ensure the well-being of your entire product team. This responsibility comes with its challenges. 

Let’s look at some of them:

Challenge 1: Lack of training

One of the significant challenges is the lack of proper training and development opportunities for those who manage product managers. 

While junior and product managers receive training on product management, once promoted to middle management, you will often find yourself without clear guidance. 

This absence of leadership training programs results in skill gaps, limited understanding of the role, difficulty in managing people, and insufficient strategic thinking.

Challenge 2: Lack of support from higher management

Another significant challenge in managing product managers is the lack of support from higher management. Senior leaders can guide you in setting strategic priorities, securing resources, and overcoming obstacles. 

Leading your teams effectively and delivering results can be challenging without their support. It’s frustrating when you’re striving to be a better leader, but management is solely focused on quarterly earnings. 

Challenge 3: Micromanagement

Finding the right balance between giving your product managers freedom and independence while offering support when needed is challenging. A product manager’s day involves juggling various tasks involving cross-functional teams. 

So, they need their space and freedom to make decisions and lead their teams effectively. However, micromanaging them can hinder their ability to perform, compromise trust, and even demotivate them. 

Challenge 4: Letting go of operations

Learning to let go of operational tasks and focusing more on building and maintaining relationships, setting strategies, and representing the product team to higher management and stakeholders is a significant shift for managers of product managers. 

While it’s tempting to be involved in every aspect of the product development process, you must learn to trust your product managers to handle day-to-day operations. At the same time, you focus on higher-level strategic initiatives.

Challenge 5: Biases

Personal biases can impact judgment and decision-making in various aspects, such as hiring, performance evaluation, and other decision-making processes. 

Awareness of these biases is essential to ensure fair and effective management.

Challenge 6: Identifying underperformance 

Unlike individual contributors, whose output is easily measured, a product manager’s performance is often judged by the product’s success, which takes time to show. 

By the time issues with a product manager’s performance surface, significant damage may have already occurred, such as missed deadlines, unhappy stakeholders, or a decline in product quality.

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How to Manage Product Managers

Here are some strategies for effectively managing your managers.

1. Clear communication and expectations

Maintaining open communication channels with product managers is crucial without undermining their authority or credibility. 

Managers juggle various responsibilities, from understanding instructions to overseeing their team’s performance. 

So mastering various forms of communication, including one-on-one and group settings, is essential for providing feedback, offering support, and aligning goals and expectations. 

For instance, if the goal is to increase conversion rates, explain that the product manager needs to find ways to improve the sales process and train their product management team accordingly.

A great way to implement this strategy would be to collaborate on the main tasks and goals through ClickUp’s Product Management Software. It promotes teamwork by providing a platform to communicate and collaborate with your product team across Docs, Whiteboards, Comments, and more. 

ClickUp’s Product Management Platform
Chart your product’s trajectory, synchronize your team’s efforts, and accelerate your launch using ClickUp’s Product Management Platform

2. Diversity 

Diversity brings various perspectives and experiences to the table. 

When a team of successful product managers from different backgrounds joins, they can offer unique insights that help make better decisions and create products that appeal to more people. 

Research by BCG highlights that diverse management teams can lead to a 19% increase in revenue, emphasizing the importance of diversity in driving success.

A diverse group of managers can be a strategic advantage, leading to higher-quality products, a more diverse product base, and greater overall success. Review some product manager interview questions to understand ‌ the hiring criteria. 

3. Get to know the team and see them in action 

Familiarizing yourself with their product team allows you to understand their dynamics, analyze reports effectively, and gauge their productivity and satisfaction.

Observing their leadership styles and how they handle conflicts, make decisions, and motivate their team provides insight into their managers’ effectiveness. 

To better understand their management style, consider: 

  • Observing product management team meetings and check-ins
  • Watching feedback sessions or tough conversations
  • Conducting site visits or interviews together
  • Reviewing performance evaluations

4. Encourage independence and build trust

Product managers need to feel empowered to make decisions and lead their teams, but they also need your guidance and support. 

However, there’s a fine line between being supportive and micromanaging. Trying to micromanage or exert too much influence can make their jobs difficult.

So, it’s essential to let your managers lead in their way and figure out what works best for their team. They need space to make decisions and help their team grow in agile product management

Building trust with managers gives them the confidence to excel in their roles. Be there to lend support and gently guide them in the right direction if they need assistance. 

