Product management is one of the least-defined roles in the professional world. But you can identify many of the skills and habits you’ll need to be effective in this career by learning from other successful product managers (PM). We’ve compiled some of the best advice we’ve heard from PMs about the habits of highly effective product managers.
1. Highly effective product managers prioritize their roadmaps according to value, not features.
As a product manager, your job is to solve problems for your users. The products you bring to the market are just vehicles to solve those problems.
Yet many product managers focus on the product they intend to build instead of on the problem they plan to solve. They develop their roadmap as a list of features, rather than using the roadmap to communicate the value they expect the product to deliver.
This is a flawed approach, as ProductPlan’s co-founder Jim Semick explained in a webinar called The Feature-Less Roadmap, Jim cites several reasons effective product managers know to organize their roadmaps by themes and north-star metrics, particularly when developing a new product. For example:
- You will often be too optimistic about what your team can build in the time you have. Committing to complete a full feature before your release could delay your ability to deliver anything to the market. Delivering smaller items to the market, iteratively, and analyzing user feedback makes more sense.
- Committing to developing features early on also makes it more difficult to change direction or focus when new realities demand it.
- You won’t know until after you’ve started delivering the first iterations of your product where you stand with users.
For all of these reasons, and others you’ll hear about in the webinar, the panel agrees that it makes more sense to organize your roadmap around major strategic themes for your product.
2. Highly effective product managers focus on outcomes, not outputs.
This habit flows naturally from the first. Because effective product managers know their role is to solve problems for their users—and not just to release products—they do a better job of measuring the right things. For example, they focus on outcomes rather than outputs.
Product management expert Melissa Perri explains in her book Escaping the Build Trap, many organizations get stuck in a flawed strategy of raising money, hiring developers, and then building their product. All before even validating their plan with the market.
Once the operation gets underway, and investors are asking for progress, the team is now focused more on producing a finished product (the output) than on whether or not that product will find a profitable market (the outcome). This is the build trap.
Effective product managers, Melissa argues, take a very different approach. They take the time needed to work with their user personas, explore their problems, listen to their concerns, and think of solutions. A customer-centric attitude is a habit every PM is well advised to develop.
3. Effective PMs hone their leadership skills.
One of the quirks of product management is that you’ll need to guide people’s work but without the authority to tell them what to do.
The only way to do this successfully is to develop your skills as a leader. April Underwood, Slack’s Former CPO, explains in a LinkedIn video that being a strong leader can help even someone with no product management experience become an effective PM.
“One of the core attributes of a great product manager, at his or her core, is being a strong leader, being able to set a vision, being able to persuade people, and being able to motivate a team toward a shared outcome.”
4. They learn to communicate with everyone.
Success in product management requires communicating with many different people, departments, and stakeholders.
In addition to developers, sales reps, and executives each using their own jargon, you’ll also have to work with a wide range of personality types. Some coworkers will be aggressive, others shy, and hard to understand.
The variety of the role is why Joni Hoadley, Principal at Lean Product Management Consulting, believes PMs should learn about different personality types.
There are several personality-type models and frameworks for your study. Understanding these different types, and how they each communicate, can help you become a more effective product manager.
For example, when you can spot the signs that a person is what the “DISC” personality framework calls a “D” (decisive) type, you will know that this person’s communication style is direct, fast-paced, and impatient. When presenting a roadmap to this person, you will know to keep your discussion streamlined, fast-moving, and focused on high-level outcomes.
5. They’re always doing product discovery.
Teresa Torres points out that many PMs view product discovery (deciding what to build) as only a small part of the process, and they want to get it over with in the earliest phases of planning a new initiative.
The product team shifts its focus exclusively to product delivery (building and shipping)—and they never look back at discovery.
Doing so leaves out many opportunities, for a product team to check in with its original vision and ask itself if it is still on track. This, she explains, can help the team learn earlier in the process whether or not it is meeting its goals and delivering value.
Avoid fixating only on whether the team is meeting its goals for building and releasing products. Instead, it can continually ask questions that lead back to product discovery.
Questions such as:
- Are we meeting stakeholder needs?
- Can customers use our product the way they want to?
- Do customers want what we’re developing?
