10 Traits of a Great Product Manager
A product manager can be one of the most critical hires on your team. This individual works across multiple teams to set the technology strategy, roadmap what will be built, and define the features of the product or product line. He or she will need deep technology experience to understand what needs to be built and how long it will take. The PM also should be forward thinking, looking at competitors, or new technology and understanding how to apply that to make the business great. Outside of just the product, the PM may also support the business in terms of forecasting revenue and costs among other tasks.
Given the role has so many objectives and works with so many different teams, filling the role often resembles looking for a unicorn. The right candidate needs to balance deadlines, quality, deliverables, and budget of current products while planning for the future. Finding the right PM for your organization can be done, however, if you keep an eye on these critical traits.
Vision & Leadership
Product managers provide the overall product vision, by maintaining a big picture view without losing sight of the details. Often the role of the PM is described as “the CEO of the product.” This is a good description of the role as the product manager must understand the current product vision, and how it aligns with the overall company strategy. He or she must fully understand the end user and their needs, while also having an understanding of the underlying technology.
The PM’s role then becomes synthesizing this information into a unified vision, allocating tasks and then leading the team to complete those tasks. In addition to keeping many different teams on the same vision and on schedule, they also need to be strong problem-solvers. The best PMs can anticipate problems and roadblocks before they occur and create a plan to navigate past them.
Leadership is also a critical trait of a successful PM. While it may seem strange, some of the worlds largest companies recruit product managers with the same characteristics as chefs and soldiers. That is because although leadership ability can be hard to identify in an interview, chefs and soldiers have experienced situations that have helped grow their leadership skills and share common personality traits like the ability to make decisions with little or imperfect information and the ability to work well under pressure. While you may not be able to hire someone with this specific background. Look for individuals who can share stories about taking the blame during hard times and giving credit to other team members. Leaders also value preparation and understand how to recover after a mistake.
Organization & Efficiency
Strong organizational skills are a must. Project managers must be able to break complex projects into manageable tasks and create a framework to attack them. They must constantly be watching the process and pushing forward to meet deadlines efficiently.
They are above all results-driven and do what it takes to meet deadlines and deliverables.
Communication & People Skills
Clear and effective communication is critical when managing across different teams. The PM must make sure each individual has a clear understanding of their tasks and how they fit together in the end. One delay or misstep by a single individual can lead the whole team down the wrong path.
Maintaining communication with different teams is no small task. Various teams may use different communication platforms such as Slack, Aha! or GitHub. Additionally, they may have different jargon or even acronyms. If a product manager is unable to communicate clearly and keep the teams on the same page, he or she will be ineffective and may even cause harm between teams.
The best product managers are part coach and cheerleader and able to advocate for their team to leadership while also providing corrective measures when necessary.
Empathy & Curiosity
While these may seem like strange traits to emphasize, both empathy and curiosity are vital for a successful product manager.
First and foremost, a good PM is always thinking about how the product is impacting the end user. A PM needs to see things from the customer’s point of view and constantly be an advocate for building products that will directly influence the customer’s needs, desires, fears or other motivations. Creating a solution the customer isn’t asking for will only frustrate the sales team, the customer, and the entire organization.
In addition to having empathy for the end user, a good PM needs to be constantly curious. He or she should always be looking at new technology to understand how it works and if it can be applied to their products. He or she should get inspired by other’s products, even competitors, and challenge other’s to do great work.
Technical Acumen & Data Mastery
Because the PM so often interacts with the dev team, the engineers and the UX team, it is very helpful if they have the technical skills to understand the work that needs to be done. While some PMs come with years of experience coding or building technology, that is not always necessary. He or she must clearly have a passion for building great tools and a track record of overcoming issues.
Additionally, product managers should be some of the most data-focused individuals in an organization. The best way to prioritize products and what to build is to analyze multiple data-points like what is being sold, how customers are using the product, or even what tools are generating the most profit. The PM should be able to gather lots of information and data from many sources and make a clear plan.
They also have to be able to manage a budget and track spending.
Finding The Perfect Project Manager For Your Project
Finding the perfect product manager for your organization is a vital part of expanding your team. The right person will combine UX, customer research, development, and other teams. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The right hire may have years as a PM or he or she could have a diverse background that makes them the best choice for your organization. Looking for someone with the traits above as well as talking to your team about what a great leader would look like will help you find the right product manager to help your business excel.