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Have faith in yourself Our self-confidence increases when we believe in our abilities to perform and manage things. All of us have innumerable talents and potentials, only we are often not aware of many of them. To believe in our capabilities we first of all must identify what we have. For this we have to do a SWOT analysis and realistically look at ourselves. We will discover that we are people of great possibilities and potentials. This faith in our abilities will boost our self-confidence. We must dwell more on our strengths and use them to negate and correct our weaknesses. Look at your achievements we can successfully do so many things. We too are great achievers. But we often brood over our failures and make our lives miserable. Think often of your successes and this will help you to increase your self-confidence. Our fear of failures prevents us from taking up anything new and challenging. Remember that we have so many qualities and abilities and that we too can be successful if we perform with all our energy, mind and heart. Feel good about yourself No one can make us feel inferior without our permission. To boost our self-confidence…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, have a low-cost strategy. Customers are price sensitive, and if you can deliver a product for less than the competition, you’ll be successful at generating more sales. Even if your product isn’t as good as the competition, if it’s cheaper, more people will buy it. If you want to be a good product manager, do not pursue a low cost strategy unless you truly are offering a commodity product that can not be differentiated at all from the competition. Instead, you should develop a strategy around differentiating your product from the competition strategy, and consider a low price to the customer as part of that strategy. Michael Porter’s generic strategies are the basis for the differentiation / low cost strategy discussion, and suggest that developing a low cost competency can be part of a cost leadership or segmentation strategy. Unfortunately, this has been misunderstood and misinterpreted, leading many to believe that low-cost is a strategy in and of itself, when in most cases it is not. In Porter’s model, low cost refers to the cost from the firm’s perspective to produce the product. Many instead believe that it refers to the…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, answer a question even when you’re not sure of an answer. You don’t want to look like you don’t know about your product. If a sales rep asks if the product includes a specific feature, and you think so but are not sure, just tell them it does; if you’re wrong, you can always add the feature later. Make assumptions about aspects of the product that you’re not quite clear on. If you had to check with other people in the company every time a question came up you weren’t sure about, you’d never be able to get anything done. If you want to be a good product manager, do not be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Product managers should be informed and knowledgeable and have a good understanding of their product. However, there will always be questions that are asked — by sales representatives, by senior management, by customers — for which you are not positive on the answer. In those cases, rather than providing a half-sure, make sure you find out the right answer right away. Most product managers who make the mistake of answering questions when they…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t get caught up in all of the hype around the iPhone. Apple is a completely different company than yours and what works for them wouldn’t ever work for you. It’s a neat gadget, but nothing more. If you want to be a good product manager, see what lessons you can learn from the iPhone. Look past the hype and see it for what it is — a number of great case studies wrapped up in a well-designed and potentially revolutionary product. Only time will tell as to whether the iPhone is as important a product as the iPod or as trivial as the Mac Mini, though either way there are lessons to be learned. The iPhone is one of the biggest product launches in recent memory, and the product development aspects involved and marketing strategy is certain to provide fodder for case studies for years to come. Good product managers use everything as an opportunity to learn. Rather than dismissing the iPhone launch as irrelevant since it doesn’t relate to their industry or product, product managers can take away valuable lessons around what to do and what not to do….

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If you want to be a bad product manager, keep answering the same questions over and over again. Part of your job is to be responsive and to answer questions from developers, sales representatives, and customers. Make sure you’re available and can help, since people appreciate it when they can get an answer quickly from a product manager. The more time you spend answering questions, the more credibility you will gain and the more they will appreciate you. If you want to be a good product manager, try to never answer the same question twice. Rather than just answering the question, see if you can do something to prevent the question from being asked again. Developers, sales representatives, and other internal stakeholders probably appreciate your responsiveness. After all, that makes less work for them! Instead of them having to try to find the answer themselves, they know you can just do the work for them. Answering questions is great for the person asking the question but bad for product managers because it is a drain on productivity. Of course these questions need to be answered, and building credibility is important, but there are much more efficient ways to accomplish both….

