Product managers are invaluable. Their work ensures that the right product is shipped to your users, as well as having a key role in ensuring your team is happy, productive and engaged.
They stand proudly at the intersection of Tech, Design and Business, and more often than not do a fine job of balancing these to keep a product on track.
In my time in startups, I’ve identified 5 traits that I believe are absolutely key to the role:
- Trust. The best product manager I’ve worked with trusts the team to get the job done. Rarely, if ever, do they frantically require hourly updates. Trust from a product management perspective is a huge factor in allowing a team to do their best work. Micro-managing kills any sense of autonomy and more often than not leads to a wider team frustration as they’re consistently undermined, undervalued, and babied while working.
- Respect. Although they may not code or design themselves, a good product manager respects the people and the process. They understand that some things take longer than others. They’re wary of the processes and the hurdles, and they never berate if something takes longer than expected. They’re eager and genuinely interested in learning more about what you do, but they never pretend they can do it better themselves.
- Language. Using language to empower, enthuse and inspire their team is a key trait for a good product manager. They never use language to undermine or devalue a team member. When they ask questions, they do so in a way that makes it a pleasure to answer them, rather than a chore. They’re never childish, never petty, and definitely never hostile.
- Empathy. A good product manager empathises with their team. They understand the challenges that come with building a product to scale. They have the wellbeing of their team and the happiness of their users at the forefront of their mind. They understand that a happy team works better, harder and faster than an unhappy one, and they know how to use their empathy to push a team further than they would otherwise be able to.
- Vision. They have an infectiously enthusiastic view on where the product is going, and what it needs to achieve in order to become a success. They know when to say no to unnecessary feature requests. They’re selective and thorough when deciding what to build next, and they understand the product from a user perspective, not just a business perspective.
In reality, all of these traits should be ones found in every team member you work with; but ones I feel are especially important to a role which ultimately has a huge influence on product direction and team morale. Product managers are massively important members of your team, and they can make or break your start-up.
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