Playing in The Product Management League

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The hard thing about being a Product Manager

Before even discussing about what it means to be a good PM, I need to first acknowledge how difficult this job can really be.

It’s one of those positions in the company that exposes you. The entire company will give their opinion on your performance, on what kind of a job they think you’re doing, whether you want their evaluation or not.

When it comes to judging your job performance, everyone seems to be an expert and have the “qualifications” to criticize you. What’s even more frustrating, is that much of this judgment comes from people who don’t have a clue about your team skill set, current limitations or what you’re trying to accomplish. Most of the times, this type of input comes after the results are visible.

What they see, are the problems they care about. There will not be many people interested in the outcomes of your efforts. What matters is to have the right people aligned with your vision.

What makes a good Product Manager

The best analogy I found when talking to a good colleague of mine was the one with a football coach. A good coach gets the best out of his current team in order to reach his objective for the season.

Not all teams have the goal to win a Champions League title, most of them want to win the local championship or survive for another year in the league.

In a football championship, the coach winning the trophy and the one saving his team from relegation are both good. They managed to achieve their goals with the team they had.

Most important challenges you will face as coach:

  • You will never have an all star team;
  • You will make transfers that will prove themselves unsuccessful;
  • Sometimes you will not be winning the game and need to change either your tactics or the players that don’t perform;
  • There will be tense moments within your team;
  • There will always be a team with better players and more money;
  • You will have matches in which your team will execute badly the things your trained;
  • Every time one of your players will rise above your team average, chances are he will get a better deal and leave your team;
  • With every season, the goals will become harder and harder to achieve.

Just replace coach with Manager and all challenges remain valid. You will not have the best team and your product may not be the best on the market.

You will apply the wrong strategy in some cases.

Some employees will not perform as expected, others will be good performers but will leave the company for a better deal.

There will not always be a time of peace and love within the team, there will be conflicts that you need to mediate.

Your team objectives for the next year will be more harder to achieve.

You will have to adapt to the market changes, which means that you will make changes in your strategy and your team.

A good product manager achieves his goals despite all these challenges. For some companies it means surviving in a competitive market, for others becoming a global leader.

When it comes to your team performance, there is only one question you need to ask yourself:

Can I achieve my goals with the current team?

If the answer is yes, even if it’s really hard, you have all you need. If the answer is no, then you need to speak up and raise your concerns with the top management before the start of the “season”. You need more resources, or you cannot guarantee the results. Don’t accept goals that cannot be achieved!

If you don’t know yet, then you need to monitor closely and evaluate the team once you have enough data.

At the end of the year you are evaluated by the performance of your team.

Celebrating Success & Rewards

When it comes to rewards, there are few misunderstandings. People usually confuse the effort with the goal achievement. As a result, they are not aware of the rewards they receive.

Using the same analogy, as football player you have your rewards very clear:

  • if you play good you get selected in the playing team;
  • when winning an important match, you get a bonus;
  • for winning championship you get the trophy.

At work, you exchange time for money, the salary is your reward. As long as you bring value to the company, you will be part of the team. If you achieve a important result (e.g a quarterly goal) you might get a bonus depending on your deal.

You will get the trophy when reaching the company’s objectives. This is what matters and this is the only thing that will improve your resume!

“Winners and losers aren’t born, they are the products of how they think” – LOU HOLTZ

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