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If you want to be a bad product manager, manage an existing product as if it was a new product. It doesn’t matter whether it’s been out for five years or whether it’s launching next week — a product’s a product. Make the decisions you think are right for the product, regardless of how long it’s been in the market, current customer perception, market penetration, or product history. You’re not responsible for decisions that your predecessors made. If there were bad decisions made in the past, you need to correct them, regardless of what impacts it may have. If you want to be a good product manager, understand that an existing product needs to be managed differently than a new one. Existing products have history, and this history needs to be taken into consideration in many decisions. The existing features, benefits, brand perceptions, past prices, and historical customer satisfaction are all aspects that need to be taken into account when managing an existing product. New products have the luxury of starting from scratch. There is an opportunity to build it right the first time, focusing on the right features, functionality, and benefits. Positioning and pricing can be determined irrespective of…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, rely solely on technology to communicate with coworkers. With all of the advances in technology, you don’t ever need to be there in person. Between email and instant messaging, wikis and webcams, Skype and cell phones, you can keep in touch without ever being in the same time zone, let alone the same room. If you want to be a good product manager, communicate in person as much as possible. Technology advances are fantastic and have improved communications and business around the world. Many technologies allow product managers to be much more efficient and effective. However, technology is no replacement for in person communication, and can not provide many of the benefits from meeting face-to-face. It is common knowledge that only a small percentage of communication comes from alone — inflection and non-verbal cues make up a much larger portion. Certainly this is a benefit of meeting with team members and coworkers in person, though there are many others that are even more important: Improved efficiency: Simply put, it is much quicker to work with someone in person rather than over the phone, through instant messenger, or over email. An issue…

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Revisit past ideas

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If you want to be a bad product manager, ignore ideas that have been tried before. If it failed in the past, it will fail in the present. Don’t waste your time even thinking about it or discussing it again. Focus instead on coming up with totally new ideas to try, and if none of those work, keep coming up with new ideas. If you want to be a good product manager, revisit ideas from the past to see if they are applicable now. “It’s been tried before, and it didn’t work” should be banished from the vocabulary of anyone in product development or management. Not only does this phrase implicitly limit innovation and creativity, but whether it worked or not is less important than why. Instead of rehashing the past, understand why something that was tried in the past was or was not successful, and see if anything has changed that would produce different results this time around. Have the needs of your customers changed? Are there new market dynamics at play? Are there new customer segments that have developed? Is new or improved technology available that could make the idea more successful? Are you pursuing a new or…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, avoid confrontation with colleagues. You need to get along with your colleagues, and when a disagreement comes up, try to find a way around it as quickly as possible. Sometimes it’s just better to give in than to try and do what you think is right. Find the easy way out and if things start to get heated, immediately take a break or remove yourself from the situation. You’re not going to be able to design good products if you have team members always disagreeing with each other. If you want to be a good product manager, encourage healthy discussion, disagreement, and even arguments that can help make the product better. Confrontation is inevitable, and trying to avoid it is unhealthy and unproductive. A product development team without differing opinions is not exploring the full range of possibilities. Pretend that differences of opinion do not exist and not letting people express them will lead to frustration, alienation, and eventually even more conflict. The key to productive and “healthy” arguments is to keep them focused on the specific problem or issue. Gopal Shenoy writes that one of the 11 things he has…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, highlight your individual accomplishments. Make sure everyone knows about your brilliant ideas, the great work that you did, and the decisions that you made. You did a lot of work and you should get credit for it. You are responsible for the product, after all, and you do “manage” it. How are people going to know about all of the work you did otherwise? If you want to be a good product manager, attribute product accomplishments to the entire team, not just yourself. Unless you did all of the analysis, created the design, wrote the specifications, completed the engineering and development, ran all the testing, and developed the marketing materials all by yourself (highly unlikely even in the smallest companies), your product is the result of work by a group of people. To play on the old saying, there is no I in product management. As the Cranky Product Manager notes: The product belongs to the entire team, not the Product Manager. Because the Product Manager might be the most visible member of the team (getting quoted in the industry magazines and giving presentations to the Board, etc.), the Product Manager…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, solve each problem individually. With so many issues coming up during your work, the only way to make any progress is to handle each one on its own. Start with the most pressing issue, take care of it, and then move on to the next one. This is the most efficient and effective way of making sure you’re addressing all of the relevant problems. If you want to be a good product manager, look for solutions that will solve multiple problems. Efficiency in product management is not gained by addressing individual issues quickly but by looking for ways to solve multiple problems at the same time, or ideally before they come up. In some cases, these issues may initially seem totally unrelated, which makes it all the more important for product managers to keep an open mind to new ideas and be aware of many different areas in business and technology. reCPATCA (thanks to Brainmates for the tip) is a great example of an innovative solution to two separate problems — how to prevent spam on blog comments, and how to digitize books. Their solution allows a site owner to leverage…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, treat product development as a democracy. Give everyone an equal vote in all decisions. You are part of a team after all, right? What kind of team would it be if people were excluded from certain decisions? When considering new features for your product, let all of the engineers and marketers and salespeople vote, and start working on the feature with the most votes. Let customers vote, too — you’re building the product for them so they deserve this opportunity. If you want to be a good product manager, rely on leadership rather than voting to drive product development. Of course, product managers can not and should not be dictators, and there are many things product managers must do to engage and utilize the entire product development team, like selling requirements to development and involving others in creating product plans. However, product development is not a democracy. There is no voting, and if there was, not everyone would get a vote, and not all votes would be equal. While it may be tempting to structure an open process by which stakeholders have the opportunity to provide input and are given a…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, avoid fixing the main problems with your product. Sure, you know that it doesn’t run as fast as it should, or that the amount of storage available is less than what customers really want, but there are all sorts of reasons why you can’t fix those problems. So, instead, just add some other features or upgrade another part of the product. It will take attention away from the parts that aren’t as good as they