Tag Archives: job

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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Do You Have a Job, a Career, or a Calling?

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Your answer to this question is crucial.

It can determine whether or not your life’s work is contributing to you living to your full potential. In his book Springboard, Wharton School Professor G. Richard Shell argues that this question is essential to finding personal meaning and satisfaction. And that’s not as simple as most people think.

To illustrate, imagine three people who have been working hard for several years — Alex, Ben, and Catherine.

  • Alex has a job he does for the paycheck. He clocks in for the hours he’s supposed to, and he puts in the minimum effort to get the job done. Sure, he might perform relatively well in his role, or he might go through the motions of socializing with the people he works with, but he can’t help feeling like a cog in a machine. He puts up with it though, as he’s motivated by the security that comes with having a stable job and a steady paycheck. He doesn’t view his job as much more than a chore. ‘Life’ is what happens when he gets home after work and picks up his guitar, or on weekends when he can spend time with his partner. He is always wishing that it’s Friday already, and he dreads Monday mornings.
  • Ben feels dedication and loyalty towards his career, and to an extent, his employer too. He sees himself progressing in his defined role, towards more status and responsibility. His pride in his job is apparent in how he introduces himself to others at parties: he says his name and what he does. He has spent countless hours building up his skills and knowledge within his field. He envisions himself in his manager’s position on a daily basis, and then progressing to his manager’s manager’s position, and so on. He works hard because he wants to be better, and sometimes he does things he doesn’t want to do, like work long hours, so that he can reach the ‘ideal’ future he envisions for himself.
  • Catherine wouldn’t call what she does ‘work.’ She feels lucky to have found her calling, and to get paid for it too. She’s keen to get out of bed every morning, excited about what the day will bring. She genuinely feels that she is making a difference. There’s hardly such a thing as a holiday, because she just works whatever hours she feels like to get the job done, motivated by the knowledge that what she’s doing is worthwhile. She is able to express herself though her work — using that creative spark she’s had since she was a child. She spends every day in alignment with her values, which include serving the community, even in her own little way. Instead of a cog in a machine, she feels like she is the machine.

Who do you identify most with?

Notice that there isn’t any mention of each person’s pay or profession. Research conducted by Yale University Professor Amy Wrzesniewski showed that most randomly selected groups divide themselves up almost exactly into thirds, no matter what they do, or how much they are paid. Indeed, some people from exactly the same workplace felt differently about the same job. It’s not always so clear-cut.

For example, Ben could be a trainee lawyer who feels like he has his whole career ahead of him. He’s only worked for two years, and has shown promise. Maybe he’ll make partner one day, if he just works hard enough. He’s proud of his profession, even though the hours exhaust him. He would say that his career is his priority right now. His best friend in the next cubicle feels differently. He finds the work tedious and pointless.

Catherine could be a doctor working in a ward that is always full of sick children. She works long hours, sometimes with only a few hours of sleep, but it’s worth it if she gets to save lives. She can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s her calling. Yes, she earns a fair amount, but it’s not the money that’s most important to her. Last night, she was bonding with her best friend Karen about how much they love their jobs. Karen is an administrator for the local government.

You might imagine that most people on lower incomes would consider themselves as just having a ‘job,’ but down the hallway from Catherine the doctor, the janitor finishes up cleaning the floor. Nobody really pays attention to him, but if they did, they would hear him humming away happily. Even though his job can be tiring at times, he loves it because the ward needs to stay clean so that the doctors can properly do their jobs, and the janitor gets to do his part in saving lives. It’s his calling too.

In fact, people can feel differently about their work at different times in their lives, and their perceptions can shift over time as their personal lives change and they seek different goals than when they first started in a job. Ben could focus on his law career for 10 years, and then realize that he has sacrificed a lot for the sake of it. He loses sight of why he wanted to be a lawyer in the first place, and over the years his career has become just a job to him. Now he’s just doing it because he doesn’t know anything else, and the money is good, but perhaps there are more important things in life than living hard and fast. He’ll be looking for his calling soon.

It’s not easy to work out whether you have a job, a career, or a calling. Things that matter to you now might not matter as much later, and vice-versa. In the long run, only you will know what is right for you. If you’re lucky enough to find your calling — work that you enjoy and that can support you financially — then you are better than two-thirds of the people in the workforce. And you’re well on your way to finding success and happiness.

Want to Be Taken More Seriously? Start Doing These 5 Things

 

There are a number of contributing factors that make it challenging to be taken seriously in the professional world. It can be something irrational like your age, sex, height, or even voice that cause others to incorrectly assess your worth. Sometimes it can even be certain behaviors you exhibited that were misperceived by others and now you’ve been pigeon-holed and deemed less-professional or adept than you really are. However you’ve been misunderstood, change the attitudes of your work colleagues by committing to a certain way of carrying yourself and living by a clear value system that earns respect.

Inc. recently listed powerful moves you can commit to to influence how you’re seen in the eyes of others and ultimately be taken more seriously. We’ve highlighted our top choices here so you can begin implementing them in your interactions today.

Always be informed. It is better to be silent than to speak when you don’t know what you’re saying. Communicate effectively and knowledgeably on every subject. If you need some brushing up, put in the time to make sure you have all the facts before saying words you can’t take back. Being intelligent is not enough.

Keep your word. If you say you’re going to do something, you better get it done. Never promise something you can’t deliver on 100%. It is always better to be honest than fall short of what you’ve committed to and disappoint your colleagues.

Dress well. You’ve heard about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. The way you show up to work is an indicator of the respect you have for yourself and the company and the kind of success you’re after.

