Product Managers: You Are What You Build
May 1, 2017

Product Managers: You Are What You Build

by Brian de Haaff

If you are like me, the following has happened to you. And if you are lucky, it has only happened once — but that is unlikely.

You are starting a new project, and you want to bring your very best, but you slip up at some point. Maybe you cannot get back on track. You are disappointed. The end result did not meet the greatness of your early ambitions.

As a defense mechanism, you might throw up your arms and say, “Who cares? I was not trying my hardest anyway.” But I bet you still wake up in the middle of the night, mulling over what went wrong. Those feelings linger. Why is that?

Because for product managers, you are what you build. Your work is not just features and enhancements — it is your own thinking, attitude, empathy, and effort. And what your product achieves now is also tied to your future. 

I write about this in my bestselling new book Lovability, which outlines a new human-centric approach to building products and businesses that people love. I also share the story of how we built Aha! — we knew we wanted to create something customers would love.

Your product is a reflection of who you are and what you believe in. It should make you smile with pride when you sit down and ponder what you have created. So ask yourself, “How can I be proud of what I am building?”

I realize this is a big question. Start by examining your:

Values Your values are the foundation of your work, and they should guide every decision you make. So, what do you stand for? What will you always do and never do? What do you want to be remembered for? These answers will help you to make the right choices — rather than what is simply convenient or easy.

Passion This is what fuels your work, pushing you to be better and better each day. You should be passionate about delivering your customers a valuable product. Because when you are driven by passion — a desire to do meaningful work — you are interested and invested. You will keep working on a problem until you solve it.

Character Your character is revealed by what you say and do. Without a strong sense of character, you may say “yes” to decisions that are not right for your product (and ultimately your team and customers). You need to keep focused on what is best for the product, the customer, and the team — ignoring anything that might get you off track.

Team About those teammates: Do their values, passion, and character align with yours? Maybe they could use a boost in drive or purpose. That is okay — you can take the lead as a positive example. The best product managers lead by example, inspiring others to bring their best to each day. But to feel good about what you build, you need common goals with your teammates.

When you work with conviction and heart, it is possible to build a product that solves problems, adds value, and creates lasting relationships with customers. It is possible to show your best through the products you build.   

So, yes, you are what you build. And if you are like me, you want to build what customers really love. You want to do something that matters and to feel good about what you help create.

Do you agree? Does your product define you?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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