can be, and it gives your sales and marketing staff something to highlight. If you want to be a good product manager, address the main issues facing your product. If storage capacity is important to your customers and the inadequate storage capacity in your product is hurting sales and customer perception, fix it. Don’t pretend like it’s not a problem. Don’t explain why you can’t fix it. Don’t make some other upgrades instead. Confront the problem directly. If the issue is serious enough, it may even be appropriate to put off all other projects until the major problem is resolved. Imagine you are the product manager for a passenger car. The mid-level sedan has leather seats,…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, ask for others to follow up and get more information for you. When customer service tells you about an enhancement that a customer suggested, ask them to follow up to get more information for you. If a salesperson forwards an email from a customer with a bug they’ve reported, make the salesperson track down the details for you. If you hear through the grapevine that a stakeholder within your company had a suggestion for a new feature, tell your source that you’ll consider the request when the send it to you directly. You’re a product manager, not a hunter — you don’t have time to chase down information like this. Plus, that’s the job of customer service or sales — to talk with customers — and if a stakeholder really thinks something should be added to the product, they should tell you directly. What do they think you are, a mind reader? If you want to be a good product manager, follow up on requests yourself in an effort to learn more. When customer service tells you about an complaint that a customer had, or if a salesperson forwards an email…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, use the internal name for a project as the name you communicate externally. You already have the team bought in to the name, and they think it’s great, so why not use it with customers? Sales and marketing are familiar with it already. Plus, it was a project name that one of your executives came up with, and you don’t want to offend her by not using it when you’re communicating with customers. If you want to be a good product manager, choose the internal and external names for projects carefully. Naming products is an important but separate area that will not be covered here. Instead, think about projects specifically — new versions of a product, specific sets of enhancements, or major new features. It is important to come up with a good name for a project that can be used internally. Internal project names should communicate the vision and purpose of a project. They need to be distinctive and set the tone for the product development team. Calling the new quicker checkout system on your web site “version 3″ is fine but so generic as to be meaningless. Naming it…

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Say thank you

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If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t bother expressing your gratitude. Don’t thank team members and co-workers for doing what they’re paid to do anyways. They shouldn’t get used to being thanked for just doing their job. Don’t thank salespeople for providing feedback from customers. After all, you’re going to use that feedback to make the product better, which will just make their jobs even easier. Don’t thank customers who spend time talking with you. You’ve already given them a cheap t-shirt with your logo on it — what else do they want? They should be honored that you wanted to get their feedback instead of spending time with all those other customers you have. They should be the ones thanking you, right? If you want to be a good product manager, make sure to express your appreciation on a regular basis. There are a few reasons why you want to thank direct reports, co-workers, partners and customers: It reinforces behaviors that you want to see repeated. If a colleague provides tips to a new team member, finds and fixes an issue, or spends time documenting some suggested changes, thanking them specifically is the best way to…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, confuse product management with project management. The words are so close because the two concepts are so similar. Product managers should manage projects since they need to ensure that the projects get done. They’re both management roles (right?) so the skills and experience are virtually the same. Project managers just get in the way and try to take control of the project away from the product manager. If you want to be a good product manager, learn the difference between product management and project management. Despite the similar names, there are big differences between product management and project management. Confusing them is common, even among those experienced in product development. Project managers are responsible for the successful delivery of a project — a one-time endeavor with a goal, scope, deadline, budget, and other constraints. A project manager will work to align resources, manage issues and risks, and basically coordinate all of the various elements necessary to complete the project. As they relate to products, projects can be undertaken to build a product, to add new features to a product, or create new versions or extensions of a product. When the project…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, listen only to your customer needs when defining your product. You want to be customer-focused, right — so why would you take anything else into consideration? The customer is always right, after all. Everyone always says that you should focus on the customer and everything else will follow. If you want to be a good product manager, make customer needs the central but not the sole voice in product definition. While you need to create a product that meets customer needs, you also do not want to jeopardize the success of the product by ignoring all of the other important stakeholders. Some potential downfalls of listening only to your customers include: Customers might use your product but not want to pay for it. Your product could cannibalize sales of other products your company produces. Focusing only on current customer needs ignores the larger potential in new customers and new markets. Distributors and retailers may refuse to carry it because of the impact it could have on other products they sell. An example of the fourth problem: When digital video recorders first were available, there were two main competitors — TiVo and…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, assume that domain knowledge is all you need to succeed. You know the company, the market, the competition and the customers because you’ve been involved in the industry forever. In fact, you used to be on “the other side” — as a customer, a vendor, or with a competitor. The knowledge that you’ve gathered over your years of service would be impossible for someone to gather quickly, and your domain knowledge is fundamental to your success in product management. If you want to be a good product manager, make sure to have the right amount of knowledge about the domain in which you are working. Product managers need to understand their market, and to do so requires understanding of the domain. For example, if you are developing software that is sold to police stations to track cases but you have very little knowledge of the law enforcement and the criminal justice system, you will likely fail. How can you understand unmet needs of your customers if you do not even understand their most basic goals and tasks? Domain knowledge provides product managers with the information to make the decisions that will…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, keep changing your mind about the strategy and direction for your product. The market is dynamic and you need to be able to adapt rapidly. We’re living in an “agile” world and product strategies need to “be agile.” What works one week might not work the next. People who complain that the product direction is always changing are just stuck in the old way of doing business and need to learn the new ways of working. As a product manager, you need to be able to change your mind on a whim and have the whole team react. If you want to be a good product manager, set the vision and direction for the product and make changes only as needed. Of course you need to be able to adapt it as the market changes, but this is something that should only be done sparingly and after careful consideration. Having clear and concrete objectives that are universally understood by all of the people involved in its creation and upkeep is essential to its success. As a contributor to a