5. Be their mentor and coach

Enhance your leadership skills by becoming their mentor and coach. Read product management books, develop your skill set, and be the leader you wish you had when you were in their shoes. 

Regular conversations with your team members allow you to identify areas for improvement and offer guidance through shared experiences and practical advice. 

When you coach, give them practical advice to solve their problems. Appreciate their successes and push them to keep doing well. 

Good coaching means listening well, asking good questions, and helping them grow, not just telling them what to do. 

Utilize ClickUp’s Agile Workflows, such as daily scrum, to streamline communication and your team’s work through each product development phase.  

ClickUp’s Agile Project Management Software
Manage your workflows for Scrum and Kanban with ClickUp’s Agile Project Management Software

6. Lead by example and show respect

When you manage PMs (product managers), your actions set the tone for how they lead their team. Showing respect and appreciation for your direct reports can positively influence how their teams perceive their managers.  

Publicly acknowledging employees’ achievements, seeking their advice, and providing opportunities to showcase their expertise can enhance their confidence and boost morale. 

Conversely, offering criticism privately and providing regular feedback maintains trust and respect. By showing respect publicly and privately, you encourage their product management teams to do the same. 

7. Offer learning opportunities 

Invest in their professional development and provide learning opportunities to ensure your team of leaders remains motivated, engaged, and challenged. 

Virtual coaching, conferences, workshops, and other learning resources can help managers sharpen their skills and stay at the top of their game. 

These programs should emphasize vital product management skills such as communication, decision-making, and strategic thinking.

8. Give and take feedback 

Promoting a culture of giving and receiving feedback benefits everyone, regardless of their position or role, whether they’re senior leaders, executives, or HR professionals. 

Seeking feedback is the basis of the product management framework. It helps you better understand your leadership performance and support your product management team. 

Don’t wait for your yearly performance review to give or take feedback. Instead, regular and timely feedback sessions should be integrated into ‌day-to-day operations, ensuring continuous improvement for everyone. 

In fact, according to a Gallup study, employees who receive feedback from Gallup have 14.9% lower turnover rates, and teams with managers who receive regular feedback show 12.5% higher productivity. 

ClickUp’s Management Report Template is designed to help you keep track of reports and their statuses.

Use tools like the Management Report Template by ClickUp to streamline the feedback process. With this template, you can:

  • Send daily updates, share feedback, and highlight course corrections effectively
  • Understand team performance and identify trends 
  • Progress with different status options like Closed, Action Plan, Complete, etc

9. The big picture evaluation 

When assessing a manager’s performance, evaluate their work through a broader lens. Looking beyond individual key results will help you understand how effectively the product manager leads their team.

You can use goal-setting frameworks like objectives and key results (OKRs) or create Trackable Goals with ClickUp

ClickUp Dashboards enable you to evaluate performance and track the progress of the projects, tasks, and sprints that your managers are leading. It also lets you customize and add widgets for time tracking and keeping all the KPIs and assigned tasks in place. 

ClickUp Personal Productivity Dashboard
See the tasks assigned to you, daily tasks completed, chats, and workload status in your ClickUp Personal Productivity Dashboard

10. Develop a customer-centric approach 

Cultivate a customer-centric mindset among product managers to ensure that products align with the needs and expectations of customers. 

This way, your product managers will understand the company’s business strategies and pass them on to their team members.

You can guide your managers and product team through extensive market research, surveys, interviews, and case studies to understand and address unique customer pain points and deliver exceptional user experiences. 

This business strategy will set your managers up for sustainable and profitable growth. 

ClickUp’s Product Roadmap Template is designed to help you plan, track, and manage product development.

The Product Roadmap Template by ClickUp helps you build customer-centric teams and managers by:

  • Providing a clear picture of the product’s future and software development timeline
  • Breaking down tasks and assigning resources efficiently, ensuring that everyone knows what to do 
  • Allowing to track progress and prioritize so that everyone stays on track
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Manage Your Product Managers Effectively  

Managing product managers requires strategic leadership and a supportive environment. With clear communication and diversity, as well as by providing learning opportunities, you can empower your managers to lead effectively.

Additionally, promoting a culture of feedback and utilizing tools like ClickUp’s Agile Workflows can streamline processes and drive organizational success. It also provides various product management templates to optimize your processes. 

So, try ClickUp today and take your team’s productivity to the next level!

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