You have the most impact when you’re happiest

You have the most impact when you’re happiest.

Just finished reading Naval’s Almanack and thing the struck me most is the simplicity of its lessons, each loaded with such depth that makes one reflect how much everything is overcomplicated.

One flawless example is the clarity of his “algorithm for success”:

Happiness = Health + Wealth + Good Relationships

Health = Exercise + Diet + Sleep

Exercise = High Intensity + Sports + Rest

Diet = Natural Foods + Fasting + Plants

Sleep = No alarms + 8-9 hours + Circadian rhythms

Wealth = Income + Wealth * ROI

Income = Accountability + Leverage + Specific Knowledge

Accountability = Personal Branding + Personal Platform + Taking risk

Leverage = Capital + People + Intellectual Property

Specific Knowledge = Know something society can’t easily train other people

ROI = Buy-&-Hold + Valuation + Safety Margin

Having impact is changing (someone’s) world. Products do this at scale, leveraging technology to make value accessible and affordable. Personally, this makes me add an extra line to Naval’s algorithm:

Changing the world = (Products you build) * [your] Happiness

You have the most impact when you’re happiest.

Tools to build products faster and lighter

Are you a new PM, founder, or in charge of building a new product from scratch? The best thing you can do is cultivate a “less code” culture. Don’t build the “usual”, rather focus on accelerating your learning rate and getting eng/product/design focused on core value stuff. How? Here are some tips:

- Need to build homepage/landing page? Build them on Webflow. More flexibility to experiment positioning without “wasting” engineering effort tweaking pages.

- Need a backoffice or Dashboard for internal team or clients? Build it on Retool. Ops teams evolve quickly, so should Ops tools. Rarely product teams prioritise ops tools.

- Need integrations or an API? Build it on Zapier. Unlocks a world of APIs. Don’t depend on bespoke engineering integrations.

- Need customer communication? Build it on Mailchimp. Super flexible API, pretty cheap, and Marketing teams don’t depend on engineering.

- Need data and metrics visibility? Build it on Metabase. Querying accessible to everyone. Don’t depend on engineering having to pull data for you.

- Need to onboard clients? Build it on Typeform. Onboarding flows change quickly, you need more data or to explain better. Don’t depend on design/eng to tweak constantly. 

Don’t have engineering capacity in house but need to build stuff to learn? Use Bubble to get going. Don’t get stuck in your powerpoint deck hoping to close funding/convince a tech co-founder.

It's never been easier to build a product, but it has also never been easier to "waste" engineering/product resources where you don't need to do.

First-time managers: turn your team from overwhelmed into overwellmed

If you’re a manager (especially first-timer) at a startup, your team will feel constantly overwhelmed.

You can’t work in a startup and not expect to feel that way. There is 1/3 of the people to do what is required. Founders generally aim to achieve 5x what is likely possible. And targets feel like 10x that.

Theory says that is the only way to build new products and disrupt markets. Theory is probably right, but what it doesn’t say is the odds of success are still pretty low.

And by the way: a startup is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes real time.

So how do you keep it going through the long run? You foster a team environment that turns overwhelmed into overwellmed. That means:

1. Create learning moments. Likely your team is quite junior. Balance execution with pure “soak-&-learn”, and every day will be ROI positive.
2. Join them “in the trenches”. You were probably promoted because you were a/the top performer, so there is a likely gap. Fill it up just enough. Perfect moment to gain trust, boost excitement and show others how to do.
3. Celebrate the small execution wins. It’s pure dopamine when you’re “progressing through the shitstorm” and your manager tells everyone your own wins.

It seems pretty obvious but as most startups get their best “executioners” as managers, it’s easy to default into execution. Make every day overwellming, so that your team can go through the overwhelming marathon of building something new.

1-1 topics for managers who don't know what to talk about with their teams

A couple weeks ago I wrote about 1-1s. I got a lot of messages and comments about my belief that managers should run 1-1s on a weekly basis. The detractors said “It’s micromanagement”, “It’s too frequent”, “What do you even speak on a weekly basis?”

For the managers who don’t believe you’ll have “topics”, here are some of the things I discussed with my team “about last week”, in the last 6 months:

- Giving feedback on specific situations
- Aligning thought process of an in-progress initiative
- Asking feedback about an upcoming initiative
- Talking about a recent decision (mine or them)
- Asking how they’re feeling and how can you help
- Proposing a new challenge and offering context
- Raising the quality bar by providing comparatives
- Clearing expectations on a management decision
- Giving active coaching to become better managers or individual contributors
- Discussing principles, where they might/not have been applied
- Asking where I could unblock/help, so an initiative can be launched/improved
- Explaining a high-level decision, strategy or clarifying area’s mission

Now I ask you: wouldn’t you benefit from your own manager discussing these would you? Wouldn’t they unlock many more thoughtful conversations? Do any of these look like micromanagement?

The Hero Syndrome is also real

A few days ago I wrote about Impostor Syndrome. In Product Management there is often the reverse: the Hero Syndrome.

“I have so much visibility and knowledge across all areas, I can solve every problem of this company and my decisions can’t be wrong”

I’ve felt it. I still feel when I go deeper in some business area. But the same way most impostors aren’t, most heroes aren’t either.

As a PM you have unbelievable leverage, followership and access. Use it wisely. Be the hero of your product, the problems it solves and the team that is here to execute on it. Let others be their own heroes, and be an “Alfred” for them when needed.

Loading more posts…