Effective product managers know they’re never “done” with product discovery. It should inform every stage of a product’s development and lifecycle.
6. Highly effective product managers step away from their desks to find the big idea but come back for the little ones.
You won’t see this in your typical product manager job description. But according to Jason Fried, stepping out of the office and changing the scenery can be the best way to help a product manager summon a game-change idea.
Product professionals spend much of their time poring over the details: market research, usage data, development schedules, budgets, etc. It’s when they can step back, process all of this information, and clear their heads that inspiration can find them.
For a PM, these little ideas could include UI fixes, a process tweak that could speed development, or general improvements to the product.
“You have the big idea somewhere else,” he says, “and then you come to work and work on the little ideas.” – Jason Fried, CEO, Basecamp
7. Highly effective product managers are always learning.
Ellen Chisa, co-founder, and CEO of Dark acknowledges that “learn something new” could mean something different to everyone. To help you decide what to learn next, she offers these possible areas of focus:
- Figure out where you’re struggling now.
- Determine where you or your company is going next.
- Focus on something you’re curious about or something you think would be fun to learn next.
- Find a weakness and work on turning it into a strength (or at least something you’re no longer afraid to try).
What’s great about this strategy is you can do it throughout your career. Tackle that learning project now. When you’re done, you can transition to studying something that will help you add to one of your strengths or just something that sounds like fun to learn.
What are the top 3 things that make a good product manager? ›
Aspiring PMs should consider three primary factors when evaluating a role: core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ), and company fit. The best PMs I have worked with have mastered the core competencies, have a high EQ, and work for the right company for them.What makes an excellent product manager? ›
The easy answer to this question — “What makes a great product manager?” — would be a list of skills. A long list that would include: subject matter expertise, outstanding communication skills, market knowledge, leadership ability, innovativeness, strong researching skills, the ability to think strategically, etc.What are successful principles of product management? ›
- Keeping Track of Competitors. ...
- Focusing on the Data. ...
- Remembering Your Customer's Needs. ...
- Dedicating Yourself to Quality Products. ...
- Related Articles.
At a high-level, there are really 3 main areas of Product Management – Discovery, Planning, and Development: I.What is the first thing a product manager should do? ›
Understand the Market, the Customers, and the Product
One of the most important first steps for a new product manager is to understand the market. The best way to do so is to get as close to the customer as you can.
- Product taste. Product taste means having the insights and intuition to understand customer needs for a product in a given area. ...
- Ability to prioritize. ...
- Ability to execute. ...
- Strategic sensibilities. ...
- Top 10% communication skills. ...
- Metrics and data-driven approach.
Some of the top strengths that product managers should possess include strong communication skills, the ability to think strategically, the ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks effectively, the ability to work well in a team environment, and strong problem-solving skills.Is product manager a stressful job? ›
With great responsibility, comes great stress. Due to its versatility, the role of a product manager is extremely challenging. Although this career is also very rewarding and fulfilling, it can often be frustrating for many reasons.What does a product manager do day to day? ›
Work with product leadership and company leadership to set product objectives aligned with high-level strategy. Prioritize the most strategically valuable feature ideas. Meet with sales, marketing, legal, and leadership to evaluate the viability of feature ideas.How many products should a product manager manage? ›
The typical product manager has worldwide responsibility for three products.
What are the 5 P's of product management? ›
The 5 areas you need to make decisions about are: PRODUCT, PRICE, PROMOTION, PLACE AND PEOPLE. Although the 5 Ps are somewhat controllable, they are always subject to your internal and external marketing environments.What are the 4 P's of product management? ›
The four Ps are product, price, place, and promotion. They are an example of a “marketing mix,” or the combined tools and methodologies used by marketers to achieve their marketing objectives.What are 6 keys of product success? ›
- Make Sure You Have a Product Fit. The first steps of preparing for a successful product launch begin at the genesis of product development. ...
- Know Your Metrics. ...
- Conduct User Research & Market Evaluations. ...
- Develop Your Messaging. ...
- Build an Early Customer Base. ...
- Collect & Implement Feedback.
