But if I’m the CEO of a company, then surely I get to decide what we’re gonna build and when?

This post is the second one in a series, you can read the first one.

Do you have a VP of Product/Head of Product Management/Chief Product Officer?

Well, that’s his job.

Surely if you hired him or keep him in place, it’s because you recognize that he:

  • Is more experienced and knowledgeable about taking Product decisions in general
  • Spends more time gathering data and opinions about the Product and thinking about these
  • Probably has a team of Product Managers who also dedicate much more time than you do thinking about their own piece of the product portfolio, in which case what gets built and when sorta falls out of his hands as well…

Yes, delegating responsibility sucks, if you don’t like it, join the army. (And I understand that isn’t what it used to be as well, since soldiers are supposed to question orders they don’t understand…)

Ok, so how go I get the people I pay to actually do what I want?

Well, you can give them orders or threaten them, but I can guarantee that this will have severe negative consequences:

  • They won’t put their hearts into it
  • Since they don’t agree that this should be done, it means they don’t understand why it needs to be done, it means they’re going to have a lot of unanswered questions. The answer to these resides in your own mind, not in theirs. So if they’re brave they’re gonna ask, but if they’re normal people (you just threatened them or gave them an order they disagree with, one confrontation with their manager is enough) they’ll make assumptions. Either they will make assumptions in order to please you, and they will overdeliver, either they will make assumptions that minimizes the amount of work on a task they consider stupid in the first place and yo won’t get what you want. Either way, you will have burned more resources than necessary.
  • Even the brave ones who did dare ask a few questions, since you’re all busy and important and barking orders, will also make assumptions, either way you’re screwed.

There’s really no way I can get my own employees to do what I want?

Sure you can, but you need to learn a magic trick before that.

They need to agree with you.

And for that to happen, that probably means they will have to change their minds and adopt your perspective.

See, you think what you think based on the data and experience that only you have. Others may be looking at a different data set, or maybe you’re looking at the exact same data, but their own experiences give them a different perspective, and therefore you draw different conclusions on what needs to be done.

So if you want them to do what you want, you’re going to have to make sure that: 1) You are indeed looking at the same data set 2) You both know where you’re coming from and understand why you see things differently

Once that baseline is established, maybe you will be able to persuade them to adopt your own views, or not. You’d better start working on those communication and leadership skills apparently :)

If you can’t persuade them, then your argument is probably not that strong and your subordinates are probably right, what you’re proposing is probably not a good idea. Hey, you may be the smartest person in the room and still be dead wrong, it does happen to absolutely everyone occasionally, in which case, you should respect their choices, because they’re probably saving you from a lot of trouble.

If you are, then you may be wondering why you have to go through all this trouble, when giving an order would have been so much simpler and faster. Well I can only reassure you with the following:

  • Since they now think that this is what must be done, they will sure put a lot more energy into it
  • Since they also have a lot more context, they will make fewer assumptions and be able to focus a lot more on the job at hand. They’ll even do more research on the problem instead of blindly adopting your prescribed solution.
  • Since you didn’t behave like a complete douche, they’ll feel a lot more welcome to ask clarifying questions or show you their progress

Suffice to say, your chances of success and the quality of the project just increased dramatically.

But if you want to keep acting like an ass and burn money, be my guest, just don’t expect your employees to be dedicated nor faithful.

OK, so now I know how to try and convince someone to do what I want them to do. But it takes so much time and requires so much communication, it just doesn’t scale! How do I do that at scale for my entire organization?

Answers in the next episode.


Originally published at draftin.com.