Good reads #3: Coaching and career development, remote working, and tips from the creator of WeChat.
I’ve spent a great deal of this week thinking about what good manager relationships look like. I had an excellent conversation with my manager, when I asked “Our last catch up was especially good. What do you think was different to normal?” So, it’s unsurprising that there’s something of an accidental theme for this week’s set of good reads. A lot around good coaching and career development, as well as a fantastic look at how WeChat’s creator approaches product development. There’s also a very, very good podcast on remote work/distributed teams with the always fun-to-listen-to Matt Mullenweg and Andreas Klinger.
I’ve been thinking about coaching and one-to-ones a lot over the last week, so it’s fortuitous that Marty shared his thoughts on the topic. This is a great post for anyone working in Product, manager of people or not. In it, Marty shares thoughts on what makes a great coaching relationship, as well as the anti-patterns we ought to avoid.
If you’re a manager of product managers, and you have not been focused on coaching, I hope you come to realize that this is what your job is really all about, and you’ll use this as a framework for giving coaching an honest effort. For managers, the PM is our product, and this is how we develop a great product.
In fact, I saw a great talk by Marty at the Productized conference last year. I’ve embedded that below in the media section. An excellent talk that echoes a lot of what’s said in this post.
Brandon’s post on the same topic from other angles is awesome as well.
PM careers don’t grow with specific skill mastery because that doesn’t tie with how they create value. If a PM is incredible at backlog management but doesn’t know how to frame the benefits of a product, or if they’re fantastic at business modelling but cannot understand support and operations — they can’t create value. This is because PMs only create value through end-to-end customer experiences they ship.
Let’s call this solving for the whole customer experience .
The thing is, if you’re used to swimming in water that’s six feet deep, then sixty feet of depth is actually no different. It’s not more dangerous or difficult, it simply feels that way. Giving a speech to 20,000 people isn’t twenty times more difficult than giving one to a thousand.
This is a really nice read. It’s short, and sits quite nicely with the other articles I’m sharing this week. Some of it reaffirms what’s said elsewhere, and other bits are good reminders of some of the principles of product craft that I love. Hopefully, you do too.
The WHY of product is where great product managers make their cheddar. A good PM can guess at WHAT a customer needs in order to be reach a given outcome, and a good engineering team will tell you HOW to get there.
Great engineering teams, on the other hand, want to understand the WHY their product is important.
A product manager who is not responsible for the impact of the solutions they’re building is not a product manager.
Throughout China, Allen Zhang is known as the “father of WeChat”. Zhang’s public persona has much the same cultural importance and weight as the American legacy of Steve Jobs. He is renowned in China’s tech scene as an artist and philosopher, as well as for his fierce mission against anything that degrades user experience. Product managers throughout China have flocked to work at WeChat to learn from Zhang’s product acumen and learn from the product-driven (versus engineering or design-driven) environment he has built.
Zhang’s English Wikipedia article, on the other hand, is three sentences long.
They asked, “what behaviours and actions contribute to Empowered Teams?” and here’s what they came up with.