Managing people is a lot like teaching your daughter to drive a car

Here's an interesting question: How does a manager decide when a product manager is ready to make decisions on his/her own?

Managing people is a lot like teaching your daughter to drive a car. At first you watch her very carefully: make sure she keeps the radio off and her eyes on the road; you grow a few gray hairs as you try to not scream SEE THE CAR? DO YOU SEE THAT CAR?? But after a while, she's driving competently and you let her out on her own. But you make sure she has a mobile phone and make her promise that she'll call if she's going to be late. You grill her before she leaves and again when she comes home: Where are you going? When will you be home? What will/were you doing? And after a while, once she has earned your trust, you give it to her. At some point, you're merely curious IF she came home, not WHEN she came home.

Isn't managing the same? We watch carefully and want frequent updates at first. Then, once they've earned it, we give them our trust. At that point, all we want is a heads-up on anything that's going to blow up in our faces. Now managing is less about "What are you doing?" and more about "How can I help you get your job done?"

This is equally true for a product manager's relationship with counterparts in other departments: a developer, marketer, a sales person. We watch carefully at first until they've earned our trust. And then we give them our trust and respect.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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