How do stakeholders extend trust in PM:stakeholder collaboration?
How are stakeholders vulnerable in this collaboration?
Yesterday we covered how stakeholder earn trust in the ongoing trust-dance that is PM:stakeholder collaboration. Today we talk about how they extend trust. Recall that this is exploring each side of the “empowerment deal,” in which stakeholders empower the product team with autonomy and in return, get the accountability and truly business-driving partnership of a creative team.
This dance is vulnerable for both parties. Stakeholders act vulnerably by…
(1) Giving teams space to generate surprising solutions. This is about asking team’s to drive outcomes rather than output, and holding space for the solutions they generate to surprise you in a good way. Every exec has their pet idea that they wish was already built. It’s fine to ask that it be one solution considered, but don’t force your solution.
(2) Leading through context, not control/process. Leaders are usually addicted to control. But it’s far more powerful to give people the context they need to make good decisions, and then let them. Process addiction will not scale. Only people of competence, character, and good judgment will.
(3) Valuing critical thinking and data > opinions. Everyone has an opinion—especially execs. Execs can extend trust by creating an environment where good thinking is valued. They model this through transparent critical thinking, both of their own stances and recommendations, as well as that of the PMs. It’s vulnerable to extend room to explore to a PM that has good data when your gut instinct says their direction won’t work.
(4) Only vetoing/escalating if it’s serious and can't be resolved another way. Having veto power is essentially what makes someone a stakeholder. Execs should not throw veto or use their power lightly. Address issues directly with the PM whenever possible, and only veto/escalate if needed.
Since they are usually on the lower end of the formal power differential in this dynamic, PMs are often unaware that the stakeholders feel vulnerable too.
A definition of trust that speaks to this dynamic comes from The Thin Book of Trust:
Trust is defined as choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions.
When you’re caught up in the day to day mess of creating a product, it’s easy to forget that stakeholders are showing you an enormous amount of trust. By giving your team power to affect the numbers they are responsible for, they are (partially) putting their jobs and compensation at the effect of your actions!
To truly partner with the business and collaborate with—rather than manage—our stakeholders, we ought to remember this as PMs.
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