project, there are few things more frustrating than the direction of the…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, just start being a product manager. Obviously you were hired or promoted or appointed for a reason. The fact that you were given the job should be evidence enough that you’re qualified to be a product manager. Don’t worry about training, education, best practices, or any of that stuff. You’ve sold products, built products, marketed products — so managing them is practically the same thing, right? If you want to be a good product manager, you need to work at it. Very few people are just naturally good at product management. In fact, very few people are just naturally good at anything. Most things in life require skills, knowledge, experience, and hard work to succeed. Unfortunately, that basic truth does not seem to carry over to product management. Too often, people are simply put into the position of being a product manager without any experience, training, mentoring, or support in the role. You would never hire a software developer who had never written a line of code and expect them to be productive from day one. You would never promote someone into an accounting position if they had never been an…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, assume that people who don’t agree with you are irrational. You’ve presented your argument at least once, and if they still don’t understand, they never will. What are they thinking? They must be nuts! Since you’ll never get through to them, they must be irrational and you need to go around them to still do what you were going to do anyway. If you want to be a good product manager, seek to understand the other person’s point of view. Product development inherently involves conflict. There may be conflict between what end users want and what purchasers want. Your sales staff may disagree with your marketing group. Product requirements you put forward will likely encounter resistance from your engineering team. Designers and architects will disagree on key points. Successful product managers are able to work through these conflicts. Avoiding them is impossible; instead, efforts should be put towards addressing them productively. One of the most useful approaches when dealing with conflict is to assume you are wrong and the other person is right whenever there is a disagreement. Even if you are 100% sure you are right, putting yourself in the…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t worry about the details of your product. Sure, that one section of the web site won’t work with Firefox. Okay, there’s a few extra pages you have to click through when you register. Yeah, the carrying case sometimes can break if you’re holding the product incorrectly. But people don’t care about that — you’ve got such a great product that they won’t worry about these little issues at all. They’ll totally forget about those small things when they realize how incredible the product is. You’re so far ahead of your competitors that, no matter what bugs or defects you find, it doesn’t matter. If you want to be a good product manager, sweat the small stuff. Overlooking the details is dangerous for a few reasons: The sum of many small problems may equal a big problem. One defect or idiosyncrasy will not ruin the experience of using a good product, but when you add up enough of those little issues, they can become substantial. A web site with one minor bug is not noticeable. Two bugs that disrupt someone’s experience is annoying but tolerable. As the number of problems grows,…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, try to get everyone to agree on features. It should be easy to get all of your various stakeholders to agree on what features the product should have. If you can’t get them to agree, how are you going to have their support for anything you do? Sure, everyone has wildly different ideas about what the product should include, but it shouldn’t be too hard to come to agreement in a meeting or two. It’s your job as a product manager to make sure everyone is okay with the things that you’re adding in to your product. If you want to be a good product manager, get everyone to agree on goals. Even with just a few different people involved in the creation of a product, there will be divergent views as to what the product should include. Each person will likely have their own “pet” feature that they would like to see included. Their desire may be for a legitimate reason, like a customer support representative lobbying for a change that would reduce unnecessary support calls or a business development manager asking for features to help get certain partner agreements…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, assume your customers are not aware of your competition. They may not even be aware that there is any alternative to your product, so why should you mention one? If potential customers think you’re the only option, then they’ll have to use your product. Comparing your product to the competition or even mentioning them automatically puts that idea in their head. You don’t want to remind them that there are alternatives, since the more they hear about alternatives, the more likely they are to use those products. If you want to be a good product manager, realize that customers will be comparing your product to others. You certainly do not want to focus all of your product development and product marketing efforts on comparing your product to the competition. However, in almost all cases, potential customers will have several options to choose from and you need to address how your product is different (and better). Depending on your market and how your product is positioned, you may choose to address this issue differently. The choice about whether to specifically mention a competitive product, for example, or how to approach differentiation depends…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, only worry about managing your product. You’re a “product manager,” after all, so that should be your single focus. Forget the other products produced by your company and the other products that customers might use. Don’t pay attention to any customers needs that don’t directly relate to your product. Just concentrate on managing your product and figuring out what new features you need to add to it. If you want to be a good product manager, investigate problems that exist outside your product. Looking beyond only your product and not having a singular focus simply “managing” your product can be beneficial in several ways: You will find ways to improve your product. Very few products exist on their own. Your product is most likely just one small piece of a myriad of products a customer will interact with in a given day. Products exist in an ecosystem which includes other products created by your company and other companies. A myopic view of the customer needs and usage behavior ignores these other aspects of customers’ lives and activities. These other products could seriously influence how your product is perceived and used, and…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, come up with lots of excuses for not visiting customers. You are busy at the office — there are too many meetings and projects and can’t miss any of them. Your customers are located far away and travel budgets are tight. Your customers are too busy to talk to you. You don’t have any customers yet. Your sales staff doesn’t want you visiting customers. Sure, it would be nice to visit customers, but with all these impediments, it’s just not worth the effort. And besides, visiting customers isn’t that important anyways, right? If you want to be a good product manager, find ways around all of the excuses for not visiting customers. There is nothing more valuable that a product manager can do than to spend time understanding a customer’s needs and problems. One hour with a customer will provide more benefit to your product than dozens of hours of meetings at the office. There will always be reasons not to visit customers, though a good product manager will instead remember the myriad of benefits which come from customer visits. Here are some common roadblocks and how to address them: “But…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, rely solely on quantitative research. Business is about numbers, after all, and there’s a reason you had to learn statistics in school. If you can’t prove something to a level of statistical significance, it must not be reliable. You would never make a decision about a product that’s used by millions of people by just getting input from a few dozen. What people say is not nearly as important as how many people say it. If you want to be a good product manager, utilize both quantitative and qualitative research for decision