4 things to change your mind
If you were wondering what can happen in the head of PMs, this article is for you.
Depending if you are a startup or a big corporation, you may have done a product retreat. In Quebec, it’s called a “Lac à l’épaule” which translates to “lake over your shoulder”. Rules are simple: you go to a place off-site for two to three days with some of your colleagues.
These retreats have two main goals:
- To identify the company focus for the next 6 months/year by having deep discussions on the product, the strategy, the culture and the organisation
- To reinforce bonds in the team by building trust and collaboration through activities such as cooking meals or trekking
Those retreats are great for the product and you
As a product manager, these retreats are important for you. You are one of the key pillars in the company. You know the users, their pains and what they want, you know the product value, how to deliver the vision and ideas and finally, you know the team who can put it in place and their capabilities.
By having a central vision on the product, you are able to contribute and share valuable points on what the company should be investing in next year. Yet, those retreats are not just about the product and your thoughts, it’s a good way to get other people involved in the product. All this creativity in one place to think about the product strategy is an opportunity.
Unfortunately, as the discussion goes on, you start to have doubts. You may feel your role is undermined. Suddenly, before you even notice, it seems that everyone has switched their minds to become product managers. They all have great ideas for the product. Certain ideas are not so great either, some of them are the same as you had in the past and you know they don’t work. Some of them are not answering any needs. Still, people seem excited about them. You feel powerless because you know your work, the product and your users. It seems you aren’t being heard right now and you can't do anything about it. They all seem suddenly better at your job. You start to doubt your position, your experience and the knowledge you acquired on your users.
Are you the best fit? Do they trust you? What is your role exactly?
This situation can happen in retreats and can also happen on a day to day basis. It can happen when you ask for feedback. It can happen in a roadmap meeting. People start to show off or talk about an app they love. They start to tell you why you should put that type of experience in the product.
The thing is: you shouldn’t doubt yourself! You are the one living with the product.
Ideas are worthless…
You have to remember this simple truth, “Ideas are worthless… unless you know how to implement them”.
If product management was about finding ideas, copying other products and expecting that they would be a success, it would be an easy job. If it was so easy, why are there so many apps out there that don’t attract anyone? Product management is way more complicated than that. As said in another post, you have many roles, some would even say too many.
One of your main jobs as a product manager is to reunite everyone behind a vision, ideas and what you are believing in. You have to be relentless, you have to trust your gut and be adamant if you know that what you are doing is right.
Do you know with certainty if the ideas or decisions you are making are going to work? Unfortunately not.
There are different things though you can do during those retreats, that you can also apply when people are giving you feedback, criticism and ideas.
4 values to keep in mind as a PM
I try to live by these values as a product manager. They developed through my experience, meeting different people, reading, struggling and winning.
Don’t have an ego
You must be completely detached from those discussions, critics, feedback and ideas. Most of the time people have no idea if what they are proposing makes sense. They just want to be acknowledged, they just want to be heard.
Even if you think about your product day and night, you have to step back and take it as it is an idea and nothing else. I try not to bring my ego into the discussion, it’s not about my personal feeling.
It’s not even about the company, it’s about the product and the users.
I find and build ideas for what makes sense for my users. If you can prove me wrong by demonstrating that it doesn’t match their value and needs, I will change my mind. I can recognize a good idea, and go for crazy things also. Creativity is not a one-man job. Most of the time if you let them be, you can get amazing ideas from the developers. They want to have fun, they don’t think of the users, but they think as a user.
Some product managers feel like they bear the world on their shoulders and they are the only ones that can successfully complete a task.
Let me be straight on that. You are part of a team and can only build your product because of the designers, the developers and the architects. You are able to reach the customers/users because of the sales team, the marketing team and the support team. Without all those people, you couldn’t build the right product.
This is the game of being a product manager. You are not Superman but you are still a hero in the shadows.
Don’t be romantic
Being romantic, being stuck in the past can be one of the worst things that can block you from the path to innovation. It’s a vicious circle, the more you are stuck in the past, the more blocked you become.
Your product is your baby and I understand the passion and the attachment. Something is clear though, you should be more concerned about the present and the future. The future is moving, evolving, you have no time to get stuck. New startups, new technology, everything is going too fast.
So you have to embrace change, you have to get used to it. You need to be ready to kill a part of your product at any time.
I always remember something that one of my coworkers always says:
“Don’t name it. It’s always easier to kill it if it doesn’t have a name”.
You are living with it
You have to remember that after everything that is said and decided, you are the one living with it. An idea is not a solution, it’s just the starting point. Two people could have the same idea and the solution that will appear at the end could be totally different. As said above, an idea isn’t worth a lot without the implementation.
The solution is where you can make your mark, your personal touch. So even if you are the only one not agreeing with the idea, you can be the one that changes and shapes it as you like.
So get into it and put yourself at work and define it as if it was yours.
4 + 1 hidden here…
As the last part, I will say one thing that I didn’t put as a value, not because it didn’t make sense but because for me it doesn’t have to be said on this list.
“BE TRUE TO YOURSELF, BELIEVE IN YOU AND YOUR JOURNEY”
If an idea, a process, a strategy doesn’t make sense, say it. Be true to what you are and what you are believing in. Be transparent, open and honest in what you think. If you are not and you start to change your thoughts depending on what happens, people will feel it and change their mind on you. They will start to not trust you and your thinking.
I would like to hear what you think about this list and what you believe in. Did you say to yourself that everyone was a product manager? How did you react? I would love to hear about your experience.
Did you have that feeling? Did you feel that it was easy for some people to be a product manager and make you feel that your job is easy?
Tell me what you think and join me directly on Twitter at @philnpa