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Six Questions Product Managers Must Ask Themselves Monthly To Excel in Their Careers

Uncategorized May 30, 2020

 

A Product Manager’s role is to set the vision for a product, set the path for the product, and communicate the vision to the stakeholders.  As you would a product, creating a roadmap for your career and streamlining your actions to ensure its progress is but imperative.

 

I recently conducted the Confidence Challenge Online Workshop, which received a great number of participants.  From this activity, I have received quite a lot of questions about how I manage to stay ahead in my career or how I keep it selling.  It got me thinking about how a Product Manager’s role isn’t cut in stone and so many tend to get bogged down in their day-to-day responsibilities.

 

In this video, I have talked about the six questions that every product manager must ask themselves to accelerate the progress in their career.

 

  1. What will get me promoted?  Clarify exactly what your company expects from you and what is it that you can do to get promoted.

 

  1. What long term bet do I need to work on right now?  Not the shot and fires but the long term bet.

 

  1. Which advocates do I need to build?  Or who do I need to build relationships with so that they become an advocate for me?

 

  1. Which areas do I need to focus my learning or growth in right now?

 

  1. What do my customers need and what do they want? Figure out their aspirations, what exactly do they need to get there.  Through this, marketing and your product will deliver both.

 

  1. What would I do if I took 100% ownership of this situation?  No giving up, no complaining, no saying that no thinking that I’m in a unique situation because others have solved these problems and you can, too.

 

I will post the links at the bottom for both the monthly program that I mentioned.  If you want a massive impact on your career development as a Product Manager, that’s the way you get to that final next stage, you do one-on-one with a coach and a mentor.

 

 

TRANSCRIPTION:

 

Hey, everyone.  It’s Shobhit.  Hope that you’re all doing well and getting ready for Memorial Day weekend, for those of us in the U.S. I know a lot of people also have Friday off and Thursday off so it should be a pretty time for all of you.  It is for me as well.

 

Now, there is a, you know today, as I’ve been talking to other people we recently did the Confidence Challenge and the participation was completely off the charts.  If you, if you missed that,you can, you know, actually watch all the videos, get access to all the workbooks if you’d sign up for my monthly program.  My monthly product thinking program which I just launched last week.  So if you haven’t seen that I’ll post the link down here and you can get access to the confidence challenge, as well.   But one of the questions or a few questions came up which were all around “Hey, Shobhit, tell me, how do you manage to stay ahead in your career, to keep it selling?” And there were a bunch of questions around that and as I start to think about it I realized that a lot of product managers lose sight of the kind of things they need to focus on, the kinds of questions they need to keep asking themselves for them to be able to get ahead in their career and not get completely bogged down in the day-to-day responsibilities of a product manager.  So, I’m gonna walk you through five, no I’m gonna walk you through six questions that if you just started asking them on a regular basis and maybe even had a coach who could help you think through these questions, you can really accelerate your career.  I’m talking about move through promotions say, a year faster, get director and VP level roles but only if you’re willing to have the courage to ask these questions.  So I’m gonna ask you these questions but I’m just gonna turn on the lights so the lighting’s better here.  By the way, it’s a wonderful day outside here, it’s like it’s gonna be 80 degrees today so it’s gonna be that good, I’m really looking forward to that.

 

Okay, question number one, let’s go.  This question, it’s obvious.but anytime I ask a PM, almost certainly, I see blank stares.  Here’s the question:

What will get me promoted?

 

What will get me to the next stage in your career?

 

Now, you might, you might be like “Hey, Shobhit, I’m not really looking for a promotion right now.  I just want to be a good PM and so on and so forth.  But most of the time when PMs tell me that, when Product Managers tell me that, it’s because they are trying to defend themselves.  They don’t want to put themselves on the line for a promotion and so they are just saying “Oh, I’m not really looking for a promotion”.  Now even if you aren’t looking for a promotion, the fact is if you’ve thought through this manner, you would do the things that are right for your career and for your company.  So, you’ve got to ask yourself this question and not just that, you gotta gain alignment and clarity with your stakeholders, your boss, your executive team on exactly what do they expect from you that will enable you to be promoted. And, by the way, if you run into challenges like they can’t tell you, come and talk to me.  There’s a lot of things that can be done.  You might need some help in figuring out how do I present these questions, present options the right way so that I can gain clarity on what will get me promoted. So, that was question number one.