making. Numbers are good, though on their own they can not tell the whole story. Quantitative research is especially useful in product development as a way of confirming findings through qualitative research. For example, you may conduct customer visits or ethnographic research and uncover some unmet needs. You may want to conduct a survey of a wider group of customers to confirm your findings and get more input on specific aspects, such as how important this need is and the cost to the customer of not being able to currently solve this problem. Many inexperienced product managers have little…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, make sure to only do “cool” and “viral” marketing to get your message out. You need those “whiz-bang” promotional ideas that will get people’s attention. Flashy stunts, guerrilla marketing, and social campaigns are the only way to get your word out. Print advertising, direct mail, trade shows — those “old media” techniques are just not appropriate in today’s world and any product marketing manager with any self-respect will avoid them at all costs. If you want to be a good product manager, put your efforts into promotional campaigns that will impact your key marketing metrics. Though there are plenty of ways to draw attention to your product, good product managers should instead focus on defining the key performance indicators for marketing initiatives and working with the product marketing manager to choose the most appropriate ways to meet those goals. In some cases, that may mean using newer and “innovative” promotional methods; in others, that may mean that more traditional approaches will be best. Just like other areas within product management, good product managers focus on “what” the marketing campaign needs to accomplish, not “how” to accomplish it. (See Take responsibility for…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t ever remove features. Why would you take something out of your product? More features just make the product better, so taking away features would obviously make the product worse. Sure, not everyone will use every feature, but that’s why you have so many of them. What if you take away something that even just a small portion of your customers use and you alienate them? Customers always ask for more features — not less — so in the end, the product with the most features win. If you want to be a good product manager, be smart about removing features. Having a lot of features will not make your product great. Great products come from having the right features to solve customer problems, and having those features designed in the right way. Removing features can and should be done to many products. Good product managers confront this difficult aspect of the job, even though it can be challenging and uncomfortable. Similarly, good product managers do not take this responsibility lightly and only remove features once they understand the implications of any changes to the product and the customer. The first…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, distance yourself from your sales force. Your job is to get the product defined and built, after all, not to sell it. The company has levels of sales management focused on improving sales, so they don’t need you involved. If the product isn’t selling as much as it should, that’s a problem with the sales people, not with the product. Your success as a product manager is only defined on how good the product is, not how well it’s doing in the market. If you want to be a good product manager, engage your sales force. If you manage a product which is sold by direct sales representatives, good relationships with the sales organization is important to the success of your product. Most sales groups sell more than one product, so ensuring that your product has enough “mindshare” among the salespeople for them to keep selling it is key. There are a few key ways to engage your sales force: Develop good relationships with salespeople and sales management: At a most basic level, you need to get to know your sales force. A product manager should be developing good relationships with…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, plan for far advance into the future. Your product will of course be a success, so you need to have every possible detail figured out now to ensure it will continue to be a success for years to come. It’s just as important to plan for an issue that will likely come up tomorrow as it is to plan for an issue that could possibly come up a few years from now. If things go really well — or really poorly — you want to be prepared “just in case,” no matter how unlikely that may be. If you want to be a good product manager, plan for now and the likely future. Understanding the long-term implications of decisions is important, though possibilities well into the future should not overshadow more pressing short-term decisions. Too often, good ideas are rejected because they will not hold true “if” lots of things happen. For example, a good design for a database holding 10,000 records may be overruled because it will not scale to 1 million records — despite the fact that only one in a million potential customers would ever have that many…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, make sure you stay within your comfort zone. There are many different responsibilities in product management, and some of them might not be things in which you are experienced or even competent. Stay away from doing anything that will make you look bad or make you feel uncomfortable. There are plenty of activities you can do within your comfort zone, and either ignore or get someone else to do the things that make you sweat. If you want to be a good product manager, be comfortable being uncomfortable. Product management is tough work. Some aspects of it are fantastic, and some aspects of it may be dreadful. Just because you may not like one part of the job does not mean you can avoid it. No matter how experienced or skilled you may be, there are some parts of the job you will like better and be better at than others. A good product manager can not avoid the less favored parts of the job just because they are challenging or painful to address. What might make a product manager uncomfortable? There are some things that probably most would agree are…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, do everything yourself. You’re the product manager, after all, so you should be the final authority on everything related to the product. You should be the one answering questions from salespeople, drafting press releases for marketing, defining all of the processes for suppliers, and poring over every detail with engineering. Sure it takes a lot of your time, but that’s what a product manager should be spending time on. What other more important things are there to do? If you want to be a good product manager, delegate tactical activities to allow you to spend time on the strategic aspects of the job. Effective product managers pass on product knowledge and responsibility for tactical decision-making as much as possible to others on the product development team. By leveraging the rest of the team, the product manager can focus on the strategic role of product management. It is difficult for many product managers — especially new product managers — to effectively balance the strategic and tactical priorities of product management. With so many competing priorities, the minutia and day-to-day tends to take over. To extend a common metaphor, it’s not just that…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, gather requirements. How else will you know about what to put in to the product if you don’t ask others? Interview current customers, ask them what their requirements are, and make sure to capture them. That’s what being “customer-focused” is all about, after all — responding to any customer request. Make sure to gather requirements from internal stakeholders too. Get a list of features from customer support, marketing, sales, and senior executives. If you just gather all of the requirements from all of the right people, you’re bound to have a successful product — right? If you want to be a good product manager, understand unmet needs and use that insight to drive requirements. A product manager who just “gathers requirements” is doing nothing more than taking orders or documenting requests. Good product managers add value to their product by understanding the problems and needs behind requests. Requirements gathering is an activity often thought to be the cornerstone of any project. The mentality comes from traditional information technology projects, where “the Customer” who was funding the project appeared to know exactly what was needed, and an “analyst” would document the requirements….

