Episode 4: Product Manager as Coach

Episode 4

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In this final episode of the season, Karl and Danielle explore the idea of a product manager being like a coach. But being divided by a common language, this idea hits differently depending on which side of the pond you’re on! This conversation covers the role of a product manager, the importance of taking care of your teams, the importance of nuance and whether or not we’ve lost that as a society, and finally, how you can use story to ensure that you’re conveying the important nuances in your communications.

Key Points

00:00Introduction 00:54Episode introduction 01:24Hockey teams and an explanation of hockey (Yes, Really!) 02:42Hockey is like a live product management game 06:16The different stakes in hockey and product management 07:53Player / engineer burnout 09:37Inter-team dynamics 10:36Playbooks and how they relate to product management 15:00PM as Conductor 19:38PM as mini-CEO 26:26Org chart impacts on a team 28:50Nuance 32:48Story as a means to go beyond just the headline 36:24Embedding story into your product design 37:30Personas 38:53Outro

Call to Action

Take time to learn about different roles from adjacent team types. Today we’ve talked about sports coaches and music conductors but there’s a whole bunch more examples of leadership and how the styles show up in different environments in order to make efficient teams. Let us know what you find by leaving a comment, we’d love to hear your ideas.


“When you’re doing product management, you may have to adapt on a dime to what you’re seeing out there with your product in the world, much the same way that a hockey coach would have to do that during a period of play in hockey.”

Karl Abbott

I think that being a PM sometimes is very thankless and you have to take the win that other individuals have on your team rather than expecting a win for yourself, because PM is really hard to prove what you did without the team doing it for you.”

Danielle Kirkwood

A product manager should be an umbrella – they should protect the team from the rain falling down but they should also be the one catching the rain.

Danielle Kirkwood

“When you get to this soundbite mentality, you do lose the nuance. As a product manager, you’ve really got to be able to go all the way from the super simplistic form of communication all the way to the highly complex understanding of what you’re trying to do.”

Karl Abbott

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Season 0Episode 4