Who is a good product manager?
Who is a good product manager? The role of Product Manager is often referred to as “Product CEO”; But product managers have no direct control over most of what is necessary for their products to succeed (from user research and data to design and development and marketing, sales and support). Product managers are not product CEOs and their role varies greatly depending on various factors. So, what should you consider if you’re looking to get hired as a product manager?
Prospective product managers should consider three main factors when evaluating a role: core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ), and fit with the company. The best product managers have mastered core skills, have high emotional intelligence, and work for a company that suits them. In addition to creating new products by regularly tracking and maintaining peace between the engineering and design teams, the best product managers create a user-friendly product that grows exponentially and may even disrupt an industry.
There are core competencies that every product manager should possess. Many of them can be acquired through the classroom, but most are developed through experience, good role models, and mentoring. Some examples of these qualifications are:
- Conducting customer interviews and user testing
- Implementation of designs
- Feature prioritization and roadmap planning
- The art of resource allocation
- Market assessment
- Convert business requirements to technical ones and vice versa
- Pricing and revenue modeling
- Defining and tracking success criteria
These core competencies are the foundation of any product manager, and the best product managers learn these skills over years of defining shipping and iterating products. These product managers excel at reflecting on how each of these competencies contributed to the success or failure of their products and constantly adjusting their approach based on customer feedback.
A good product manager may know the dos and don’ts of a customer interview, but the best product managers have the ability to empathize with customers in that interview, tune in to their body language and emotions, and can be amazingly aware of customer pain points. A product manager with high emotional intelligence has strong relationships within the organization and is good at overcoming internal and external obstacles to produce a great product. Here’s a deeper look at how the four core attributes of emotional intelligence defined by Daniel Gelman relate to the product manager role:
Relationship Management: Probably one of the most important qualities of a good product manager is their relationship management skills. By building authentic and trusted relationships with internal and external stakeholders, product managers inspire people and help them reach their full potential. Relationship management is also critical in successfully negotiating, resolving conflicts, and working with others to achieve a common goal. This is especially challenging when a product manager is tasked with balancing the needs of customers, resource-constrained engineering teams, and company revenue goals.
Authentic and trusted relationships within an organization can lead to greater support and come in handy when additional funding is needed for a product or when an engineer needs to be influenced to do a quick bug fix. Outside of an organization, these skills can encourage existing customers to test a new product for initial feedback or convince a target customer to try a product MVP. These communication skills can also spell the difference between having a customer who is angry because of a product bug and someone who says, “Don’t worry, we know you’ll fix it.”
Self-awareness: Product managers must be self-aware to remain objective and avoid imposing their own preferences on product users. If a product manager loves a product because it addresses their own pain points, it may cause the user to agree with them in order to endear themselves to the product manager. If the product manager is not self-aware, he may insist on producing the product he likes even though all the customer interviews and evidence prove otherwise. This lack of self-awareness can derail more important priorities or damage the product manager’s relationship with engineers, who may lose trust in their product manager if the product is not easily adopted by users.
Self-Management: Being a product manager can be incredibly stressful. The CEO wants one thing, the engineering team wants another, and customers have their own opinions about products. Managing time constraints, revenue goals, market demands, prioritization conflicts, and resource constraints all at once is not for the faint of heart. If a product manager can’t control his emotions, he can quickly lose confidence. The best product managers know how to push the right priorities, assertively, but without conveying a sense of panic or stress. These product managers also know when to take a break and step back.
Social Awareness: According to Goleman, competencies related to social awareness are empathy, organizational awareness, and service. In addition to understanding the concerns of the sales team about how to sell the product, the support team about how to support it, or the engineering team about how to build it, product managers need to understand the feelings and concerns of customers about their product. Product managers must have a deep understanding of how the organization operates and build the social capital to influence the success of their product, from obtaining funding and manpower to securing a top engineer to work on their product. Finally, a socially conscious product manager provides customers with the best products that meet their needs.
The right company
If the best product managers have fully developed core competencies and emotional intelligence, does that mean they will be 100% successful no matter where they work? Not necessarily so. In fact, using these skills and personality traits and applying them in the right company is what ultimately guarantees success.
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