Maintaining (Not Managing) A Team: Product Manager VS Leader

The battle between who is better at maintaining a team has been fierce

Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash

“Product manager is a married husband. A leader is a single bachelor.”

Developing a product is easy. Maintaining it? That’s the tough part.

Hiring and marketing your business to people is easier. Retaining them? That’s hard.

Hiring people isn’t the end. It’s the start. Sure you need a product manager for your business otherwise which there is no discipline, hence no business.

But, too often, we, product managers destroy our product, hence company by destroying the team.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Product managers are capable of doing great when they wear the leadership hat.

For some personal reasons, our product manager had to be out of town. He is a great leader, rather than a manager. We got an alternative, but the lessons I learned from her were amazing.

Product Management Isn’t Leadership

Product management is one thing. Leadership is another. Leadership is what you need to hit for.

Leadership is why people continue to work without getting a salary for 7 months. Leadership is why people work extra hours without even anyone asking. Leadership is why your business has a legacy.

I never managed a product, I managed people. We manage people. We make people be better and do better.

People are necessary for any business to survive. Without people, you don’t have a business.

“Leadership is using your hands to dig a well in an empty room to feed water to everyone else. Managership is giving others shovels to dig it for you.”

Product Managers Complain, Leaders Give Feedback

Complaining is one thing. Giving feedback is another. You can’t complain and say that you are giving feedback, that you are doing your work — you are managing them. Sorry, please don’t lie.

Product Managers get angry when things don’t work out their way. Leaders appreciate others coming up with better ideas and alternatives. Leaders know that they too aren’t perfect.

Product managers command. But, leaders guide.

Let us see a real-life scenario at our company in action to compare it better.

A Conversation Between The New Product Manager & Team Members

New Product Manager: What’s the update of the translation site, Shuvojit?

Shuvojit: It’s almost done. I’m waiting for Karim to share the reviewed contents.

New Product Manager: What do you mean? Karim told me he shared those with you. You are saying the opposite. What’s the issue? Why are you guys doing back and forth? Why is it taking so much time? Why don’t you guys finish this work sooner? Just sit together today and finish this off. You guys are having a miscommunication. Just stop and finish this today.

*New Product Manager messages me: What Shuvojit is saying is it correct?

(This means she doesn’t trust me. She needs recheck which is fine, but without hearing anything from Shuvojt, she questioning me didn’t make sense. Okay, no worries. Doesn’t matter.)

*Here I replied right after she questioned: Here’s all the translated content: {translated content link}

(Silence….she didn’t respond to me. She simply took away 7 seconds of my life. Alright, No worries.)

Shuvojit: No Ma’am, I didn’t mean that. Karim gave me all the 5 language contents. However, one of the lessons was unreviewed. Once he gets it reviewed and shares it with me, the translation site will be ready.

New Product Manager: No excuses. Just finish this today.

Shuvojit: (Sigh…) Okay.

Now a conversation between our old product manager.

Conversation Between The Old Product Manager & Team Members

Zahid: I couldn’t finish all my tasks today. When I went to Facebook, I kept on surfing through it, and time passed by. Really sorry about this.

Old Product Manager: Ohh, no worries. Everybody gets hooked into social media. Myself too. However, I follow a few tips to keep me safe from that trap:

  1. Unfollow addictive pages and mark See First for the ones that provide value or teach us something.
  2. Set a timer for how long I want to use social media. AppDetox helps me with that. Or I do social media fasting when I’m working. YourHour is good for that.
  3. If I am working on the phone, I turn on the Do not disturb mode so that when working, I don’t get distracted with notifications. If I’m on PC, I put my mobile behind the PC so that it’s out of my sight, hence I’m out of distractions.

Zahid: Thanks so much. Really appreciate that. I’ll surely try them.

Got the difference?

Product Managers Force, Leaders Suggest

Without polite words, I better leave the company. I too do have self-respect. I am a human. We work for the mission, the ideology, and not for you, the product manager.

A Conversation Between The New Product Manager & Team Members

New Product Manager: Hey, we’ll include the translation of 5 languages in the app.

Me: Let us try 1 language at first, please.

A few reasons:

  1. While we have a lot of languages translated (at least first 2 galaxies), we still want to go with just one language, Bengali as we have a few translators active. Also, we know Bengali so it’s easier to identify mistakes when people test from our new site.
  2. As the site is still in alpha, a few issues might be invisible, so we want to find those with the help of our first language tester, the Bengali translators. We can improve the site with their feedback for future translators.
  3. We also want to learn ourselves and train the translators slowly. The site requires manual work for now.

Jumping with 5 or more languages is possible but might end up hurting us.

New Product Manager: No no, let us stick to the plan. We can’t change things at the last moment. We’ll go with 5 languages. Get it ready soon.

Me: Sure, as you say. (deep down sad, unsure about anything, feels like crap.)

Let’s see a conversation with the old product manager.

A Conversation Between The Old Product Manager & Team Members

Me: Hey, I’m posting about our new milestone achievement, the 500K Play Store downloads on our social media channels. Also, running a giveaway as a celebration.

Old Product Manager: Oh, awesome. Congrats on your achievement. Really appreciate your efforts in this achievement. How about we post once we get the 500K+ Install badge on the Play Store? Seems like it’s still not updated on the store.

Me: Sure, good thinking. Let’s do that. Congrats for 500K.

(Now I am happy. He valued me, my thinking. I’ll be happy to work and put my very best. That’s the power of leaders.)

Product Managers Decides, Leaders Accepts

Who are you to force deadlines on me? I know my work and how long I’ll need to finish this. After all, it’s my job and I’m the one to do it.

A Conversation Between The New Product Manager & Team Members

New Product Manager: Set the meeting with the other developer tonight and finish working on the App Forum issues tomorrow in the first half of the day so that I get the update about this in the scrum tomorrow. I don’t want to hear negative news. Just ensure that.

One team member: I have some personal work tonight so won’t be able to join the meeting and I wanted to finish working on the voice navigation feature tomorrow. We can finish off the App Forum issues the next half of the day and I’ll give you the update day after tomorrow.

New Product Manager: Who are you to decide? Just do as I say.

One team member: Okay, as you say. (Unhappy, lost hope, unmotivated, feels really bad.)

A Conversation Between The Old Product Manager & Team Members

Old Product Manager: Hey Mohon, what’s the progress on our YouTube channel art design?

Mohon: It’ll be done tonight. I had some personal issues so took 2 days longer. Sorry about that.

Old Product Manager: Cool, no worries. Eagerly excited about your work. Take care of yourself too.

See the difference?

We lose people this way. Disastrous thing happens when we force our people to work. Because, without intentions, nothing works. This is why food suddenly becomes delicious when you aren’t anxious. You give all your efforts into one thing — cooking when you aren’t anxious. This is also why your special one is the most beautiful person in the world (at least to you) because you love her only.

My Request To All Product Managers

Please don’t force a deadline on me. Consider my side too.

Please use polite words while talking with me. I too am a human.

Please don’t complain, guide me. Show me the way.

When you do those three, you aren’t just product managers. You are a leader. Leaders work themselves at first before giving work to somebody else. Leaders learn and teach. Leaders create and provide value. Leaders give their credit to others. Leaders motivate. Leaders respect people. Leaders don’t fear failure. Leaders remain accountable. Leaders lead. And, maybe sometimes leaders eat last too?

Written by

My story might not matter but it'll gently touch your interior and remind you how smarter you are. Google forced to include numbers:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store