Hodie Meyers, PhD, Product Manager for Drive @ Google

Hodie said, “If you want to be a good PM, play pickup soccer.”

“You start by just showing up. The game is already going. Everyone else (the engineers and designers) seems to know each other.” You don’t know anyone. You feel a bit uncomfortable.

You might watch for a few minutes (joining existing team meetings, reading the influx of emails and bugs). You try to learn what’s going on. “You try to figure out how these folks are playing the game.”

You walk up to someone and ask to play (initial 1:1s with the engineering leads). They say sure, but then they head off in the other direction down the field. There’s no warm welcome. No one offers you the ball. It’s not mean…it’s just that no one really thinks about you. They all keep playing.

You notice a few ways to help. They should play with three players on offense (increasing staffing on certain priorities). You also feel like “you should get the ball more, be more central to the game.” (You wish the team would look at you and ask you–as the oh-so-wise PM–what they should do.) Yeah, right. They’ve been playing for a while and this is their game. Who are you to tell them what to do?

You need to find a way to earn trust. When you get the ball, you pass it (give others public credit for ideas and their hard work). You try to be the guy who has the assist. You try to show the other players you know what you’re doing and that you’re a team player.

Over time, the team starts to trust you. They see you as a way to help them score (user growth, internal recognition, increased headcount, etc). They see you as an important part of the team: as a playmaker, as someone who can help organize the defense, or simply as someone who is strengthening the team overall. Sometimes, you even wind up and take a shot yourself.

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