10 Mar Remember to bring the donuts

For product managers, one bit of advice that might trump all: Always bring the donuts. This seemingly small and perhaps nutty gem came courtesy of Google Ventures partner and INDUSTRY 2016 speaker Ken Norton in 2005.

At the time, Ken was VP of Product at Jotspot, a startup acquired by Google shortly afterwards. Previously, Ken led product management at Yahoo and was CTO of Snap which became NBC Internet. Clearly, with this experience under his belt he was in a wonderful position to give perspective on how product managers should operate. And so he put together 63 valuable slides on how to lead cross functional teams.

The real crux of this talk centers around how the product manager can gain the respect and authority required to be an effective decision maker. The truth, according to Ken, is that unlike with sales people, engineers and executives, life without product managers “would be fine” … at least for a while. The reality, of which I’m sure you don’t need convincing, is that product managers are crucial organizational entities.

So, how is respect and authority gained?
I’m sure most by now will have figured out one of the best ways — always be the one who brings the donuts! And for people in different roles, Ken Norton outlines additional tactics that can also be adopted:

For engineers — clear obstacles, always take the blame, ask smart questions, explain the “why”, empathize.

For sales people — know their number, get on the phone with customers, make promises so they don’t have to, help them be creative.

For execs — have a vision, be patient, know your competition, make your commitments.

Hey, even for customers … bring the donuts!

Since this talk, Ken has gone on to lead product initiatives at Google, including Docs, Calendar and Mobile Maps. And he now provides product and engineering support to more than 300 portfolio companies including Uber, Nest, Slack, Foundation Medicine, and Flatiron Health.

Ken will be appearing at INDUSTRY on September 15th and 16th in Cleveland, Ohio. Register soon so you can hear and meet this true product leader in the flesh.

Paul McAvinchey

During the day, Paul heralds the awesome product design abilities of DXY and by night you'll see him organizing Industry, a conference in Cleveland for people who build, launch and scale world class products. Find him @YABOYA.

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