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Taking stock towards the end/beginning of a year is always a good idea.  I had every intention of doing this prior to taking some vacation, but unfortunately the dreaded holiday bug caught up with me this year and laid me out for the better part of a week.

So, a bit later than expected, but as we enter 2018 here are some thoughts related to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, a few thought provoking questions to be considered, and a re-share of some New Year’s Resolutions for Product Management Leaders.  Enjoy!

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

At first, the light was the completion of an assessment within a 2-3 month period preceding our strategic planning process. Finish the assessment, and then we will have some breathing room. But the light just shifted, and become the strategic planning process.  And once the strategic planning deadline had passed, the light shifted again to a major customer event … or kickoff meeting … or a speaking engagement … or a competitive assessment … or a M&A activity.  All of a sudden, your at the end of a cycle only to have it start all over again.

You get the point. If there is one critical thing about the Product Management role I want to pass along to everyone, it is this … is it is NOT about a destination, it is about the Light Tunneljourney.  Don’t get caught up in the latest/greatest deliverable as the end point.  It won’t be.  The next assignment task is just around the corner.  And yes, this can overwhelm even the best of us.  Which is why it is so important to stay balanced (see third thought provoking question below).

  1. Get goal oriented  – perfect time of the year to focus on the goals of the organization at large and how your efforts should feed into them.
  2. Focus on what you enjoy  – life is too short to focus on the negative, find what you enjoy and try to do more of it.
  3. Rejuvenate regularly  – make sure to use the vacation time you’ve earned. Work hard while you are there, but take the time to recharge the batteries regularly.

So, I chose the image in the post to counter the prevailing view I always hear about the light at the end of the tunnel being an oncoming train.  It doesn’t have to be … it may just be a beautiful adventure awaiting you!

Taking Stock with Some Thought Provoking Questions

It is likely part of the first question was part of your end of year review cycle … How did you do against your goals for this past year?   Being goal-driven is an important aspect of the job, but there should be another perspective to this question … one that is more personal in nature … How did you do in your role this year?  More importantly, what activities and actions within your role positively contributed to the business? It get’s to the heart of why you do what you do.  Are you enjoying it?  Did you improve from a competency perspective?   Find ways in 2018 to ensure positive momentum for yourself … not just doing a job for the job’s sake.

The second question is a bit more challenging.  What are your blind-spots or areas for improvement (your weaknesses)? Let this quote from Tim Irwin’s book Derailed be a reminder

… no matter how brilliant, charming, strategic, or commanding in presence you might be, decisions born of a failed character will have consequences that are “extraordinarily disabling” and will bring down even the strongest among us. … you are not put in a leadership position without being smart, tough-minded, resilient under stress, and able to handle the demands and complexity of leading a significant initiative/company. But not being self-aware of your own weaknesses, or taking strength to excess, or even blind spots can derail even the most secure leader.

We all have blind spots which can impact the way we interact with others.  Unfiltered 360-degree feedback is not always easy to hear, but it can breathe new life into your relationships and leadership style if you listen and act.

Final question, and the one I plan on intentionally focusing on this year.  Are you balanced?  Many of us in the Product Management role will have a desire to do things well. But it shouldn’t come with a cost.  Here are 3 areas to focus on:

  • Time Management – be intentional about your time.  For me, this comes in the form of getting back to diligence around carving out time to think.  I had lost my focus here towards the end of last year, but I need the quiet time early in the day to read (books, analyst reports, articles, etc), gather thoughts, and put things in perspective before the chaos of the day begins.
  • Distractions – they come in many forms, but email is perhaps the worst.  Check out this previous article … I’ve printed it out as a reminder.
  • Know When to Stop – at some point you will hit a point of diminishing returns with your investment of time. This can happen within a given day, or the effect may be cumulative over an extended period.  These two articles can be helpful to understand how stress impacts your performance … Calgon, Take Me Away and 3 Images to Help with Stress

New Year’s Resolutions for Product Management Leaders

  1. Mutual trust/respect – one of the toughest areas to have integrity around, especially when things go awry.
  2. Over-communicate – practical guidance suggests people need to hear something AT LEAST 3 times before they retain it … repeat your messages numerous times through a combination of messages, stories, statistics, and sound bites to make your point.
  3. Follow-up relentlessly – have clearly defined goals and appropriate action plans to obtain them. Then review your dashboard (product releases, customer engagements, contingencies, etc) regularly to ensure you stay on track.
  4. Rallying cry – I call this having a sound Vision around your distinctive competence. Ensure everyone understand what it is, why you are doing it, and how it uniquely solves a market/customer need.
  5. Actions speak louder than words – simply put, let your yes be yes, and your no be no.
  6. Embrace generosity – celebrate success.
  7. Fight bureaucracy – easiest way to do this is by being transparent. Obviously there will be some things as a leader you simply cannot share for various reasons … but be up front and honest about what you can or can’t say … people will appreciate it.
  8. Find a better way – a big part of product management is repeat-ability … keep tweaking until you have a well oiled, efficient process. But don’t let process become an albatross that prevents progress.
  9. Own mistakes – we are all human, we all make them.  Own them, move on, but learn from them.
  10. Dig into crises – your job as a leader is to remove obstacles. Find out what they are early to mitigate them, and when they do arise deal with them head.