10 Traits of Great PMs
An inherently incomplete list
PMs have diverse backgrounds, murky responsibilities, and wildly varied expectations across companies. It’s nearly impossible to define what makes a PM great. With those caveats, here is an attempt at ten commonalities.
Great PMs live in the future and work backwards
They immerse themselves in research, feedback, data, discussions, and the market. They craft thoughtful, inspiring narratives for where the product should go — and the best path to get there.
Great PMs amplify their teams
They listen well. They infuse urgency. They foster collective creativity. They build consensus by default, but can drive hard decisions when they have to. They take blame and pass on praise.
Great PMs focus on impact
They constantly fine-tune product strategy to maximize business impact, so their teams never worry about whether their hard work will matter. They don’t care about accolades from peers, Apple design awards, or press write-ups.
Great PMs write well
They are succinct, structured, thorough, and persuasive.
Great PMs drive a fast pace of high-quality decisions
They make two-way door calls quickly, and help the org make one-way calls judiciously. They care about getting to the right decision, not whether they are right. They are the ultimate facilitator.
PMs should lay out well-researched tradeoffs, set timetables, and structure great discussions. Only in rare situations should they actually “make the call.”
Great PMs optimize for learning
They voraciously seek out insights about customer needs and pain points through research, experiments, and cross-functional partners. They course correct constantly.
Great PMs execute impeccably
They say what they’ll do, and then do what they say. Their follow-through is impeccable, and they don’t let details slip. When they join a team, quality and pace seems to dramatically improve overnight.
Great PMs apply product taste
They have a well honed sense of what a well crafted product experience feels like. They smartly balance quality with the demands of time and scope.
Great PMs exhibit data fluency
They define and track the key metrics that matter, and align the whole org around them. They know how to design and analyze solid experiments — and know when hill-climbing isn’t worth it.
Great PMs immerse themselves in the tech
Though they may not have CS degrees, they are effective collaborators and sounding boards for their engineering partners. They can help weigh complex technical tradeoffs and design decisions.
In summary: great PMs do whatever it takes to amplify their team’s impact on the customer experience and business.