Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Hire your replacement

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Leaders at successful companies focus significant time and resources to hire the right people. The money and effort they spend pays big dividends as the company progresses and matures. The companies that excel at hiring the right people seem to take this one step further: at all levels the leaders hire people whom they can groom as their replacements. This may seem at odds with conventional thinking; generally, most people at most companies do not think about what the company will be like when they leave. However, those who really ‘get it’ make hiring better people than themselves a priority.

The importance of focusing on your replacement cannot be overstated. Following are three actions that will help you focus on successfully developing replacements:

  • Hire the right people: When you select candidates to interview look for people who have the skills and the personality to grow into your position. When making hiring decisions, look for and hire individuals who have the potential to do the job better than you can do it.
  • Train them: Hire the right people, then provide the training to accelerate their growth. Spend money on developing skills that will drive the results your company is seeking. Don’t let the cost of training deter you from training your people. Stephen M.R. Covey drives this point home nicely in his book The Speed of Trust:
I’ll never forget what one CEO said about the risk of investing in a focused training initiative for his company. Someone asked him, ‘What if you train everyone and they all leave?’ He responded, ‘What if we don’t train them and they all stay?’
  • Give them opportunities to grow: Once you hire the right people and give them the training they need, provide them with opportunities to learn and grow. Do not hold on to the most important tasks yourself. Give your team members new opportunities even if it means letting go of your pet project.
One of the key side effects of focusing time and effort on your replacement is your own growth. When you help others learn, you learn more. When you help them hone key skills, your skills improve. You cannot help others progress without advancing your own position. The more you increase the value of others the more your value increases.

The Product Management Perspective: Product managers are most often leaders by nature; however, they most often do not have anyone reporting directly to them. These principles still apply because, as a PM, you are a member of the team and have influence on the people who are hired on to the team. Leaders of product managers do themselves and their company a favor by hiring people who will eventually replace them and be more successful than they have been. It’s all about progression: the more you help others progress, the further you go.

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