Sports teams are made up of different players in different positions. They’re multi-disciplined. Whilst each player has specific roles to play, they all work together towards a common outcome.
Each player constantly evaluates their performance. Every strategy coming into a game is an assumption that will be tested and adapted as needed based on what happens during play. They’ll constantly brief and de-brief before, during and after the games to find every possible opportunity for improvement.
They also have a shared goal. While that goal may vary across different product teams those teams are deeply connected to that goal at every step.
They are the practitioner playing the game on the pitch. The Captain has a specific role to play in the game whilst understanding the other players’ roles and how they can best work towards winning.
Great Product Managers drive progress on the pitch by making calls and giving feedback to their team during play. They can critically evaluate on-the-fly and make trade-offs against an overall strategy, new information being presented during play and based on the real-time performance of the team.
Here at Mentally Friendly, our PMs are resilient and can lead their team even when the odds are stacked against them. Much like in team sports — soccer or basketball — the score sheet can change rapidly, making the game highly adaptive.
Good Captains inspire their team through thick and thin. They’re not sitting on the sidelines, like a coach or in the stands like a manager, they’re on the pitch for the whole game. Captains play alongside their team every step of the way. And while they don’t hire the team’s players Captains are experts at getting the best out of the team they play with.
A must-read in this space is Scott Walker’s, The Captain Class. Walker examines the nature of world-class teams in different sports across the world . In essence, he found that;
“The most crucial ingredient in a team that achieves and sustains historic greatness is the character of the player who leads it.”
— Scott Walker, Author