Is That Product Manager Sleeping at His Desk?

What is the biggest threat to your career and product team? You might say cash flow, lagging sales, or finding qualified candidates. Or you might even say it's working hard with the limited time you have. There is much to do and only 24 hours in each day.

But I do not think so. I once worked with a product manager (let's call him Sam to protect his real identity) who took a catnap at his desk every afternoon. Innocent you think? Maybe not. I think the leaders in the company should have seen his snoring as an existential threat.

If you are a product manager, you are likely so busy every day that you probably cannot even fathom falling asleep at your desk. But not everyone on the product team is as engaged. Some might even be downright bored. And that boredom will cost all of you.

When was the last time you checked in to make sure your colleagues have not checked out? (Especially the quiet ones who rarely speak up in meetings.) Maybe you are afraid to ask because you already know the answer. You know that apathy from your team is cause for concern because those mental yawns are highly contagious.

As a result, work and happiness suffer. Those that withdraw from discussions are invested elsewhere. Or they may start taking unnecessary risks at work -- just to escape that feeling of "same old, same old."

Of course, you do not want boredom to tap the shoulder of anyone on your team. So here is how you can stay vigilant and prevent lethargy from becoming a genuine threat to your future:

Set audacious goals
Anyone can start to feel ho-hum if their work seems repetitive and they no longer feel challenged. As a key leader in action or title, you are in a unique position to do something about that. You can help each person set ambitious goals. Aim for that sweet spot of being fully engaged with their work while stretching to exceed even their own expectations.

Banish the quiet
As any parent knows, sudden quiet is a sign of trouble. So alarm bells should go off in your head if a usually chatty employee falls silent in meetings and stops contributing ideas. It is your job to encourage the team and pay attention to the subtle signs before that quiet takes hold. If something seems off -- ask. And ask, ask, ask again until you find the answer.

Encourage mastery
Take a look around. Is your workplace humming with energy and creativity? Is everyone on the team solving complex problems and mastering new skills? Of course, individuals must perform their daily tasks but, if you want people to stay engaged, they must continue growing too. Encourage everyone to leave their comfort zone and follow their curiosity to learn new skills or take on new responsibilities.

Build people up
People inherently want to achieve. But some team members may feel their career is headed nowhere if they do not see a clear path for promotion. The mere possibility of advancement can spark enthusiasm, with team members striving to deliver their best work. It is a leader's job to help the team recognize their own untapped potential and boost their confidence to take on new responsibilities.

We spend approximately 30 percent of our lives working. And everyone deserves to spend it doing something that feeds them, that really matters.

Motivation does not just have to come from the top. Every employee has the ability to help every other person they work with shine and fully realize their potential. That is powerful -- you can change lives for the better. If anyone should be excited about that prospect, it should be you.

How do you fight boredom?