Politics and the Product Manager
In the past two newsletters, we've discussed "working" the organization and earning credibility. In this final installment to our three-part series on internal politics, we discuss the importance of nurturing relationships.
The sandbox is a popular spot in the playground, but it's pretty small. Lots of kids want to play there, so day-to-day activities can be a challenge. Kids come and go. Each has a different idea about what they want to do. Some want to build castles. Sometimes they fight over territory or question each other's creativity. But somehow, they figure it out, perhaps with parental intervention.
Be a facilitator, the go-to person
in your organization.
The business world is a big sandbox, and product managers contribute to their companies by convincing colleagues across business functions to "play nice." In order to be effective, you need to make friends with everyone. Here are some suggestions:
- Be helpful, a facilitator and coach. Become the go-to person in your organization.
Stanton Zeff, a product marketing manager with Alcatel-Lucent, talks about the central role he's played in customer demos: "The
sales team realized that I had a network of experts who, on short notice, could ensure that prospects visiting our customer center had a memorable experience. I'd help host the meeting and take them on a lab tour, making sure that demos were flawless, then host a lunch. I could deliver because I'd spent hours with all the players, rehearsing demos and sending "attaboys" about them to their managers."
- Ask for advice. Calling upon someone else's expertise is flattering and builds bridges and you'll probably learn something.
- Don't be "all business." Have lunch or dinner with the people you work with. Learn about them as individuals.
Don't be "all business." Learn about your colleagues as individuals.
- Meet face-to-face. Technology is great butsocial media asidethere's nothing to compare with being in the same room. If you're working with a far-flung team, do your best to visit other locations on a regular basis.
"I always opt for face-to-face interaction, if possible, even if that means attending a trade show so that I can hold a side meeting," says Zeff. "Email, texting and social media are useful tools, but a lot of nuance gets lost. With a meeting, there's far less chance of misinterpretation, and you're creating a bond, people feel more committed."
- Be enthusiastic. Leading a product team means motivating, even when things go wrong.
- Bring food to your meetings.
- Don't take yourself too seriously. A little self-deprecation can go a long way toward building rapport.
The bottom line: Everyone appreciates being treated as an individual. Being professional doesn't preclude using the human touch. Building personal loyalties not only pays dividends when you're in a crunch, it'll make your workday more pleasant.