The Product Management function and the Product Manager (PM) role requires various skills. These range from communications, negotiations, team-building, cross-functional collaboration, research, data analysis, sales, leadership – the list goes on.
However, there are some core competencies that every Product Manager should build as early as possible.
Good PMs are great storytellers. Captivating stories involving customer pain points inspire teams to deliver solutions to help solve those issues. A PM communicates throughout their day in different mediums – Slack messages, Email, Zoom meetings, presentations, and requirement specifications. As the storyteller-in-chief, the ultimate disseminator of product knowledge, a PM must structure communication for easy and quick understanding. Written or verbal, it is effective communication that puts the PM in a leadership position.
Product Managers have an immense strain on their time. A good PM stays focused and effectively prioritizes their deliverables contributing to the overarching outcomes of the business. Building on their ability to prioritize, PMs must be clear on actions that do not fall under their purview and be highly efficient about delegation. PMs should create a framework that minimizes their time spent in meetings. Instead, leverage asynchronous messaging such as Slack as much as possible. In addition, becoming good at empowering others (delegation) helps a PM stay in charge of their time and prevent the feeling of falling behind or, worse, burnout.
Having a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) is critical in this role. Besides collaborating with multiple internal stakeholders, a PM is a key to bringing out the voice of the customer (user) into the product. Active listening is key to understanding others’ perspectives. Without empathy, a PM will almost always miss out on critical insights about a problem. To better empathize with your users and internal stakeholders, make it a habit to connect every week, ask open-ended questions, and actively listen.
A PM can think logically, be rational, and connect the dots for effective decision-making. She must be able to form an unbiased, informed opinion about an issue. It requires one to consider all available information. And then make the best decision for the customer and the business. It moves the PM from being reactive and acting on emotions to being deliberate in their decision-making. Critical thinkers question assumptions and make every attempt to understand issues holistically.
Great PMs are incredibly curious. They understand the root of the problem to understand the potential solutions deeply. They work towards identifying the best viable, feasible, and sustainable solution. Ask the “so what?” style questions. Actively listen to open-ended questions. They are patient in learning more and do not jump to conclusions. Being deliberate about learning more – about the customer, their use case, and their problems always help to deliver the best possible solution.
- Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager: One of the original essays around what makes a good PM. You can read the original article (15 years old) or download the PDF version.
- What It Takes to Become a Great Product Manager: A solid PM has mastered the core competencies, has a high EQ, and works at a place that is a good fit for them. An excellent read on building a framework that helps you move forward in your career.
- How to Hire a Product Manager: This classic essay from Ken Norton defined the role of product management. Hiring managers use portions of this to formulate their hiring philosophy. An excellent read to understand what they look for.
- The Origins of Product Management
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