What long term bet do I need to work on right now?

 

Take time to do the deep work: initiatives, awesome ideas, long-term visions.  Take the lead and be noticed.

 

Question number two: What long term bet do I need to work on right now?

 

This is a question of not getting stuck in the urgent things and leaving the important things not worked on.  Any time I’ve gotten promoted, I’ve gotten ahead, I’ve gotten that next position, it’s because I took time to do that deep work that enabled me to work not just on making sure, for example, my product doesn’t fail right now, releases go on time, but it was based on that awesome idea that I proposed or I don’t even have to propose the idea.  The initiatives that I ran, the long-term vision that I’ve set that’s ultimately what got me promoted whenever I got promoted.  That’s what gets my client promoted.  All my clients whenever they see, you know, a new position that they took or just promotion toward a different level, it’s because they have like these three or four things that are long-term bets for the company that ultimately they led and they got associated with that.  So, if you’re not thinking about the long-term bets that’s a problem.

 

Question number three, super important: Which advocates do I need to build a relationship with or who do you need to turn into advocates for you?  

 

Stakeholder management is one of those topics which a lot of PMs look at with the sense of dread.  You know, like “oh I’m gonna go to the stakeholder and they’re not gonna like my roadmap and they’re not gonna like me and whatnot.  It’s time to let go of your insecurities and instead try to figure out how to make that stakeholder not just into a supporter but an advocate for me so where they not only like my roadmap, they not only agree with it but they are promoting me, they are talking about me, they’re looking at new initiatives, new projects where I could contribute then they’re really like invested in my own career.  So that’s what you need to look at.  Which stakeholders could I turn into advocates. Super crucial cause if you’re not doing that, again, you’re not building those relationships and without that you don’t have the support that you need to bring those people in.

 

Number four: What areas do I need to focus my learning or growth in?

 

So, learning and growth, right?  Everybody says, yeah, like people love to listen blog post, read a book but it seems to be a random walk down Google or medium or YouTube or whatnot.  It’s not focused, it’s not strategic, it’s just..I found this beautiful, interesting book somebody mentioned so I picked it up and I read it.  And, by the way, in my opinion, books never lead to transformation.  For most people, books lead to inspiration but you need some sort of training, curriculum and support in order to have the transformation but that aside, you know exactly what are the top three skills you need to build to get to that next stage.  Have you clarified that with your boss?  Have you gotten feedback from others? That is the question that you need to ask yourself at least quarterly.  At least quarterly, revisit what are the kinds of areas that you’re focused on growth and learning in so that you can get to that next stage in your career and don’t just leave it at that.  Don’t leave it broadly.  So one of the things that I hear often from Product Managers, and hello from the cat, is that they need to get better in communication.  Communication is key but the problem is that they haven’t yet dug into that next level on exactly where they are failing in communication.  Are they screwing up the big presentations? Are they not speaking up at the meetings?  Are they just not listening the right way?  Are they not running customer interviews the right way? It could be a bunch of different factors associated with that here and so what I want to challenge you to do is to get specific.  Don’t leave it at that broad level that I will learn communication and things will be better cause you’re not gonna have good goals with that broad learning curve.  You’ve got to narrow it down to something very specific.  So, for example, if you just said I need to be more present in meetings but that’s something we can do something about.  I need to be able to get to that next level of insight with customer interviews.  That’s something you can do something about but broadly communication, that’s just a topic that’s gonna stay there forever and you won’t do anything about it.  So get specific on which areas you need to grow in.  And here, having a mentor, a coach, a manager who supports you or a peer group all those things can be really, really crucial.

 

What do my customers need and what do they want?

 

Take a step back and start asking your customers and yourself.  Then, you’ll start to see things and discover your customers’ needs and wants.

 

Okay, number five:  Five.  Fifth out of six, fifth out of six which is what do my customers need and what do they want?

