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It’s all about creativity, curiosity, and customer focus for product managers.
This is a listener requested episode. Several Everyday Innovators have asked, “What are the qualities of a good product manager?” While many listeners are already good product managers, a little self-reflection from time to time on your strengths and how to be an even better product manager is valuable to your career as well as to those who you work with.
One listener put this in a different light and asked who should not be a product manager. I thought that was a really insightful question.
So, the following discussion addresses both topics: qualities of a good product manager and who should not pursue a career in product management.
To help us explore these topics, our guest is Marc Abraham, coordinator at ProductTank and author of the book My Product Management Toolkit: Tools and Techniques to Become an Outstanding Product Manager.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:35] How did you get into product management?
I started as a corporate lawyer. My first role after that was as a project manager for digital products. That was a great way of getting into the world of digital and understanding how to build products and work with stakeholders. I became interested in product management because I thought there had to be more than just managing schedules and budgets. It took me a while to make the transition from project management to product management. I got my first product management job in 2011 and have been learning ever since.
[5:55] What do you hear from others about why they got into product management?
I typically hear people talking about the desire to solve problems for customers and the need for creativity. Some people get into product management because they want to gain more influence at the organization. My response is that you’re not going to become the next CEO so if that’s your only goal, you are probably going to be disappointed. It requires a lot of teamwork and collaboration.
[10:19] What do you see as the most important value of a good product manager?
It’s a close call in my mind between being customer focused and being curious. Ultimately, a product manager’s role is to serve the customer. If you deliver customer value, you’ll be helping the business by default. It doesn’t mean you have to blindly follow what the customer says, but you should always be thinking about them. Curiosity is all about not being afraid to ask “why?” and use it as a technique to break something down and gain a better understanding. I also expect product managers to be curious about their customers and about new trends in the market. That curiosity drives innovation and product improvement.
[20:24] What are some other attributes that make a good product manager?
One that comes to mind is being value-driven as opposed to output-driven. Product managers should always be thinking about whether they are delivering value for the customer figure out ways to test that your initial assumptions held true. Another one is the ability to learn and iterate. There’s no set formula you can apply to creating successful products, so you need to be able to learn quickly and adapt accordingly, then try again if needed.
[25:11] Where should concern about revenue fit into the mix?
You should always think about the revenue aspect of your product and whether people will find the product or service compelling enough to spend money on. However, there are parts of the customer experience that are not related to revenue and it’s harder to make the case for doing those things if revenue is your main focus.
[27:57] Are there characteristics that make someone not a good fit for product management?
People looking to become the next CEO typically do not do well because they’re only focused on building their own influence within the organization, not on serving the customer. I’ve seen people come in thinking they have all the answers and they don’t have the humility needed to realize they don’t know everything and can learn from their peers and from the customer.
- Marc’s website, As I Learn
- Marc at https://www.mindtheproduct.com/profile/marc-abrahamMind the Product
- Marc’s Linkedin profile
“If you don’t take change by the hand, it will take you by the throat.” -Winston Churchill
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.