How to do 10x better 1:1 reviews with your product managers ..
Life of a product manager is full of collaborations — meetings and reviews across different stakeholders — engineering, design, business, org leadership and many others.
Yet, the 1:1 discussion with your reporting manager is somewhat special. It is an opportunity to share learnings, high/low lights but most importantly, learn in context of latest developments.
Unlike engineering, design or, sales — Product managers don’t have functional deliverables. Metric help in tracking performance but they are lagging and outcome based. 1:1 will help you unlock lot of cultural and on-ground insights to build a better product team, processes and more.
Here’s what we learnt after talking to 200+ product managers about their experience with 1:1 with their reporting managers or reportees.
During 1:1 with your Reporting Manager
- “Always” start with what will you cover in the time frame. Product management is full of ambiguities, try to set expectations upfront. Find a framework that works for you and stick to it.
- Keep it short (~15–20 mins seems to be working best) — extend and set follow ups if required.
- To cover execution updates, you can decide to go over high level metrics and then initiatives to improve those. ( dependencies, blockers, significant calls-outs etc.)
- Capture and talk about high / low lights of the week.
- Use this time to discuss things that you usually not discuss in open forum — issues or suggestions around culture, processes etc.
- Discuss about your ambitions related to career growth. Check how are you progressing on that and area of improvement.
- Talk about learnings from latest incidents to make discussion more contextual.
- Share interesting lessons from related product or industry. This may not be directly related to your deliverables but should have take aways or examples that you can use in product discussions.
- Keep a note of key discussion points, take aways and items to discuss next week.
During 1:1 With product manager reporting to you
- Set expectation from 1:1s early and as clear as possible — if you want to keep it around specific points or open ended conversation (recommended).
- Use this time to coach the PMs by listening to them and sharing your real life experiences. ( How’d you have approached/solved a problem.)
- Try to understand culture within the team — look for those who are lot more enthusiastic — where and why? Identify and nurture this.
- Ask for notes/pointers for the next 1:1s. Add in case anything is missed.
- Try to not to skip your 1:1s ; reschedule in next possible slot to keep the momentum going.
- Assume 1:1s as confession box. Anything discussed here should remain between you and your reportee.
- Watch for signals beyond words. For ex. any ups/down in excitement level during reviews, change in focus area ( kind of metric, details PM is covering.)
Needless to say if you don’t have 1:1s with your team already; start one today! It can 10–15 mins every day or few times a week ( recommended)or month.
Remember, hiring good product managers is tough; retaining them is even harder. Your team member choose to stay/leave jobs because of you and your 1:1s are the truest reflection of how this relationship is going.
These 1:1s can be best way to retain and nurture good product managers within your team.
Go over this article before your next 1:1 and comment if this helped ( or, if we should add a lesson from your experience.)
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