Tag Archives: Business

Focus and be productive. A short tale from Pocket.

We always need more people.  I’m the first one in line to say I need more engineers.  And when I get more, I’ll still say I need more.  I will *never* have enough, and I challenge any product manager to say they have enough.
But, consider some of the success stories out there.  And consider the resources each of us have deployed.  We can do a lot.  And we are.  The key is focus on what’s important.  Organize around what’s important and make it happen, potentially at the cost of other things that are (less) important.

Notable quotes:

Remember: getting an app or company on your platform marks the end of a deal, but the beginning of an official working relationship.

There comes a point for every startup when you’ve got to decide between perfection and progression. The first is a stable characteristic and the second is a dynamic conversation. Choose wisely.

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How to reward your engineers

As a product manager, I take great pride in my work and getting the job done.  But let me be honest; I do not write the software products I manage.  My engineers do, and they do an awesome job of it.

These engineers do not directly report to me but I am one of their leaders.  I craft the stories they work on to deliver features to market that our customers love and pay us lots of money for.  Without them, I would not have a product to sell nor, a job to pay my bills.  So how do I show my appreciation?

Well, it starts with two very simple words.

Thank you.  

Pretty simple, I know, but it is powerful. James Kouzes‘ book The Leadership Challenge explains in detail how powerful these words can be, as I have stated before.

Often times, verbal appreciation is not enough.  I find I need to do more, simply because I cannot express how thankful I and the company are for the teams’ contribution.  My teams work hard for me and for our customers.  They pull all-nighters fixing important issues that jeopardize customers’ environments.  They sustain long days and nights, including weekends, to get a major feature or new product out.  Throughout it all, they put up with my incessant questions, minor changes in scope and constant feedback, validation and product acceptance processes.  They do, in fact, deserve more.

Pretty regularly, I take small groups of my teams out for lunch, coffee or dinner.  Sometimes we celebrate a particular milestone or accomplishment.  But often times, I am just spending time with the guys, getting to know them and to break some bread together.  I try to pick up the check more often than not, irrespective of whether the company will reimburse me for the team outing.  Part of the successful working relationship I have with my team, and the reason they are willing to work as hard as they do, is because we have a personal relationship founded in more than just “my function requires me to work with you Mr. Product Manager”.  We trust one another, and believe that we have each other’s back.

Some milestones warrant more than a meal.  For those really big feats that move the needle for the company, the words “go big” come to mind.  In the past, I have thrown a party in one instance, and taken the team go-carting in another.  The important part of these activities was to focus on having fun.  We laugh about the insanity of the last few weeks and months in getting our release out the door over food and drink.  At the race track, we had a great time competing with one another for bragging rights on who had the fastest course time.

Maybe it is obvious, but why should I bother rewarding my engineers?  For one, good behavior and actions deserve good things.  From a business perspective, there are compelling reasons to recognize and reward a job well done.  Spending company time and money on employee appreciation nets so many things.  It fosters healthier team dynamics, creating trust and respect.  It energizes employees to work harder knowing that their work means something to someone that they know and can talk to.  Finally, it has other soft benefits including promoting company loyalty and greater overall employee satisfaction.  I strongly recommend all product managers take the time to appreciate their teams’ efforts in building the product they manage.

PUCCKA – A Sales Methodology

This post is a catalog of Mark Suster‘s posts on a sales methodologies.

What is PUCCKA?

P – Pain

U – Unique Selling Proposition

C – Compelling Event

C – Champion

K – Key Players

A – Aligned Purchasing Process

Pretty awesome!

Leaders versus Managers

I recently read What is Authentic Leadership? and started thinking about the difference between a Leader and a Manager.  The article seems to assume that a Leader = Manager and uses a Leader’s followers interchangeably with employees.

In my view, they do not always mean the same things.  A good Leader is not always a manager but a good Manager is almost always a good Leader.  The same qualities that the article talks about – being genuine, self aware, and results-oriented while thinking long-term – are the same qualities I have found in my favorite managers and mentors.  What I thought the article missed though was a Leader must *care* about his employees to be an effective Manager.

