Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

How to keep fighting until you understand

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Do you ever find yourself sparring (perhaps with your boss) over something you know you’re right about? I sure have. Are there times when people around you just don’t see what’s really going on? This can be frustrating.

ElkFight

Not too long ago I found out that the head of product for one of the partners I’m working with had set a date for several upcoming product releases. The worst part?  She hadn’t discussed it with me. What added to the frustration was my GM had corroborated with her on the delivery dates. Neither of them discussed it with me.

When I brought this up with my GM he was defensive at first. I pressed and let him know that I never have (and never will) agree to dates until I have full buyoff from my development teams. He agreed, then explained some things I didn’t know (about the work we’re doing for this and other companies), and through the process of discussion we quickly came into complete agreement.

There were specifics of which I was not aware. As I inquired further the situation became more clear and my understanding of what we needed to do became apparent. In hindsight I needed to do at least three things:

  1. Take a step back and ask questions. Take time to think about the issue without distractions. Ask introspective questions that will help you see the situation more clearly. In my recent circumstance I asked myself if the product leader would really try to commit me or whether there might be something else going on. It turns out she was under a lot of pressure and needed to show she could get something
  2. Look deeper to understand all positions. In tough situations we tend to get defensive, which can lead to questions and misunderstanding. Take the time to investigate the situation so that you can see things from another’s perspective.
  3. Be open to new ideas. The statement “you don’t know everything” can hurt our ego at times, but it’s true. The more we are willing to consider new ideas and change our approach the better off we’ll be in the long run. You don’t need to compromise your values or closely held beliefs for this to work. Just be open to the fact you may not have all the information or know the best solution.

Fighting until you understand doesn’t mean you actually fight. It means you keep driving, you dig deeper, you look for things you didn’t know or understand. You work to get yourself to a point of clarity. You work to understand.

Question: Have you fought through a difficult situation with a boss or coworker? How did it turn out? You can leave a comment below.


The Product Management Perspective: Pushing to an understanding is incredibly important for product managers. Customers, sales leaders, engineers and others often want you to build the product to their specs. That situation is never easy and it’s not fun. However, it might be just what your product needs. Take the time to listen and to consider how what you’re hearing can help your product.

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