Although Product Managers might specialize in different methodologies or technologies depending on their industry, their essential responsibility is to serve as the organizational muscle that keeps everyone on track, moving products forward until they’re brought to market. For Product Managers that specialize in software development, the following 5 skills are essential to develop and strengthen throughout their careers in order to succeed.
1. Listening: For most Product Managers, a lot of your job will be interacting with stakeholders, Developers, Managers, C-level executives, and more. Everyone will have their own perspective on each product and often their priorities will differ. It’s your job to take in all of the information and use that to create an effective roadmap, get everyone on the same page, and keep everyone moving in the same direction. Communication skills are obviously essential for Product Managers, and listening plays a huge role in that. Practice active listening in your day-to-day life as well as at work to strengthen this essential skill. Pay attention to what jargon is used by each group so you can relate complex technical ideas in a way that everyone can understand. Pay attention to areas where frequent questions or confusion emerge to identify your areas of weakness. Better listening skills can improve your overall communication and help you succeed as a Project Manager.
2. Requirements Gathering: Listening certainly plays into requirements gathering, but this skill takes more than exceptional listening skills. You have to ask open-ended questions so you can get the full picture of what clients, users, and stakeholders want. Then, you have to translate these wants into clear, concrete goals for your Development team, prioritizing which features must be built and which can be put on the back burner. Instead of focusing on the minutia of specific solutions and technologies, Project Managers need to focus on defining how features should work and determining what customers will actually pay for in order to create successful product roadmaps that can guide everyone through to the finish line.
3. Motivation: A lot of your job as a Project Manager will boil down to one thing: can you keep everyone motivated? If everyone is motivated, they’ll produce their best work, keep products on track, and deliver great results. If there are a few weak links in the chain, product progress can start to wobble. When things start to go off track, it can spiral into chaos if you’re not there to keep everyone in line. The best Product Managers don’t bark orders, they address everyone’s needs and find ways to keep everyone motivated. Have you worked on your motivational skills lately? Listen to motivational speakers, negotiate a budget for motivational incentives and rewards to dole out to Developers along the way, keep an eye out for burnout on your teams and learn how to effectively address it. Additionally, if you come in with a positive demeanor and a willingness to work hard every day, a lot of your team will mirror that and be motivated by your example.
4. Implementation Planning: With so many moving pieces that contribute to the overarching goal of developing and releasing a successful product, Product Managers live or die by the strength of their implementation planning skills. Anything you can do to strengthen your attention to detail and organization skills will contribute to your strengths here, but even perfectly planned products will always go awry. Bugs, delays, sick days, and other challenges along the way are bound to pop up. Adapting your plans and reallocating your team’s resources is essential if you don’t want to waste time and money or let projects fall too far off track.
5. Curiosity: Even when you’ve shipped version one, you’re nowhere near done if you want to have a successful product. That’s where curiosity comes in, though it can also be a useful skill to have during product development because it will keep you in the mindset of looking for improvement potential. What do competitors’ products look like? What could this new technology do to improve your product if implemented? How could the existing feature set be improved upon over the next three months? Strengthen your inherent technical curiosity by remaining informed on the latest tech developments, staying hands-on with emerging products, and asking the Developers you’re working with what they’re currently learning.
Whether you want a great career as a Product Manager or you’re looking to add a Product Manager to your team that can deliver exceptional results, these are the essential skills every successful Product Manager needs. Strengthen your skills in these areas or lookout for these skills when you’re looking to fill a Product Management role.