If you want to be a bad product manager, treat everything you do very seriously. This is business, after all, and there’s no time for fun and games. You need to earn the respect of the other members of the product development team, so keep your discussions professional and focused. Having fun just takes away from time you could be working.
If you want to be a good product manager, have fun. Yes, this is business, but that does not mean you need to be keep things serious. In fact, having fun with your product and projects is a great way to increase the likelihood of succeed.
Most people would rather work on a project team where the environment is one of fun, excitement, levity, and regular challenges as opposed to one where the environment is staid, serious, and predictable. Some of this is a function of the project itself, but most is a function of the environment you create for the projects associated with your product.
If you as a product manager are clearly having fun with what you do, that will begin to rub off on others. If others are having fun, they will be more committed, more engaged, more connected to the product, and more likely to continue enjoying their job. This leads to not only a better work environment but a more successful product.
It’s very easy to say “have fun,” but it’s much harder to actually make that happen, especially if the culture is one that has been more serious in the past. Having fun is not just a superficial change — Hawaiian Shirt Fridays! Foosball table! Posters mandating you to “Have Fun!” — but requires a deeper look at the values and attitudes involved.
Change things slowly — a big step in some organizations might just be to spend some time talking with each other outside of pre-defined meetings. Discuss non-work issues, getting to know your team as people, not just workers. Food always helps bring people together, whether it’s just sitting together in the company cafeteria, bringing in breakfast for the team, or arranging a happy hour. Come up with creative ways to recognize achievements and extra efforts — make the award or certificate something unique. See what roadblocks there are in place that make people’s jobs frustrating; a great way to get people to enjoy the work they’re doing is to make it easier to do that work.
For better or worse, there will be weeks where you will spend more time with your coworkers than your family. Creating an environment where your product development team can have fun will not only help everyone emotionally but will ultimately help your product development team be more innovative, productive, and successful.