Whether you are a budding product manager or an experienced product leader, the challenge remains the same – How do you earn trust from your engineering team?. Combine this challenge with the fact that there is no formal authority on any one team in the organization, PMs are still expected to perform, deliver great products and revenue. Working with world class engineering teams and mentoring several product managers, I realized 5 common practices that help.
Be humble : Be humble and be yourself with the engineering teams. PM has a very important role in the organization and we got to be humble for the kind of impact we can make in the organization. Instead of thinking engineering teams as resources, coders, followers or competitors, view them as a team with complementing skills to bring in a great product. Learn to trust them on their judgment. If you feel there is a different way, be up front and ask them. When you are genuine and ask politely, usually no one is hurt.
Bring in the product vision : A product is not just about features and functions. PM needs to bring in the future direction, expansion of the product and integrations with other products in the ecosystem. While engineering teams are interested to know what they need to build today, they are very much interested in what’s coming in tomorrow. Clearly, this helps them to know that there is a lot to build and also helps them to better architect and design.
Know the market and users : PM is the champion of the definition and understanding of the market and a specific group of users you are trying to solve the problem for. We may have broad category of users but there is always a targeted users set. This is very important piece of information that engineering teams appreciate PM’s input. As much as engineers like to build products, they want to build them for the right users and solve a problem. The last thing engineers want to know is that a particular feature or a product is scrapped because no one uses them.
Share sales and revenue numbers and models : While engineers are heads down in building the product features and looking at great technological advancements, they would love to understand or at least know how the sales are progressing and how the product is generating the revenue. Engineers are proud of the products they build but the real satisfaction is when the product sells and contributes to the bottom line of the company or making the waves in a new market place. So, celebrate the releases and sales deals with engineering teams.
Do your homework and reach out : Many technology products these days need PM to be aware of the technology, architecture and user experience. Don’t pretend that you know everything – do your research, read, familiarize and reach out to the experts from engineering teams to understand the concepts. This not only helps the PM to gain more knowledge and talk intelligently with customers, analysts and sales teams but also builds the trust with engineers. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness but helps strengthening the relationships.
Engineering trust on PM is what makes or breaks the overall success of the product in the market place and differentiates a bad and good PM.