All products are connected to three things: developers, users, and a business. Developers (or engineers) are the people who can write and deploy code. Companies usually have people working on the product that aren't programming, but the people updating the code are the only folks on the team who are strictly necessary.What are the 3 major levels of a product? ›
Kotler suggested that products can be divided into three levels: core product, actual product and augmented product. The core product is defined as the benefit that the product brings to the customer.What should a product manager do in first 30 days? ›
- Meet everyone. Product management is about relationships. ...
- Learn the process. ...
- Reserve judgment. ...
- Take notes!
- Download a Day in a Product Manager's Life➜ ...
- Take advantage of your fresh eyes. ...
- Audit customer calls. ...
- Talk to the customer yourself!
- 📞 Talk to Users & Customers.
- 📱 Become Deeply Familiar With the Product.
- 📊 Get to Know the Stakeholders.
- ❓ Ask Plenty of Questions/Learn As Much As You Can.
- 😀 Make a Good Impression Early.
- ✅ Your First 30, 60, 90 Days as a PM Checklist.
CPO / Chief Product Officer
A Chief Product Officer (CPO) is the most senior product person in an organisation. They usually manage more than one team of product managers and represent product in the C-suite or management team.
Methodical organization, creative thinking, and vision are just a few assets necessary to be an effective PM. This variety of project manager traits is what attracts so many to the field, and makes their work endlessly interesting and challenging.What should be the strength of a Product Manager? ›
Product managers need to be able to cut through the noise and recognise what is important for the users and company and filter out the rest. You will always have incoming requests from internal and external stakeholders, so the ability to deal and filter these requests accordingly is crucial.
What are the six key team behaviors of high performing teams? ›
- Defined Goals. Defined goals and a clear plan to achieve them are essential to great performance. ...
- Committed Actions. ...
- True Transparency. ...
- Unabashed Accountability. ...
- Frequent Feedback. ...
- Celebrated Successes.
Salary Ranges for Product Managers
The salaries of Product Managers in the US range from $28,000 to $525,000 , with a median salary of $111,000 . The middle 57% of Product Managers makes between $111,000 and $242,000, with the top 86% making $525,000.
The next question he will ask is: “How to find your superpower as a product manager?” His answer is simple: the ability to provide context. Product managers stay constantly connected with every team, and their communication skills are crucial at all stages.What company pays product managers the most? ›
Also on the list of top-paying companies for product managers are Block, Google, Workday, Walmart, and Amazon, with salaries ranging from $151,000 to $156,000.How old are most product managers? ›
The average age of an employed product manager is 39 years old.Do product managers get paid well? ›
Product management is a well-paid job and has a high level of job satisfaction. The product manager's salary is primarily based on years of experience, job location and skills. The average annual salary for product managers can range from $61,000 to $200,000 per year.Are product managers highly paid? ›
To put it simply - a lot! Depending upon the organization you end up working with, Product Management is one of the highest-paying jobs in the corporate world. An Indian MBA graduate can earn a median base salary of ₹ 15.2 lakhs per annum, excluding other salary components like bonuses.What is the dark side of being product manager? ›
Dark side #1: The responsibilities and boundaries of the Product Manager role are often unclear. Dark side #2: Your days are often filled with meetings, leaving you little to no focus time. Dark side #3: Everything always takes longer than you think; especially software development.Why are product managers paid so high? ›
The salary depends on various factors such as experience, skills, location, and company. Product managers are in high demand because they can see the big picture and think strategically about product development.Why do product managers quit? ›
Lack of opportunity—There aren't too many product managers content to do their existing job forever; they're looking for chances to advance, take on more responsibility, and expand their skill set.
How many hours a week do product managers work? ›
Product managers work full time, usually more than 40 hours per week. They often work longer hours that extend into evenings and weekends, particularly when there are deadlines approaching. They spend time on computers, conducting research, and reading and writing reports.What should a product manager not do? ›
- Trying to work backward from a preconceived solution.
- Substituting customer "wants" for true innovation.
- Misidentifying features or product specifications as benefits.
- Mistaking novelty for real value.
- Allowing communication gaps to compromise your vision.
- Start Your Day with Planning Tasks.
- Move into Research and Documentation Tasks Next.
- Schedule Communication Tasks Throughout Your Day.
