“What kind of product manager will you be this year?” This was THE QUESTION that smacked me early on in my career. I had just come back from a holiday break and was catching up with my boss. I wanted to give a strong reply, but I needed time to unpack the question.
The good news was that my boss was not looking for a quick response. He simply wanted to get me thinking. And I did. I thought about how I had managed my workload the previous year. And then I considered how I could better realize my objectives in the future. In the end, I had a strong vision for how I wanted to work moving forward.
So as we enter 2017, I challenge you with the same question: What kind of product manager will you be this year?
There is no “right” answer to this — just like there is no “right” way to manage your product. Every company is unique. And your answer will be a reflection of that. But the new year is the perfect time to step back and really consider the way you do your job.
Is your work still working? Maybe last year felt right on track and you want to continue that progress. Or maybe you got stuck because your priorities were off. Maybe you fell somewhere in the middle. The truth is that there are all kinds of product managers — and realistically most of us can see ourselves in at least a few of these archetypes.
What kind of product manager will you be in 2017? Do you see yourself as…
The customer connector
Your top priority is delivering value to your customers. You crave their insights and feedback, and as a result, you have a strong understanding of what they need. But even more than that, you just love the connection — helping people brings you joy.
The metric mind
The key to progress? Matching your vision with quantifiable metrics. And it is paying off. You are outpacing your numbers every quarter. But maybe you could stand to add a little emotion to that analytical mind so that you can get inside your customer’s head.
The busy bee
Being busy and having a lot of activity across your design and development team (even shipping a lot of features) is important to you. But simply being busy does not mean your product is making progress. You know that tying that work to its potential impact helps you prioritize what matters.
You are the engineering team’s best friend. You understand the technical nuances. But, you do not intrude or tell them how they should do their job. Instead, you put your efforts into succinctly defining the “why,” the “what,” and the “when” of your product — you let them figure out the “how.” (And it doesn’t hurt that you can speak their language.)
The clean freak
Confidently and methodically triaging is critical to managing requests and ideas. But some product managers become so enthusiastic about “cleaning up” features requests that too much gets scrapped. Being too quick to clean up can mean you miss important themes.
The “yes” person
Is your go-to response an affirmative? While there might not be a “right” way to manage your product, but this is most definitely the one “wrong” way. An inexperienced or weary product manager who says yes to everything hurts the product and the team.
Did you see yourself in a few of these product manager types? That is OK. It’s more important that you take the time to reflect on being your best self than try to fit a certain type.
Above all, product managers need to prioritize according to their goals. Otherwise, your product will quickly become bloated with enhancements and pet projects that will not deliver real value or happiness to your customers.
So yes, there is not one “right” way to get work done or keep your team on track. But setting aside some time to thoughtfully consider how you can be better is the best approach I have found to actually improve.
What kind of product manager do you aspire to be?