Mental Model for Managing PMs
Product managers (PMs) function as entrepreneurs and thrive under pressure, ownership, and responsibility. They have traits aligned with being achievers and mission-driven, which often prompt them to become successful founders or start their own companies.
The Investor <> Entrepreneur Model for managing PMs is an effective mental model to guide the working relationship between PMs and managers. It means that PMs are entrepreneurs, and managers are investors. This model reinforces transparency during the hiring process to identify candidates who are genuinely excited and committed to leading a product area.
Autonomy and ownership are crucial for PMs. Managers must let PMs struggle and solve their own problems while supporting their blind spots. By focusing on the end result rather than how hard they work or how they do the job, managers can help PMs grow and accelerate their career.
PMs should have more to gain in success than managers and more to lose in failure. If PMs do not perform well despite adequate support and coaching, managers should let them go as they can be detrimental to the team’s morale and overall success.
Developing PMs’ careers can be challenging with the investor<>entrepreneur model. However, PMs develop the best when shipping whole customer experiences. Managers can optimize PMs’ work by tailoring the scope of their abilities and skills to solve for the whole customer experience.
The Investor <> Entrepreneur Model for Managing PMs
Investors empower entrepreneurs to build something exceptional in areas of opportunity they are excited about. Similarly, managers must identify and hire PMs with a shared vision and commitment to a product area. After hiring, managers must let PMs take ownership of their role and run with it, with minimal interference.
A good PM is an entrepreneur at heart and thrives under pressure, responsibility, and ownership. Therefore, managers should provide the adequate support and coaching to help PMs develop their skills and accelerate their career growth.
However, PMs should have more to gain in success than managers, and therefore, managers must empower and accelerate their success. On the other hand, PMs should have more to lose in failure, and managers should let them go if they perform poorly.
Developing PMs’ Careers
Unlike other professions, PM careers do not develop through skills building. Instead, they gain experience by solving whole customer experiences, such as building the right product, marketing and selling it, building a sustainable business model around it, ensuring it’s on strategy, and creating operational excellence around it, like customer support.
Therefore, managers must optimize PMs’ work by tailoring the scope of their abilities and skills to solve for the whole customer experience. They must avoid giving them scope that doubles down on what they’re already good at. Instead, they must provide PMs with opportunities to solve new customer experiences, build new skills, and accelerate their career growth.
Support and Coaching of PMs
PMs must have autonomy and ownership in their role, allowing them to solve problems and take responsibility for their decisions. Managers can support them by tailoring the scope of their responsibilities and providing coaching and feedback rather than making decisions for them. They must hold PMs accountable for the end result of their work while ensuring that they support their blind spots.
Managing PMs can be complex and challenging. Adopting the Investor <> Entrepreneur model can empower PMs to take ownership of their role, solve whole customer experiences, and accelerate their career growth. Managers must provide support and coaching to avoid disempowering PMs, which may set them up for failure. By optimizing PMs’ work, managers can help them gain new skills, solve new challenges and accelerate their career growth.