Give and Get
How to effectively "get what you want" as a PM
There’s a lot we want to “get” as product managers.
We want to get that job offer.
We want to win a debate.
We want to get our strong opinions across.
We want to convince and influence.
We want to teach and evangelize.
We want to lead.
We want to get the full team behind you wherever you’re headed.
Rightfully so. Because by getting the above, we expect great outcomes.
You get to stretch your legs and follow your passion in your dream role.
You get others to believe in what you believe is right for the business.
You get your team to follow and support you.
Together, you build great products and deliver for the business.
So not surprisingly, I’m getting these questions a lot. How can I effectively <get something? To win, to convince, to lead, to get something.
So in this post, I’m going to share one highly generalized philosophy to help you effectively get all of the above. WARNING: by “philosophy”, I mean it, and you might not find detailed tips and tricks in this post.
Read on if you’re still interested! 📜
How to Get…
Is to first give.
[OK, there you go with the one principle. You may stop reading if you are not interested in the elaboration that follows].
What do I mean? OK maybe not exactly “give to get”. This is what I mean:
To succeed in interviews for your dream job, you need to be ready to fail.
To win a debate, you need to be willing to lose.
To convince, you need to be open to be convinced.
To convey, you need to listen.
To teach, you need to first learn.
To lead, you need to know how to follow.
To get the support, you need to first help.
I think you can probably use some more elaboration.
Let me double click into some of the examples above.
Success / Failure
Success is often preceded by failures before it. To be clear:
You could have a straight success when you do something the first time.
Or there’s no one set number of failures that will guarantee your success the next time around
It really means: failures could very well be your friend to help achieve successes later on, if you fail well and learn from it.
Product interviews could be one of the best examples to illustrate the above. I don’t know about you, but I failed countless times before I could almost consistently knock product interviews out of the park.
Convince / Be Convinced
As a PM, you probably feel you need to be right all the time. And by consistently being able to convince others, you would be respected as the best PM who’s always right.
Or would you necessarily?
I believe the best PM has this quality instead: Be truth seeking. By always seeking the true, she makes sure the best possible decision is made. Whoever came up with the idea in the first place.
That’s right, even when the final “right” or “best” decision proves her wrong. Because it’s really not about who’s right. It’s about what’s right. And trust me, this is simple to say, but not easy to live in practice. Because it’s human nature to want to be right, and feel the “danger” if one’s idea is challenged.
There’s more. By carrying the reputation of being truth seeking and open minded, people will start listening to you more and valueing your opinions with more weights. Why? Because they know you’re advocating for it not because of the personal agenda. It’s because you fundamentally believe it’s the best for the business.
Convey / Listen
This is similar to the one above but with nuanced difference.
Often time, you develop a thought, you can’t wait to get it out and talk about it. You want people to hear you. And all you have in your head is “how to get it across”, or “when is it my turn to speak”.
But this could be counter productive. Why? Because the most effective message is often highly targeted to the present. The best answer to a question is one that directly and immediate answers the exact question asked. The best opinion is one that’s addressed to what’s being discussed. The best question comes from the missing clarify out of the statement that is being made.
You just have to listen first, carefully and attentive, to exactly what’s being asked, discussed, and stated, before you know how you can effectively respond.
I believe I’ve talked about this a lot in interview tips. But this absolutely applies to all parts of our lives (not just PM jobs).
Lead / Follow
There are two reasons why you need to first know how to follow before you know how to lead.
Following allows you to observe and experience good and bad leaders yourself, and you’ll know how to lead based on how you want to be led.
A part of leading is to be the bridge between what’s above you and under you. If you only lead who’s under you and don’t follow what’s above you. You’re half the bridge. And half the bridge is probably worse than no bridge at all (think of crossing a river with “half a bridge”).
Don’t think you have someone “above” you? Think again. Even as the CEO of the company, you’re accountable for the board and the investors. OK even if you’re the top of the universe, you might still report to your sponse 😏
So as you see, in order to “get” something, often time where you start is you master the opposite. That’s how I generalized it as the “give and get” principle.
Does it necessarily apply to all aspect of PM role? I’m not sure. Has it helped me grow and be much more effective as a PM over the years? Absolutely.
Having that said, I’d love to hear about how it might or might not apply to your scenarios! Send me a note!