By: Mark @Spectechular Silver
Product management is a complicated, ever-changing profession that requires constant adaptation. It’s essentially being the “CEO” of the product, with a ton of responsibilities and pressure from investors and senior management, one that requires ingenuity and dedication.
Yet it also requires a clear awareness and self-analysis of what is working and what is not. Like with any challenge, professionally or in our personal lives, we sometimes lie to ourselves and become so engrossed in such lies that it’s hard to step back and really think about how things are going. Product managers of course are no exceptions to this rule, and often tell themselves a series of lies. They are convinced without being open to real observation and change.
So with that said, I’d like to suggest 4 big lies that are prevalent in the field of product management, in order to identify them and know best to avoid them from the start. Realizing these stumbling blocks and figuring out how to overcome them can help realign your career with your vision.
1. I need to micro-manage every action and every team member
Product managers seeking perfection in order to prove themselves often fall into the trap of dealing out some heavy micro-management to their team members at every turn. Naturally, being in charge of the entire product lifecycle, and with a lot of the pressure mentioned above, feeling like you need a hand in everything is understandable, though not wise. Instead of focusing on the design of the product and how it fits the needs of the target market as well as the goals of the organization, these product managers spend the majority of their time standing over team members, watching and directing their every move. Unfortunately, the end result of this approach is never a better job done.
Being micro-managed can cause low morality in the team. It’s important to remember that each team member has the skills required to do their job. You just have to let them do it. Product managers that insist on working out each and every detail themselves miss out on the valuable contributions their team members can make. The best outcome comes when the team works together.
2. We all have to agree on everything
While some product managers are dictators, others are closer to hippies. The latter takes democratic style office politics to the extreme. Their intentions might be good, but their productivity often isn’t, because making even one decision becomes a long, complex process. Often, these product managers place the blame of delay on those who disagree with the issue under question, but the real problem is that the decision either should’ve never been voted on, or doesn’t require a consensus in order to be effective.
The product manager may indeed be responsible for the overall outcome, but there are some decisions that should be left up to the team member and other decisions that product managers should make on their own, trusting their own professional knowledge and intuition.
This doesn’t mean you can’t seek the opinion of others. It also doesn’t mean you can’t give an opinion and then leave the team member to decide what to do on their own. In fact, this can boost team morale and enhance communication levels, leading to better productivity. Just know when your opinion should really be an order and when to go with what one of the team members have to say.
3. Product management is the same at any company, large or small
There are indeed some careers where ‘a job is a job’, but that’s not true in product management. Working at IBM or Wells Fargo, for example, would be drastically different than at a new startup. The difference between working in a large company and working at a small one can be vast. For example, there are many companies in which product managers are simply responsible for producing the product the executives demand and there are small companies in which it’s left up to the product manager to decide what the product should be entirely. Of course the size of the company also influences the nature and complexity of communication, decisions, resources, priorities etc.
When deciding on where to work, it’s important to understand how the differences between small and large organizations can have an effect on your role and job responsibilities. Those looking to have more power and freedom of creativity will work for a smaller company.
4. Customer demands are nice, but they’ll take what we give them
It would be chaotic to return to the design phase every time a customer gave an opinion on a product, or requested more features. Time to market would be disastrously long indeed, but that doesn’t mean that customer demands should be completely ignored.
The most important part of handling customer demands is the attitude by which they are approached. A good product manager always does their part to let customers know their desires and opinions are appreciated. Customers need to feel a certain affection or loyalty to the brand, which they might not if they feel the company utterly refuses to listen. Gartner reports:
Over the last 10 years, customers’ trust in big business has declined rapidly. Customers have become more willing to complain, more willing to switch suppliers after a poor experience and more likely to tell others about it.
For this reason, it’s important for product managers to know how to gracefully receive any and all insight customers give them and know where the boundary should be for adding on new product features. Another option is to integrate a platform like WalkMe, which allows for simple changes whenever a customer finds a problem. It can also help detect problems before the customers notice.
There are a lot of little factors that go into being a successful product manager. Many of these factors are not made apparent in the job description and might not even be uncovered through years of experience. Product managers of varying experience and backgrounds, and in various sizes of organizations, can be found telling themselves at least one of the four big lies. Don’t fall for them and allow them to hinder your success!
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