Thanks to his 2019 MTP Engage Hamburg talk, we now know 10 things Patrick Roelof wishes he’d known at the start of his career. Here he helps you to get one step ahead of the game by sharing them, giving you suggestions on how to adjust the way you work and excel in your product management role.
1. Get More Sleep
Working as a product manager means working with your head and research has shown that lack of sleep affects cognitive function. Used to sleeping 6 hours or less? This is technically considered to be the right amount of sleep to, over time, cause chronic sleep deprivation. So, turn off your phone and settle in for 8 hours of shut-eye.
2. Learn the Secret to Decision Making
Your role involves making and implementing decisions quickly. To save yourself a lot of grief it’s helpful to recognise that, according to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, there are 2 types of decision making:
- Practically impossible to reverse: require a lot of work and are extremely hard to reverse
- Easy to reverse: quick to implement and easy to reverse
Knowing this will help you to process decisions and make the right ones. Consider the type next time you’re considering a next step or an action – will your decision be easy to reverse? If yes, go for it. If it will be difficult and slow to action, not to mention impossible to reverse, proceed with caution.
3. Build Relationships
It’s vital to develop, nurture and maintain strong relationships in your career. Relationships that are important to the work you do and the business you’re in. These form your network, a network that should be in place throughout your entire career. Take the time to look after the relationships you have with the people you work with.
4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Here, we’re not talking about a quick post on Slack but rather, good old fashioned one-to-one communication. Communication that involves body language, emotions, reading between the lines and interpretation – all of which can be lost behind a screen. Invest your time in developing and utilising your communication skills. Attend change management workshops, negotiation workshops and demand real communication in your work.
5. Put Your Thoughts on Paper
Writing down your thinking is an effective way to process your thoughts so write down what you’re planning and you’ll soon spot the good (and bad) ideas – you need to be clear about the value you’re adding with your ideas.
Writing things down, sharing those ideas with others is a commitment to the idea and already gives it much more substance.
6. Prepare to Answer Questions
As a product manager, you will get asked the same questions time and time again. The key to success is being prepared to answer them, always. John Cutler created this genius list – 30-second answers (to common questions) – to keep close at hand. Download it, and have it on your desk and always be ready with answers to each.
7. Get Your ego Under Control
Our role is not necessarily to have the “best ideas” or to be right. The role of a product manager is to bring together stakeholders, to align and focus the team, and to collaborate for the best possible outcome for the customer and the business. This requires humbleness, and an acceptance that you are just a team player, and if we can lead by example then we can bring the team with us. Of course, a little bit of ego is helpful, but only as far as it drives us to finish the things we start!
8. Work as Part of the Team
Product managers are just one building block of product success, not the centre of the universe, so we shouldn’t expect other aspects of the product organisation to necessarily organise around us. If you think of yourself as the centre of the team, your behaviour will change to match, and your interactions with other parts of the business can develop friction and rivalries. You are part of a group of people working together to create products.
9. Respect Hierarchy
Don’t always assume hierarchy is a bad thing – it’s absolutely necessary as organisations grow in size. The reality is that there is no singular “superstar product manager” in organisations – there are a wide range of people with great potential who are keen to learn and make a difference.
Patrick is a firm believer in the role of a “village elder” – someone with experience who can coach these potential superstars, and help them find their way out of tough corners. This version of a hierarchy – of a structured community dedicated to growth and progression, rather than a better-paid administrator – is both helpful and necessary.
10. Take a Breather
Sure, being a product manager is a complex job and it can feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders most days. But, at the end of the day you’re not performing surgery. Take a moment to consider what’s important and what’s not. Park the unimportant and move on with the important.
- Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi
Watch Patricks explain these tips in full during his talk at MTP Engage Hamburg – What do you Need to be an Outstanding Product Manager.