Updated: Sep 2, 2020
As product managers we all have different skills, capabilities, likes and dislikes. Our individual areas of expertise and interest drives our performance and ambition at work. Our experiences over time and our curiosity have contributed to getting us to where we are today - laying a foundation and a set of principles which define how we approach work and react to different situations.
These prior experiences contribute to a certain bias, which we sometimes do not recognise. This bias leads to a behavioural response where at times we are proactive and sometimes passive. The passive behaviour is often dismissed as 'procrastination' or 'laziness', but there is more to it. In this article you will be taken through a small exercise of self reflection for you to take stock of attributes which have propelled you to where you are today and also let you reflect on the attributes which could be holding you back.
Why self reflection is important
You should be aware that the underlying behavioural trait which has allowed you to develop your skill sets is driven by your natural instinct of curiosity. A lot of the product management literature focuses on the technical aspects of product management, very little is being said about the human side of product management where the velocity at which decisions are made and tasks are tackled are inter-twined with our gut instinct, our insights, inherent curiosity, life experiences, past success, failings, incompetence, opinions, empathy, how we are treated, how confident we are, how well we handle failure, how we manage stress, power of influence and our beliefs.
Lets not make product management something which is as robotic as project management. Lets be more relationship driven and human in our engagements. Some companies drive the technical aspects of product management and the ceremonies a bit too far and fail to recognise the soft skills of influencing, managing relationships and empathy which a product manager needs to rely on to rally people who do not directly report to them.
There is an expectation built in that the product manager will have to solve every problem for every customer. This is not possible, the priority will always be to solve issues for your most valuable customers. A PM cannot be there for every one and its not possible to please everyone.
Self reflection is a step a PM should regularly take to understand where they are today as product managers. They should be able to zero in on what they are good at and what needs improvement. Lets recognise that product managers are also just like everyone else. There are things we like working on and things which we wish we never had to do. Lets take a step further and peel the layers off so that we understand ourselves better so we know what makes us happy at work and what drains the energy out.
"7 big things about me" - a reflections checklist
We have a simple approach of gathering your stuff into a simple reflection checklist. This framework allows the PM to go through a self discovery exercise where they should reflect on what excites them while reinforcing that they still need to do things which they many not be too thrilled to do - but perhaps those items are essential as those tasks give the PM more visibility in the company.
We also want the PM to think about those life long lessons they have gone through and be honest with themselves as they fill in the other buckets. Product managers may have super powers which they have not shared with others - its awesome to have these super powers to give you that performance edge and like your favourite super hero you can hide it from your friends and co-workers. As PMs are like that orchestration layer - you should be self aware of what you will do and what you will delegate. Know what is the best use of your time.