2 leadership tips for product managers

Set the context

This first tip has a more strategic aspect. Product managers are required to:

  • Understand, communicate and explain the context in which they are working.
  • Help the team to understand what’s the role of the product in the company strategy and in the market.
  • Know how customers use the product and what they expect from it.
  • Understand how a certain feature is inserted in the product strategy.

Why context is so important in software development

I want to propose a thought experiment. Let’s use empathy, the main characteristic of a digital product manager, to put ourselves in the position of a software developer who has received the following story from his team’s product manager:

Remove obstacles

This tip has a more tactical aspect. Removing obstacles is fundamental so team members can work on the product. We must feel we are moving forward, that we are doing something, building something. The article What Really Motivates Workers from Harvard Business Review has some interesting data on satisfaction at work. They put together a study in order to find out what happens in an excellent day of work. The answer was in a word: progress.

  • Be present: the team needs you. During the product development process, they’ll need to talk with you about their discoveries and what they are delivering, so you need to be present, otherwise, the team may make decisions that could not be aligned with your product vision.
  • Make your product vision clear: even though you’ll be present, sometimes you simply can’t be present. For this reason, and also to set the context as explained above, you need to define your product vision and strategy.
  • Remove excess from stories: the sooner you are able to put your product or feature in front of real users, the earlier you’ll have feedback, so you need to remove all the excess from what you and your team are building, and focus only on the minimum required to get this feedback.
  • Manage expectations and anxieties: expectation management is a big part of a product manager’s job. By expectation management, I mean managing the expectations of all of your product stakeholders, internal and external. Having stakeholders asking questions directly to the team can be a big distraction and it means that you were unable to properly align your product vision and strategy with your stakeholders.
  • Help the entire team perceive themselves as owners of the product: everyone in the product team is a product owner and you have a big role in helping them perceive themselves as such. Show them the context where your product is inserted. Build the product vision and strategy together with them. Share your product numbers, discuss with your team how to improve these numbers.
  • And everything else that hinders the team’s progress! the above list is not comprehensive. The day-to-day product development work is full of obstacles and distractions that can move you away from your main objective, building a successful digital product that helps your company achieve its business goals as well as solves your customers' and users' problems.

Summing up

So, there you have the 2 leadership tips for product managers and for anyone who is leading a project:

  1. Set the context;
  2. Remove obstacles.

Digital Product Management Books

Do you work with digital products? Do you want to know more about how to manage a digital product to increase its chances of success, solve its user’s problems and achieve the company objectives? Check out my Digital Product Management bundle with my 3 books where I share what I learned during my almost 30 years of experience in creating and managing digital products:

  • Startup Guide: How startups and established companies can create profitable digital products
  • Product Management: How to increase the chances of success of your digital product
  • Leading Product Development: The art and science of managing product teams

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Joca Torres

Joca Torres

Digital product development advisor, coach, and board member. Also an open water swimmer and ukulelist.