Discover the Key Principles for Effective Performance Evaluation in Product Leadership!

“Embracing Key Principles to Transform Feedback Practices and Develop High-Performing Product Managers”

Navigating a career in product management can be ambiguous and frustrating, particularly for product leaders. Two common approaches to product leadership are directive and supportive leadership. Directive leaders often focus on controlling product outcomes, which may yield short-term results but is unsustainable in the long term. In contrast, strong Product Leaders employ a supportive approach, coaching their teams through ambiguity and enabling them to make good decisions. By managing inputs rather than outcomes, these leaders recognise the need to go beyond traditional performance management systems.
Product Leaders must drive their teams towards success by going beyond surface-level understanding when assigning performance ratings. Building a culture of exponential feedback that focuses on fundamentally improving Product Managers’ (PMs) performance is essential for delivering compounding returns on leadership leverage. In this article, we will explore three key principles that can transform feedback practices and develop high-performing PMs.

Embracing Radical Candor:

Imagine a Product Leader providing feedback to a PM about their presentation skills, using language like “it’s not a big deal” or “everyone does this.” Such qualified feedback can leave the PM confused about what they need to improve. By adopting Radical Candor, Product Leaders can:
  • Challenge directly by delivering clear and unqualified feedback.
  • Care personally, showing PMs that feedback is intended to help rather than criticize.
When feedback is direct and focused on specific areas for improvement, such as storytelling and audience engagement, PMs can make significant strides in their performance.

Grounding Feedback in Objective Standards:

Inconsistent feedback can be a challenge if a Product Leader relies too heavily on personal observations. To address this issue, Product Leaders should:
  • Ensure feedback is based on objective standards.
  • Communicate these standards regularly to the team.
  • Utilize competency models to support objective reasoning in evaluations.
Introducing a performance rubric that outlines clear expectations for each PM role can help eliminate ambiguity. Assessing a PM’s performance on specific, objective criteria such as communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution can lead to more consistent and fair evaluations across the team.

Offering Timely Feedback:

Providing feedback only during formal evaluations is not effective in fostering continuous improvement. To address this, Product Leaders can:
  • Provide feedback close to the event or performance in question.
  • Encourage continuous development and improvement.
For example, after a product launch, a Product Leader can discuss with their PM what went well and what could have been improved. By addressing these points immediately, the PM can implement changes for the next product launch, resulting in a smoother process and better collaboration with cross-functional teams.
As the season for development discussions between Product Leaders and Product Managers is upon us, it’s crucial to recognise the power of transforming feedback practices. By embracing Radical Candor, grounding feedback in objective standards, and offering timely feedback, PMs can excel in their roles, driving better results for the organisation. This shift not only improves team performance but also strengthens relationships, fostering a more supportive and growth-oriented culture during these crucial conversations

References:

Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Product Leadership: The methods of building high-performance product teams, managing up/down/across, and creating cross-functional influence.

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