As a product manager, I take great pride in my work and getting the job done. But let me be honest; I do not write the software products I manage. My engineers do, and they do an awesome job of it.
These engineers do not directly report to me but I am one of their leaders. I craft the stories they work on to deliver features to market that our customers love and pay us lots of money for. Without them, I would not have a product to sell nor, a job to pay my bills. So how do I show my appreciation?
Well, it starts with two very simple words.
Pretty simple, I know, but it is powerful. James Kouzes‘ book The Leadership Challenge explains in detail how powerful these words can be, as I have stated before.
Often times, verbal appreciation is not enough. I find I need to do more, simply because I cannot express how thankful I and the company are for the teams’ contribution. My teams work hard for me and for our customers. They pull all-nighters fixing important issues that jeopardize customers’ environments. They sustain long days and nights, including weekends, to get a major feature or new product out. Throughout it all, they put up with my incessant questions, minor changes in scope and constant feedback, validation and product acceptance processes. They do, in fact, deserve more.
Pretty regularly, I take small groups of my teams out for lunch, coffee or dinner. Sometimes we celebrate a particular milestone or accomplishment. But often times, I am just spending time with the guys, getting to know them and to break some bread together. I try to pick up the check more often than not, irrespective of whether the company will reimburse me for the team outing. Part of the successful working relationship I have with my team, and the reason they are willing to work as hard as they do, is because we have a personal relationship founded in more than just “my function requires me to work with you Mr. Product Manager”. We trust one another, and believe that we have each other’s back.
Some milestones warrant more than a meal. For those really big feats that move the needle for the company, the words “go big” come to mind. In the past, I have thrown a party in one instance, and taken the team go-carting in another. The important part of these activities was to focus on having fun. We laugh about the insanity of the last few weeks and months in getting our release out the door over food and drink. At the race track, we had a great time competing with one another for bragging rights on who had the fastest course time.
Maybe it is obvious, but why should I bother rewarding my engineers? For one, good behavior and actions deserve good things. From a business perspective, there are compelling reasons to recognize and reward a job well done. Spending company time and money on employee appreciation nets so many things. It fosters healthier team dynamics, creating trust and respect. It energizes employees to work harder knowing that their work means something to someone that they know and can talk to. Finally, it has other soft benefits including promoting company loyalty and greater overall employee satisfaction. I strongly recommend all product managers take the time to appreciate their teams’ efforts in building the product they manage.