People Product Managers Under Pressure

by drjim on August 13, 2008

Product Managers need to find a way to hold the center when it comes to managing people

Product Managers need to find a way to hold the center when it comes to managing people

As a product manager, we are really under incredible daily pressure to meet the performance demands of our investors. All too often we don’t view our upper managers as investors; however, at the end of the day that is really what they are.

They have decided to spend money on our product and not something else so clearly they expect our product to produce a return that is larger than the other options could have provided. If you don’t meet this need, then give it up – nothing else really matters.

How can you push for the superior performance that will be required in order to meet your management’s expectations? In many cases you’ll be called on to make extraordinary decisions and even implement unconventional ideas. One example of this would be recommending that your product be killed if you came to realize that it had no hope of being successful. How many product managers that you know would have the guts to do that?

Having the courage to make big decisions is great; however, it means nothing if you take the commitment of your team for granted and end up having your decisions destroy the delicate social fabric that holds your organization together. Really good Product Managers find a way to personally create a link between the people who are doing the work and the results that they must deliver.

I can hear you now saying “great words, but how do I do that…?” You do it by simultaneously combining four different strategies that will allow you to hold the center and not stray off course:

 

  • Earn Trust: Product Managers need to earn the trust of everyone who is working on their product. The ONLY way to do this is to be open with your team and to always share the truth with them – get caught in one lie or half-truth and the game is over.

 

 

  • Engage Deeply: Build a close connection with everyone on your team so that when you interact with them it can be direct and personal.

 

 

  • Create a Focused Agenda: In order to mobilize a group of people, a Product Manager needs to have a very clearly defined and focused agenda that can be communicated and bought into by the entire team.

 

 

  • Build Leadership: a Product Manager can not be everywhere at all times nor can he/she do everything. This means that the Product Manager needs to be building a leadership team within the product team so that progress can continue even when the Product Manager is not available.

 

In order to pull this off you are going to have to create a sense of shared purpose for your team. Nobody ever said that this product management job was going to be easy!

So do you have what it takes to be a high performance Product Manager? If you were in charge of a product that had no hope of success, would you have the courage to kill it? Have you ever managed a product that should have been killed early on? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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