every week. Look at key metrics, milestones, deadlines, and overall status.
This is a good way to quickly and randomly audit the work being done, but it
is an even better way to get insight into
early red flags: Are there risks? Dependencies? Changes that need to be made?
Create a spreadsheet or other structured format for reviewing projects, so
that each one can be judged and discussed using the same language.
Talent review. You are now managing high-level people in important roles.
It is now even more important to think
about the future of those people and
those roles, and to have a plan should
someone need to be replaced.
Make a point of identifying the high-potential people on your team. Who are
they? Are they getting what they need?
What will their path forward be? You can
ask your managers for their recommendations, but it is likely some standouts
will be clear to you even from your relative distance.
You should also identify people who
are critical—perhaps too critical—to the
team’s success. There should never be
a single point of failure. If you would be
in danger if a key person left, then you
are in a really bad position that needs to
be fixed right now. Find ways to create
backups and have redundancy for your
most critical people.
Ensure you are involved in the hiring and evaluation process for your
teams, even being part of interview
loops for certain positions. Sit in and
hear how your managers are giving
feedback to employees and how managers are interviewing potential new
hires. This could teach you a lot about
your team and how the culture is being
broadcast. It’s an opportunity to catch
big red flags that could have really
When people do leave, always take
the time to do exit interviews. Uncovering the flaws in your people-manage-ment system is just as important as
finding the flaws in your programs and
projects. There is always a push and a
pull when someone leaves, so try to uncover both and identify a way to improve.
One friend told me, always look for
and check in with the smartest and most
dissatisfied people on your team. They
will alert you to problems within the
team that might be small now but will be
big problems for you in the future.
Managing your own time and resources. In this executive role, the work
never stops. There will always be more
than you can do. It is up to you to decide
what is the most valuable use of your
time and get out of the way of everything
else. Hire people you trust who will help
you be more effective by keeping the
wheels turning while you focus on your
most important tasks.
One important way you can do this
is to make sure you have an exceptional
assistant or other support staff. This
should be someone who can read and
respond to your email, because you will
have a lot and most of it will not be worth
your time. Get someone who is really invested in the job and who you can spend
significant time with, allowing this person to understand how to make your life
easier and more efficient.
You could hire a chief of staff who
acts as your number two and can speak
on your behalf to make decisions for
the team when you are not available.
This is a person who you will spend a
lot of time with, working through ideas
and making sure you are always on the
same page. This can be a formal or informal role, but it is essential to have
someone you can count on in this role.
Talk to your CEO about the best uses
of your time. Talk about this with your
peers, too. How do they spend their
time? What do they delegate?
Make sure that, even as you delegate
many tasks, you continue to put a priority on time with your customers. With all
the internal work you do, it can be easy
to forget about the people outside of
your organization who really matter. If
you lose touch with your customers, you
lose touch with your goals. You cannot
lead your team effectively without knowing your customers, so it is worth your
while to carve out regular time in your
schedule to get in tune with customers.
Working on a five-plus-year timeline. When you think about concerns,
you should be thinking further out. It is
not uncommon to be focused on problems two to five years in the future. It
can be a distraction to get mired in the
details and tactical work, but when you
can, you should delegate that to your
very capable leads.
One way to help this process is simply
to write it all down. Create a living docu-
ment that defines your priorities and
high-level goals. Write out your aspira-
tional timeline and outline your strategy
for achieving it. Update your document
every year and refer to it often. This will
be your guide.
Maintain an open communication
loop from your team, to you, to your
CEO, then back to you, and then your
team. You are the in-between, and
you will learn how to be successful
Make sure you stay knowledgeable
about your industry. You are no longer
solving the problem in front of you;
you are looking years into the future.
Where is your industry going? What is
your competition working toward? Is
your company on track to fundraise,
go public, multiply in size, completely
change direction …
Set goals that are continually growing. Make sure every person on your
team has goals. Some should be stretch
goals, and some should be practical.
Create a culture that places value on
doing work that matters and gets the
team’s goals done, not on being the
busiest or smartest or loudest person
in the room.
Finally, create a roadmap and share
it. You do not have to share every detail
of what the next five years are going to
look like, but do share the vision of what
you have been working on with your
team and with your CEO. Get people on
board with your vision and with you, so
you will have their trust and enthusiasm
on the journey.
This job isn’t easy, but the rewards of
executing amazing work on such a huge
scale are some of the best you will ever
Evolution of the Product Manager
Getting What You Measure
Eric Bouwers, Joost Visser,
and Arie van Deursen
Mal Managerium: A Field Guide
Kate Matsudaira ( katemats.com) is an experienced
technology leader. She has worked at Microsoft and Amazon
and successful startups before starting her own company,
Popforms, which was acquired by Safari Books.
Copyright held by author/owner.
Publication rights licensed to ACM.