It’s okay to doubt yourself as a Product Manager

It started on a weekend. I suddenly started worrying about a new feature we were beginning to work on Monday.

All sorts of questions started to emerge. Did enough customers need this feature to justify building it? Had we understood the requirements enough? Did we have the right support from other teams? What if we were going to do a lot of work that would be worth nothing? What if?

I wish this story were atypical. I wish that I was hit with doubt and second-guessing myself less often.

Or do I?

Doubt serves like a set of brakes. They help you from running off the road, but in excess, they can slow you down tremendously.

So seek not to eliminate doubt but to optimize it.

There are five things you must do to optimize doubt:

  1. Recognize when your sense of uncertainty causes you not to take shots that can change your life
  2. Have empathy for yourself when you doubt yourself
  3. Learn to step into roles
  4. Own your successes
  5. Build your support systems

Recognize when doubt causes you to miss...

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How to Get More Information by Listening Better

That One Skill Every Product Manager Should Have

We are the voice of the customer and we cannot play this role unless we understand the customer. The most vital skill at play here is our listening skills. Engaging our customers, our teammates and anyone we are talking for any purpose cannot happen unless you get deeper in to the conversation.

I am going to share with you the framework I use to listen better and have those much needed deeper conversations so I can get the information that people don’t normally share.

I call this framework SOAR.

SOAR  will help you start to get better, and start to see that momentum where you’re building up your skills as a product manager.

Full Transcript

Hey this is Shobhit, founder of International Product Manager and today we are going to talk about how do you listen in a way, how do you engage your customer, your teammate, anyone who you’re talking to in a way such that you get more information, you get deeper into...

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Six Product Development Mistakes That Slow Teams Down


Six Product Development Mistakes That Slow Teams Down

What product managers should do instead.

Image by DNA02 from Pixabay

This article is based on “The Principles of Product Development Flow” by Donald Reinertsen, and my experience following his principles.

Using Reinersten’s principles, these are what I think are six common mistakes Product Development teams make:

  1. They often do not use a useful metric for prioritizing projects (Hint: there is one that works better than most others)
  2. They do not make decision principles readily accessible by everyone
  3. They try to maximize utilization instead of optimizing outcomes
  4. They try to minimize variability without understanding the implications
  5. They minimize disruptions rather than reducing total work in progress
  6. They don’t clarify what role each person plays in product development and how to leverage them best

1. The importance of prioritizing projects

If you asked most teams what is most...

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How to Master Difficult Conversations

 
A person’s success in life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.—Tim Ferris

Have you ever avoided a conversation that you know that you needed to have? Has a desire for comfort taken you off the direct path to achieving your goals?

Or even worse, have you ever had the difficult conversation, and then felt you came out worse as a result?

As a Product Manager, you are likely to face more difficult conversations than people in other positions. Examples include stopping work which no longer aligns with top priorities, giving feedback to others, negotiating roadmaps, and apologizing when you dropped the ball.

Mastering “difficult conversations” gives Product Managers superpowers. You get confidence to advocate for new product ideas, drive changes in how your organization functions, and are enabled to lead your group.

I would argue that if you are not...

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Six ways to maximize your Product Management Energy

 

 

Summary

What’s your energy level as a product manager? 

When you go day to day, come into work, are you in to it?  Are you excited? Do you bring this high energy level or the appropriate energy level to your team, to the work that you do?  Are you intense in every activity that you do? 

Those things matter a lot, they can literally change how much you get done in a day, how excited your team feels. 

Let’s look at six different kinds of energy levels that you must demonstrate in order to make sure you're living up to your potential as a product manager. 

The first energy level is you need to be positive, energetic, give them a sense of an epic win possible and that the product will do well.  Align the team behind achieving the best possible thing for your product, for your customers.   

Second you need to vary your communication level.  You as a product manager must work on not just being at a high...

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The One Thing Amazing Product Managers Do: Broken Down Into Four Situations

 
Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Go on, guess what I meant.

You might think it’s all about understanding customers. Good guess, but that’s not what I am talking about.

Inspire their team? Sure some Product Managers do that, but not all of them and not always very well.

Influence others? Nope, not that either.

Manage stakeholders? Not a bad guess, but I have seen enough product managers who are awesome, but do a poor job of managing stakeholders.

So what is it?

It’s asking the question just right for the problem they are solving.

You have probably seen this in action. The awesome product manager asking just the right questions in a meeting. Amazing us with their thinking, without having to come up with the answer on their own.

Think of questions like glass. And think of your thinking like light. You can use the questions as a mirror; to reflect thinking in another direction. You can use it as a magnifying glass; and increase the importance of an...

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User Research: takeaways from Boston Product breakfast

I attended Boston Product's breakfast on the topic of user research.  Here are my core takeaways from the event:

Opportunities to do research exist everywhere!

Opportunities for user research exist everywhere. Ideas came up included

  • Listening to support calls
  • Putting up surveys in the product and validating hypothesis quantitatively
  • Using LinkedIn and Facebook to recruit friends or friends of friends for user studies
  • Actually viewing user sessions with plugins such as Full Story and Appsee
  • Sales calls. Several Product Managers mentioned that they went to sales calls in exchange for being able to interview customers
  • Attending industry conferences
  • Malls, Liquor stores etc. Basically anywhere where your potential customers might hang out

Justifying user research can be tricky

Fighting for resources for User Research still seemed like an uphill battle for several product managers. One of the participants had to re-organize their role and make sure that they...

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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...

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Marty Cagan's "Product is Hard" event

product management May 14, 2019

Marty Cagan: Product is Hard

A huge thanks to Josie-Dee Seagren for taking crazy good notes and co-authoring this post with me.

On May 13, 2019, I attended a talk by Marty Cagan called Product is Hard. I have read his blog posts and his book ‘INSPIRED’, and it was such a treat listening to this talk and meeting him in person.

Here were Josie-Dee’s and my notes and main takeaways from the talk.

Why product is hard

  1. Frustration with lean & agile
  2. Validating ideas vs. discovering solutions
  3. Planning vs. prototyping
  4. Not thinking broadly enough about risks
  5. Not thinking about ethical risks
  6. Playing defense vs. offense
  7. Confusing optimization with discovery
  8. Qualitative vs. quantitative
  9. Not considering alternative solutions or approaches
  10. Product manager competence
  11. Coaching product managers
  12. Truly empowered teams

1. Frustration with lean & agile

Lean and Agile are not wrong. They have very simple core principles, which are almost indisputably good.

So the problem is not...

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9 Speed Bumps on the Road to Successful Customer Interviews


 

 

 

Customer development interviews are one of the best ways to get insights that lead to an amazing product. But that road to insights is often covered by speed bumps that can slow you down and throw you off course.

Initially you might hit all of these speed bumps. But with enough practice and reflection, you will get better at navigating them.

Here are nine lessons that I have learned in years of interviews, false conclusions, reading, trying to get slightly better the next time, workshops, notes and what not.

1. Know your goal well

Ask most people what their goal is in one sentence, and they will give you a laundry list of things they want to do during the interview.

With customer interviews, there are just three top level questions you are trying to answer. You must determine which question is the one you are trying to answer this this interview.

A) What is the real problem, and is it worth solving?

Here’s a typical scenario: We have a...

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Increase your Product Management Presence

Product Management is a tough, busy role. Are you doing enough to manage your energy, to make sure you bring your best self to every interaction and every period of focused, busy role? 

Join this free e-mail course to learn about three vital ways to increase your presence as a Product Manager