How Product Managers Build Leadership Skills


Building a lasting product is a remarkable experience -- when it happens. It can be a bumpy and uncomfortable ride at times. But when you achieve product success, you will likely be hooked for life. I know I was.

So what is the secret behind great products? There is no secret. In fact, the formula for success is quite simple -- great product teams build great products. They work together, driven and inspired by their product manager, to fulfill a strong and vetted product vision.

I know from these conversations with product managers worldwide that to be successful as a product manager requires collaboration. Great products require cooperation across organizations -- from leaders in engineering, marketing, sales, and support. The cross-functional group of people that make the product team are what separates so-so product teams from the truly great ones.

Uniting different groups towards a shared vision is no easy task. It will take time for new -- and even seasoned -- product managers to master this skill. Consider these six suggestions as you look for ways to continue to grow:

Answer the "why"
Before you can unite and inspire a team, you must understand the problem your product aims to solve. Always be ready to answer the "why" of your product. To do that you need to understand what motivates your customers. Understanding both their motivation and problem will help to confirm market potential -- and strengthen your strategic vision.

Share the vision
Answering the "why" is essential, but sharing your product vision is equally as important. The product manager has to share the vision for the product and help the broader team understand how their work in each release supports it. Explain each person's part in achieving it, and you will quickly see the rest of the team get excited -- and get to work.

Open up communication
Product teams address both strategic and tactical needs. Rather than wait until a crisis requires collaboration, proactively set weekly syncs across engineering, marketing, and customer support teams to ensure that everyone is updated on progress and working towards the same goals. Doing so, you will be able to spot bumps along the way -- and stop them from becoming roadblocks.

Never stop learning
The worst mistake you can make is to pretend you know something you do not -- or to think that you are well-versed in all areas. Ask questions and truly listen. When you are honest and open about your abilities -- and show an interest in learning from the other experts on your team -- the rest of the group will follow suit.

Throw credit
It can be easy to get caught up in your daily work and forget to acknowledge individual effort. But do not miss opportunities to throw credit to others. You may be surprised at how far a little recognition will go towards building a stronger, more confident team. At Aha! we recognize notable efforts in companywide meetings. I encourage each person to use specific language when recognizing effort. That way, it shows that we are all paying close attention to each other's work and contributions.

Leading a product to market is not easy. But great product managers lead by example and inspire others to bring their best every day.

Teamwork is essential to building a winning product. Know that some days will be smoother than others, and the team will not gel overnight. But when you see that product vision realized, you will know the longterm reward was worth any temporary struggle.

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