This is Where Product Management Confidence Comes From
September 23, 2014

This is Where Product Management Confidence Comes From

by Keith Brown

I like to cook. It’s satisfying, challenging and fun. I enjoy planning a meal, shopping for fresh ingredients and the process of bringing all the components together to make something amazing. But, often times when I bring up cooking in a conversation, someone will say, “I can’t cook at all” or “I’m a horrible cook.”

One of the things I’ve realized about cooking (along with other skills we master) is when people feel they’ve cooked something horrible, they start to believe they are unable to cook. But, like many things we attempt in life — that’s not the case.

Cooking is like product management. It takes time, focus and practice. It’s not something that you can learn overnight. Why else would there be hundreds of cookbooks and an entire cable television channel dedicated to teaching people how to cook?

We’ve all experienced situations where we are unsure and question our abilities — especially when we’re new to managing products. Whether behind the desk or the stove, we’ve all had to do something we’ve never done before. You start to ask yourself questions like:

  • What if I’m not good at leading a product team?

  • How will I ever be able to master prioritizing feature requests?

  • Why does it seem so effortless when she estimates the capacity for the release?

So how do you build a sense of confidence, especially as it relates to managing products? The reality is there is no quick fix or five-minute solution. The good news is that building confidence is achievable, as long as you have focus and determination.

Set and achieve goals One of the quickest ways to start building confidence is by accomplishing something you did not believe you could. Set a clear vision for yourself and your product so you know where you are headed and stay grounded in what you are trying to achieve. Once you know your destination, start building competence and mastery of those skills necessary to achieve your goals. The goals you set do not need to be monumental. Start with very small goals, then get in the habit of setting them, achieving them, and celebrate that achievement.

Take risks Do you often sacrifice your personal aspirations for what’s comfortable? Have you always wanted to pursue a challenging new product role or even start a company, but have given up before you really got started? If this sounds familiar, you need to look up and out and gain the confidence to get uncomfortable. If you are under-confident you will typically avoid taking risks and stretching yourself — or, you might not try at all. Going the extra mile to achieve greater things builds confidence but it also means stepping out of your comfort zone.

Make small mistakes Part of taking on risks requires the ability to acknowledge when a risk fails and learn from those mistakes. It’s better to have taken on a challenging new project and failed, than not try at all. Some of the greatest athletes in the world admit that they don’t mind losing as long as they know they’ve done as well as they possibly could and know what they need to do next time to improve. Persisting in the face of setbacks builds more confidence, grows skills and helps us learn to operate beyond our potential.

If you’ve been avoiding taking on a new product role, building a new skill, or even trying a new recipe because you don’t believe you have the talent or aptitude, it’s time to stop and re-assess where you’re headed. Set one goal today that you want to achieve and take the first step toward building confidence.

What step are you going to take?

Keith Brown

Keith Brown

Keith was a vice president of marketing at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software.

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