In this ProductTank Exeter talk, director of product at Slack, Ellie Powers, provides some insights into what resilience looks like as a product manager in light of the year we’ve experienced since the start of the pandemic. Her key points include:
- The year that it’s been
- Resilience vs. learned helplessness
- Types of changes as a product manager
- How much longer we are in for
It’s been a year
When Ellie left her office in March 2020, she knew she wouldn’t be back on Monday, even though the initial message was that it would be the case. As many product managers adjusted to working remotely, they found that many things got harder, including brainstorming for a new project, onboarding new employees, and getting customer feedback.
Within any organization, much of the burden of adjusting falls on the product managers, and as Ellie explained, many product managers were struggling more than other roles since it’s a collaboration-based job, social relationships are important, and there is a need to lead without authority.
Resilience vs. learned helplessness
Product managers are used to dealing with problems and wanting to find a solution. When it comes to resilience, Ellie explains that it’s a choice. She borrows some insights from Lucy Hone to show that resilient people have a period of acceptance rather than denial regarding certain situations. It’s important to focus on what you can change and ask if what you’re doing in any situation is helping or hurting you.
Types of changes as a product manager
If you want to have resilience as a person, you can think of things you can do to help yourself, your family, or your community. The same is true for product managers as they can think of things to help themselves, their team, and their product or company.
Some of the questions to ask include what is within your control? What can you do to give yourself a greater sense of control? Is something helping or hurting you, your team, or your product?
Product managers now face very different challenges than they did before. Challenges of self include the fact that home and work have merged. There is a need to develop physical and mental self-care, and find meaning as work has shifted.
The meaning of work has also changed for many people in light of the pandemic. Ellie explains that product managers have had to find different or better ways of working and discover how to make teams feel connected as they use new tools and processes.
Product and company
Some companies have found greater success, including food delivery companies moving from an uncommon to more common use case. She mentions that they’ve doubled down on what they already do best at Slack and highlights Zoom as an example of finding astronomical growth and new use cases.
How much longer are we in for?
As product managers, the reality is that for the time being, this is the new normal. However, many are already used to working in tech-forward companies. Still, the question remains what a successful product manager will look like with some people working remotely and some working in the office.
The key takeaways from this talk are that product managers will find themselves having to learn how to do their jobs all over again. This includes building relationships, communicating, getting organizational buy-in, and presenting, in order to thrive and remain resilient.
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