What makes a good Product Manager ?

Product Management is a Mind-set rather than a job title but what does it take to be a good Product Manager?

The role of a product Manager can be very different from company to company. It can depend on the size of the company, your culture or your product. In some companies you need to be very technical and are required to have an Engineering Background, others want people with UX experience and some want people with a good head for business. In a lot of cases you need a bit of all three. But regardless of this I think that that there are some things that all Product Managers should be good at and here they are.

Communicator

As a Product Manager you need to communicate with a lot of people; your team, Internal and External Stakeholders and of course your customer. You need to use many different methods of communication depending on your audience and the context. You need to change your natural way of communication depending on who you are communicating with and the message you are trying to convey. In your role you need to need to inspire people, give them direction, listen to their problems and persuade them. But it’s not all about delivering messages, most important of all you need to be a good listener as this is where you can get the real insight

Good with people

You need to be a people person and really appreciate the benefit of working with others. You might think that you have all the answers and truly believe that your way is right but everyone doesn’t think like you. Surrounding yourself by a diverse team will help you to see things from other perspectives and think of scenario’s that you would never have come up with yourself. Sometimes it feels like you would get things done quicker on your own but quicker isn’t always better. Having Empathy is the most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with others which means that you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand or feel what they are experiencing

Disciplined

One of the biggest challenges of being a Product Manager is that you are often seen as the one stop shop for requests and problems. If you try and keep everyone happy you won’t keep anyone happy. You need to be able to prioritise and just because something is a good idea it doesn’t mean you should do it. Saying no to someone is really hard and sometimes there is a tendency to say “yes but not right now” or “maybe” instead of nicely saying no and explaining why. If you say yes to everything you will end up with a big list of things to do that no one will ever work on. Having a short list makes it easy to prioritise and if something goes on the list, something needs to come off it. Then as things get done you have capacity to add something new.

Energetic and Caring

A Product Manager needs to be passionate about what they are doing and really care about it. If you don’t feel like that about the product, how can you expect anyone else to. And that doesn’t just go for the Product, you need to care about your team and your customers and energise them.

I’ve heard the role of the Product Manager compared to that of a Sherpa. They do things such as prepare the route, fix ropes in place, and carry the necessary climbing kit up the mountain. They know the culture, they know the area, and they know the people. When it comes to climbing the mountain they have this phenomenal energy on the mountain. They really are the backbone of any expedition. It sounds like a similar role to me.

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