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Essential Skills Needed to Become a 1% Product Manager
If you want to be a great product manager, you need three key skills. Here’s how to develop them.
What separates a mediocre product manager from a great one?
A successful product manager is more than someone who has mastered the technical elements of their craft — it takes skill and expertise to bring products together in a way that addresses pain points while optimally allocating resources and driving towards a shared vision. But what key traits make up the “rubric” for an exceptional product manager? In this short post, I’ll cover the three essential skills required to master one of the most rewarding roles in tech today.
The 4 Areas of Product Management
Before diving into the skills, I want to highlight the four overarching areas of the craft:
Execution — The ability to build and ship exceptional products
Insight— The ability to develop a deep understanding of customer pain points and needs
Product Strategy — The ability to develop a plan that delineates how to achieve desired business outcomes and business impact
Stakeholder Management — The ability to create shared understanding across stakeholders and rally them towards a common vision
Execution and Insight are table stakes for all product managers and product leaders. One cannot become an exceptional product manager if they don’t understand their customers and ship a product to them. However, what sets the average apart from the great is the ability to influence stakeholders and drive business impact. Truly great product managers focus on delivering business impact while managing stakeholder expectations. They are not just shipping features and managing a feature factory.
The Skills: Becoming Great
Within the areas of product highlighted above, I believe there are 3 skills that separate the best from the rest. These skills span across all four areas of product above.
Business outcome ownership → The ability to meaningfully move the needle towards product OKRs and the company’s mission. But more importantly, being able to step up and take responsibility for team failures when they occur.
Great storytelling → The best product folks are able to influence stakeholders and sell them on their vision via compelling storytelling (written or verbal). Through storytelling, they create shared understanding across stakeholders and ensure alignment across the org.
Seeing around the bend → The best product managers can anticipate potential pitfalls and plan ahead for them. This boils down to the ability to critically think through complex, vague problems, identifying blind spots, and putting mitigation plans in place.
In a nutshell Shared Understanding basically means that a cross-functional team is focused on solving the same problem at the same time and all members of the team are involved in the key moments of decision. — Jeremy Bird
Being a product manager is not an easy job and it requires mastering multiple hard skills and soft. However, if you are passionate about the product and solving the user problem, it can be a very rewarding experience. Do you have what it takes to be an exceptional product manager?
Who am I?
I’m a product leader with almost a decade of experience across startups, scale-ups and large enterprises. I’ve led the go-to-market for successful digital products in multiple verticals (manufacturing, B2B SaaS, fintech, ecommerce) and have consulted for some of the largest brands.
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