What do Tom Brady and Oprah have in common with product managers?

Tom and Oprah

It’s football season, once again (American football to be precise), which reminds me of a podcast episode of Oprah Winfrey’s “Supersoul Conversations” with Tom Brady. I’m not much of a football fan (college basketball is my jam), but I was interested in hearing what Tom had to say since he’s such an incredible athlete.

Tom spoke about how he had not always been the best football player. When he played for Michigan, he knew the areas he had to work on, but he also knew his strengths: he had a strong work ethic, he was a natural at leading people, and he had perseverance. Probably sounds like a great product manager you know, right?

He went on to talk about how he led his NFL team, the Patriots, when they were down by 25 points in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons. Rather than worrying about the huge gap and questioning if they could do it, they tackled (sorry, had to go there) each play one at a time and ensured they made the right move for that particular play: Score one touch down. Stop the defense and get the ball back quickly. Get to a first down… you get the picture. That 25-point comeback was the biggest in Super Bowl history.

As a product manager, you may aspire to be the greatest of all time (like Tom Brady is one of the greatest football players of all time). To get there, you must be able to lead your teams by identifying the key plays needed to win and focusing on those plays one at a time.

If you and your team are trying to deliver a monolithic release, you are setting yourself (and your company) up for failure.

The key to winning is to lead your team to focus on the right solution for the first opportunity you need to deliver before moving on to the second one, and the third one and so on. Prioritize and focus on incremental activities that put you closer to your goal (whether it’s delivering a more engaging experience for your customers, increasing revenue for your company, etc.).

Want to learn more about how to lead cross-functional teams? Sign up for my 1:1 coaching program designed to advance your career.

Image courtesy of Oprah.com.

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