How do PMs earn trust in stakeholder collaboration?
What is product's end of the empowerment "deal"?
As I wrote yesterday, empowerment depends on mutual trust between product and leadership. Each side of the deal must both earn and extend trust.
Today: what's the product team's end of the deal? How do PMs earn the trust of their stakeholders, on behalf of the product team?
A key piece I see under-emphasized in the ongoing conversation around empowerment is how much the product team needs to earn the trust they request. Those of us who drink from the product-education-firehose are always going on about how leadership needs to empower the team. By which they mean leadership needs to extend trust in the form of autonomy to the team (which is true).
But to put it bluntly: a lot of PMs are acting entitled around this.
PMs expect execs to "empower" them with autonomy—by which they often mean "give product free reign to make decisions"—but forget two key things:
The trust supporting autonomy must be earned,
It is unfair and unrealistic to ask execs to fully let go of the metrics they're responsible for
When we ask execs—our partners around the business, some of whom have a legal, fiduciary responsibility—to extend blind faith, we essentially ask them to abdicate their responsibility. And then we wonder why they push back.
This is not what good partnership with the rest of the business looks like.
So what must the PM do to earn trust? To earn trust a PM must...
(1) Demonstrate competence in product discovery & delivery. In particular, a testing mindset of "let's find out together" is more effective than a battle of opinions. This is table stakes.
(2) Build a strong, 1:1, collaborative relationship with each key stakeholder. Trying to do this by committee doesn't work. It's a bit more time each week, but it's more efficient overall.
(3) Do the work to be recognized as expert by their stakeholders on the customers, industry, data, and about how the business works. (This is commonly where PMs drop the ball.)
Next we'll cover how PMs extend trust.
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