- Minimize Context Switching to Boost Productivity.
- Product Managers Are an Anchor for Their Team.
Read below to learn the different salaries for product managers based on their level of experience. Entry-level product managers earn an average salary of $74,620 annually. Mid-level product managers can earn an average of $113,000 annually. Senior-level product managers see an average salary of $208,000 annually.What are the two main things product managers must balance? ›
Team and stakeholders management.
On the other hand, the product manager has to negotiate with stakeholders and balance their demands and expectations.
Product management (PM) is a challenging career. It's high stakes. It's demanding. It can make you want to tear your hair out.What are the six 6 P's? ›
The building blocks of an effective marketing strategy include the 6 P's of marketing: product, price, place, promotion, people, and presentation. The effective integration of the 6 P's of marketing can serve as the foundation for an effective growth strategy.What is Mintzberg 5 P's? ›
In 1987, Mintzberg published his first article on the 5 P's of Strategy. Each of the five P's represents a distinct approach to strategy. This includes Plan, Ploy, Pattern, Position and Perspective. These five elements enable a company to develop a more successful strategy.What are the 3 Cs strategy? ›
The 3 Cs of Brand Development: Customer, Company, and Competitors. There is only a handful of useful texts on strategy. Any MBA student will be familiar with these: Competitive Advantage and Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter.What are the 3 C of branding? ›
The 3 Cs of brand messaging: Consistency, clarity and character.
What are the 3 Cs of positioning? ›
It consists of the company, the customer, and the competition, which are the three critical components to creating a successful strategy. Briefly, the company must be able to execute the strategy, the strategy must meet a customer need, and differentiation from the competition must be achieved.What is the 7 step product planning process? ›
Although the product development process differs by industry, it can essentially be broken down into seven stages: ideation, research, planning, prototyping, sourcing, costing, and commercialization. Use the following development framework to bring your own product idea to market.What are the 7 steps of product planning? ›
- Product Concept Development. This initial phase might be the most fun and creative stage in the product lifecycle, and it's the most critical. ...
- Competitive analysis. ...
- Market Research. ...
- Minimum Viable Product development. ...
- Introduction and launch. ...
- Product lifecycle. ...
- Start With Why.
- Understand the Problem.
- Focus Relentlessly.
- Empower the Team.
- Embrace Uncertainty.
- Balance Inputs, Outputs, Outcomes, and Learning.
- Iterate, Iterate, Iterate.
Team and stakeholders management.
On the other hand, the product manager has to negotiate with stakeholders and balance their demands and expectations.
Product managers are responsible for crowdsourcing, developing, and curating ideas that will deliver value to customers. You own the organization's idea management process and determine which ideas should be promoted to your backlog in order to propel the product strategy forward.What is the biggest strength Product Manager? ›
Some of the top strengths that product managers should possess include strong communication skills, the ability to think strategically, the ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks effectively, the ability to work well in a team environment, and strong problem-solving skills.What are the 4 stages of product management? ›
The four are introduction, growth, maturity, and then decline. Products and companies progress through these stages of development and the way that you know which stage they're in is how much revenue they're making over time.Do product managers manage P&L? ›
In most organisations, the PM does not own the P&L. The P&L ownership lies with a general manager or the business unit leader. A PM deals with financials when preparing a business plan, and tracking usage.What makes a good product manager what makes a bad one? ›
Good product managers focus on learning. Whether it's customer interviews, shipping product or looking at user metrics, good product managers are always laser focused on what they can learn that makes an impact to customers. Bad product managers exclusively focus on shipping.
What is the top priority of a product manager? ›
A key responsibility of product managers is to identify the most impactful projects to work on. This requires a critical process: prioritization.Is product manager a high level role? ›
Product managers are mid-level roles. While you don't necessarily have to have a direct product management background, you should have professional experience and demonstrable skills in communication, leadership, and strategy. Product managers are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and features of a product.Do product managers need to code? ›
Do product managers need to be technical? Though you won't necessarily be required to code, a basic comprehension of programming languages is a massive advantage in the tech industry. SQL, Python, C#, HTML, and CSS are crucial for product managers because they're usually used to create tech products.