What Google Can Teach Product Managers About Finding Inner Peace

by drjim on November 26, 2012

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Inner peace is what all product managers are really looking for

Inner peace is what all product managers are really looking for

So product manager, what is your life like these days? Are you dealing with long hours at work, demanding bosses and customers? Internal departments who don’t want to talk to you let alone do what you need them to do? An ever changing product development definition? I guess the concept of finding inner peace must seem pretty far away most days. Over at Google, product managers are experiencing everything that you are experiencing – and more of it. How do they deal with the lack of peace in their lives?

Search Inside Yourself – Why It Matters At Google

I think that we can all agree that a job at Google would look pretty good on any product manager resume. As pretty as Google appears from the outside, and as nice as all of the perks that the employees get sound to those of us who don’t work there, the day-to-day reality of working for Google is actually much harsher than at many other firms. Google, the corporation, is driven to compete with the rest of the world. The people that they hire are by their very nature driven to be the best. The combination can burn a product manager out in short order.

You’ve got to give credit to Google, they know that they have a problem. They’ve created an internal training course, Search Inside Yourself (SIY), that has turned into one of their most popular courses.

SIY is all about how product managers can keep it together when working in high stress environments. Who among us wouldn’t like to know how to accomplish that? In this class, the students don’t learn any “hard skills” such a time management. Instead, they learn “soft skills” such as motivation and how to get along with others. Laugh all you want, but at the end of the day these are the skills that a product manager really needs if we are to be successful over the long run.

How To Search Inside Yourself

If this concept of learning how to find your inner peace appeals to you, then the big question is how to do it? The Google SIY class is broken into three main parts: attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and the creation of useful mental habits. One of the key skills that get taught is the ability to listen while being less reactive – don’t be planning what you are going to be saying next, really take the time to listen to what a person is saying.

Another key skill that is taught in the class is what is called S.B.N.R.R. This stands for Stop, Breath, Notice, Reflect, and Respond. It sure seems rather simple; however, I for one can easily list a number of cases where I didn’t do this – I just quickly responded to something that I thought was happening and I turned out to be completely wrong.

If I haven’t been able to convince you that this class holds a great deal of benefit for over-stressed Google product managers, then this last piece of information just might do the trick. One if its key messages is to teach its students to practice what is called “mindful emailing”.

We all send many, many emails every day. What the course teaches its students is that they need to focus on the person who is going to be receiving the email, not the email itself. If you take the time to understand the impact that your email may have on the person who is going to be receiving it, then you’ll do a better job of sending email. Likewise, if you prepare yourself to receive emails from others, then email won’t make you upset or angry so often.

What All Of This Means For You

As wonderful as the 21st Century is to live in, product managers also have to learn to live with a great deal of stress — it’s almost part of our product manager job description. This stress can eat away at us until we are no longer able to find the inner peace that all of us so desperately crave.

Over at Google they have come to understand that their product managers are dealing with the same stress that the rest of us are facing. They’ve created a course called Search Inside Yourself (SIY) that teaches their employees how to find their inner peace.

The steps that they take to do this include teaching them to become better listeners, understand what motivates them, and deal with the emails that they receive with less fear and anger. Ultimately, it teaches Google employees how to reduce the natural friction that always occurs whenever you have people working together.

What can the rest of us learn from all of this? If the fantastic Google and its best-of-the-best employees are dealing with the same stresses that you and I have to deal with, then maybe we’re not all that different. Instead of banging our heads against the wall, you and I need to learn a lesson from Google and understand that perhaps we need to seek outside support in order to once again find our inner peace. Take a yoga course, go rock climbing, take an email course. Do whatever it takes to help you search inside yourself…!

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What steps could you take today to make yourself less fearful or angry when it comes to dealing with email?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So who was the most successful ad man in history? I’m not 100% sure, but if you had to line them all up, David Ogilvy would be close to the front of the line. In fact he was so good at what he did that he was often called “The Father Of Advertising”. Clearly this is somebody that product managers can learn a thing or two from…

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