Tag Archives: confidence

5 THINGS GREAT PRODUCT MANAGERS DO EVERY DAY

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My favorite product managers are quietly powerful. Every day they take small steps that move their teams and business forward in a meaningful way. But they do it without a lot of hoopla, taking a confident yet unassuming approach.

After all, product managers have a lot on their plate every day. They are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for their product. It is a big responsibility that requires facilitating and collaborating with many different teams — both internal and external — without the formal authority to manage those teams. It requires a unique mix of humility and strength.

However, that quiet power does not mean leading product is easy. I realized early on that the daily life of a product manager is unpredictable, hectic, and sometimes very tough.

In the late 1990s, my first product management job was helping to roll out high-speed internet nationwide when it became a viable (and highly desired) alternative to dial-up services. We went from providing 300 lines monthly to more than 3,000 — all in a window of about 60 days. I quickly learned how to balance staying on a strategic course and managing the endless minutiae that was required to get each customer up and running.

I had always been a leader, so handling the stress and responsibility was natural for me — but I had a lot to learn about focusing my efforts on what mattered most. I soon realized that with great accountability comes great autonomy. It was up to me to prioritize what needed to get done and when.

This is great news for ambitious product managers: You have more control than you might think, no matter how hectic each day feels.

Here are five things great product managers do. Used consistently, these actions can help you prioritize your work every day and thrive.

1. Align actions to goals

To succeed as a product manager it is essential to take a goal-first approach. Prioritize what must get done that day and assess and align new work against your goals. Swiftly break through the endless tasks and chatter by evaluating each request or demand through the lens of your goals. This does not mean you should shut down disruptions as “noise” to be silenced. Embrace the interruptions that align with your goals — one may be the missing idea that makes your product wildly successful in market.

2. Connect the dots

Understand how your product serves your business — the big picture of why you are building it. This may seem obvious, but without that connection, product managers are often led astray by differing opinions, demands from internal teams, and conflicting customer feedback. Identify why your product matters to your business and to customers so you can navigate with a steady mind.

3. Solve one simple problem

You may be tempted to solve every problem for your customers. But you cannot be all things to all people. You will spread yourself too thin and lose that firm direction. Instead, focus on solving one problem at a time. I like to say, “Focus on one problem, and solve the second for free.” Tackle one problem well and new opportunities will emerge.

4. Learn from others

Invest the time and effort to learn about your product team’s core work so you can set realistic deadlines. This is especially important for teams that share resources. Ask questions and get to know the full scope of their experience and tasks. It is also important to admit what you do not know. Rely on the expertise of your extended product team to help you deliver on the promise of your product.

5. Say “no” with confidence

Not every idea will be meaningful. And, in fact, most will be lousy. Great product managers understand that saying “no” is not a one-word answer. This is your chance to explain why the idea does not make sense within your strategic direction. Do not hide from these conversations or be dismissive. Take each “no” as an opportunity to recommit to your goals — and to re-evaluate whether your aim is true.

I know this advice to be effective — but hard to follow. So be kind to yourself when you feel cornered or stuck. Stick out your chest and remember that you have more control than you think and a team at your side.

You too can achieve the quiet power that separates good product managers from great ones. Never lose sight of your goals and embrace each day with humility and strength. Now go get busy.

Discover your own power as a product manager.

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HOW TO LIVE THE GOOD LIFE

How to Live the Good Life

By Alex Green

What does it mean to live a good life? What is true happiness? How much is enough? And how should you spend the time you have remaining?

Aristotle asked these important questions more than 2,000 years ago. And he called the answer the golden mean.

Aristotle (384 B.C. — 322 B.C.) was a student of Plato and tutor to Alexander the Great. He taught logic, rhetoric, metaphysics, poetry, music and ethics. He introduced the structure of logical thought that laid the groundwork for empirical science. And his writings became the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy.

Yes, the world today doesn’t look much like ancient Greece. But people themselves haven’t changed a whit. Then, as now, the conventional view was that a “successful” life is about career advancement, power, prestige, material goods, sensual pleasure and social approval.

Aristotle rejected this line of thinking — and devoted his life to exploring the best way for human beings to live.


He insisted that genuine happiness is not about fulfilling our wants and needs. (Even animals do that.) For reasoning, morally aware beings like ourselves, happiness is the result of something that sounds old-fashioned, even quaint: virtue.

Only the virtuous life, Aristotle insisted, leads to real satisfaction.

Where can virtue be found? In the middle, he said, between the extremes of excess and deficiency. He gave plenty of examples:

In almost every area of our lives, the disproportion is the thief of real happiness. Even positive things — wealth, love, exercise — pursued immoderately, can become a source of misery. The trick is to find the right balance.

I learned years ago that this “middle road” leads to success in the investment arena, too. For example, many investors are so risk-averse they find themselves in ultra-low-yielding investments that make it impossible to reach their financial goals or beat inflation. Others roll the dice and lose their shirts in options, futures, penny stocks, and other speculative vehicles. The solution is not to fear risk — or ignore it — but rather to embrace and intelligently manage it.

Always look for that golden mean, the middle ground between too much and too little. This is what leads to real satisfaction and contentment, to what Aristotle called eudaimonia.

Recognizing these virtues is one thing, of course. Embodying them is another. “It is no easy task to find the middle,” Aristotle conceded. But if we don’t, we may regret it.

People are often drawn to Aristotle’s ideas in the second half of life. By then, most of us have set aside our youthful fantasies about money and celebrity and are focused instead on knowledge, awareness, companionship, and community. Plus, you’ve gained something you didn’t have before: perspective.

Aristotle’s natural audience is mature, thoughtful people who have a healthy dissatisfaction with their current lives. They want to feel that they are not just living but flourishing.

That requires wisdom. And the highest wisdom, in Aristotle’s view, is to care about the right sorts of things: other people, truth, freedom, justice — and virtue.

To be human is to realize your potential for growth, to develop your higher aspects.

Happiness, Aristotle declared, isn’t something you feel. It’s something you do.