Influence without authority


Product managers don’t usually manage anyone directly, so they have to be great leaders.  I think this is one of the distinguishing characteristics between a good PM and a great PM.  There is some overlap in leadership and management qualities, and there are also very distinct characteristics in each.  While both managers and leaders need to know the business, leaders need to know the ins and outs of the business, as well as the business goals and objectives!

Product Managers need to be leaders who know the business past and present, and can set the vision for their products.  While I gather requirements, I always try to get a few people in the business on board with what I am working on.  I think this is an important characteristic of a product manager and a leader.  Through soliciting feedback, you can understand what your fellow employees are interested and motivated by, and what they are concerned with.

Great product managers should be great leaders, and should be able to inspire others.  I’ve been doing a lot of research around what makes a great product manager and I see influence, inspiration and leadership most frequently.  Product Managers have to lead the business in the right direction, and not just by force.  In my career, I’ve found this to be a bit challenging, typically because you can’t make everyone happy.  Even if you’re a great debater, excellent story teller, can inspire and influence others, there are always going to be people who disagree with what you’re doing.  I think this is the most challenging part of being a product manager. 

What are some of the ways around this?  What have you all done to overcome this challenge?  Is it sometimes better to have 99% of the population supportive of what you’re doing, and the 1% can be left in the dust? 

4 comments:

  1. I have worked at places where there was a requirement to get 100% buy in. Alas, projects never get out of the gate, as there are always a (tiny) subset of the population who feel the need to be obstructive.

    I view them as the "Wally's" (from Dilbert). They make a career out of preventing programs from progressing. Since you aren't king, and you can't eliminate them, you learn to negotiate to a "disagree, but commit" world. These obstructionists usually can be convinced to move forward with their objections formally stated.

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  2. Do you find that these 'obstruct-ers' are typically the same people for every project? Sometimes I find that these people motivate me (and my coworkers) to work harder toward proving the point, almost over communicating the project/product objective and vision.

    Thank goodness I've taken (and done well!) a class in negotiating while getting my MBA - it has proven to be a huge advantage in understand the other parties concerns and objections, as well as their drivers for success. The more I can appeal to these, the better our relationship can be.

    As always, thanks for the comments!!

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    1. Oh yeah. They seem to get themselves involved with every project, and they really take the negative-nancy role seriously.

      You learn to work with and through them, or you stop being a product manager.

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    2. Since I plan on remaining in the PM world, I'll learn to work with/through them :)

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