The Ultimate Motivation: What Gets Product Managers Out of Bed Every Morning?

Jim Semick

Jim Semick
Founder & Chief Strategist at ProductPlan

No matter how much we love our career, we all have some days when we’d rather stay in bed.

So what motivates product managers to get out of bed and show up?

I recently moderated a panel of experts to talk about the intersection of happiness and product management. We found that our panelists and our attendees had a variety of reasons they not only show up every day but are excited to do so.

 

Check out what other product management professionals use for their motivation. File away a few of your favorites for the next time you’d rather keep hitting the snooze button.

What Motivates Product Managers to Get Out of Bed Every Morning?

Variety

When you’re working in product management, no two days are the same. With a wide range of tasks on our plate and the dynamic nature of the role, you’re never in danger of getting bored. This unpredictableness is a spark that many product managers thrive on.

Suzanne Abate, CEO of The Development Factory, was one of the featured panelists in our happiness webinar. She cited this element of the job as her spark to start the day.

“It’s never the same,” Abate said. “Every single day is going to be a different kind of thing because there’s going to be different tasks that you’re facing or different fires you have to put out.”

This sentiment was echoed by several webinar attendees. One product manager from a healthcare company, who cited “The opportunity to do something new every day.”

A product manager in the content protection industry said, “I get excited to wake up and learn, do something new.”

Embracing the pandemonium

Not only must product managers tackle a diverse array of tasks during their workday, but there’s also an element of unpredictability. You simply never know what the day will throw at you.

For panelist Kevin Steigerwald, Director of Product Design at Jama Software, that’s a feature, not a bug.

“Knowing that there is going to be a little bit of chaos today, and there are going to be different problems to solve,” he said. “I have to coordinate with everyone in the organization. I’m not going into work and just talking to one person all day long.”

Another webinar attendee eloquently echoed this. “If you’re not drawn to crazy, then you don’t belong in product,” said a product manager for a credit rating firm.

Teamwork

Product management is a team sport, even if the other players aren’t technically on your “team” in the org chart. But the tasks on our plate require a ton of interaction and working together with colleagues from across the organization. Together you’ll investigate, discuss, debate, and solve problems.

This powers another panelist’s internal alarm clock.

“Collaboration is a pretty key thing that I really enjoy. When you come together with everyone from the different disciplines, working with design, working with developers, with support and marketing,” said Candice Yono, Senior Product Manager at Pivotal. “I love seeing the different perspectives and the different takes that everyone brings to the table and how that comes to shape some solutions that no single individual would have been able to come up with on their own.”

Some of our attendees also found this facet of the job to be their reason for clocking in every day. A product manager for auto dealer software referenced “my core working team” as his motivation.

“The people I work with,” said a product development manager for a guitar company. “And the pride we all share in the quality products we make.”

Innovation

One of the best parts of product management is bringing new solutions to the market. It’s the perfect combination of creativity, business savvy, and execution. For some attendees, this was their catalyst for seizing the day.

A product manager for a user research platform craves “exciting challenges to solve,” while a senior product manager for a computer-aided design firm is pumped about “changing the industry.”

“The opportunity to create cool, new products,” said a product manager for a real estate software firm while their colleague answered, “Addressing my beta testers issues.”

Making a real impact was key for a security firm product manager for a security firm, who cherishes “the opportunity to have real input into effective change.”

But an associate product manager working on employee engagement solutions might have summed it up best, exclaiming, “watching my idea come to life!”

Delighting customers

A customer-centric mindset is essential for developing great, useful solutions, and thinking about their users was another commonly cited incentive.

The COO of a healthcare call center solutions provider mentioned: “the end value our products provide our clients.” However, the big motivator for others is addressing their customers’ key challenges.

“Solving someone’s problem, making them enjoy their job, and making their day,” said a product owner for a process management firm.

The grind

Patience is a virtue. Especially in product management, where it can take months or years to bring an idea to life and reach end-users. To keep their eyes on the prize and show up every day with a smile, some product managers lean into the routine.

A senior business analyst for a television production and monetization firm referenced “my 7 am daily standup” as their wake-up call.

Others just enjoy chipping away at things a little each day. A product owner in the financial services industry mentioned “moving things forward one step,” while an industrial systems product manager said, “I want to complete something.”

“I really enjoy what I do… with challenges and all,” said a product manager at a process automation firm. “I have still so much to learn only being a year in this position coming from QA… major change but loving it more every day.”

A Little Hectic, but Pretty Happy

No matter what particular part of the job ultimately gets people going, product managers remain a pretty happy cohort. Our 2020 product management survey found the vast majority of product managers are happy with their role. The average satisfaction rating is 3.8 out of 5. To read a little more about the current state of product management, download the 2020 product management report below.

Read our new report Product Managers in 2020 for insights on product managers ➜

There are some important drivers for that happiness—and definitely, a few things we’re not fans of—but most of us wouldn’t want to do anything else. 92% of product managers plan to stay in a similar role, and most of us just want more help and support to do the jobs we have.

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