Bring the donuts and boost your product management career

June 7th is National Donut Day. While that might be a great opportunity to blow your diet, I’d like to propose an alternative, career-boosting suggestion for product managers inspired by Ken Norton’s presentation at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 2005.

Bring donuts to your engineers.

Bring donuts to your sales team.

Bring donuts to your STAKEHOLDERS.

Photo by Mahima on

Why bring the donuts?!? Because that’s what people who successfully lead cross-functional teams do!

If you’ve never seen Ken’s presentation, you can read it here.

My favorite take-away from Ken’s presentaiton is this quote from General George Patton:

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

This is how product managers should lead cross-functional teams!

Without engineers, you would have no product. Do what you can to work well with them, starting with earning their respect. Ken explains you can do that by clearing obstacles, asking smart questions, explaining the “why”, and always taking the blame when things go wrong. Oh, and bringing them donuts helps, too.

Without sales, nothing would sell. What can you do to work well with your sales team? Start by getting on the phone with customers. Make promises so they don’t have to. Help them be creative. Bringing them donuts helps, too.

It’s also important to earn the respect of your stakeholders. To do that, you must have a vision, be patient, know your competition, and consistently meet your commitments. And don’t forget to bring the donuts.

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