The People-Focused Product Manager

Much of the discussion around product today is focused on users, metrics, and processes. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, in fact, they’re essential to building a business. But let us not lose sight of the fact that people — and relationships — are at the core of everything a product manager does.

In my few years in the role, I’ve identified a few patterns of behavior that I believe the people-focused product manager exhibits in their regular interactions with key people:

The People Who Use Your Products

Key actions:

  • Communicates directly to users without intermediaries
  • Is invested in the customer’s success
  • Proactively helping your users solve their issues and following up afterward
  • Responds to people on Twitter, Product Hunt, Linkedin, and other communities where conversations about your product are happening.
  • Knows power users by name and communicates with them regularly
  • Doesn’t believe in ‘user error

The People Who Help Build Your Products

Key actions:

  • Meets with each individual on the team 1–1 regularly
  • Knows what motivates and inspires each individual — inside and outside of work
  • Gathers input and feedback from the entire team
  • Ensures that everyone understands the why
  • Encourages trust through open discussion and doesn’t shy away from disagreement
  • Has fun and recognizes hard work
  • Does whatever it takes to help the team — including filling in for various roles and learning new skills if necessary
  • Avoids pointing fingers and assigning blame — instead focusing on solutions and avoiding repeating mistakes

The People Who Support & Sell Your Products

Key actions:

  • Ensures that they share the same vision and goals for success
  • Goes beyond ‘managing’ stakeholders — treats them as a partner while proactively seeking input and feedback
  • Meets regularly with sales, support, and marketing to gain insights and ideas into their challenges and observations
  • Constructively asks questions to understand their point of view when providing feedback
  • Incorporates their ideas and feedback into team decisions
  • Shares the success (and accepts the failures)