In the Forbes article, Key Predictions For Executive Job Search In 2022, it reminds us that, “Whether executives have chosen to leave or stay, the pandemic has provided senior-level professionals an opportunity to evaluate their long-term career goals and priorities.” This article is good quick read whether you are hiring or seeking a product leadership role internally or externally.
Change is the one thing that’s always coming, it’s the only constant. The best thing you can do for your career is get really good at change. Embrace forward thinking and build the strategic framework today for your next great next.
What is the “Next Great Next” For You?
We spend a lot of time planning our products and “what’s next” for them one month, one quarter, one year down the line; doing our best to set our teams and company up for success in achieving those goals.
What’s next for you as a product leader? As you position yourself for your next great next, consider incorporating further leadership development into it if you haven’t already. At the product executive level, it is not as much about your product management ability as it is about your leadership ability.
Whether learning through your network or company, self-studying through online opportunities, or taking executive education classes, you have control over the path you take to help get you where you want to go.
If you are looking for more ideas, take a look at Harvard Business Review’s article, Create Learning Pathways to Close Your Organization’s Skills Gap. While it is geared toward people managers, it provides insights into how you could create learning pathways even for yourself, whether you are looking to fill gaps or want to up-level yourself.
Whatever the path you take, treat your own self-development planning with as much care and thought as you do your product planning.
For those unfamiliar with it, the Peter Principle states that we are promoted based on our past successes, but when we get promoted to the point beyond our capabilities and know-how (or to put it bluntly, “promoted to the point of incompetence”), we get stuck and are not really set up for success in reaching the next level. Why?
The article describes five stages of leadership and where there is a learning leap when new skillsets are required.
Leadership Level 1 — informal leader who provides direction and some guidance.
Leadership Level 2 — hands-on leader who produces direct results
Leadership Level 3 — expert leader who leads, coaches, and is the subject-matter expert
<<BIG LEADERSHIP JUMP WITH NEW SKILLSET REQUIRED>>
Leadership Level 4 — engaging and enabling leader who builds and leads teams and sets them up for success
<Another Leadership Jump>
Leadership Level 5 — aspirational leader who inspires others to follow you and your mission; creates the culture and environment and sets up the organization for sustainable success
Setting Yourself Up for Success in these Leadership Leaps
“Develop the people skills that you will need to engage, empower and motivate people.”
There are many ways to set yourself up for success to make that leap to levels 4 and 5, and it depends on your individual situation. For newer rising product leaders, Roman Pichler wrote an article, Tips for Moving into a Head of Product Role that provides actionable takeaways.
There are a host of leadership books, and many PM community members publish their short lists. For example, Jens-Fabian Goetzmann compiled a list of books for PMs trying to hone their product management skills, and Robert Drury recommended six books here for more experienced product leaders who are involved with people management. You can also ask your network for books they recommend. That is usually a great way to help filter through all the choices.
There are conferences, local product management meetups, and online product events where you have a chance to learn about various topics while meeting PM peers.*
Additional options are seeking out a mentor or leadership coach or investing in internal company trainings depending on the type of training or guidance needed. In general, you can discuss what approach(es) could be best for your situation with your manager or HR lead.
Survey Shows: PMs Want the Learning Opportunities
Product leaders managing groups of PMs need to not only invest in themselves, but also invest in their teams to help enable others to make that leadership jump. And as seen below from our Trends and Benchmarks report, PMs themselves are greatly desiring more growth and learning opportunities.
From Being a Hero to Creating Teams of Heros
“There is a solution, and that is you need to understand what your new role is. It’s no longer about being the hero. It’s about creating more heroes, teams of heroes. It’s about sharing control and allowing others to thrive. If you can do that, you can transition from the role of expert leader to become an engaging, inspiring leader and continue the climb up the leadership ladder.”
We at PMF have had the privilege of watching many of the PMs in our community advance through their careers. Inevitably, the leadership topic comes up often; even moreso now with all the COVID-related impact on everything. Hopefully this post can help spark some ideas in your next PM leadership development move.