The hardest part of building any product is articulating your core use case, i.e., really telling the story of who should use the product and why. The best product managers are the advocates for your users and represent users in nearly every conversation when making decisions about the product.
Nothing matters more than actually delivering products to your users. You can be great at helping your team build cool things, figuring out the right products, or embodying the vision, but it only matters if you can ultimately help the team get to a point where you can ship it. Great product managers understand the very tricky balance between getting it right and getting it out the door. Teams should always be testing, trying out the products, and listening to early feedback, but at some point in every project, the team has to make a call that the product is ready enough (and it’s never truly ready, of course). Teams with clear goals and objectives, and a good feel for the user and what they want the user to be able to do, can make the final tradeoffs necessary. It’s usually great product management that helps drive this to completion.
As a product manager, it is imperative that you understand the company’s overall goals and objectives and exactly how your team fits in to the broader vision. The best product managers I’ve met or worked with were great at this — they frequently referred to the founder’s vision and ensured that what the team was working on helped get closer to realizing that. They could articulate how beating the goals and metrics of their product would bolster the company’s overall strategy. And they thought of their team in service of the company, in conjunction with other teams, rather than delivering on what they just personally believed was important. One of the things I always look for in product management interviews is how often the candidate refers to the bigger vision of the company, particularly the founder, CEO, or VP of their group, and the vision that person specifically articulated. Just like with helping your team, this isn’t to say that product managers shouldn’t have great ideas of their own, but that they should be able to translate their ideas back to the core vision and goals of the company, and ensure they have top-down support for executing on them.