A product manager ships happiness, too.
There are already plenty of thoughtful posts out there about what it means to be a great product manager, how to become one, and how to become a better one. For myself, I’ve found the most fulfilling definition to be one that revolves around happiness.
As a product manager, every decision I make targets happiness. I tend to sleep well at night when I know our developers, designers, users and clients are all happy. Taking a human approach to managing the products I work on, rather than focusing solely on optimizations and output, has brought me fulfillment in my work that I was never able to reach in the past.
Is there a secret to happy teams?
People, not resources (or ninjas)
All too often we get so sucked into our emails and chat rooms at the office that we hang our humanity with our coats at the door. As you’re sitting in your office, take a second to step back and look around. Those people surrounding you right now aren’t ninjas or rockstars and they certainly aren’t resources or cost centers. The folks who we spend 40+ hours per week with are unique individuals, and each one of them has a different reason for coming to work today.
The second you stop thinking of your teammates as allocated resources and start thinking of them as people, you can break through and make a meaningful impact. Understand that everyone’s motivations and aspirations are different, and make a habit of tapping into them on a daily basis.
Some folks enjoy spending their days mastering their craft and solving impossibly hard technical problems. Others are natural product people who are energized by customer/client access and thrive when they’re able to provide input into product and design challenges. You’ll also find some people who are attracted to a particular domain or industry.
Learning about your teammates isn’t rocket science, but it requires regular checkins and open communication. Understanding what motivates people and providing them with opportunities to excel in these areas is critical to leading a happy team.
Gratitude and recognition
Expressing gratitude is one of the easiest things we can do to reliably increase our own happiness levels, but it can also have a profound effect on team dynamic. Especially under high stress, managers often fall out of habit when it comes to sharing appreciation with their colleagues. Focusing on problem areas without paying close attention to the wins is highly demotivating, and often unproductive.
Call out what your colleagues and teams are doing well, and thank them for the good work directly. On a related note, product managers should avoid accepting credit too often for successes that were a result of a team effort. Use any praise and accolade for a product as an opportunity to highlight your gratitude and recognition for the team.
Deflecting positive attention away from oneself and empowering your teams to receive the reward of recognition earns respect and makes for a far better working environment. Unfortunately, the same is not true for negative attention. It’s always the product manager’s burden to absorb this and turn it into positive energy.
Top performing product managers bring life to a team and foster an environment where the people and products flourish around them. They ship happiness.
Takeaways on how to be a better product manager:
- Never lose your sense of humanity in the office, and work to understand what motivates each of your teammates.
Practice daily gratitude and public recognition so your teammates know their work is valued by their team, the PM and the rest of the leadership team.
Teams who know they’re working with their product manager will be more energized, more motivated and happier than those who think they working for their product manager.