 

Two different questions but you need to ask them regularly especially if you’re doing regular customer interviews which I hope, I hope you are.  If you step back and start asking yourself these questions, you’ll start to see things that your customers expressed as their needs or as things that they really want, they’ll find exciting and then you start to really discover what is it that they truly need and they’re often very different things.  I wrote an article about people buy what they want and not what they need but the job of a product is to deliver what they need, ultimately.  So, you’ve got to figure out how do you wrap what they need in this bowl of what they want, in this wrapper of what they want.  But if you’re not revisiting that regularly, you’re not gonna be able to answer that question.   So, you know, I’ll give you an example.  One of that is just with Intentional Product Manager.  Often when I talk about when I’m doing my own marketing, it’s about what people want to achieve.  The steps that they need to actually get there is something that gets delivered by the course and so it’s not my job in my marketing to say “hey this is exactly what you need to do.”  It’s about making sure I connect with what you want and gain enough confidence in people that I have the answers to help you get to where you want, you just have to do what I’m telling you to do.  That’s basically what all my marketing is all about.  So as a product manager, I’m a product manager for Google, I’m a product manager for Intentional Product Manager, that’s one of the things you need to always think about and differentiate.

 

The last question.  I wish I had asked this earlier on in my career but only recently have I started to really focus in on that and promote it everywhere, write blog posts about it.  It is what would you do or what would I do if I took 100% ownership of this?

 

Victim mindset is common in product management and by that what I mean is you know, if you come to me and say hew Shobhit, you know you don’t understand.  My company does not do product management well.  There’s just all these random stuffs that are going on, we don’t organize this way, we don’t talk to customers, we don’t do this, we don’t do that.  Now, I’m gonna ask you this question.  Do you believe that you’re the first person to have dealt with those challenges?  If you think you are, you’re mistaken.  Constantly, the challenges I see that Product Managers face, they are similar.  You know, I’ve seen them.  I’ve seen patterns of those but what we all tend to believe, me included, is that my situation is completely unique.  So, anything that worked for others is not going to work for me.  The people who get past that are the people who believe that they need to solve this no matter what the situation is.  That they need to take full, extreme ownership.  So for example, if your company did not do product management well, that’s your problem.  Figure out how to make it happen.  Figure out how to make step one happen.  Figure out how to move the needle from, let’s say there are three out of ten, what would it take for them to get from three out of ten to four out of ten.  Once you achieve that, what would it take for them to get from four out of ten to five out of ten?  Ownership and patience, those are the attributes where given the same conditions, given the same circumstances, one product manager, one entrepreneur can a hundred times further ahead than the other one because they believed, they took on that ownership, they took on that general management mindset and then after that, they just kept going.  They kept getting wins, they kept figuring out what is the next step here.  One foot in front of another and just keep going.  Don’t stop.  Never stop, never give up.  That’s the kind of attitude that makes for completely kick-ass product managers.

 

So, those are the six questions.  I’m going to repeat them again so you can, you know, you see them.  Write these down, put it on your calendar to ask yourself these questions.  They’re so crucial that just by starting to do this, you’ll start to see a difference and then if you want to take things to the next level, what you should do is you should apply to work with me.  I’ll put a link down there below.  Here are the questions.

 

Number one, what will get me promoted?  Clarify exactly what your company expects from you and what is it that you can do to get promoted.

 

Second, what long term bet do I need to work on right now?  Not the shot and fires but the long term bet.

 

Number three, which advocates do I need to build?  Or who do I need to build relationships with so that they become an advocate for me.

 

Number four, which areas do I need to focus my learning or growth in right now?

 

Number five, what do my customers need and what do they want?  I’m gonna try and figure out what their aspirations are, figure out exactly what they need to get there and then my marketing and my product will deliver both.

 

And last but not least, what would I do if I took 100% ownership of this situation.  No giving up, no complaining, no saying that no thinking that I’m in a unique situation because others have solved these problems and you can, too.  Believe in yourself.  That’s all I’ve got today. I will post the links at the bottom for both the monthly program that I mentioned.  I’m gonna go live and do my first later today so really excited about that and then how do you apply to work with me.  That’s the way you get to that final next stage if you want massive impact.  That’s the way you do, you do one-on-one with a coach and a mentor.  I look forward to seeing all of you in the next go live.  Happy Memorial day to everyone and I’ll catch you all on the flippity-flop.

 

 

 

 

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