Celebrate The Holidays And Save The Day. Let The X-Men Show You How!

Yesterday we summarized “Uncanny X-Men #230” In 10 Panels Or Less™. Now, let’s extract a product management lesson from this heady tale of psychometry and gift-giving.

The X-Men are heroes who protect a world that fears and hates them because it’s the right thing to do. That’s their core mission.

In this story, the X-Man Longshot discovers a wealth of stolen loot that is psychically crying out to be returned to its rightful owners. Wolverine thinks Longshot is being ridiculous and wants to stay focused on hunting down bad guys. Colossus undoes Wolverine’s narrow-minded argument thusly:

Despite Wolverine’s protests, Longshot’s idea falls perfectly in line with the X-Men’s mission.

As a product manager, you have a mission, too: To deliver products that meet the needs of your target market out into the marketplace.

Holidays and New Years–much like returning haunted jewelry to their rightful owners on Christmas Eve–might seem to run contrary to your mission. But these things aren’t impediments to your mission unless you make them so.

The reality is, you can leverage the holiday spirit to advance your goals and generate positive momentum for the coming year. Here’s how:

Understand The Distractions. And Overcome Them With Incentives

It’s inevitable: With all the personal planning that goes on at this time of year–from coordinating family schedules, to booking vacations, to buying presents–people will end up distracted from their work.

Overcome these distractions with incentives. Set specific objectives–something measurable and meaningful that can be achieved within the available time remaining this year–and announce a prize for meeting those objectives. When the objectives are met, celebrate. And do so publicly. Trumpet your team’s successes!

Focus On The Big Rocks

Incentives are a good way to keep people focused during a distracting period. But what are you prompting people to do, and why? Be overly ambitious and people will fail. Set your sights too low and people may complete their objectives, but who cares?

Know your Big Rocks–the things that are important, but not necessarily urgent, and get your team focused on those items.

Don’t Go Away Feeling Bad, Sad, Or Mad

While you’re scheduling your year-end releases, be sure to integrate holidays and vacation days into your planning. Stay focused on meeting your objectives, but be realistic. Be humane.

If someone doesn’t meet their goals for legitimate reasons, don’t be a jackass about it. Understand what happened, adjust for it, and move on. Don’t let there be hard feelings. Don’t let the failure hang over your heads. Acknowledge it. Discuss it. Come up with a plan for how to address it. And move on.

My mother used to tell me, “Never go to bed mad at someone. If they die during the night, you’ll feel really bad about having angry words be the final words you said to them.”

This parental advice underscores two things: 1) the kind of childhood I had; and 2) the importance of being frank. Because my mom’s right: You don’t ever know, really, what’s going to happen next.

However, you can take this to the bank: If you let people leave the office on a down note, no matter how good their holiday is, they’re going to dread returning to work when vacation is over.

Remember: The momentum you need for success in the coming year is initiated right now.

End the year on a positive, forward-looking note. Otherwise, you’ll spend the first 6 weeks of the coming year making up for the last few weeks of this year. And that, my friends, is truly contrary to your mission.

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Additional Resources

How do you balance celebrating the holidays with “saving the day”?

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Christopher Cummings

Blogs about product management. Loves Jesus, his family, comic books, video games, and giant robots. Occasionally crawls through mud and leaps over fire.

2 thoughts on “Celebrate The Holidays And Save The Day. Let The X-Men Show You How!

  1. I think personal respect is the best thing any manager can give you to make you feel wanted. It seems like so many managers are busy checking their Blackberry emails or Twitter updates that they forget the people standing right in front of them.

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