The People Pleaser

A Product Manager who believes their core job responsibility is to seek concessions and compromises between the development teams and stakeholders.

Problem

Product Managers often have to mediate between two groups comprising of very strong personalities:

  • Stakeholders, who know what they want the product to do
  • Developers, who know how to build the product

Optimally, the relationship between stakeholders and developers is one of collaborative give-and-take, but often it is quite contentious. The People Pleaser Product Manager finds themselves unable to control these two groups, and instead tries to build consensus through a series of compromises, resulting in neither group being happy with the final product.

It is fair to say that the People Pleaser Product Manager has given up managerial control over the product. Instead, they are only mediating between stakeholders and developers in an attempt to document whatever both parties can agree to or live with. As they normally have to do this under time pressure, it is the ideal circumstance for groupthink. Products developed by groupthink are easy to identify: no one likes the final product.

“Design through compromise” is a recipe for disaster, as it can result in an unsalable product. If the initial product offering is rejected by customers, the project will most certainly be declared a failure, and it is unlikely that it will be allowed to continue.

Solution

To manage two groups made up of strong personalities requires a great deal of managerial skill and experience. A firm but fair hand must be used to settle down each group, and align them towards the common goal of building a great product. This high managerial bar is what makes the People Pleaser so difficult to fix: If they were capable of controlling both groups, they would have already.

People who have the capability to effectively manage groups comprising of strong personalities will have most likely promoted out of the role of being a Product Manager, as this is a key attribute of upper management.

Ultimately, if the stakeholder and developers cannot be coached into working together more effectively, the People Pleaser Product Manager will have to be replaced. Not doing so will, in all likelihood, result in the project producing an unsalable product, and therefore the project being canceled.


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