Few days ago, Jacky asked me two questions, one of them was What leaders do?
What does it mean to be a leader What roles do leaders play? In any org, in my view leaders are tasked with helping with following one of four themes
At the core Product engineering is a team sport. You are a sports team manager and your job is make them shine.
Well, We look at these themes just like that you might immediately ask - where is mentorship? where is leading by example? or do leaders not do walk the talk? Lets look at these themes
Generally in Create theme, you enable your team members to create many things - such as shape up career, enhance your skills, help them create exposure to tacit undocument knowledge. You are generally helping in a very active role, not passing down comments, but showing them what to do and how to do it. Not like a reviewer but like a co-worker. Create theme captures mentorship, walk the talk and show what’s possible. Your job is help them create while learning at the job.
Second most important theme is Collaborate This means that you inculcate the culture of empathy, putting the team before you. You show them that if we collaborate actively then team wins, and if team wins then we win. Product Engineering is a team sport, and it’s not about who gets to hit the goal, it’s about what part we play in enabling that. Many times we do not understand the power of team ownership. Once we all have chipped into creating a product and understand our part in it’s success, then pride follows and then empathy builds up. When ever individual on our team has empathy towards others, towards our customers and eventually towards our business leaders, they become a very strong team.
Product engineering is all about having crisp understanding and has a very little space for assumptions. Also product engineering has a lot of inter-team dependency. Given it’s very collaborative process, the fundamental pillar for collaboration is a very to the point communication. As a leader we need to create environment for this. That means, people should be able to provide constructive feedback (no one should feel bad, but to see that as an opportunity to improve, super tough act.), we should be able to ask for help, show our vulnerabilities and constantly communicate in many non-verbal long format mediums, such as emails, PRDs, meeting notes and finally logs. A team progress well if they communicate well, and leave no place for ambiguity and assumptions. A team that has very transparent updates and knows what’s going on will always have a good grasp on product progress and be able to remediate for blockers, and push right buttons for good product experience for consumers. Foster and encouraging communication is tough, but a good responsibility, and it starts with the leader.
Product engineering teams are very focussed within their own tasks, field or scope. They rarely go tell the world what are they upto. The tech leads’ responsibility also includes to enable this connect with other teams. Encourage your team members to host learning sessions, send update memo to other teams and on top of it connect with tech community out of your own company Go attend meetups, give talks, write blogs. This not only tells the world what are you upto, this also helps us get more team members.
At the end if team wins then we win. And if we fail in enabling them, nurturing them, providing them with the right environment then team fails. You never win alone.
Product engineering is a team sport. You are a sports team manager and your job is make them shine.
Also, while they are building a product, your product is amazing working environment, where people learn, flourish and give their best.