How to Overcome Fear in Product with High Fidelity Senior Product Manager

Managing a whole team, and driving them towards success while trying to forge your place in the market is a pretty daunting task! For some newer and less experienced Product Managers, this can cause a sense of fear. You imagine the worst-case scenarios and can end up feeling burnt out and stressed.

In this talk, Justin Willians goes through how Product Managers can conquer their fears.

Meet Justin Williams

Currently working as a Senior Product Manager at High Fidelity, Justin Williams has an ardent love for product development and experiential learning. He has over 10 years of experience and still finds the journey as joyful as it was when he started.

Justin Williams Product Manager

Getting Over Fear, the PM Way!

The goals of this talk are to help us overcome the sometimes vexing life of a modern PM. Organizational hurdles, agile dogma, deranged stakeholders, a lack of mentorship…product people see it all! By the end of the talk, you’ll have some great new strategies to success when it feels like the deck is stacked against you.

The Current State of Product Management

Marty Cagan says;

  1. “The average skill level of a product manager has dropped significantly over the last several years.”  
  2. The move to Agile and need for POs and so they send them to CSPO training and they learn about 5% of the job.”

An open letter to management on the state of product management at Google:

Some of the employees have a reverse ideology of what Google has to offer:

  1. “The majority of the PMs I have worked with over the course of the past 6-7 years have zero training or experience in product management.”
  2. “General Incompetence – The PMs that I have had occasion to work with have demonstrated an inability to do even the basic tenets of the position.”
  3. “No career growth education/training – The PMs do not grow as there is no opportunity for them to learn how to properly do the job, as far as I can tell it’s because even leadership doesn’t know how to do the job properly. No framework exists in any of the groups I have worked with where the PMs learn the proper approaches and outputs to being successful and working well with the engineers”

Outside of Google, there are also several issues that crop up from time to time. Sometimes, Product Management ‘Leaders’ have never actually been Product Managers. Being ‘good’ at PM is also very subjective, so it’s difficult to know what ‘good’ looks like.

Strategies to Overcome the Fear:

A) Find Something You Care About

  • Customers 
  • Problem Space or Vision 
  • Company 
  • Often – not obvious. Get out and interview.

B) Talk To Customers

  • Dumbfounded by how many PMs don’t do this. 
  • Build empathy & motivation 
  • Collect amazing stories 
  • Become an expert 
  • Look like a badass 
  • JFDI 
  • Challenge: Talk to 1 a week. Woah.

C) Focus on Outcomes; care less about what others think


D) Get Out! 

  • Get out of meetings 
  • Don’t feel the need to answer every question 
  • You are not a servant to “the business” 
  • Challenge: Block 4 hours/day for heads-down work 
  • 1x monthly drinks or lunch is a great way to build a relationship and be less reactionary 
  • Don’t have a meeting and solution every issue

E) Be Ruthless With Your Time and..

  • Every Product Team Ever: “We want to spend more time with customers or in discovery”
  • 50% of your time should be in Discovery 
  • Challenge: Spend 5 minutes recording how you spent your time each week. 
  • Challenge: Read 4 hours a week.

F) Avoid Failure Modes

  • Do Your Homework 
  • Small company: CEO meets with customers weekly 
  • PM: hardly ever does 
  • PM: relegated to “backlog administrator” 
  • Challenge: Create a Lean Canvas for your business and review it with your manager.

Did you enjoy this talk? You can find many more like it on our YouTube channel! Or, see them for yourself at one of our Global Events.

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