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If you want to be a bad product manager, try to deliver as many features as possible. The more features you have, the more likely you are to have the things that any individual customer cares about. Customers expect products to keep getting better, and the way a product keeps getting better is by adding more features. Plus, adding a whole bunch of smaller features will be just as good — if not better — than adding that one big important enhancement. More is always better, right? If you want to be a good product manager, try to deliver the fewest features which will provide the most value. Customers buy products because of the needs that the product fulfills and the problems the product solves. Features in and of themselves are useless — they exist to fill a need. Customers will find product features valuable only if those features satisfy a need and if the act of filling that need is something which is valuable to the customer. Unfortunately, product managers often approach this problem the wrong way. They will create a long list of desired features and then get estimates from engineering on how much effort each requires. The…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t bother measuring the results of product development work. Just put new features in there and don’t see whether they make a difference. If a customer asked for it, it must be worth doing. If people really don’t like it or if it’s hurting the product, you’ll probably hear about it pretty quickly. Plus, the market and competition is changing so quickly that you don’t have time to think about measuring the impact of new features after they are implemented. Once the work is done, you need to focus all your attention on the next set of features to add. If you want to be a good product manager, measure the impact of the product changes you implement. Product managers need to be constantly evaluating the changes being made to a product and measuring whether they were successful. Too often, product managers implement new features, functionality, or make other changes to a product without a true understanding of why these changes are being made. The product manager may think he or she has a logical reason for requesting the change — a specific customer asked for the feature, an engineer suggested…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, solve a problem as soon as it becomes apparent. Why let something linger when you can take care of it? A product manager needs to be seen as someone who will “do” things, not just “think” about them. When a problem comes along, you must fix it as soon as possible. Sure, you may spend a lot of your time in this way, and it may distract you from other things, though this is really the best use of your time, isn’t it? If you want to be a good product manager, do not immediately solve every problem which presents itself. It is often tempting to fix an issue as soon as it appears, though there are many good reasons to not rush to address problems: If you fix the problem right away, you may not be addressing the underlying issue that caused the problem in the first place. In fact, in most cases, there is a root cause which is likely not visible on first glance. This applies to many areas in product management, most notably in addressing requests from customers. This has been discussed here in several different posts,…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, jump into partnerships without considering all of your options. Maybe your customers are clamoring for a certain feature and a partner comes to you telling you they can help solve that need quickly. Sure, there may be other vendors who can solve it too, but then you would have to go out and spend time finding and evaluating other vendors. That would take too much time and you’re better off just going with whomever was first to your door. Or, what if there’s a company with cool technology that seems really impressive — you probably would want that in your product, wouldn’t you? True, you’re not sure how many customers really need it, but it would look great in a demo, and plus you’re afraid that if you pass them up, they’ll just go to one of your competitors. If you want to be a good product manager, properly analyze and choose the right partners and strategic alliances. Product managers put so much thought into many important areas of their product, yet often the decision about whether a product or an aspect of it should be built, bought, or developed using…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, market the technical superiority of your product. Customers want innovative products, and since you are using the latest technology innovations in your product, you are bound to succeed. This shows you are progressive and ahead of the curve, so there is no danger of your customers being left behind with obsolete technology. People may not realize how the technology makes your solution is better than your competitors, but that’s just because the marketing people don’t understand it and can’t explain it well enough. If you want to be a good product manager, realize that technical superiority only matters if it provides value to your customers. Whether your solution is “better” than the status quo or the competition is a judgment made by the market, not by your engineers. Technological innovation is worthwhile when it can be translated into benefits for the customer. New technologies always have benefits, and they almost always have side effects as well. Technologists often only focus on the benefits of the technology, and either do not consider or do not understand the importance of the consequences. For example: A company may have a new technology that preserves…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, dogmatically follow product management rules. Learn a product management framework and abide by it it no matter what. Product managers need to “stick to their guns” and never give in. Thought leaders, authors, and consultants are experts and you should follow their advice without question. If you want to be a good product manager, adapt your practices to the organization and situation. Product management is not (yet) an advanced science. Instead of laws and rules, we have guidelines and experiences to guide us. While it is in the best interest of a product manager to identify and follow best practices whenever possible, these are not absolute rules. What works effectively in one organization may not work for another, and a good product manager needs to identify what will make him or her most effective and change tactics accordingly. Marty Cagan argues that the “product management model” which may work best in a company depends on several factors, including the type of product, the product development process, the role of product management, the size of the organization, and the company culture. Beyond that, it is important to realize that these elements are…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, assume that lack of complaints means your product is successful. There are lots of customers using your product, so when you add a new feature or make a change and don’t hear complaints, that must mean that everything is working fine. If something was really unusable or broken or didn’t meet your customers’ needs, they would let you know. It’s much easier to just make a change or add something to the product and wait to hear feedback than to do a whole bunch of research and testing first — that’s just a waste of time, right? If you want to be a good product manager, proactively seek out feedback rather than wait for complaints. Lack of complaints does not mean that you have a fantastic product — it just means that you are not getting any complaints. Waiting for customers to complain is problematic for several reasons: Not all customers complain. Think about all of the products you use on a daily basis, and the problems you encounter with all of them. There may be a confusing button on your cell phone, a strange error message on your online banking…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, only worry about what gets added to your product, not how customers will take advantage of it. There may be some features that you don’t want everyone to see, or that may require some setup. Just put them in the product but don’t worry too much about how they’ll get set up — that’s for some other group within your organization to care about. Your job as a product manager is just to get the feature in the product, not to figure out all the details of how customers will enable the feature. Sure, it might be possible to make the process smoother, and customers may have to jump through some hoops, but if they really want it they won’t mind taking the extra effort. If you want to be a good product manager, consider all aspects related