The Product Manager as the Quarterback of the Team


I usually summarize the role of the product manager as the CEO of their product. But I had a great conversation with a fellow product manager a couple of weeks ago who was telling me what he loved most about being a product manager was being the quarterback of the team. That stuck with me and the more I thought about it I realized it was another great way to describe the role and the key attributes needed to be successful in it.

Calls each play
What resonates with me most about this analogy is that it better captures the reality that the product manager is down in the trenches with his team calling each and every play. It’s not simply a strategy role where you set the high level vision for the product and expect the rest of the team to execute on it. Instead it’s very much an execution role that demands your continued leadership and focus throughout the product development process.

Can’t be successful without the trust of the team
Your success as a product manager will depend immensely on your ability to garner the respect and trust of your team members. Product development is equally a team sport and without strong relationships within your team, team performance can quickly degrade.

Requires quick decision making
Just as quarterbacks are required to make snap decisions at every play, product speed of execution depends on the product manager’s ability to consistently make the right call in a timely manner. Developing such a skill is equally art and science, since it requires the right process but also the right intuition to make the best call.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been watching a lot of Friday Night Lights lately, but I find the analogy of a product manager as the quarterback of the team an extremely accurate one.
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