Building High-Performing Teams & Transitioning to People Leadership with Liz Li
Hosted by Shyvee Shi
Liz Li majored in EE at Stanford then worked at Accenture Tech Labs before moving to product at LinkedIn under Christian Sutherland-Wong.
Once at LinkedIn, Liz was on the monetization team, then growth team, then the content experience team.
Challenges going from individual contributor to a manager
One of the hardest things is letting go of things that make you a good individual contributor.
Many companies will promote you to management because you’re a good individual contributor but when you become a manager that’s not what you should be known for anymore.
As a manager you need to take time on coaching and helping bring others to the level of excellence you strive for in yourself.
Let go of the things you’re good at and people know you’re good at so you can be a better manager.
Tips to delegate effectively
In the long term it’s better for you to coach people. It seems easier to just do a task yourself but that short-term accomplishment was a missed learning lesson.
A good indicator of when and what to delegate is to think about the negative ramifications for delegating.
If there’s an important meeting and the person on your team wasn’t ready, what would be the negative ramifications of delegating to them?
Delegating a presentation to a CEO is very different than delegating a smaller task. In the case of presenting to a CEO, you either need to do a lot coaching to make sure the presentation goes well for your team member or do it yourself.
Lead by example first
It’s easier for people to understand something if they can see it.
If there’s a particular area you’re coaching someone on, demonstrate it, then follow-up with the person and talk about how you handled the situation.
Do they feel like they can do the same in a similar situation or are there coaching opportunities so they can?
How to build High-Performing Product Teams
A sense of belonging is important
A key ingredient to a high-performing team is that everyone has a sense of belonging.
Create a safe environment
Be open and honest about professional and personal challenges as appropriate. If people see you’re open to challenges you face then they know it’s safe for them to be open as well.
Understand team-member’s motivations
Understand people’s motivations. Daniel Pink’s framework of what motivates people: autonomy, mastery, purpose is helpful here.
Handling team member's performance
When it comes to evaluating performance, observe and coach towards the gaps.
Balancing results and relationships
Start with a person’s motivation, then connect them to the right projects and opportunities that align with them.
It's helpful to understand people’s motivators and make sure they know you’re helping drive towards that.
Then, when you give people constructive feedback there’s a foundation in place with their best interests in mind.
Always try to position the feedback for the benefit of the person.
Create a space for constant learning and feedback
Create a low-stakes cross-manager meeting where people talk about their product, challenges, and maybe give a demo.
Bring in speakers from outside the team or company.
Do product tear-downs where a person brings in an external product they want to analyze with the team.
Develop relationships inside the team
You don’t have hallway conversations to understand your co-workers more deeply so relationships have to be built intentionally.
Try recurring icebreakers.
Ask what people did over the weekend.
Different times will require different areas of focus
Sometimes you need to focus on stakeholder management, sometimes execution and sometimes on your team.
Advocate for your team
Make sure you understand your team and their accomplishments.
This is especially important during annual review.
Motivate your team in tough times
Get a gut-check of how people are doing on a scale of 1-10 vs their normal range.
Understand why people aren’t delivering. Is it skill or circumstantial. Once you understand, you can help the person, whether it’s coaching or bringing in extra help from other team members.
Considerations when transitioning from individual contributor to manager
First ask yourself why you want to be a people manager? Do you enjoy coaching, mentoring and giving feedback?
Evaluate the circumstances when your activity gave you energy. Was it when you were deep in the product or when you were talking to your team members?
Are you okay not getting deep into the product?
Are you okay being a generalist?
If you’re a subject matter expert in an area and love that area, you may be better as a senior individual contributor.
Accelerating personal career growth
Before you look for the next role, project, or company write down career principles about what you’re looking for.
Measure the upcoming project, role or company against those principles.
Over-communicate on what you’re looking for, whether a promotion, raise, or another skill you want to acquire.
Even if it doesn’t happen immediately, you’ll plant a seed to be thought of when the opportunity comes up.
Hone your product sense through curiosity
Dive deep into the products you’re using.
Why are they built this this way?
What could be better?
What works really well?