Thousands of books, hundreds of thousands of articles, loads of webinars, and a ton of online classes – there is definitely no shortage of material available to teach anyone who walks off the streets how to be a Product Manager. The content paints a pretty picture of what to expect when you are expecting (a product). The themes are generally similar: market research, monitoring competitors, engaging with clients, and driving the project forward. The biggest challenge is adjusting your product management skills to a new environment, new products, and new team members. The out-of-the-box methodology can help you for the first few weeks while you are learning, but true success comes with the evolution of the Product Manager and their philosophy to best support their products, team members, and clients.
Here are 5 tips that I believe are key as you get into Product Management:
1. Ask all of the questions
It’s human nature to try to immediately solve a problem, even if it is not clearly defined. Slow down & take a moment to ask: “So, what?” “Why is this important?” “Who is this actually helping?” “What else could this possibly impact?” Don’t shy away from asking questions of any source of input. It is your mission to champion the product and sometimes the tough questions can unveil the true problems in need of resolution.
2. Embrace wearing multiple hats
Because one responsibility is never enough, embrace the plethora of roles to play as you support your product. Some hats might include: market analyst, event coordinator, referee, sales rep, technical writer, and cheerleader. Hats come in different sizes and frequency of wear varies, but at the end of the day, raising your hand to help drive the product forward is all that matters.
Short and sweet. Listen. I spend most of my time in meetings simply listening. What do the clients seem to focus on when a certain topic is brought up? What themes do the sales team hear from clients during demos? What does Customer Success build most frequently in client tenants? What concerns or ideas are shared? Active listening shows respect towards your peers, clients, and leadership team.
A well-oiled machine is not without a need for fuel. I believe the most critical theme for a Product Manager is passion, the source of which can come from things like collaborating with those who believe in the product, interviewing clients who are passionate about the problem you are trying to solve, and celebrating your product wins. Passion is truly contagious and is worth catching.
5. Patience & Understanding
Product Management is not a one person show. The developers, executive stakeholders, advisors, sales team, customer success team, and clients, to name a few, are all working with you towards the same goal: a successful product. Whether it be different working styles or feelings about product features, respect each contributor and what they bring to the table. Unanticipated obstacles are often thrown into the works and solving problems is much easier when you try to understand different perspectives and practice patience with time constraints. It takes a village, so love thy neighbors.
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