How to become a great product manager

Although it is a difficult and complex job, product management is a fascinating job. Product managers are like CEOs in training, this job requires to be visionary and pragmatic. PMs are driven by many reasons but all of them have the same main drive which is to bring products to the market that solve their customers needs, and hopefully bring profitability and wealth to their companies.

Throughout my 15 years as a product manager I had a great fortune to work with bright and amazing product managers. All of these great product leaders share some traits that you can quickly learn from and apply to your career and organization. It is not all about releasing a product, but rather about building value for customers and in tern to their company. This really makes the difference between a good product and a great product; at the same time the difference between a product manager and a great product manager.

In this article, we share the top 10 qualities of product leaders that can help you become a great product manager. Product leader have the following traits:

  1. Entrepreneurial thinking
  2. Product & user knowledge
  3. Cross-domain skills
  4. Strong technical background
  5. Financial acumen
  6. Ability to execute
  7. A strong Innovation mindset
  8. Ability to set up the right framework
  9. Evangelists & leaders
  10. Good communicators

Entrepreneurial thinking

Good product managers have strong entrepreneurial thinking, they have a mindset driven by success. They have clear objectives and adopt a systematic measurement of performance and success. As entrepreneurs, product managers have entrepreneurial thinking when discussing with customers, when building products or when approaching the market. A good product manager should consider herself as the owner of the organization, she needs to make the best decision for the overall benefit of the organization rather than just her product.

Product & User knowledge

A good product manager should have intimate knowledge about the product. Not only being able to demo the product features and knowing its features and functionality, but also understand how these features benefit the user. In essence the product manager should start by understanding the user, the workflow, use cases and the business problem that her product solves before thinking about the product features and roadmap. It all starts with having a direct channel of contact with their existing customers / users or potential customers.

We all know that user needs, wants and market dynamics change. The quicker the PM detects these changes and strategically know how to adapt, the better chances the product manager has for success.

Cross-domain skills

A good product manager should have cross-domain knowledge about the product, the market, the user, the technology, usability, and much more. Successful product managers have a mix of technology, usability, business models and operational excellence. In addition, PMs need to work together in harmony with many other organizations and members of different skills in order to deliver good product, drive user engagement and successfully launch on time.

Product managers interact daily with designers, software engineers, marketing, sales, support and commercial teams. This requires a specific mix of knowledge, the PM should understand the language of all stakeholders and communicate on the same wave length of the stakeholder. For example, a good product manager needs to understand the principles of user experience, understand the user engagement framework and underlying enabling technologies. Moreover, a good product manager can interpret customer insight and make the best decision based on the collective knowledge.

Strong Technical Background

A good product manager has a strong technical background. He should know the use of technology and understand the capabilities and constrain of technology. A good manager always delegates certain technical work streams and decisions. So we can say the best managers have all the technical backgrounds and deep understandings of state of art.

When product managers focus on technology, he should understand his abilities. It is common in the organization that most product managers belong to engineering backgrounds. However, when the managers have technical background he will be to make the product is unique and best for users.

Financial Acumen

Product managers should be able to identify the right monetization strategies for their products. They should ensure the viability of the product in order to sustain their portfolio. Good product managers have an instinct abut their product and the market, but they need to back that instinct with data from market acceptance, extrapolations, primary and secondary data. It all comes down to ROI.

Ability to execute

One of the main characteristics of successful product managers is their ability to execute on defined plans. Product leaders are typically biased towards action, execution, act now then get feedback later. This certainly teaches them lot of things quickly using real market data rather than waiting for the best times, the best opportunity or the best feature set. This also requires them to define and use continuous feedback channels internally and externally in order to inform these decisions.

A strong Innovation mindset

A good product manager has a strong innovation mindset. They know that innovation with purpose is the shortest route to market greatness. Product innovation can take many forms including usability innovation, unique features, workflow innovation and business model innovation. Product organizations should establish the right process to empower special culture for innovation. Product organizations bring everyone together internally as well as external parties to innovate. Collaboration tools and idea portals help validate some innovation ideas early on as well as crowd-source new innovative ideas.

Ability to set up the right framework

Although product development is a complex process, successful product organizations work with the development team to define the right framework for quickly validating requirements, building the product right and releasing through a continuous testing process.

There are many development frameworks ranging from Agile, Scrum, SAFe and many other development frameworks. Regardless what is the selected setup, product managers have a big role in making sure that the selected methodology works for their customers since they own the delivery of results to their customers.

Evangelists & leaders

Successful product managers are evangelists, they show great passion for their product and demonstrate a clear vision and sound strategy to get there; they also show clear commitment and belief in their overall goal. Product leaders are able to inspire and energize their team as well as involved stakeholders.

Good product managers are leaders and rally their own organization around their priorities and roadmap using a great story, a conviction for the future and market data

The good news is that if you are able to sell your product internally, you will have other teams rallying behind you to be successful externally. this is why good product managers and product owners work very closely with management and other teams through the full product ideation and development all the way to launch. This close collaboration surfaces messaging, features and process gaps that can be rectified quicker before going out to the market.

Good communicators

When we think of good communication skills we think of the successful product manager pitching her product on a big stage in front of hundreds or thousands. Communication skills start with good listening, and to be successful product managers are great at listening, period. Listening to their customers, users, management, support team, and everyone. The trick with product managers is that they own the product, the results but don’t own the teams responsible for delivering these results. This setup requires good communication with the different teams and influencing at many levels, from development all the way to launch.

Conclusion

To be successful you don’t have to have all these skills, but the more of these skills you sharpen the better you become at successfully managing your product and engaging with your organization and customers.

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