Product manager roles can have a wide variety of skills and responsibilities. Depending on the exact role and the company, your focus will switch between development, design and marketing. A PM needs to be a jack of all these fields.
Despite the general skillset, every PM has its own strength. Some Product Managers specialise in technical details, other in UX or design, while some are more marketing focused.
There is no fixed path to becoming a product manager, and thus every one of these PMs has its own special advantage in a company.
But there are 2 skills every successful manager needs to possess and hone over time. The command over these skills makes the difference between good and great product managers. Here they are:
Product Managers are the communication hub for a product. PMs need to communicate between developers, designers, marketers and operations. They need to answer and report to those above them. They need to instil the same product vision in everyone on the team.
A Product Manager’s job is to keep all the stakeholders in sync.
A good PM is able to do all these tasks while making sure there is no or least friction. They make sure the whole team is on the same page, even when the teams are not in daily touch of each other. They focus on making each team’s ideas and concerns are heard.
For this, a PM needs to communicate clearly and concisely. They have to instil the product vision in every member. They have to be the voice of reasons without burning any bridges. A good PM is able to do this in such a way that each team member shares the same enthusiasm as them.
What’s the best way to make everyone row in the same direction? Point them in the same direction.
Everyone should be curious. Everyone should be eager to know and learn new things. While curiously is a topic of ‘should’ for most people, it is a ‘must’ for product managers.
Product managers are creators of the product vision. If not the creators, then at least the protectors. When the PM’s curiously goes stale, the product risks going stale too.
It’s the Product Manger’s job to always be on the lookout for new ideas and methods. These may be ground-breaking ideas or just a whisper of change. Good product managers are able to keep their thrust for curiosity and new ideas alive even when those around them become idle.
The phrase ‘We have always done it that way’ is the last thing in a successful Product manager’s vocabulary. While they may not pursue all of the ideas, they should always be on the lookout for them.
There are many different ways to gather ideas to improve the product. Ideas can come from analytics, from competitors, from stakeholders or from reflection. Ideas can also originate from conversations or reading. No matter how the ideas originate, a product manager should always be focused on using these to make better products or develop better processes.
While not every great curious communicator may be a great PM, all great PMs are curious communicators. They are able to get their ideas through others while making sure they also feel heard. They know ideas can appear from anywhere and are always on the lookout for the next great one.
Good thing is, these things are not defined from birth. You can develop these over your life and career, and become a better PM, one day at a time.