“Tell me more about that.”

  • 16 November 2021
  • 4 replies

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“Tell me more about that.”

These five words changed how Mary Gerhardt, a Sr. Product Manager at Beam Dental, approaches her role as a Product Manager. 

Mary shared that her former boss used this phrase to “get people to open up about their needs,” and it’s how Mary reminds herself to “stop problem-solving before I understand the problem.” 

Mary’s post was a reminder of the impact and influence that strong leadership can have on teams.

As we explore leadership and coaching this week, reflect on a previous manager or mentor. What advice were you given that you would pass along to someone just getting started in product management?

I look forward to hearing your story in the comments below.



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What advice were you given that you would pass along to someone just getting started in product management?

I had a mentor who instilled in me the mindset of “You don’t know what you don’t know.”  This was not taken as an excuse to throw my problems over the wall, but to seek to understand those problems.  I think reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset was also instrumental in shifting my mindset to one of growth.

In my opinion, humans at their core are problem solvers.  From creating tools in the stone age that solved a problem of hunting/gathering to creating a motorized vehicle that did not need sleep/food that horses required - that problem solving is ingrained in us.  I take this realization into my Product work.  How can I solve for a problem?  Do I fully understand the problem?  Do others experience the same or similar problem?  What are all of the problems?  Is there an urgency to one problem over another?  Continually diving deeper unlocks a wealth of information and exposes me to solving product-focus areas both current and future.

The last piece of advice regarding my answer above - all of this does me no good if I am not meticulous in writing down notes, drawing pictures, etc.  Many times I come back to information a week, a month, a year later and it helps to have as much as I can jot down to spark my memory.  I store my notes in the same area so I do not have to search high and low.  If there is anything I can do to make it easier on myself later, I do that.

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@abourjaily thank you so much for sharing this with us. 

This morning I was reading GaryVee's latest newsletter, and the topic for the week was curiosity. He firmly believes that curiosity is underrated and is an essential characteristic for business success. His newsletter and your post are great reminders to keep asking questions that will help us truly understand people's problems.

I'm curious about your process for writing down and storing notes. Is there software that you find to be helpful, or do you prefer to use notebooks?

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@michelle.fifis of course, happy to share my opinions!  I hope they help others in their Product journey (even though I am in the earlier stages of mine).

The software I’ve used has been dependent on my organization’s toolset.  I’ve used a combination of Jira/Confluence in the past.  My current org is a Microsoft shop, so I’ve used a combination of OneNote/SharePoint to create a Wiki and Confluence-like type repository.

Organizing my notes, I work in Dates and Themes.  That’s worked for me, but I know of others who organize their notes based on Product Lines or something else.

A high-level note repository may look similar to below:

  • October 2021
    • Client Meetings
      • 10.2 - Meeting Title
        • Notes from Meeting
      • 10.5 - Meeting Title
    • Internal Meetings
      • 10.1 - Meeting Title
      • 10.15 - Meeting Title
    • Project X
      • 10.8 - Meeting Title
    • Project Y
      • 10.21 - Meeting Title

My high-level template for notes are below, but can definitely change depending on the meeting:

Meeting Date - Meeting Title

  • Attendees List
  • Notes/Opinions
  • Next Steps
  • Questions to Follow Up/Problems to Solve
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Thank you so much @abourjaily! You’ve inspired me to look at how I might better organize my daily notes. Thanks again!