Become a Better Product Manager by Changing Your Zone

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post. Interested in collaborating on Product School’s blog? Email Gabriela Araujo at gaby(at)productschool.com

Photo of a team in black and white

As a Product Manager, it is indispensable to have plenty of knowledge in different fields rather than in a specific one. Moreover, you should be able to look at the overall picture, knowing how to use the colors available on your color palette and visualizing the optimal picture at the end of the process.

In fact, you need to be creative and decisive during the drawing process with the colors on your palette. This could effectively mean dealing with internal and external stakeholders, articulating the roadmap and characterizing the product. In the end, you aspire to achieve the desired masterpiece — the final product.

Markers in different colors

Most of the time we spend as Product Managers, we are in the zone of designing the picture. We try to develop the best feasible version of our product. In cooperation with the stakeholders involved, we put a lot of effort into ensuring an efficient working process.

However, when we are always in the zone of trying to make the product the best version possible, are we truly doing our best to develop as a professional? Are we genuinely and constantly gaining more knowledge? Throughout the process, are we evolving and becoming an expert in our field, or is there anything else we can do?

Let me explain…

Let’s divide our time into two main zones — the learning zone and the performance zone.

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During work, we are usually in the performance zone. We are using the colors available for our picture, making sure that every detail is accurate, and the picture meets our vision. However, when we are stagnantly located in the performance zone, we cannot productively develop as professionals.

We will not gain plenty of new knowledge. Furthermore, we will not be aware of the brand-new technologies or methodologies available on the market. In fact, constantly residing in the performance zone will hinder our development as Product Managers. It could even negatively impact the products we are currently developing.

Thus, it is inevitable to move from the performance zone to the learning zone at any given moment. We need to surround ourselves with sources of information that is available to us at different times during the day. Doing so will help us dive into the learning zone as soon as spare time is on-hand. In the end, this is exactly what will improve our performance zone respectfully.

Books, Photo by Patrick Tomasso

I would like to go back to the sentence from the beginning of the article:

“As a Product Manager, it is indispensable to have plenty of knowledge in different fields rather than in a specific one.”

Remember this sentence!

As Product Managers, we need to gain understanding in myriad areas such as business, design, negotiation, and psychology.

Don’t be lazy! Make an effort in diving into new fields you are currently lacking knowledge of. To be a Product Manager who knows how to deal with the different colors to create the desired picture, you need to do some real work in different areas.

books flying over a guy

Let’s look at certain ways to jump into the learning zone throughout your day.

Learn from Your Stakeholders

To truly understand the product world, it is advisable to set meetings with all of the different stakeholders involved. Sit with colleagues from different departments, ask them questions regarding their work routine and let them share their experiences. You can ask designers, machine-learning experts, developers, colleagues from the quality management or even marketing experts to share their knowledge with you.

For example, ask them how their workday looks like, which applications they use, which problems they face or what both their goals and vision look like. Doing so will not only help you to build good relations with your colleagues. You will also expand your knowledge and stay in the learning zone for longer.

In my case, I set a meeting with a developer of my company every single week. In this meeting — we call it ‘dual mentoring’ — we continuously share interesting knowledge and experiences of our work with each other.

Listen to Podcasts

Listening to podcasts enables you to attain in-depth knowledge from various experts or even amateurs about different topics regarding the product world. There are certain tracks that are as short as five minutes, while the range goes up to more than two hours.

You can simply pick the one that suits both your current interests and your time. In my opinion, listening to podcasts is the best way to get into the learning zone during your daily commute to work, to meet a friend or even while waiting for your doctor’s appointment.

Below, you can find some of the podcasts I used to or am currently listening to.

Read, Read, and Keep Reading

Blog posts are usually short, easy to read and focused on one specific topic. In my opinion, reading blog posts is great when you don’t have enough time to invest in a book. I find it quite helpful to have my favorite blogs saved in my browser. When I have some spare time during my work or at home, usually around 5–10 minutes, I simply read one article and continue with my routine afterwards.

Below, you can find some of my favorite blogs.

Besides learning from stakeholders, listening to podcasts and reading blogs, there are plenty of other ways to get into the learning zone throughout your day, such as reading books, getting information from tech-websites regarding brand-new products, technologies and methodologies that are entering the market, and attending meet-ups at the end of your day to listen to an interesting lecture and meet people that are part of the product world.

Recap

We need to be aware of the fact that we have two zones in our work life: The learning zone and the performance zone. On the one hand, the performance zone is a state of doing — we work. On the other hand, the learning zone is a state of learning new things. During most of our work life, we are stagnantly staying in the performance zone.

In order to move forward and become experts in our field, we cannot simply stay in the performance zone. We need to rotate between the learning and the performance zone. Moreover, we need to expand our horizons and be open to new areas and knowledge that is not directly connected to our profession.

I took inspiration from the following lecture — take a few minutes to get into the learning zone and watch it.

How to Get Better at the Things You Care About

Meet Yogev Baron

Yogev Baron is a Product Manager at RiskMethods. Currently, he leads both the growth-centered and mobile team. Yogev holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Business and Law with a specialization in entrepreneurship. His first and foremost aspiration is to bring as much added value to the world and influencing as many lives for the better as possible.

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