Follow the Product
We all remember how to do it – both following and leading. Product Managers do not have corresponding authority for all of their areas of responsibility. We have to manage somehow, and what better way than follow the leader?
Paul, at Product Beautiful, a new blog about high tech product management, has a good article about product manager burnout. Paul uses the circumstances of school psychologists to show that when responsibility does not come with commensurate authority, it leads to burnout. He extends this idea to product management.
We have lots of responsibility with varrying degrees of authority. In almost all cases, PMs don’t have direct management authority over the people who are essential to creating the software, service, or product. For this reason, a PM must develop awesome communications and negotiation skills to be successful and avoid burnout.
Burnout in Product Management
Pragmatic Marketing runs an annual survey to understand, among other things, the reporting structure for product managers in their companies, and what responsibilities the respondents identify. Top in the list of responsibilities for product managers are:
- Writing Product Requirements
- Monitoring Development Projects
- Researching Market Needs
- Creating Sales Presentations and Demos
Most product managers have authority at least around researching needs and documenting requirements. Few if any have authority to manage development teams – which is Paul’s point.
Paul offers that there are many ways to manage the team – from Command and Control to Follow the Leader. He prefers, and we strongly reccommend follow-the-leader approaches.
Follow-the-leader takes more than communication, it demands inspiration. Different people are inspired by different things. We can inspire people who want to do something important with a vision of the product from a high level – what problems will it solve, how valuable is it, how will the person contribute? We can inspire people who are focused on their own goals – how will this role help them learn and grow, achieve visibility, become more marketable? Each person has a different mechanism. And it is up to us, as leaders, to figure out exactly how to inspire them.