If you’re not a product manager, you might be wondering why this role is sometimes referred to as “Product CEO” or even “Second CEO”. Don’t these terms also describe the head of the engineering department? What about the technical director?
Unlike the typical CTO or lead engineer, product managers touch every area of the business. They are, of course, responsible for promoting the product, but they also coordinate with marketing, sales, sourcing, and external teams. In doing so, they span the worlds of leadership, strategy, design, development, communication, and more.
Unfortunately, this holistic role makes product managers not only critical to the company, but incredibly difficult to hire. “It doesn’t matter how good the sales are, it doesn’t matter how good the engineers or customer service is, if you don’t have a product, you don’t have a company,” warns Dane Palarino, founder Partners Palarinowhich specializes in building world-class product management teams for private companies.
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Signs of a Star Product Manager
So how do you distinguish a skilled product manager from his peers? Look for the following qualities:
1. Emotional intelligence at its peak
Emotional intellect it is the ability to identify and manage not only your own emotions, but also the emotions of other people. But product managers are not consultants or salespeople: why should they be emotion experts?
Vivek Bedi, Head of Digital Consumer Engagement at Northwestern Mutual, answers this question with another question: “If you had to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 14 days with one person, what would it be like? » Bedi asks. Product School Blog Post. “Patient? Flexible? Cooperative? Thoughtful? Fun? Empathetic?”
All of these adjectives, Bedi notes, are signs of emotional intelligence, which allows a product manager to “read” those they interact with and respond accordingly. If a product manager cannot read people, it will be difficult for him to build relationships and find compromises between competing stakeholders.
2. Constantly looking at the clock
Part of the product manager’s job is to feel like there’s always one more feature to build, test, or launch. This is why the best product managers make the most of their time. They prioritize their work, build their day around it, and stick to their schedule.
Because great product managers are efficient, they expect the same from those they work with. They are not afraid to turn down a time-consuming function or leave a meeting if it is long, even if it is with a potential future employer.
Don’t confuse a top product manager’s ruthless efficiency with rudeness. If a candidate asks for a decision within two weeks, it’s because they know their time is valuable. Palarino Partners points out the recruitment process should last no more than four weeks, in most cases three or less. A candidate may lose interest because they don’t feel engaged, the company notes. But she may also feel that you can’t make difficult business decisions quickly: “She’ll be afraid that bureaucracy and bureaucracy will limit her ability to improve the product in your company.”
3. A healthy dose of skepticism
Successful product managers ask themselves, “What if?” Because they’ve seen products—and deadlines—fail, they tend to question assumptions, deadlines, and budgets. While some may mistake their skepticism for stubbornness, it is actually a tool that product managers use to protect their product.
How exactly can you recognize a skeptical product manager? Look for someone who will never be satisfied with one answer offers Shivan Bindal, director of product management at Procure. This person may give long-winded answers, ask an unusual number of questions, or even challenge the interviewer’s own answers.
4. Unwavering Proactivity
It’s easy for product managers to fall into the reactivity trap. Because they are busy and work with multiple stakeholders, low-level product managers often do what they are told rather than dictating how they spend their time.
As a product manager, “You can’t afford to prioritize a certain set of reviews just because they seem urgent,” Maddie Kirsch of ProductPlan. explains. Instead, she suggests, you should “ask yourself if implementing a suggestion or feedback will impact your product strategy.”
During the hiring process, a proactive product manager will not wait for the interviewer to bring up sensitive topics like benefits and salary. The product manager not only can’t waste time, but wants to keep the conversation focused on the parts of the role that are most important to her.
5. Crystal clear communication
Since the product manager spends most of his time keeping stakeholders on the same page, he doesn’t care about misunderstandings. She’s not afraid to pick up the phone, but will instead happily send a short email if that proves to be the most effective method.
Nick Hynes, Letgo Senior Product Manager, stock how effectively he communicates both orally and in writing. He argues that in both cases, less is more: not only does he say that strong product managers listen twice as much as they talk, but also keep messages as concise as possible.
Don’t assume that the quiet product manager is incompetent or shy. Most likely, she is trying to digest the details and make her questions meaningful. Also note if she emails ahead of time and if the emails contain typographical errors. Effective product managers know that mistakes reduce the perceived value of their content, and early submission improves the chances of it being read.
Product managers come from all walks of life, but not everyone can fill this role. The next time you need to hire her, don’t put too much weight on her resume. Like the CEOs themselves, her soft skills tell a real story.
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