to any add-on features. A product manager is not only responsible for identifying what needs there are in the market. The product manager must also figure out how those needs should be filled by new or existing products. There are many valid reasons to include something as an add-on to an existing product,…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, make your product everything for everyone. Who wouldn’t want an “all-in-one” solution? Since different types of customers may have different priorities, rather than trying to decide which customers and which priorities are most important, just meet them all. Sure, there might be a lot of stuff in your product, but that just means that customers will think that it does everything great. If you want to be a good product manager, make your product solve a specific problem for a specific type of customer. It may sound appealing to make your product attempt to solve every problem for every type of customer, though in most cases, trying to make it everything for everyone usually results in a product that does nothing for no one. For complex technology products, many options provided are rarely — if ever — used. Additional complexity added to attempt to appeal to different types of users usually just makes the product more difficult to use for those core consumers. Also, when the product does not focus on solving a specific problem for a specific user, it becomes difficult to communicate the benefits to the market. Either the…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, assume that once is enough to communicate anything important. If people attend a meeting or read their email, they should be paying attention to what is communicated and understand what it means to them. Why would you need to say anything more than once? If people hear it or read it and still don’t know, it’s their own fault for not paying enough attention. If you want to be a good product manager, reinforce your communication though multiple avenues. Sure, it would be nice if you would only have to mention something once and have everyone in your organization understand, accept, and be able to re-communicate it. Unfortunately, that just is not possible. As John Kotter writes in the classic Leading Change: The most carefully crafted messages rarely sink deeply into the recipient’s consciousness after only one pronouncement. Our minds are too cluttered, and any communication has to fight hundreds of other ideas for attention. In addition, a single airing won’t address all the questions we have. As a result, effective information transferal almost always relies on repetition. Inconsistent and infrequent communication leads to confusion and frustration. Product managers need to…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, rush an undifferentiated product to market in order to grab market share. Sure, a competitor may have beat you to the market, but now that they are out there creating demand for an innovative offering, you don’t have time to waste. Your version may not be terribly unique and it may be a bit less than what the competition offers. Still, there may be customers who don’t like what the competitor has so you’ll get their business, or you can skim on advertising and sell yours a bit cheaper to create more demand. Either way, it should be pretty easy to get a successful product out of it, right? If you want to be a good product manager, look to differentiate your product and avoid being a “me too.” Speed to market is certainly important, though it is almost always better to be later to the market with a better product than slightly quicker with something that does not stand out. Being first is good, though no guarantee. (Amazon.com was not the first online bookseller; the iPod was not the first portable MP3 player; Google was not the first search engine;…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, make your decision about whether to buy, build, or partner on a product one in the same with your decision about whether to create the product at all. Maybe the market isn’t particularly attractive, but you can get into it pretty easily by partnering with a company. Or maybe you have a good idea for a product and you think it will be to difficult to build it, so the idea should get “shelved.” After all, you have to figure out how the product will get created at some point, so you might as well figure that out before you decide to go forward with it at all. If you want to be a good product manager, do not let your buy vs. build vs. partner decision unduly influence your go / no-go decision. Ultimately, the decision about whether to launch a product is a serious one, and the build / buy / partner decision is just one that needs to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, sometimes good product ideas can get stopped in their tracks because of a feeling that it will be too hard to build or partner for…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t worry as much about defining the problem as quickly finding the solution. Problems are usually very obvious and clear, and any time you spend dwelling on it is wasted time that could be spent on solving it. The sooner you start solving the problem, the soon you’ll have it figured out. How hard is it to define a problem, anyway? If you want to be a good product manager, get a good understanding of the problem before you try and solve it. Product managers and many others unfortunately assume the problem is evident and jump right to solving it. However, ill-defined problems lead to ill-defined solutions. Albert Einstein purportedly said that, given one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes finding the solution. One of the most important aspects of defining the problem is to “size” the problem properly. If you define the problem too narrowly, your possible solutions may be very limited and uncreative. If you define the problem too broadly, your solutions may be out of scope and irrelevant to the business context. For example, pretend you are a…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, start developing a product and release it as soon as possible. If you’ve got a good idea for a product, why wait? You need to get it defined, get it developed as quickly as you can, and then release it right away, without any delay. Everyone knows that the first product to market usually wins, and the sooner it’s released, the quicker you’ll be profitable. If you want to be a good product manager, consider your market window as part of your product strategy. Often companies come up with what they believe to be a fantastic idea for a new product and there is a tremendous push to release it as soon as possible. There are usually two main reasons for this push: The hope that the sooner the product is in the market, the sooner it will recoup its costs. The belief that a competitor may also be trying to get a similar product to market, and you would like to have first-mover advantage. To address these sometimes mistaken beliefs: While a product obviously can not start recouping its costs until it is available for sale, simply releasing a product…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, copy everything that Apple does. Everyone knows that Apple has some of the best products in the world, so you’d be a fool not to copy what they do. If you want to create a product as successful as the iPhone or the iPod, then just follow their lead. If you want to be a good product manager, learn from the mistakes of Apple, including those related to the iPhone 3G S. Apple has produced some legendary products which have been wildly and there are many aspects of their product development process which product managers would be wise to understand and emulate. However, they are not perfect, as evidenced by less-than-stellar ideas like the Mac Mini and Apple TV, and slip-ups around launches of products like MobileMe. Their recently announced iPhone 3G S provides a few examples of why not to blindly follow Apple, and how to learn from their mistakes: Product naming: The name for the original iPhone made sense — a phone + iPod, from Apple = iPhone. The iPhone 3G was a good extension; while 3G is more of a technical term, it is common enough parlance for…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, just focus on prioritizing features. That’s what product managers do, after all — just collect features from customers and decide which are the most important ones to add to the product. Plus, now with all these great tools that let you collect features directly online and have customers vote on them, it’s even easier since your customers are doing all of your work for you! If you want to be a good product manager, realize that your job is much more than prioritizing features. Sure, a product manager needs to understand what features need to be added to a product to meet