If my Manager does not care about my well being, my professional development and my career advancement, what chance do I as an employee have of achieving my goals?  If my Manager won’t help me progress, who else at the company will?  Who becomes my champion for success?  I think good Managers is something a lot of companies, particularly young companies, lack.  I’ve been fortunate these last few companies or so in that my managers have connected with me and understood what makes me tick.  And they’ve fostered that while helping me get to where I want to be.  All the while, they continued to lead by example and show me, and the company, what needs to get done to get the company to where it needs to be.

Student Always

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A colleague recently pointed me to Sabrina Simmons‘ 2010 commencement address at Berkeley.  What she said about a principle called ‘Student Always’ really resonates with me, mostly because it’s advice I can’t help but ALWAYS give out myself! 🙂

If you love your job I truly believe it’s hard not to be successful. The hours will surely be long, but they’ll go by fast and they’ll be rewarding. It’s rewarding because you keep learning and growing both professionally and personally. And here’s another thing about doing what you love: your passion can’t help but come through. And the thing about passion is it’s contagious. Others will want to join and support you in the drive for results creating a virtuous cycle.

Check out the full transcript here, it’s a really good read.

Rebuilding relationships

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Sometimes work relationships get strained.  Sometimes they are beyond saving and it’s best to move on understanding that two parties will never be able to effectively work together.

But, you don’t get that luxury in small companies.  Everyone has to be an impact player, and two impact players who should work together, can’t, well that’s a problem.

So how do you go about rebuilding that relationship?  Here are a few things that I’ve found works.  Understand that both parties have to want to work together, even though they clash.  If one can’t, or won’t, make the effort to meet half way, well then, both parties have got bigger problems.

  1. Respect each other, despite your history and clashing in the past.
  2. Listen to each other, particularly when one has valid input on a given situation that can save everyone time and effort.
  3. Throw each other a bone.  Let’s face it, everyone wants to look good.  Scratch their back and maybe they’ll scratch yours.
These aren’t perfect suggestions, but then again, the situation isn’t perfect either.  What will end up working will seem obvious in hindsight.  But it definitely won’t be trivial.
I’d be curious if any of you have other thoughts on what works for you.  Feel free to leave a comment!

Sanity…

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“Get up, go for a walk”

It sounds simple in hind sight, but here’s the sitch:

You get frustrated at work and you get into mental quicksand.  Something happens that really bothers you, it weighs you down and you get less effective throughout your day as a result.

When that happens, stop what you’re doing, walk away, do something completely unrelated to work for 5 minutes and then come back with, hopefully, a new more calm perspective so you can re-engage and be productive again.

It sounds really simple.  And it is.  The hard part is recognizing when you need to walk away to break out of the quick sand.  Here’re some tips that have helped me recently and over the years:

  • If you’re getting emotional, that’s a pretty clear indicator that you need to take a step back.  It’s harder when you’re in meetings and if someone is physically in front of you talking about something that’s getting you all hot and bothered.  But if you’re reading an email, chatting with someone on a messenging service or something else just as asynchronous, emotional reactions should be easy to spot and react to.
  • If you’re literally stuck.  Sometimes I’ve got so much on my plate that it feels like I’m not getting anything done and it gets in my way such that I can’t identify what to do next (hey, what’s the point?  Whatever it is, it won’t help move the needle, right?).  Walking away and not thinking about work can help unblock you mentally.  If nothing else, walk away and for 5 minutes, just think about 1 of the things on your plate and how you can move the needle forward there.  Then come back to work and do those things you just thought about.  Hopefully that will alleviate some of the pressure with all that’s on your plate.
  • If your’e stressed about an important and rapidly approaching meeting for more than a few days.  Walking in all hot and bothered looking stressed out won’t really paint a good picture of you.  Chances are, it’s an important meeting because someone really senior is in the meeting, or someone really important from outside your company is present.  You should probably take a few minutes before the meeting to relax, collect yourself and then go the meeting.  Going for a walk or reading your favorite blogs for 5 minutes just before going to the meeting is a great way to relax your mind and ease some of the tension.

I’m sure there are other times when this approach can generate pretty good results.  If you have some other examples, please share in the comments!