What The Super Bowl Teaches Us About Product Management
When asked about his team’s success in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady made this point when accepting his MVP trophy; “Football is a game of energy, emotion and attitude”. I find it interesting that he went straight to the intangibles; secondarily he credited the hard work of his teammates and the skilled coaching of Bill Belichick and staff. To us at MIDIOR Consulting, this sums up what we believe about what makes product managers great. In many ways, the best product managers are very much like the team of New England Patriots that gave us the best Super Bowl of all time. Yes, as a Boston-based company, we have a slight bias. No question, great product managers are hard to find yet they all share the characteristics of a winning NFL team:
They are fierce competitors. While an NFL player focuses on one opponent in one stadium each week, a product manager competes on more than one field: internally for resources and externally against new and well-established players.
They are motivators. Without receivers to catch the ball, linebackers to make the defensive calls, and a special teams unit to handle tasks ranging from punts to field goals, the game cannot be won. A high-energy, enthusiastic product manager will motivate and coordinate a cross-functional team of sales, support, and development players to help win the game for product. One of the key success factors for the Patriots has been the confidence displayed by TB12. He leads by example, modeling the behaviors that keep the team focused on the job at hand – rather than falling into a panic.
They never give up. The opponent may be ahead by 25 points in the third quarter but there is still time left on the clock. For a product manager the obstacles are many and play dynamics can change. Budgets get pulled, a competitor enters from left field, laptops catch fire all over the world. Challenges can seem insurmountable but I’ll guarantee that in the Patriots locker room at half-time Belichick said; “it is what it is”, now win the game.
They execute. Game strategy is important but executing the plays wins the game. The Patriot’s tried many plays that didn’t work out (the flubbed on-side kick, the double-pass, the missed extra point) but they kept at it. In the aftermath of the game, there has been much talk about Atlanta’s coaching decisions and strategies in the 4th quarter. But reality is they simply failed to execute, while the Patriots prevailed. In the same way, great product managers are masters of the details and can execute the plan.
So the next time you scout an aspiring product manager, put aside the resume and look for the attributes that will win you five Super Bowl rings.