Practical Advice When Your Product Manager Wants a Promotion

As the workforce landscape continues to evolve, it's natural for everyone's minds to be thinking about the future, the growth of your organization, or in your employees’ case their careers.

Another interesting note for leaders, is the increase in candidates (from smaller markets like Kitchener) who are reaching out asking to be considered for Product Leadership roles despite currently working in an individual contributor position. 

Are you a Product Manager looking to jump the chasm to leadership?  Check out our practical guide created by Heidi Ram (Product Practice Leader and Head of Executive Recruitment). 

Your employees, especially your hungry ones, are always in search of growth. If you're a leader of a tech company who employs a Product Manager, they may be looking for promotion whether you notice it or not. 

Cost of Turnover

Turnover costs are higher and can be more damaging than retaining and helping to develop an employee. It is your responsibility as a leader to uncover and help realize the aspirations of your employees. 

According to a recent Gallup study, 52% of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job. 

And of those, 51% said that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization. Talk about missed opportunities! 

Maybe your rockstar Product Manager wants more growth in their individual contributor role, or maybe, they want to make the leadership move – either way, knowing is half of the turnover battle.  

Managing Promotions & Expectations 

If you find yourself in the scenario where an employee has expressed their motivation to move into a leadership capacity, it’s time to book a meeting.    

Be encouraged that your Product Manager dares to meet with you and hear your feedback, whatever it is. They chose to trust you and be transparent instead of harboring an underlying feeling of resentment while you hired a leader without first considering them as a candidate.

Or worse, half-work while half-interviewing until the day they resign when you're forced to decide whether to try to retain them with a sudden org change and counteroffer. A counteroffer that will rarely work out in your benefit long term. 

You have now become their trusted advisor and have the opportunity to invest in this person and help them evolve and grow. These are the defining fires that forge the strength of a relationship and the future of someone you should want to be successful in the industry.

Meeting Notes

If a meeting is set, follow these principles and guidelines: 

  1. Speak the truth with honesty and compassion. 
  2. Be upfront about their performance (both good and bad). 
  3. Do not become emotional about their behavior or wants. 
  4. Provide constructive feedback in the areas they need to develop to be considered a viable candidate for a leadership role.
  5. If they aren’t ready to lead, provide a thorough performance review and concrete steps to achieve their vision. 


  1. How might you provide opportunities: projects or exercises for this Product Manager to apply skills and learn from?
  2. Is there a learning budget for off-site workshops or leadership courses they might benefit from?
  3. Is there a mentor or coach they could become connected with?
  4. What cadence of meeting and regular feedback can you commit to for follow-up and reviewing progress?

When we first meet with any CEO, we ask ‘have you determined whether an internal hire could be moved into the position?' If they haven’t, we encourage them to consider that option as sometimes hiring for potential is to their benefit.

Training and investing in your individual contributor can pay dividends in the future. As leadership roles become available in your organization, someone is waiting in the wings, ready and with the product knowledge to hit the ground running.  

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