Over the last year, I contemplated a lot around how to better drive my career. Dictionary.com defines career as ‘a person’s progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking’. So it’s all about progress, and how one can make such progress in relevant characteristics over time, and in the case of product manager or product group manager, it’s about making progress in these elements.
Looking at people around me, roughly speaking, they can be categorized as one of two: 1. looking to get better over time
2. Suffice with what they do and willing to do the same for the rest of their lives (and of course we can switch from one to the other, depending on the current circumstances of our lives)
I’m mostly amongst the first type cast of people, and so I’ve been looking for opportunities to evolve. The most natural way is to look for new opportunities within your daily work. For example, if we’re in the process of long-term planning, I can either decide to align with the current process or try to make suggestions to how the process should look like and get feedback accordingly or influence the process. In the second option, I actually get more experience compared to the first option. Of course if it’s my first planning session, I might still benefit with aligning with the process so the next time I could develop my own perspective of how it should look like.
That’s nice, but I wanted to take it to the next level. I recently started reading in-depth about gamification and how it can be applied to either customer success or within organizations to improve employee engagement. This led me think about career management for product managers and how gamification can be of help in order to make it more exciting.
For example, if we look at product manager required skill set, we can look at hard skills (e.g. ability to set a compelling product vision) and soft skills (e.g. ability to informally manage other teams and drive them to execution).
There is no perfect in any of these skills. Even if you became great and you’re current work place, it could be that by switching a work place, all of a sudden you will face new challenges which might require that you will act slightly differently.
In gamification terms, that will be the difference between being a good PM and an expert PM. In every work place, you want to reach the point of an expert and truly be good at what you do. At that point, your intuition will be enough to make a great call on what should be done.
So how it can be done practically? Start by generating a broad list of characteristics, e.g. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/list-of-product-manager-skills-2062460. Per each of these characteristics, rate your self. Choose either the weakest ones or the ones you want to improve in the upcoming time period. Per each of these, set up a concrete task that will allow you to measure progress. Reflect on a monthly basis on which type of achievements you made. Make sure that you set up a follow-up task each time. When you have 3-5 goals in mind all the time, it’s much easier to focus and make sure that you are on the right track. And most importantly, define the prize for making progress in each of these.
For example, let’s say I decide to focus on ‘Motivating Others’. I could take a random task that we have to do and think of ways to make it even better. Consider the following options:
- Setting a wide-screen which shows progress over time and a concrete goal which I want the team to achieve
- A weekly progress report that will drive others to outperform
- Motivational talks with the relevant teams
- Creating better bridges between teams
If it works, great. Maybe the prize will be a day off to celebrate or ordering for lunch a special meal.
If you have skills to work on but no opportunities, think of ways to generate them. That’s the great think about working in an organization. There are more things which need to take place then just your individual work.
And most importantly – have fun 🙂