customer needs, though just focusing on collecting and prioritizing features is an extremely narrow view of product management. Product managers need to have a much broader view, seeing and understanding everything from the underlying customer needs to the business model to the product roadmap to the go-to-market strategy. Unfortunately, it is all too easy for product managers to fall in to feature-focused development mode, especially for online products and those developed using Agile methods. Why does this happen? A few possible reasons: It is perceived as a relatively “safe”…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, release all of your features at once. If you have some cool functionality, why would you wait to show it to the world? You need to get as much out as you can right away — if users don’t see everything that you have to offer the first time they use the product, there’s a chance you might lose them. Sure, there may be some features that they don’t care about, but customers will gladly sift through extra functionality to find the few pieces which might be really worthwhile. If you want to be a good product manager, save some features for later. It’s important to include enough functionality when a product is first released, though there are legitimate reasons to delay the addition of some non-essential features for future releases, including: Customers have difficulty processing too many features at once. With new products, it is too easy to get into “feature overload” and make it hard for users to focus on the most important functionality. Extra features may divert attention from the truly differentiating elements of the product, so much so that some customers may get distracted by the less…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, assume your product is the center of your customers’ world. After all, you’ve created the most amazing product ever, so who wouldn’t want to use it all day? Sure, you’re spending 40+ hours a week thinking about your product, though you’re sure that customers and users are just as enthralled by it. If you want to be a good product manager, realize that your product is likely one of a multitude which your customers use in the course of a day. Only in very unique cases is a product truly the center of someone’s universe.  Product development teams need to recognize that they are thinking about their product much more than anyone else outside their organization, and make decisions about design and communication accordingly. Overestimating the importance and focus your customers place on your product can have negative implications — here are a few examples: You come up with a fancy new user interface, which you think is “better” than anything else out there, though it’s so different than the other programs your customers interact with that they can’t figure out how to use it. You add features that users would…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, build the “best” product and assume that the customers will come. That’s all that matters to customers, right? Sure, it might seem like a bit of a hassle at first to switch over, but once people will realize how great your product is, they won’t mind at all. If you want to be a good product manager, understand relevant switching costs and attempt to reduce them as much as possible to improve customer acquisition and perceived value. Every product has a cost, whether implicit or explicit. Even “free” products have a cost, most notably the time a consumer spends learning and using it. People will buy and use products where the value and benefit they get from the product is higher than the cost to them. In most cases, the main cost is explicit — the price of the product to purchase. However, in many cases, the cost to someone is beyond just what they have to spend and takes into account other factors. These switching costs take multiple different forms: Learning cost: A new product might have improved functionality or capability which requires an investment of time and training to…

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Are there signs of greater turnover in your customer base, or more competitors in your industry than ever before? Is your top line getting hammered at the same time that your costs keep going up? Are your products or services becoming a commodity in an increasingly complex marketplace? Have you been so focused on managing costs that you’ve forgotten how to grow the business? These are all signs of the increasing dysfunction that exists in the world of business: far too many organizations subsist in a stunning state of complacency as the world evolves around them at a very rapid pace. As the New Year approaches, it is a good time to take some positive steps: change your actions, attitudes and approaches, so you can manage change before it continues to manage you. Adopt ten simple words that will help to get you into the right frame of mind 1. Observe 2. Think 3. Change 4. Dare 5. Banish 6. Try 7. Empower 8. Question 9. Grow 10. Do Adopt ten simple words that will help to get you into the right frame of mind. 1. Observe. Take the time to look for the key trends that will impact your…

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Whether you’ve just been laid off, feel stuck in a dead-end job or your local economy is less than booming, it’s often tempting to accept the very first job offer you receive. But smart job seekers know that they must assess all their options before making such a decision. Money Matters If you’re taking the first offer that comes along because you’re in dire financial straits, chances are, it’s not more money you need. Rather, it’s a better money management strategy. People who are more financially secure are less likely to feel pressured to accept their first job offer. Many financial experts suggest that a crucial part of financial security is having at least six months’ salary in the bank. This will get you through tough times and prevent you from accepting a less-than-ideal offer. . First Offer or Last Offer? What else prompts people to accept the first job offer they receive? Typically, it’s fear. Nervous job seekers will often wonder, “What if nothing better comes along?” If you’re being afflicted by this fear, evaluate your job search efforts to date. Have you done everything possible to attract all potential opportunities? Are you contacting recruiters? Is your most current…

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You think interviews are scary? There’s one part of getting a job that can be even more intimidating: Negotiating a salary. But what happens when a prospective employer just won’t meet your salary request? Should you tuck your tail between your legs and accept the job anyway? Or should you politely turn down the job, even if you really need it? Fortunately, you have a third alternative: You can ask for other benefits that can adequately replace an instant salary boost. For instance: Consider requesting that you can get a performance review six months after you start. This request will show that you’re willing to stand behind your work and prove yourself to the company. Then, in six months, you can request a salary increase. Here are four other things you can ask for at the negotiating table OTHER than money. An Extra Day Away Don’t think you can ask for more money? Then consider asking for a few more days of paid vacation time instead. Even though asking for a few extra vacation days seems like a small request, those days can make a big difference in your happiness in the long run. And from the hiring manager’s perspective,…

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I usually get this question about 24 hours before the person plans to march into their boss’ office and demand more money. First, let’s get our terms straight. Most people write to me about merit — as opposed to cost-of-living — increases. Merit increases are often more substantial than cost-of-living increases and, thus, harder to get. This week’s series is focused on merit increases. Back to our job seeker who wants a drive-through raise. I say: The road to getting a raise is not traveled in a day. Why? Because, contrary to what some career counselors will tell you, it’s not only how you ask for a raise, but what you have to back up your request. If, for example, you’re a bad employee, no amount of smooth talking is likely to convince your supervisor to push for a raise. Master the Basics Some employees mistakenly believe that they can ignore job basics: Showing up to work on time, following instructions and being professional to name just a few. Failing to master the basics is a monumental roadblock to salary increases and, more seriously, career advancement. There’s another interesting thing about the basics of holding down a job: If you…

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