Having worked as a product manager in the startup scene for the past few years, I didn’t always have the luxury of choosing my team, either for budget reasons or because a team was already in place.
In early 2016, I launched Corl and had to build my all-star team. A team I knew I will be spending most of my time with over the next few years. While my co-founder was solely focused on hard skills (i.e. technical expertise), I was looking for the following in a hire: Patient, Empathetic, Hard Worker, Flexible, Thoughtful, Self-Learner, etc. — what we call soft skills.
Welcome to the “I want to work with people I like but also help me get sh*t done” club.
Now imagine also dealing with product requests from business partners or clients that you would consider as stupid or obvious. You will have to channel your inner peace and recognize that your audience might not be as smart as you.
If there is one profession where soft skills are extremely important, it’s Product Management.
As a PM, you have to lead, inspire, and motivate people on your team. People who can make or break your product. With a global economy, you will deal with folks from different backgrounds, cultures, and personalities — ranging from introvert developers, extrovert salespeople, young and goal-driven marketers, the creative designers, and most importantly your demanding customers.
Enter Emotional Intelligence (EI), the best skill to better understand people’s behavior.
So, What the F*** is Emotional Intelligence 🤔?
“Emotional Intelligence (emotional quotient or EQ as it’s sometimes known) refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence is generally said to include at least three skills: emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.” — Source: Psychology Today
I am pretty sure that Psychology Today is a legit source.
So, how does EI make you a better PM?
1. Keep your Lizard Brain in check!
We’ve all have had those moments where we feel impulsive when angry or upset, especially when overwhelmed. Learn to be aware of yourself, identify and manage your primary emotions. Take a breath!
2. Fall in love with the Problem, Not the Solution
Get as much customer exposure as you can. This will help you solve their evolving pain points and meet their expectations. After all, you don’t want to build a product looking for a solution.
Listen to your Users. They’re the ones using your product!
3. Speak your Team’s Language
How does your language reflect the company culture? Is your language open or closed? Does your language empower your team and generate possibilities?
As a PM, you have to make an effort to understand your team’s different personalities, passions, emotions, and what gets them going. This can be accomplished by getting closer to your team. Take them out for lunch, grab a coffee or a drink, and get to know them.
Actively listen, don’t judge, put your ego aside, and pick up on their body language and gestures. In time, you will learn to speak their language.
4. Perfectionism... Fuhgeddaboudit!
Let’s get this out of the way. Being a perfectionist might earn you a full grade in our failing education system (I couldn’t stop myself from criticizing the current system 🙄), but it will only cause you a series headache as a product manager.
Your team and colleagues will always give you direct feedback. Negative feedback is natural and it’s the only way we can grow and sharpen our skills. Avoid getting stuck on nitty-gritty product features that are not important. There is no right or wrong in PM’ing. If your end-user is happy and satisfied, then you’ve done your job 💪.
5. Get rid of toxic people!
No work environment is perfect! Every office has those negative, nagging, or obnoxiously-competitive folks who make your workday a living hell. Try to make them see the bigger picture, find common ground with them, and if they become toxic for the rest of the team, you can always show them the way out.
There is no secret recipe for being a great PM. Every new experience will teach you how to navigate future situations in a better way and how to handle specific emotions and management styles better.
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