15 July 2020

Product Managers Want You to Trust Them

The team at Mind the Product is putting on a great show. They’ve moved their in-person conference to a digital experience that is in many ways superior to a real-world one.

Gibson Biddle’s masterful use of Slido led to some fascinating insights into the goals and motivations of product managers.

I have stolen his content and Christina Wodtke’s but removed any names of participants.

The two sessions focussed on:

  • What product managers want in their careers
  • How leaders can create safety in their teams.

An audience of product creators

His first question established that the audience was mostly made up of product creators (as opposed to managers or CEOs).

PMs want to be happy

The not-so-shocking news is that product managers want happiness and satisfaction from their careers, along with a decent salary.

It’s interesting to think about what metrics people were not looking for, such as:

  • Number users/revenue/downloads of the app
  • Raising the next funding round
  • Hitting release dates
  • Bonus, equity, profit share

These are typically CEO-problems that often get passed onto product teams. Leaders who want to motivate their product teams using intrinsic (far more powerful and a better predictor of success) factors should work out how to align happiness, satisfaction, learning, fulfillment, recognition, and so on, with their own business targets.

We all want to make an impact

Product managers want to make an impact, they want leadership to set a vision, trust, and empower them to achieve that vision whilst giving adequate support. They’d also like a higher salary - not a bonus or profit share.

Leaders should admit to mistakes

Christina Wodtke then addressed psychological safety asking:

What do managers do to create trust in teams?

Themes that came up again and again:

  • Admitting to mistakes, own their own mistakes, own the team’s mistakes
  • Admitting to vulnerabilities
  • Asking for feedback and truly listening without judging.

What do managers do to break trust in teams?

Themes that came up again and again:

  • Blame
  • Aggressive criticism of others
  • Being thrown under the bus / stabbed in the back
  • Complaining without bringing solutions or taking credit when the boss wasn’t a contributor.

Summary

  • Business metrics that are vital to the success of CEOs and leaders do not matter to the day to day lives of product teams.
  • Product managers want to make an impact whilst being happy and fulfilled.
  • They want leadership to set a clear vision and strategy, then trust them to execute whilst supporting them along the way.
  • Cultures of blame and aggression shut down product teams and break trust within teams and with management.

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