Product Management

What soft skills are required to become a great Product Manager?

Product Management
Product Management

I have been into Product Management for more than 4 years. It has been a great roller coaster ride and the kind of freedom you get in deciding the future of the product can never be compared to anything in the world.

I often hear and read that Product Managers (PM) are the “CEO of the Product”. I completely disagree with this because a PM does not have any direct authority over the things that make a product successful- from user research to design and development to marketing, sales, and support. PMs are not the CEO of the Products they work on, their roles widely depend on several factors. So here I am going to tell you of what should be your considerations if you are thinking to pursue a career in this field.

Aspiring PMs should be well aware of the following points which separate them from the ordinary ones: Core competencies, and Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Company fit. Great PMs I have seen in my career had a higher level of EQ which was above the company average and always worked for the company they fit-in correctly. The work of a PM goes beyond shipping the features, competitor research and keeping different teams on the same page, the greatest PMs create products that have a high level of adoption rate that has grown exponentially and sometimes have disrupted the industry with their ideas and dedication.

Core Competencies

Product Manager Core Competencies
Product Manager Core Competencies

Core competencies start in the classrooms, mostly in the MBA classes but the best ones are only developed at work when the PM goes through their experience, has good role models, and gets good mentoring. Some of the examples are:

  • User testing and research through interviews and Analytic tools
  • Design sprints
  • Roadmap planning with feature prioritization
  • Resource planning (Trust me, its an art)
  • Performing competitor research
  • Preparing well-documented feature planning
  • Revenue and price modeling
  • Tracking the success metrics through Key Performance Indicators (KPI) (Its again an acquired art)

These competencies become the baseline of any PM and the PM learns it over the years. Self-reflection is one of the traits that help the PM in the understanding of what actually lead to the success and failure of the product. They also continuously change and rectify their approach according to customer feedback.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional Intelligence - FTMS Training Systems (HK) Limited
Emotional Intelligence

A good PM knows what are the dos and don’ts while interviewing a customer but a great PM easily empathizes with the customer’s demand and notice their body language and emotions. They understand the customer’s demand and aligns their product roadmap with it. Higher EQ fuels the relationship of the PM within the company and helps them in navigating both internal and external obstacles.

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I would help you in understanding and taking a deeper look into the key attributes of EQ:

1. Relationship Management

I think the most important trait of a great PM is their skills in managing a relationship with both internal and external stakeholders. They inspire people to reach their full potential and succeed through the success of their products. Great PMs never take anything as ‘I’; it always starts with ‘We’ and ends with ‘They’. They have powerful negotiation skills, conflict resolution skills, and working with everyone at a consistent shared goal. This is very challenging when the work of a PM also has to keep the requirements of the customer as the first priority. They also have to keep the hopes of engineering teams high and parallelly keep the revenue goals of the company in mind. A cordial relationship with everyone inside the company will help the PM in gaining the trust of everyone and can lead to more support and additional funding when in need. 

In the market, this relationship plays a role when you go to a customer and ask them to test the MVP of the product. If it’s flawless, their praise makes you proud but if a bug comes up which usually happens, brings the customer’s faith in you when they say

“Ahh!!! We know you would find a way to fix this!”

2. Self-awareness

A PM must be self-aware of the product and never be emotionally attached to any of its features. If a PM is in love with a feature because it solves their pain points, they generally become the super users of the product which leads them to sidetrack all the research and findings leading to derailment of the prioritization. This will not only hurt the product but also spoil the relationship with the engineers who are bound to lose trust in their PM if it is not well adapted by the users

3. Self-management

Being into the shoes of a PM is unbelievably stressful. Management wants one thing, the engineers want a different thing, the marketing team wants the product live NOW and customers have their own opinions about the features. Managing deadlines, targets, demands, internal conflicts, and resource constraints is what a PM has to manage daily without losing their cool. The great ones always know the priority and know to say ‘NO’ quite often

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Company Fit

Even if the great PMs have developed core competencies and have a high EQ level but still they are far away from being successful PM. Taking these skills and aligning it with the company where you fit in will ultimately make you successful.

To date, I have not seen any job description which talks about the fit in qualities of a candidate. They mostly talk about size, type of product, hard skills requirement, etc. If you really grow your core competencies and develop a high EQ level, your next step should be to get to know the actual culture of the company; if you lack this your success will be half reached.

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