Too much empathy?

At Target, I lead an internal internship for aspiring product managers, called the Product Fellowship. It is a program that gives current employees an opportunity to be mentored by product managers and embed them in working product teams. The goal is to identify the next great product leaders and give them tangible experience to leverage in looking for their first product job.

Two weeks ago, we had a number of product fellows do a presentation on the product they are working on and the discovery they had been doing with customers. One of my colleagues noted that there was a consistent theme throughout the day – a lot of apologizing. Apologizing for not having good solutions ready for customers, apologizing for not having a good handle on their OKRs, etc. This ended up driving a really good conversation on the topic of empathy.

While empathy is a critical trait of a successful product manager, it can sometimes go too far. Fast Company recently wrote a fabulous article on how to replace “sorry” with better phrases.

Question for current product people – Do you find yourself falling into some of these traps and if so, how do you avoid them?

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