As a product manager, I am a pretty well natured person, a consensus seeker, or someone who defuses tense situations. In short, the Dude Abides. Keeping an even keel, even when under the surface you want to reach out and strangle the person across the table is a pretty important attribute of a successful product manager.
Recently I was asked what it would take to get me visibly angry, to lose my cool, or to climb a coconut tree (as my German speaking friends tell me the idiom is in their language).
I thought I would share my answer.
First, a lot of the stupidity I come across in my job from all groups pisses me off. But over 15 years, I have learnt to not visibly get agitated. While blowing off steam is a helpful response, it often leads to career limiting events.
But this case is the one time where I came completely unglued in public.
Back about the beginning of the GFC (global financial crisis), sales was struggling at the company I was working at. In a staff meeting with all the group leaders, our VP/GM said that sales wasn’t getting enough qualified leads, and then he pointed his finger at me, and said (and this is pretty much word for word):
Dude, I want you to start calling the prospects list to prequalify them for sales. They aren’t getting enough qualified leads, and I want you to help them by calling the leads first.
I sat there for about 5 seconds in stunned silence, thinking to myself did he really ask me to spend 8 hours a day cold calling prospects? Did he really want me to be an inside sales person? Apparently, the answer was yes.
I completely came unglued. I said:
Are you insane? Do you realize you pay me almost $150K a year to manage your three product lines, to provide marketing insight and leadership, to essentially ensure that we build the right products for the right markets? And you want me to spend my time doing *inside sales*? I have a better idea. Fire me, and hire five inside sales people who will do a far better job of that than me. Clearly you are an idiot, and want to lead this division into bankruptcy.
(Well, I am pretty sure I used some choice 4 letter words too) I got up, and walked out of the room, and the building, not looking back.
Later that day I got a call from the CEO, apologizing, and 3 months later the VP/GM was gone.
Yes, it is possible to get me up the coconut tree.
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