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How to Bring the Hype as a Product Manager

Written by
Anna Hyclak Anna Hyclak
Senior Product Manager @ Deliveroo
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We all know that one of the most important jobs of a product manager is to “bring the donuts,” as product leader Ken Norton said in his now-famous 2005 talk at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

But something that is equally as important – and perhaps more challenging to do – is to bring the hype.

Getting things done as a product manager requires not just hard work, tenacity, and ruthless prioritization, but also the ability to rally people around your ideas, build excitement around your roadmap, and get buy-in from engineers and executives alike. Basically, you need to become your team’s #1 hype machine.

Here are four strategies to bring the hype for your team and ensure that everyone is aligned and energized.

"Basically, you need to become your team’s #1 hype machine"

Anna Hyclak, Senior Product Manager @ Deliveroo
1. Create a compelling vision of the future

One of the best ways to build excitement around your roadmap is to connect the work you’re doing right now to an exciting vision of the future, one where all of your customers’ problems are solved and your toughest competitors are left in the dust behind you. After all, a roadmap is quite literally a map – show your team where you’re headed and they’ll be excited to follow you there.

  • Craft a clear and ambitious goal: Your vision should be ambitious yet attainable. It should challenge the team to push boundaries and think creatively.

  • Build a narrative: As product managers, we often over-index on numbers and data, but never underestimate the power of telling a good story. Find a customer anecdote that perfectly encapsulates the problem you’re trying to solve, then take your team on the hero’s journey of how you plan to solve it.

  • Make it relatable: Ensure your vision resonates with everyone on the team and show how each person’s contributions are vital in achieving your goal.

  • Make it visual: Use visuals, prototypes, and mockups to paint a vivid picture of the future – and create easily shareable assets that you can circulate with other stakeholders as well. Personally, I like to work with my designer to create a slick, sexy ‘vision video’ that we can use to sell the dream and get people hyped.


2. Involve your entire team in the creative process

One of the biggest mistakes a product manager can make is handing down a set of tasks to their engineers instead of involving them in the strategy and decision-making process. As Shreyas Doshi once wrote, “Good PMs inspire teams with their creative product ideas to get buy-in. Great PMs know that buy-in isn’t enough; you need passion and a sense of ownership to build great products. Great PMs facilitate discussions that get the entire team to come up with creative product ideas.”

  • Build awareness and empathy for customer problems: Make sure everyone on the team has a strong understanding of the customer you’re building for, the challenges they face on a daily basis, what they love about your product and what they wish was better. This will help them feel more invested in coming up with creative solutions to make your customers’ lives easier.

  • Hold brainstorming sessions: Regularly schedule brainstorming sessions where all team members can share ideas on how to solve a particular customer problem. Encourage big, bold, blue-sky thinking and make space for diverse perspectives.

  • Leave space in your roadmap for lightbulb moments: Give your team time each week to pursue side projects and lightbulb moments of inspiration that keep them excited about their work. When I worked at Google, we called this ‘20% time,’ and some of Google’s best-known products, including Gmail and Google News, were born from engineers playing around with ideas during their 20% time.

  • Empower decision-making: As a product manager, you don’t have to make all of the decisions; in fact, you should empower your team with the information they need to make some of the decisions for you. Allow individual team members to take ownership of their ideas, make decisions, and lead certain projects. This builds trust and increases engagement.


3. Make team rituals fun

Rituals like standup and retro are great moments to bring the whole team together and build cohesion and morale. So why are they often so boring? By injecting some fun and levity into these rituals, you can keep the team feeling energized and engaged – and avoid people checking out into their Slack messages or open tabs.

  • Create rituals within rituals: On my team, we have a tradition where every day in standup, the current sprint leader has to bring a fun fact to share with the rest of the group. Ideally, they choose a fun fact ‘theme’ for the duration of the 2-week sprint, so that each day we get to learn more about whatever topic they’ve chosen – which incidentally is a great way to get to know the sprint leader a little better too. I’ve found that people get really excited about these fun facts – both sharing them and hearing them – and it makes people actually want to show up and pay attention during standup.

  • Keep it light: You don’t have to be serious all the time for the team to take the work seriously. Bring positivity, enthusiasm, and a sense of humor, and you’ll find that your team is less stressed and more productive.


4. Celebrate successes

Last but not least, when something good happens for the team, celebrate it! Celebrating successes, both big and small, reinforces positive behavior and keeps the team motivated.

  • Give props where props are due: Make sure you’re giving shoutouts to individual team members who are doing truly exceptional work to show that you recognise and value their contributions. Do this publicly, but also make sure you’re letting their manager know on the side so that they can include this praise in their next performance review.

Be the amplifier: Repost Slack messages, respond with all of the emojis, reply all on emails to tout the team’s great work, share wins and achievements in company-wide meetings. Ultimately, one of your jobs as a PM is to make sure that everyone around the company knows how awesome your team is and how great your roadmap is – so don’t be afraid to be loud and proud.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anna Hyclak

Anna Hyclak
Senior Product Manager @ Deliveroo

Anna is an experienced product manager who loves dreaming big and building zero-to-one features and programmes. Passionate about finding creative solutions to customer problems, exploring the possibilities of new technologies like AI, and building happy, high-energy teams.

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