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Product Managers: Accelerate your Momentum to Magnify your Effectiveness

 

 

Momentum is easy to see in sports. One team is doing better, seems to have more energy, pulls off crucial moments with ease, and has a stronger body language. While the other team - they seem to have their backs to the wall. They seem to start to lose grip on their position in the game. They might be ahead but seems not so for long.

The same thing applies to Product Management. Momentum is crucial but can take many forms. There are five aspects to Product Management momentum; the market, your product, your stakeholders, your team, and you.

Market momentum

How well is the category of products you're working on doing? So, as an example, if I was to start a company today, let's say that's a competitor to Uber or Lyft, there's a good chance that I'm hardly able to get any market share. But because this category is doing well, I will at least get some momentum in the marketplace because as we've heard, a rising tide lifts all boats.

It's always important to consider what's the underlying job the customers talking to do? Over time categories might come and go, but jobs are stable.

Let’s take an example. A job that customers are looking to do often, is to keep themselves entertained while they are commuting via public transit. Now before there were mobile phones, uh, this job was done by a newspaper, a walkman, a book, or by talking to other people. Now other things have taken over. Facebook has taken over. Instagram has taken over. The job has stayed the same, but the category that has momentum has shifted.

Product momentum

Within that category, how well is your product doing? Is it gaining or losing market share and mindshare?

A lot of things matter here for your prospective customers: thought leadership, marketing touchpoints, product news, education. And for an existing customer, shipping cadence matters. How quickly do you ship products to them? Customers should always see the product grow and thrive, with smaller features and improvements interleaved with huge changes that drive the product forward by leaps and bounds.

Consider this for yourself: what are you doing to keep your product momentum high for your customers?

Stakeholder momentum

Assuming that your company has more than one product, and multiple teams, how much momentum do stakeholders see from you? There are two main ways of communicating this momentum: one on ones and product updates.

I send a biweekly update on my product and I tried to outline at least a few things that demonstrate momentum:

These are

  1. Product OKRs and metrics, especially related to recent things I have shipped
  2. Feature launches
  3. Customer stories
  4. Team movements,  like things you learned from customers and decisions you might've made based on customer learning. This increases the confidence stakeholders have in the team and in your ability as a product manager

Team momentum

You might be in a market leading product, but because either most things have not changed, or they've just gotten stale, your team might not be as enthusiastic. Novelty is important.

These things can help a lot in keeping the momentum high for your team:

  1. Things you shipped; communicate them and celebrate them
  2. Decisions, especially decisions made involving the whole team. Explain how you got to those decisions; make the team feel heard
  3. Achievements e.g., when people went above and beyond or if teams went above and beyond, recognize them. There's an interesting balance here between how much you recognize individual achievements and how much you recognize team achievements. You want to do a bit of both. Too much focus on individual achievements makes it a culture of heroes where people are trying to not just go above and beyond individually, but they're trying to take credit individually. You don't want to encourage that.
  4. Values: Values can get stale. But when you revisit those values in the context of decisions you want to make, they get momentum. They get ingrained in people's mind. Values get momentum and are likely to stay on top of mind for people, and get them to act in accordance with them,

Personal momentum

The most overlooked kind of momentum is your own personal momentum.

Even when things are going well, as far as your product is concerned, product management can be a tough job. You have a lot going on. It's always you're prioritizing not just what the product would do, but also what you focus on.  And so you have to keep your own energy and momentum high. There are a few things that you should really try to optimize for, for your own momentum.

  1. Energy, driven by wellness. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have enough practices that relax? These could be hobbies, or meditation, or exercise. Having some way of maintaining and increasing your emergy is crucial. For the longest time, I used to push myself to just work crazy hours, always be on email and just “be a great employee.” But then I realized that those were harmful to me and for the company I worked for. I now focus on sleep, exercise, renewal routines, meditation and disconnecting from work. And I can see the difference.
  2. Achievements: Are you having an impact on the product and the team? Did you ship things, move the needle on business metrics, shaped team culture? Did you see the impact on individual customers? And as importantly, did you stop and recognize and celebrate them? It’s easy to go to the next thing without pausing, reflecting and celebrating.
  3. Learning: Are you learning and growing? Are you setting yourself up for success for the next level? What skills are you working on? Do you understand what practices you need to build as a product manager, and are you cultivating them on a regular basis?

To sustain momentum, there is one powerful method. Have a  peer group that holds you accountable, not just for achievements but make sure you are managing your health, your psyche and showing up to work energized and doing the best you can and feeling fulfilled. And maintaining that balance that helps you feel fulfilled. That's why in the group coaching class I run, I focus on building a peer group for the participants.

So seek momentum as a product manager. Make sure you understand these different aspects of momentum. Seek to increase it day by day.

My parting challenge to you is, take all these aspects of momentum mentioned above and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10. Then find the lowest score, and figure out how to move the needle just a bit in the next month. It’s the small things that make a difference; once you start gaining momentum, you can accelerate, and there is no stopping you.

 

 

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