You need to be contagious and thrive on the right amount of tension
I've been in product for a while. Each year I write a few lines to re-frame what the hell it is I do and how to remain successful.
Product management is a discipline of quirky nonconformists responsible of defining the "why". Winning products thrive on the direction of these individuals who evolve in tandem with the types of products, customers, and markets they engages with. I have yet to see a standard job description for a Product Manager. None of the work I do happens in a vacuum which is why we must learn to influence; not direct. Remain aware of company culture while managing the product system to build social capital. Earned social capital allows us to influence the success of product roadmaps.
The first decision to make is if you should be deciding or not.
Product management combines elements of lots of other specialties - engineering, design, marketing, sales, business development. That means you need to be capable of doing other people’s jobs, but smart enough to know not to. Your ability to act as counterbalance to other specialities, to work well with others is key. PMs who take charge of UX, marketing decisions or engineering implementation details crash. Instead, focus on relationship management to cope with internal and external hurdles. Form authentic and trustworthy connections with your constituents. Negotiate, resolve conflicts and work with others toward a shared goal.
It's not about asking people to do stuff. It's about sharing the end game.
As a product manager, you’re defining the "why" behind your roadmap. There are specific problems, benefits, or situations the roadmap has to address. Don't own or be its communicator. It's subject to high failure rates due to team members not being motivated to succeed because they didn’t get picked or don’t like the way it was decided.
Instead, subject yourself to some stress. Emphasize the value of being challenged. Go ahead and expose key team members to what they need to be exposed to. Accept that not every feature is going to be embraced by everyone. Empower them to understand the individual product or features, the customer challenge, the business case, opinions of whoever isn’t in the room, the feedback process, competition, changing markets, and so on. This will actually help them make successful bets with you. Now they are figuring out what you want and doing a whole new type of work.
Baseline your core competencies, but you have to prove it.
Managing tight deadlines, revenue targets, market demands, prioritization conflicts, and resource constraints all at once is not for the faint of heart. Adopt a mindset of balancing pressures while maintaining the right amount of tension with colleagues. Gain their confidence so you maintain your emotions and keep cool under pressure. Great product management is using unconventional ways to be contagious, spread the vision.
Originally published on Product Management Insider.
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