Assuming the best (in people)

There are days when it seems like everybody is just either lazy or incompetent. A good friend of mine, Holden Caulfield, tried to convince me at a rather early age that most people are, in fact, phonies. I find that when I am really busy and I hear about some new thing somebody is working on, and it is “sub-standard” in some way that I can fall into an all too easy trap of assuming that the person is either unqualified or incompetent (we can argue later about whether I just repeated myself) to accomplish the initiative they are working on. 

Getting into this mood is downright dangerous for a leader in any organization, especially for a Product Manager. Look, at lot of our job as a Product Manager is driving people to excel. In order to do this you have to assume the best in people, not the worst. This means assuming their best intentions, their best effort, and at times it means giving them the benefit of the doubt when you know they will be stretched to accomplish something and will need to rise to the occasion. 

The steps to pull yourself out of this trap are pretty simple. Before you do anything, you have to change your mindset and assume that the person has the absolute best intentions. Then the really hard part (for some), talk to the person (or their manager as appropriate). Find out what they are trying to accomplish, what they have been asked to do, and make sure that you are both on the same page. It is more likely than not that you are just misaligned on what the scope of their work is.  

Next, if you are aligned on the goals, then help them succeed by helping explain to them what you would expect out of the type of work, and more importantly why you have set the bar as high as you have. Finally, make sure you give them your time, and follow-up with the work as they are working on it to make sure they are working towards the quality work that you know they should be delivering.