Accountability requires humility

A big area of improvement for any product manager is demonstrating that they can be more accountable for a larger and larger scope.

First I think demonstrating that you can properly own a product is hard enough. Customer development, documentation, was it the right feature, should we kill it. All of these are not easy to get right.

Then add building and selling a road map to the mix. Vision statements, frameworks in which to make decisions, making long term bets. That doesn’t make it any easier. And you have to keep getting better at the first set of things.

And now, it’s all about doing the above  while putting together a series of large bets. Based on market analysis, competitive analysis, willingness to pay from the customer, intuition about what’s next, and how willing you are to fire your present to invest in your future.

The only way to do it is to admit you don’t know what you’re doing, and start to climb.

But I think that realizing that humility comes with this climb is something people forget. Humility to say, “I did that wrong. I own it. Let’s try again”. Humility to admit, “I don’t know what that is or how to do it. How can we figure it out?”.

I think companies need it as they grow up. People need it as they advance in their careers, and paths in life.

I also think it’s rare to see, hard to appreciate, and oftentimes a victim of finger pointing, and infighting.

So the question I need to solve is how do I create a culture of accountability (not hard) with humility (very hard)?

I’d love any ideas because I’m pretty close to all out.

  • Mary E

    I think it’s about the people in power taking enough risks that they sometimes make (big!) mistakes, and really admitting it when they do. And also being really willing to look dumb when they don’t know something, and demonstrate that what you want is for people to learn, not for people to pretend they already know everything. I really do think it’s that simple (and that hard), and that it has to come from the top down.

    • Maybe yeah.

      I definitely agree with top/down. What I don’t know is if you can bring it into a culture when it wasn’t part of what defined the culture originally? As in, if you didn’t interview for humility, can you expect people to then be humble?