Organizations have known the importance of product management when it was not even an official term yet. Today in every field ‘the product’ determines the success and failure of those who have launched it. No matter which industry you look at, product management is the soul, and those who know it and nurture it to be the strongest pillar of their organization experience unparalleled success. Product management encompasses a variety of responsibilities and skillsets, which makes defining it challenging. The hard skills required for a product manager may be different for different industries, individuals, and products. However, there are certain soft skills and core competencies that form the foundation of a fantastic product manager.
Who is a product manager?
One of the most asked questions in the web world has no simple answer. A product manager is not only the go-to person for product related queries but is also the voice of the different teams building the product. The product manager is the one who streamlines what the customer wants with the technical teams and sets the right bar between the expectations and the reality. You may easily call a product manager – a superhero!
Now, let’s jump right in and talk about some of the important superpowers, soft skills, a product manager should possess.
One of the most salient and crucial qualities of a product manager is excellent communication skills. As all the information about the product reaches the product manager, it is the product manager’s responsibility to properly and efficiently deliver the right message to the right team in the right way. Yes! It is that important. So if you have, in all your working experience, learned the art of communication you are already armored with the most effective tool for the job.
In the words of Nick Hynes, the principal product manager at LetGo,
“Product Managers are directly responsible for synthesizing the voices and needs of senior stakeholders, the product team, and customers. As such, they are the communication hub within their business.”
Good Listening Skills
The next soft skill required is good listening skills. This may not sound like a big deal but it is much more than that. Good listening skills give a product manager the extra edge in understanding the client’s needs and this results in better planning and execution. Time and time again it has been proven that just by listening and understanding the needs of the clients a product manager has been able to deliver above and beyond what was expected. Such results make everlasting bonds between people and organizations. According to Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than their peers.
Listening as a skill was highly underrated but now it is pretty clear that active listening is a must if one really wants to succeed. This includes listening to the team and listening to the users. Keeping an ear out for important information and nitty-gritty details help product managers understand the pain points and the challenges of the users.
The same level of active listening is required when dealing with the team because when a product manager knows its team and understands it well, half the battle is already won. Managing crisis or conflict situations comes down to listening to each party, identifying and acknowledging their concerns, and identifying the root causes of the issues. Thus, finding the right solution. In an article by Product Talk, It is said that we should focus on what the speaker is saying and not on what we want to hear.
It is imperative for a product manager to always keep the customer in mind. Once the customer’s needs and aspirations are clear to the Product manager then it becomes easy to reach the end goal and come up with a successful product. Although let us be clear about one thing: having a customer-centric approach does not mean overlooking any over-ambitious approach of the customer or being blind to the faults. Always be the mirror and show the right image to the customer and to the teams working on the product. This will help in clearing any grey areas that exist.
Strategic thinking may look like something that businesses always work on. However, in order to be absolutely efficient strategic planning must include forecasting, being in line with the company’s vision, goal-setting, keeping all teams on board with the product life cycle, and launching the product in the market.
Be able to Influence
This may seem very poetic but I cannot stress enough how important it is. A product manager is not just invested in the success of the product from its inception till it is launched and even after that but a product manager is a guide who lights the way for all involved parties towards the destination. Having the ability to influence helps in talking and molding your customer through tough discussion. It also helps in managing the many teams and individuals involved in the process. A good product manager becomes a great leader when they learn how to bring this positive factor into play.
Sometimes the easiest of all skills becomes a mammoth task and delegation is such an underrated skill. A product manager should always know what and how to delegate. Taking on all the responsibilities and micromanaging only burns the energy of a leader and keeps them from looking at the other more crucial aspects of the product development and product-related features. To be able to delegate work and responsibilities not only eases some responsibilities off the product manager’s shoulders, but it also sends out the message to the team that they are trusted. This little skill usually works like a charm and helps in bringing out the best in everyone.
Learn on the Job
Learn on the job! Although this holds true for almost all the jobs out there however, it is quite literally the thing in product management. You may know your field of expertise very well, you may even be technically sound and have knowledge about the product, the teams involved and even about the client and their requirements, however, nothing beats the experience that you would gain when working hands-on with a product. This experience that we are talking about is now being shared by many product managers in various blogs, articles, and in our course at Knowledge Officer. Product management, though essential to every organization, still lacks an official course or degree and that’s where we step in to help you boost your career a decade further. Our course is made with the help and guidance of some excellent product managers with a wealth of skills and experience.
Bonus: Important Activities of a Product Manager
Just to shed some more light on Product managers and their responsibilities, let us take a sneak peek into some of their important activities. The most important activity In a nutshell the Product manager should conduct research on the product and the market. This research should encompass addressable market and market expectations. If there is an already existing product in the market, then its drawbacks and plus points should also be taken into consideration.
Once the research is done then comes the strategy-making which helps the team and the clients to know the various stages of the product and also keeps everyone on the same page. It also helps in minimizing confusion and misunderstandings. A product manager needs to be a good storyteller in order to communicate the plans to the various teams and the stakeholders. One of the best storytellers in this field is Steve Jobs, well, no one can weave a future plan and enthrall the whole world about Apple and its products the way he did. And look where the company is today.
Next comes seamless coordination, this may sound like a part of communication but there is a reason why we have listed it as an individual factor to be remembered. All meticulous planning and research can be in vain if there is a lack of coordination while developing the product. By now, you know who shoulders this crucial responsibility. Yes! It is the product manager.
The final thing which we consider to be quite essential and without which the entire framework may crumble is collecting and working on the feedback. This can be quite an exhausting task as the feedback may not always be glowing and bright, sometimes it may be harsh and yet be constructive. It depends completely on the product manager how they utilize the feedback received. As Elon Musk said,
“Pay close attention to negative feedback and solicit it, particularly from friends. Hardly anyone does that, and it’s incredibly helpful.”
So, by now you may have realized that being a Product manager means developing yourself as an all-rounder with sound technical knowledge, hunger to learn new things, being open to communication, constructively working on feedback, etc. Before I wrap up, here’s a mantra I hope all you future product managers always remember: to treat all your projects as if they are special and to remember that no two products are the same. So keep your mind open to new possibilities & uncharted heights and keep on learning!
Knowledge Officer Career Accelerator Pro Product Management program
We at Knowledge Officer organize a 6-month remote Bootcamp program that will prepare you to excel in your first Product Manager job or to make a smooth transition to a leading Product role in your current/new organization.
Throughout the program, you will become familiar with a broad range of topics such as Product Discovery, Product Roadmap, Market Research, Agile, Scrum, Product development, and planning: which will provide you with a strong foundation to become a skilled Product Manager.
You will get a chance to develop and work on a lot of skills that are required of a Product Manager. What better way to learn it than from the experiences of the seasoned Product Managers from top companies.
- 160+ hours of online learning
- 10 live learning sessions
- Bi-monthly Mock interviews to better prepare you for your future job interviews
- Hands-on projects & case studies that will give you a real-life experience of working in the Product role
- Bi-weekly 1:1 mentorship session with leading professionals at top tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Booking.com, Amazon and more
- Job placement or money-back guarantee
If you are all set and ready to transition into Product Management and land that dream job of yours, you can apply to the upcoming cohort of Knowledge Officer PRO Product Management program here.