Managers often grapple with how to create and scale a global product team. Scaling a team isn’t about increasing the size, rather it’s about increasing the output of the teams and producing tangible value. For that reason, scaling teams require different leadership chains inside the company.

Poorvi Shrivastav, GM and VP of Products at HubSpot, shares her passion for team development and discusses her journey of leading cross-geographical product teams and revealing how to execute the scaling plan successfully. Poorvi previously spent five years in Product & Engineering leadership at Microsoft, as well as five years in Product leadership at Salesforce.

Structure and grow the right team for your company

The fabric of building a team all the way through an organization involves a continuous reassessment of people, organizational hierarchy, and systems that are in place to scale. These 5 lessons come from Poorvi leading cross-functional and cross-geographical teams in different companies at different levels.

Lesson #1: Feedback is a gift

Give feedback in the moment with your team members. Timely feedback is one of the best gifts a manager can give. When delivered properly, feedback can reinforce positive behavior, help avoid major errors, and strengthen your team culture. 

Although it’s human nature to put off difficult conversations. never let your lack of experience or management years deter you from having tough conversations. Remember, no one wants to receive vague feedback. Try to give specific examples in your feedback to support the growth of your team members.

“The nuances of managing someone who is early in their career versus someone with more experience is different.”

Lesson #2: Hire for right kind of ambition at every level

Understanding how new team members will contribute to your company culture is important. Whether it be a senior director or a senior product manager, encourage your teams to prepare a 90-day success plan. Such a plan helps set expectations for what the team member will be expected to deliver right out of the gate.

As you scale, you will need the right kind of ambition in your team. You can teach almost anyone to do a great job, but it’s essential that your people can embrace the way your company operates. A single team member out of alignment with the company culture can spoil everything quickly, even if they bring a great deal of skill or knowledge to their craft.

“One challenge of hiring is finding the right fit for your company culture and the right leveling of an individual in a highly competitive market.”

Lesson #3: Establish a scalable performance framework early on

Have a well-defined performance management framework, especially in the early stages of your company. Such a framework allows you to motivate your workforce by ensuring that everybody on the team is aware of their own targets and goals and how these bring value to the company’s bottom line.

Avoid out-of-cycle promotions and raises because they indicate a deficiency in the performance system as opposed to growth. As a manager looking to scale a global product team, one of the most powerful ways you can drive your company’s success is by effectively managing promotions.

“It’s important to understand individual values and set people up for success first, then set up processes and products to follow.”

Lesson #4: Value empathy when it comes to leading cross-geo teams

One of the most rewarding and challenging avenues of growth is acquisition and integration. A big part of a growth opportunity comes from people working together productively for long enough to produce the desired impact.

Back in 2019, Poorvi was integrating Israeli and U.S. teams to form a product team and an emerging business line. Over the next few months, as a leader, she ran into challenges relating to communication, alignment, scoping decisions, and structuring inclusive processes. The solution stemmed from documenting the values that her team couldn’t compromise on, which eventually helped them understand each other’s strengths and skills.

Lesson #5: Respect the company context as you scale

When it comes to internal hiring, understand the internal reshuffle playbook of your current company instead of following a playbook from your previous company. Never forget to value and invest in partner relationships. So, while scaling a product team, always try to understand the recruiting playbook first and align accordingly with different stakeholders.

Key Takeaways

To succeed at scaling up a product team, you need to define your team’s growth, build a strong company culture, and develop systems and processes. In summary, the five key lessons Poorvi learned from scaling global product teams:

  • Timely feedback is the key to team progression and growth
  • Hire for culture and values over knowledge or intellect
  • You’re never too early to develop a scalable performance framework
  • Empathy and accountability can work in sync
  • Don’t be afraid to learn from your partners and mentors

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