Everyone, especially Product Management, needs to understand how critical it is to manage up. i.e. how to manage your superiors.
In this frame of reference, your job is to ensure your boss is successful. In most situations, it is a truism that if your boss isn’t successful, you certainly won’t be successful. So some of your time has to be spent ensuring that you are helping your boss, and nothing you are doing is directly, or indirectly, undermining him or her.
An interesting, historical case in point. We’ve all heard of Pythagoras and the Pythagorean Theorem…you remember, come on….
But Pythagoras was more than a mathematician, he was also a philosopher who believed that everything was related to numbers and mathematics. So what does this have to do with managing up?
Pythagoras had a disciple named Hippasus. Hippasus was a gifted student and was analyzing a right-angled triangle with short sides of 1 unit and hypotenuse of √2 (square root of 2).
Hippasus derived a mathematical proof that √2 was an irrational number (i.e. it cannot be represented as a fraction). This fundamentally contradicted one of Pythagoras’ central beliefs that all numbers were rational. i.e. they could be represented as a fraction of two other integers.
Pythagoras not only rejected Hippasus’ proof, but as one version of the story goes, had Hippasus drowned at sea for heresy!
We all were taught about Pythagoras and his theorem. I’ll bet very few, if any of you, were taught the story of Hippasus.
The moral of this story: Even if you are absolutely right about something, make sure that the position or stand you take, helps your boss succeed and is not going to undermine him or her. While it’s unlikely you risk being drowned at sea, you could find yourself ostracized and marginalized by a manager who puts his/her own self interests ahead of yours.