Product Management in Times of Crisis – Guest Blog Post

Written by Published in Beyond Product Management, Product Management

A lot is going on. News about COVID-19 is coming in FAST. And it’s confusing.

No one is quite sure about what is going to happen. I’ve heard predictions about the recession; anything from

“Oh one, two quarters at most”

to

“This will be worse than the depression.”

I’ve heard about what COVID-19 means for the long term: everything from

“Things will be back to normal in the summer”

to

“I am NEVER shaking hands again.”

The human brain LOVES certainty.

With so much uncertainty comes fear.

And fear BLOCKS our ability to make well thought out, strong decisions.

And who is supposed to make well thought out decisions that are good for customers, for the team, and for the business?

Yes, us Product Managers. We are feeling the brunt of this crisis. Life can be hard.

But just like any crisis. This might be our brightest opportunity to SHINE. To LEAD our teams through these times to emerge on the other side faster, leaner, more focused.

You have a CHOICE.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Here is what can happen if you don’t step up.

Your team can FREEZE UP. Rather than focusing on work, they get focused on everything outside of their control. On how many new cases we are seeing, on the latest unemployment rates, on what every person who calls himself or herself an expert is saying

You yourself can fall into a constant cycle of worry and self-doubt. This affects your life, but as importantly it affects the morale of your team who is looking for you to LEAD.

You stop any attempts at your own self-development and go on the defensive. Rather than stretching yourself and figuring out what you NEED to do to get to the next level in your professional life and personal life, you stagnate.

But you can STEP UP to be the LEADER you were meant to be.

It won’t be easy, but it’s doable.

Here’s what I believe you need to do to step up as a Product Management Leader in these times of crisis.

Role model the way

It all begins with one realization. That your team is looking up to you for a direction. Sure, the engineers don’t report to you. But you are as much as a leader as any engineering leader.

So you must role model.

And it begins by how much CERTAINTY you can provide to the team.

Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

Yes, certainty.

You might ask – but what certainty can I give them when I am not sure what will happen in the world.

That has ALWAYS been true. What you need to provide is certainty in the here and the now.

Perhaps you only know what you can predict for the next sprint or two. That’s okay. In times like these, we cling to any areas that we have certainty on, and that’s what you need to provide.

In this time you must emphasize that.

Think long term

Photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash

It’s hard to make the short term goals when you don’t know what the market is doing. If you do have the luxury of being able to focus long term, there is no time like the present.

This is when you can invest in long term results.

The market will come back. Restaurants will open. People will get together in person. More people will be open to buying more things.

Today is when you must shift your team’s focus on the long term and get them to believe.

Maintain your calm

Now, this might start to seem like I am preaching. So let me be honest. Maintaining your calm in these times can be hard.

The key is to give yourself space to freak out. And then let go.

Tony Robbins has a practice called “limit your disappointment.” In a similar vein, set a timer and let yourself FREAK OUT. Go nuts. Go insane.

And then, bring yourself back. Bring your calm sense back.

This a habit you can build to overcome any difficulty, but its CRUCIAL at this time where everyone is freaking out.

Go all-in on your HABITS

You have no commute. Your office is a few feet from your bedroom. You seem to have no time or energy for working out. The kitchen is closer to you, and so you eat more junk food.

All these things have happened to my colleagues.

It’s easy to say that – Oh, I am so busy, I don’t have time for workouts.

I agree – its harder to find the time.

But in these times it is even more crucial to becoming more disciplined; especially with habits and rituals that serve you well.

Do this. Join a health challenge that forces you to eat better, to work out several times a week.

Get dressed for work. Have that as a transition between getting up and working. Meditate more. Limit the amount of news consumed significantly.  Get even more disciplined about how efficient your meetings are. Focus on your productivity routines intentionally.

Building your habits and routines and resetting them to this new reality. And I know that you already know this. But in words of Brendon Burchard “Common sense is NOT common practice.”

So don’t just know it, practice it with excellence. Practice it in a way that you would be PROUD of it.

Practice self-kindness

So far I have been recommending you buck up. You do more.

But I am also going to say – do it all with compassion for yourself. It might seem contradictory, but this is what we need to do in times of crisis.

About the author:

 

Shobhit is a Product Manager at Google and the founder of Intentional Product Manager where he has coached 100s of Product Managers on how to accelerate their career by Intentionally redesigning their jobs. He would love for you to join a new challenge called the Product Management Confidence challenge!


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