🥇 Learn the Scorecard

Understand how you're evaluated to choose the right scope to take on (and help your teammates do the same).

As product managers, we're responsible for helping our teams succeed. Our team's success is often defined by smashing the goals we set after roadmapping.

But how are individuals on the team — including the PM — evaluated? In other words, what's the scorecard our managers use to see if we're top performers or below the pack?

Understanding the scorecard is crucial to make the next big jump in your career. Extending this idea to your product team also lets you build leadership capacity on your team — allowing you to scale your collective impact.

In other words, scorecards are a good thing to understand! Let’s start with…

🏅 The PM Scorecard

Shreyas Doshi created an excellent map of the skills PMs need to demonstrate at different parts of their careers:

He even goes a step further and breaks down the components of each of these senses:

These two charts set a great foundation for the general skillsets you’ll need to develop as a PM.

But here’s a cool thing I’ve learned: you can choose to develop those skills on low-impact projects or high-impact projects. Think about it — you can develop really strong project management skills (“Execution Sense”) by delivering a feature that is not critical to the business or you can apply those same skills on a strategic priority.

To combine skill development with the fastest career growth, look to develop your skillset on company priorities. Seek to understand your leadership’s perspective to identify these priorities.

When I was working on WhatsApp Payments, an area that our leadership was especially interested in was scaling was our compliance platform.

While I was prioritizing P2P payments, I realized that my focus on compliance would be amongst the most impactful things I could do for the business. I stepped up to lead strategy and execution for a series of compliance initiatives.

Because of work, I developed strong skills while having regular check-ins with our VP and a chance to see the broader strategy that I may not be privy to. In the end, the outcome I created benefited the business more than other work I could have done while helping me grow my presence in the company.

In brief, pair your PM scorecard with the highest impact projects to scale your career the fastest.

📭 What if there is no scorecard?

Even better! This is a way to grow from a PM into a product leader — by defining organizational processes that can improve overall product efficiency.

Tell your manager that you'd like to proactively define the evaluation criteria for PMs on your team/in your company. I'd suggest starting these criteria based on Shreyas' map.

Next, be explicit of what actions translate to each “sense” in your company’s culture. For example, in your company, "Analytical Sense" may correspond to setting quarterly goals that are well-informed by data.

Design the skill maps to both optimize for the value each skill provides to the company and the skills people at the company want to learn.

Merging these will require you to talk to other PMs on your team to understand what they see as important for their growth in the company and the skills they personally want to develop.

Finally, align leaders on this scorecard. This is a fantastic way to develop your internal presence by genuinely helping your team to scale.

As a final note on the importance of having a scorecard: scorecards reduce bias. It makes success objective, not subjective to the point of view of particular managers. Standardizing success can help you retain and grow diverse talent in your product team.

👏 The scorecards of your teammates

Let’s expand the concept of a scorecard to other members of the product team. The key idea: if you know how others are evaluated, you can help them grow their leadership abilities.

Why should you care about the growth of your teammates? Three reasons:

  1. Build leadership and ownership on the team: chances are that the more senior someone becomes, the more likely their scope will involve leadership, higher-level thinking and strategy. Helping teammates develop these skills will create thought partners and more capacity on your team

  2. Collectively do more: having more leadership skills will also increase the raw output on your team. This will allow you to set higher goals, take on new scope and attract more resources.

  3. Retention: If you can help people identify a growth path within your team, they are more likely to stay and continue adding value to your product area.

Understand the scorecards of your teammates by asking them how they are evaluated. Have a candid conversation where you share how you’re both evaluated and what your growth plans are. This also helps to strengthen your relationship and demonstrate genuine care for their growth.

With an understanding of their growth plans, you can then set challenges that allow them to grow while increasing the output of your team.

🏁 Summary

  1. Identify the business needs that matter most to your leadership. They often have more visibility on the big picture.

  2. Being successful in these areas will yield higher rewards/exposure than doing the same tasks on other areas.

  3. If there is no scorecard, step up and create one. This will let you take on the scope of a PM leader while growing your visibility within the company.

  4. Understand the scorecards of your teammates to help them grow into leaders. This will help you create ownership, collectively do more and retain the best people.

📚 Reads and Resources

To perform at your best, focus on goals not tasks by Paul Adams (shared with me by Adam Kazwell): a short read on improving performance by focusing on outcomes.

Build with Maggie Crowley: a product focussed podcast with nuanced and tactical conversations between great PMs. I liked this episode with Jackie Bavaro.

Fintech for Gen Z and Millennials by a16z: by inner payment nerd loved this chat on tech-enabled solutions for student debt, consumer choice and bureaucracy.

👀 And one more thing…

When I started as a product manager, the thing that changed the game for me, and really helped me grow, wasn’t a newsletter or a course.

It was community.

Communities of ambitious peers, mentors and product leaders helped me make big leaps in my career.

I’ve since learned that building friendships with the right people is the most valuable thing PMs can spend their time on.

Next week, I’ll share what I’ve been working on to help top PMs change the trajectory of their careers.

Stay tuned. ❤️


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See you next week,

Will