Stardate S03E06

Mood: 😙. Feels like we’re building up to something. Cautiously optimistic.

A quirky bit of the Regent’s Canal

🌹 What am I grateful for this week?

It was about a year ago that I found myself in this position, getting Talent Compass through its rinse phase with a bench team, and even now I am still a bit surprised by the outcome we got to (giving birth to a product-led social impact organization!). So, I’m trying not to get too excited for the next wave of product strategy bench sprints we are kicking off… but it’s hard not to. 😄

Despite the usual coverage challenges due to holidays and sickness, I’m proud of the team for getting a full-fledged experiment live by Friday, having started from a standstill — we’re in good shape to further explore our territory next week with some baseline personas established, initial needs identified and a decent backlog of hypotheses.

Alongside all this, I rather enjoyed our Thursday field trip to Canary Wharf, and being part of the audience* during Raph’s excellent design systems talk. Great engagement from the crowd too. It’s wonderful we have these opportunities to share our expertise more widely again, beyond Zooms and screen shares. Something about the AV setup and podium must lend itself to paying more attention… 🤔

🌵 What do I wish could have gone differently?

So I got message-bombed late in the evening, for a favor the next morning. I know I’ve been guilty of making this a habit in the past, so it’s a good reminder being on the other side to remember the feeling it leaves. Being well-intentioned and seeking help is no problem, but more buffer is key. Also, building up to it after it’s been a while doesn’t hurt either.**

Otherwise, a bit of a slower week for leads. I’m just hoping they’re not lost.

💡 What do I need to remember?

A tale of two ‘no’s this week — one was a late request to cover that I weighed up, considered the impact to my own schedule and the inconvenience it would cause me, and I decided to reply with a no and an apology. It was totally fine in the end, the meet got rescheduled and nobody blinked. Had I bent over backwards to say ‘yes’ I would’ve probably resented it, even while getting positive reinforcement for doing so.

The other ‘no’ was a failed negotiation where neither I nor my counterparty would budge, and I felt myself starting to get angry (of course not realizing how stubborn I was also being at the time). So in this case where boundary setting didn’t go over so well, I found myself remembering not to blame place on the individual but rather the situation, and suddenly I found myself laughing. It was ridiculous what we were arguing about! But that laughter managed to bring my zen back, and I’m thinking next time I get stuck in a heated argument, this is a bit of mental gymnastics I’ll want to try again.

Can losing your cool be funny? Try to laugh at a frustrating situation, and you might be able funnel that frustration into constructive humor.

📚 What did I discover?

This is a brilliant article from Ken — decades of experience condensed for free, with so many lessons I wish I’d learned sooner:

  • Don’t let dismissiveness around soft skills steer you away from developing them as part of your PM repertoire (the art trumps the science)
  • Prioritize brand*** and growth early, to get disproportionate credit later
  • Don’t let gaps form (i.e. reduce dependencies, always go to the source)
  • A terrible manager is devastating early in your career
  • Hold the door open behind you

PM from the vantage point of the public sector feels like a rather different beast, yet so much of the core theory carries over. A good sign for the digital efforts of governments in flight?

🏠 AOB

Are weeknotes a kind of inverse-Peakon? Instead of being anonymous from the many to a known few, they’re public from the one to the anonymous masses. And the authors of both are encouraged to obscure some of the details to protect identities of the innocent. But both are (hopefully!) therapeutic and constructive in their own way.

*I think I managed to flub the 30 second intro kicking us off, and probably forgot to mention who I was in the process 🙈. Surprised how foreign it feels to be speaking to a crowded room again!

**Actually, was talking with a friend this weekend about authenticity when activating your network, a related concept. Is it better to be direct with what you need, or to build up to it over time? We concluded you need to acknowledge the elephant if it’s been too long, and not to be pushy. Don’t tug at the heartstrings if you don’t get an immediate response. Make it a simpler ask when possible. And empathize — how might your ask come across to the other person? If they messaged you out of the blue for something similar, what would turn you off to helping?

***And yet, I worried as a fresh college grad when I was considering my original Microsoft offer — it’s not Google nor Amazon, what will people think? Glad I’m older and wiser now 😄.

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Reflecting through #weeknotes. Learning what works. You’re welcome to read over my shoulder while I do.

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Sean K. Gabriel

Sean K. Gabriel

Kindness first. Lean product aficionado tweeting @skaulana, web @ kaulana.com. Finds you interesting. (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ

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