What's the biggest no-no when you're a product manager?

Updated on : December 3, 2021 by Kymani Holcomb



What's the biggest no-no when you're a product manager?

This one is easy:

Don't be an arrogant jerk, always be the humblest person in the room. Sure you do, but never, ever arrogant.

Why?

  • Because you are nobody's boss and yet you want everyone to follow your plan. If you need organizational authority to get things done, you've already failed.
  • Because there will always be someone better than you in any dimension (coding, writing, public speaking, gathering requirements, etc.).
  • Because most of the time, you are a generalist trying to move things forward and you don't have time to be a specialist in whatever it is, so you trust others to do it.
Keep reading

This one is easy:

Don't be an arrogant jerk, always be the humblest person in the room. Sure you do, but never, ever arrogant.

Why?

  • Because you are nobody's boss and yet you want everyone to follow your plan. If you need organizational authority to get things done, you've already failed.
  • Because there will always be someone better than you in any dimension (coding, writing, public speaking, gathering requirements, etc.).
  • Because most of the time, you are a generalist trying to move things forward and you don't have time to be a specialist in whatever it is, so you trust others to get it all done.
  • Because part of your job is to inspire and guide people to make the impossible happen and people don't follow arrogant asses. They follow (and will walk through walls) by the people they respect and the people who inspire them.
  • Because, no matter what you have done in the past, you must prove yourself every day.
  • Because, no matter what you think, luck surely played a role in your past achievements, which is why you are not as good as you think you are.
  • Because at the end of the day, you'll be doing whatever it takes to advance your product and lead by example. In theory you could be the CEO of the product, but in practice you are at the bottom of the totem - no task is small enough if you think it will help your product and its user. So forget about fancy titles and get down to business.
  • Because you need to do things, not talk about them. Be a doer, not a talker. In other words: screw on the powerpoint (leave it to the useless bureaucrats, anyone can make slides), roll up your sleeves, sit in the middle of the engineering section and use your product, talk to clients, live your life, live your pain and give them a solution. When you're done, do it again, several times.
  • Because there is always something new to learn in Silicon Valley: a new industry, a new technology, a new market, so you are perpetually behind.
  • Because you don't know everything, so you'll be asking 'dumb' questions your whole life. By the way, there are no dumb questions, the only dumb questions are the ones that you are too afraid to ask.
  • Because the multicultural Silicon Valley (and the world in general) has a great need for emotional intelligence and you must provide it. You must be a citizen of the world, not a citizen of a single country.
  • Because you want to change the world and you need an army of volunteers behind to do it. Volunteers don't follow arrogant asses.

I guess I can sum it up using an analogy from our time:

Be Obama, not Trump.

Steve Johnson (a fanTAStic resource ...) does it right: For me, the biggest no-no as a Product Manager is saying (or even thinking) "Because I said so" - As Steve says: Product Managers over successful and effective are natural leaders.

(credit to Simon Sinek) Q: What is the ONLY thing about leaders that other people DO NOT have?

A: Followers.

Think about it ... Once people choose to follow someone, that person suddenly becomes a leader, regardless of their title, rank, position ...

In my experience, if I am feeling frustration with: getting 'my point across', I first consider whether I have not

Keep reading

Steve Johnson (a fanTAStic resource ...) does it right: For me, the biggest no-no as a Product Manager is saying (or even thinking) "Because I said so" - As Steve says: Product Managers over successful and effective are natural leaders.

(credit to Simon Sinek) Q: What is the ONLY thing about leaders that other people DO NOT have?

A: Followers.

Think about it ... Once people choose to follow someone, that person suddenly becomes a leader, regardless of their title, rank, position ...

In my experience, if I am feeling frustration regarding: getting 'my point' - I first consider whether I have not adequately defended the WHY behind the request - what is the problem I am trying to solve with this? As Steve also points out: if you start telling people HOW to do things (or even WHAT to do) and you are not communicating WHY, you are on the 'no-no' path.

As Simon Sinek says: Start with why!

As I've said elsewhere: there's a reason Agile User Stories are supposed to be worded as "Like ______, I want ______, so ______". - The “so that _____” is included to communicate the WHY. If the “why ____” is clear and correct and someone finds a better solution than the WHAT (the “I want ____”) requested, should the Product Manager be concerned if they 'didn't get away with it'? I would think the exact opposite: the illustrated “Leading” Product Manager would be delighted!

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