I smiled to myself as I admired the rhythmic flow of her gait, and how she carried herself with the elegance that is so characteristic of many French women. As she ambled along the Promenade des Anglais she exuded that indescribable vibe that comes from being comfortable in your own skin, a certain je ne sais quoi.

I caught myself in my reverie, and remembered that this experience of watching the world go by, lost in the beauty of each moment and appreciating the special energy of the Côte d’Azur, is why I love the city of Nice.

I spend part of the year here, and treat the time as a retreat to revamp my own energies and nourish my mojo.

I shouldn’t be “working”, yet the fact that I’m writing this proves otherwise. But I’m writing this piece right now because I’m driven by passion. And I can tell you, this doesn’t feel like “work” in any way!

I like to go with the flow at such times, because I know that my passion is the fuel that sustains me on my adventure to nurture my best self. So I listen when it speaks.

And I don’t have to be in Nice in particular for that to happen. It happens in many other places too, because passion isn’t a French thing; it’s a universal language we all understand.

Your game-changing quality

You know how it feels when you’re doing things with passion – sadly, some of us only feel that vibe with our hobbies and rarely bring it to the workplace; or it gets snuffed out by inept bosses and toxic organisational cultures. But when we do, work never seems like “work”. And that’s when we often discover or reveal our true capabilities and do some of our best work.

People with passion bring energy to organisations. That’s why esteemed business leaders treasure this characteristic in employees. Steve Jobs, the late Apple boss, believed people with passion can change the world. And Jack Welch, ex-Chairman and CEO of GE, who was once named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine, described it as a “powerfully game-changing quality”.

If you stop for a moment and think about the distinguished product managers you know of, and perhaps admire, you’ll find that they have that game-changing quality: they’re passionate about their work.

And it’s partly because they’re doing work that impassions them that they thrive and excel.

Their passion comes through in their enthusiasm, excitement, emotion, effort and expertise, much like el duende that enchants the ardent flamenco dancers of Andalucía.

You can’t watch authentic flamenco and not be moved; just as you can’t work with a distinguished product manager and not be touched. They share the same flame of passion.

The product manager’s passion courses through the artistry and deftness of their craft. It infuses them with the positive, creative energy that empowers and galvanizes them to bring their A-game to the product management job.

That same energy gets transmitted and transmuted across their product team and stakeholders, drawing out their own A-game, and fuelling the success of their products – and ultimately, that of the organisation.

The fire of magic

If you’ve ever worked with a superb product manager, project manager or functional leader, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

And if you’ve ever led a product team of passionate people that were cohesively aligned, you’ll also be nodding your head and smiling at the memory right now.

You might also recognise that the experience was a profound blessing in your career.

Everybody and everything is blessed in different ways for different reasons. The rose flower is blessed with its beauty and thorns for a reason. The elephant is blessed with its size and long trunk for a reason. The peacock is blessed with its spectacular colours for a reason. And humans are blessed with our energy for a reason.

We have physical energy to do wonderful things, like climb mountains, run marathons, or make love. We have mental energy to ponder the meaning and purpose of our life, to think up solutions to the problems of our planet, or to conceive products that help humanity. And we have emotional energy, like passion – why do you think that is?

Passion is a unique energy, a special force with purpose.

Your passion is the fire that will sustain you on your career journey, a fire from within that lights your path, helping you turn your career dreams into reality. It’s the critical fuel that keeps us invigorated, especially in difficult times or when things aren’t quite going to plan – your passion will be a key aid that will help you in overcoming the trials and tribulations of product management, and impel you towards your métier.

Like all distinguished product managers, you should ignite and channel your passion as rocket fuel for your journey to product and career success.

When our passions are ignited and our juices are flowing, we’re in tune with our mojos; and motivation and inspiration are much easier. And when we work with motivation and inspiration, we create product magic and sparkle at our game. When you have passion for what you do, self-belief comes more naturally, and growth is easier because you enjoy what you do.

A requisite elixir

So, you reading this right now, do you feel the power of your passion in the product management work you’re doing?

If not, you should ask yourself why.

And don’t wait for things to change; change things yourself – ’could be your perspectives, your thought processes, your attitude to the job, or maybe even changing jobs and moving to something that gets your juices flowing.

And if you lead people, in a product team or functional organisation, you must think about whether or not you’re igniting and harnessing their passion to aid their success, your success and the success of the team as a unit.

Success in your product management work and career is multifaceted. There are hard, technical aspects like user analysis, product roadmaps, requirements definition, and so on. And there are soft elements too; like interpersonal relationships, self-leadership and passion – the intangible factors that are often the underlying differentiators between success stories and tales of woe.

Passion alone doesn’t bring success, but it’s a requisite elixir to get yourself and your product team firing on all cylinders.

It’s nigh on impossible to do your work with heart and operate at peak performance if you have no passion for your work. And the chances of consistently delivering favourable product outcomes that feed the prosperity of your organisation and your career are hugely diminished.

Nigella Lawson isn’t a great chef just by luck; neither is Lionel Messi a prodigious soccer player nor Tim Cook a successful business executive simply by accident. They have a passion for their game, just like that other consummate chef, Gordon Ramsay.

The key ingredient in the wonderful meals Ramsay creates is his miscellany of culinary skills – skills that are honed every time he steps into a kitchen. But he only goes in there because he has a passion for his game.

Do you have a passion for yours?

Adapted excerpt from Career Dreams to Career Success by Sigi Osagie © EPG Solutions Limited 2023

Published as “Product Managers with Passion Create Product Magic” on MindtheProduct.com, 17 January 2023