Be mindful of your tone. In addition to the way you carry yourself, how you speak can communicate beyond the words you’re actually saying. Speak with confidence but also respect, always keeping your ear out for the tone you’re using.

Always be on time. Showing up late is a sign of disrespect and disorganization, two traits that have no place at the office. Practice punctuality and you’re communicating you can be counted on.

The Toughest Question You Have to Answer

By Craig Ballantyne

There’s a battle being waged in all of us.

One part of us wishes to remain safely inside of our comfort zone. The other part of us knows we should be brave, step-up, and move out and onward to greater challenges.

Your comfort zone might mean the safety and security of a high-paying job at a major corporation. You make more, and have more, than your parents ever did.

“Don’t you dare risk losing that job,” says the voice of your mother in your mind. Just sit tight until the kids are done college, and then we can think about starting a business of your own.

The other voice you hear, encouraging you to explore greater opportunities, is your Big Self (a fantastic phrase I first heard from my friend and mentor, Matt Furey).

Your Big Self represents what you could truly accomplish in life.

Unfortunately, the real world contains many enemies of the Big Self, and it is constantly delivering reinforcements to your Comfort Zone. These reinforcements come in the way of excuses, negative naysayers, fear, lack of self-confidence or self-control, and the bad habits we’ve built up over our lifetime.

And that is why you are in the same spot today as you were twelve months ago, only just a year older.

Today I’ll show you how to break through the stalemate.

But it will only work if you are willing to set down your weapons and stop protecting yourself for a while. Call a truce on the battlefield. Have each side bring out its best thinkers and have them work together as one on this big thinking exercise.

Recently I made this same challenge to over 150 entrepreneurs at a recent seminar. Over the course of two days, my guest experts and I had stood and delivered complete blueprints for making more money, getting more done, and having a bigger impact on the world.

But I knew that many people in the audience would go home, let life get in the way, and return next year without having made any significant changes.

I wasn’t going to let that happen again, and I won’t let that happen to you.

That meant I had to challenge the attendees. I had to show them exactly how to make the mental changes that would allow their Big Self to win the battle.

After I summarized the best moments of the weekend, I paused for dramatic effect, made eye contact with as many people in the room that dared to look at me, and asked, “Are you really living as your Big Self? Are you being the Limitless Leaders that I know you can be? Or are you letting Little Limitations hold you back from greatness?”

These were tough questions. They are tough on the ego.

No one, particularly relatively successful people, wants to feel like a disappointment. But we need to be honest. Are we doing all we can with what we have been blessed with in life?

And we have one of my mentors, Dan Kennedy, to thank for this. You see, several years ago I attended one of Kennedy’s seminars just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. He covered the topic of internal resistance — something I know is holding back many ETR readers.

Dan said, “The failure to act is much more often the product of inner, emotional resistance than external resistance. To move forward you must give up your story, whether it is excuses about your childhood, lack of education, your ‘bad luck’, your unsupportive family, your low metabolism, where you live, etc., etc.”

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It’s time to give up your excuses. It’s time to overcome your natural inclinations of holding back and staying in your comfort zone. It’s time to Man-Up.

It’s harsh, but true. As Kennedy explained, what separates the leaders from the strugglers is often confidence and follow-through, both of which can be derailed by internal resistance. That’s when he taught me “The Exercise”.

Answering these questions is tough on the Ego, but the answers could change your life (if you take action on them). Take the following mental challenge:

1) Ask yourself “The Question:”

“Where you would like to be and have known you would like to be but aren’t?”

2) Be brutally specific and honest.

3) Now list why you are NOT there.

4) Next, identify the changes you need to make.

5) Then take massive action!

Don’t let another year go by stuck in the same place!

You must identify the causes of your internal resistance. Ask yourself “Why?” you want something but refuse to act in congruence with achieving it.

Either say “no” to achievement OR dig in and get to the bottom of the persistent incongruence between what you say and what you do. It is OK to admit you are not willing to pay the price – and by doing so, that will stop self-sabotage. Once you know the enemy, then you can work on overcoming it.

Listen, I know Kennedy can be a little gruff and grumpy, but he speaks the truth and has your best interests at heart. In fact, it’s almost like he’s channeling the wise philosophers of Ancient Greece. I’m currently re-reading a book called, “The Art of Living”, which is a translation of teachings from the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus. In it, I discovered this wisdom:

“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. Once you have determined the spiritual principles you wish to exemplify, abide by these rules as if they were laws, as if it were indeed sinful to compromise them. Don’t mind if others don’t share your convictions. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.”

Take the challenges set forth by Kennedy and Epictetus.

Identify what is holding you back.

Release the brakes.

Become the Big Self and Limitless Leader that I know you can be.

Overcome your obstacles. Defeat your internal resistance. Never give up on what is important to you. So much can be accomplished with a long-term vision and resilience to short term setbacks. If you persist and never give in, you WILL succeed. You can have the life of your dreams while helping and transforming the lives of millions.

Get out there and take action today. Throw the rock of helping into the pond of transformation and watch as the ripples take shape.

Change a life today — starting with yours.

If you need to make a change in your health, start here with my biggest challenge ever to you

About the Author: Craig Ballantyne is the founder of EarlyToRise University and the author of The Perfect Day Formula. His straightforward, sometimes “politically-incorrect” advice has helped millions of people transform their lives both physically and financially. Craig’s secret weapons for success include his personal commandments, his 5 pillars, and his Perfect Life vision. Click here to learn more from Craig so that you can get more done, make more money, and live the life of your dreams.