If you want to be a bad product manager, avoid confrontation with colleagues. You need to get along with your colleagues, and when a disagreement comes up, try to find a way around it as quickly as possible. Sometimes it’s just better to give in than to try and do what you think is right. Find the easy way out and if things start to get heated, immediately take a break or remove yourself from the situation. You’re not going to be able to design good products if you have team members always disagreeing with each other.
If you want to be a good product manager, encourage healthy discussion, disagreement, and even arguments that can help make the product better. Confrontation is inevitable, and trying to avoid it is unhealthy and unproductive. A product development team without differing opinions is not exploring the full range of possibilities. Pretend that differences of opinion do not exist and not letting people express them will lead to frustration, alienation, and eventually even more conflict.
The key to productive and “healthy” arguments is to keep them focused on the specific problem or issue. Gopal Shenoy writes that one of the 11 things he has learned in the last 11 years is to “Have technical and business arguments with colleagues as long as none of it turns personal”:
Make sure that all perspectives are considered when devising the best possible solution for a customerâ€™s problem. Have heated technical/business debates if you want, but never ever make any of these arguments/disagreements personal. When you have these disagreements and then make a decision, you at least know that you have considered all possible solutions and picked the one that is the best. After all, the customer does not care whose idea it was … Either all of us are going to look like heroes or a bunch of idiots. Which would you rather be?
If arguments start straying down a personal or other unrelated path, stop the discussion and frame the issue. What is the problem that we are trying to solve? Is the problem caused by other underlying issues? What are the different alternatives? What are the pros and cons to each of the alternatives? Is there any information that you do not currently have which could inform one of the perspectives?
Keep everyone — including yourself — focused on the main issue and what would be best for the customer and in turn what would be best for the business, and you will find that you will encourage discussion that is more worthwhile and productive for everyone involved.