30 Days of Product Management Genius with Mike Fishbein | The Antidote for Product Management Newbie Anxiety

Aero Wong
Aero Wong
Dec 7, 2017 · 5 min read
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“What’s your long-term career goal?” the CEO asked.

“I don’t have a long-term goal, yet.” I was answering a question in the final interview for a Product position. “But I have one for the short-term: become a Product Manager.”

“Okay. We’ll see,” he replied, ending the interview. Three days later, I landed the job. I was going to facilitate a product powered by cutting-edge technology that I barely knew. Besides being in over my head with the technology, I didn’t even know what I was supposed to do as a Product Manager!

I didn’t know how to achieve my goal: I didn’t just want to survive as a Product Manager, I wanted to thrive! I was nervous, but my desire to learn helped me focus on my next steps. I hired a researcher to provide me with all the information and online tutorials I needed to learn about Product Management, and I acquired a list of thought leaders in this domain.

A week later, I was like a piranha swimming in the ocean of knowledge. Tapping into all the genius of those who came before me, soaking up all of their combined wisdom, I quickly learned as much as I could and applied this to my new job. Senior Management was amazed by my acumen and Product Management skills.

Mike Fishbein is a Product Management genius who contributed to my PM success.

The Antidote for Product Management Newbie Anxiety

In ancient times, anxiety was a useful emotion for human beings because it inspired us to take action in the face of real and immediate problems.

You hear leaves and twigs cracking near your home. Experience tells you that it could be a bear. You feel anxious, so you get your weapon or you vacate the area. You take action to survive.

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In product management, I probably don’t have to worry about a bear attacking me. But my brain is still sometimes more concerned with surviving than thriving. Many of my career worries are unwarranted.

Here are four Fishbein suggestions to help ease my worries:

Determine what is true

Every day I’m faced with scenarios that could cause anxiety.

  • The tech lead exaggerates the Dev Team’s ability and the product release date slips;
  • The customers don’t like the new features built, even after 10 iterations of user research;
  • The CEO gives me the pink slip because I can’t deliver.

But how likely are these scenarios? How much of my anxiety is my brain trying to keep me alive versus adapting to what is real? So I question my assumptions.

The tech lead really did lie to me once about the implementation situation. But that was a one-off. Perhaps only a misunderstanding.

The customers have already tried out the prototype based on their requests. They usually love what we do, though sometimes we could communicate our ideas to each other better.

And it could be possible that a change in strategy or vision could result in me or the team being replaced. Some fear and anxiety is warranted. But most is not.

Accept reality

By accepting the truth that the tech lead sometimes exaggerates, my mind adapts to the situation and begins thinking pragmatically.

I not only check in on the development progress in the daily scrum meeting, but also directly communicate with the engineers who are hands-on with the actual code. At the end of each sprint, we’re on track.

Read the original post How to Stop Worrying About the Future.

Be confident

Having a strong self-esteem is crucial for performing effectively as a PM.

I believe in my ability to adapt to whatever situation I find myself in. I have confidence in my ability to deliver. I know that I’ll figure it out. I trust in the process and in the team.

This isn’t blind optimism or arrogance. It’s a realistic understanding of my abilities and my demonstrated history.

I’ve achieved big things and some small things. I’ve acted with integrity and morality.

My product will be great and develop to its fullest potential through my confidence, not my anxiety.

Focus on what I can control

I was anxious about the delivery of the next release. The topology changed entirely. High availability and scalability were necessary for the 9 million active users. Several more new features were built in. For this new release, I was dependent on the development team’s implementation and the test team’s QA. But I couldn’t control the code or the tests they wrote. I could only control the instructions I gave and the clarity of the communication between us. The part I could control was the sprint planning and daily standup meeting.

Worrying about the team’s effort was pointless. It was out of my control. Worrying would only cause stress and hinder our communication.

Take action

Ruminating about how bad things can be, or how stressed I might be will not change reality or help me create a better product. Predicting a negative outcome will only cause anxiety.

So I take action where I can. I prepare the product backlog. I get a good night’s sleep. I prepare deliberately before meetings. I get pumped and enthusiastic about the next release.

If I’m doing the right things, then I keep doing them. If I’m not doing what I need to, then start.

Instead of worrying about the broken feature, focus on writing clear exit criteria for each implementation. Instead of worrying about the hidden bugs, focus on reviewing the test cases. Instead of worrying about how my customer might react, deliver a great product!

Are you a Product Manager? Are you hungry for more practical and actionable PM knowledge you can apply on your job?

Mike Fishbein is a speaker in the Product Manager Summit: The first FREE Web Conference showcasing Product Management best practices from around the world.

His topic will be The First Marketing Campaign Showcase in Product Management.

You don’t want to miss this. Claim your free ticket.

Product Quest

The Story of Product Baby Chasing Product Wisdom to Thrive…

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