Taking on the role of product manager can be overwhelming for many. You jump into various tasks, while demonstrating you can keep it all together and have multiple types of conversations in almost any situation. Although perfecting this balancing act comes with experience, there are a few mistakes many new product managers make, that you can be aware of to start your career off on a high note.
Staying in your comfort zone
As a product manager, you will need to hold conversations with multiple types of people in various departments. Don’t be afraid to jump in with both feet, and be prepared to learn. Ask questions, be the strong leader of your team, talk openly to your customers and don’t shy away from pushing your boundaries. In the end, this will gain you the respect from your team, support and confidence from customers and you’ll be able to overcome obstacles more confidently as they come. It’s easier to stay where you know, but this will make the product and your team suffer. Get out of your comfort zone.
“Keeping up with the Kardashians”
Products aren’t built from cookie cutters. Just because your competitor has a feature their customers and users love, doesn’t mean that it applies directly to your product. Make sure you do your due diligence and gather all the information and data you need, qualitative and quantitative. Understand the impact or value the feature will bring to the product and ultimately your end user. Only then, if the feature fits, design and develop it to add the most value to your product, then launch. Your customers will appreciate you.
Making decisions based on emotion and with lack of data
This goes along with keeping up with your competition. Especially as a new product manager, it’s easy to see something that works and want to mimic that thing. Then you get an obsession with making a feature work before you pulled the right data and numbers. Back up, and check the information at hand. Go through the collection process, then make a decision and sell it to your team. You’ll have a stronger base to stand on, and your team will respect that you have the right information and they will want to move forward in building the product with you. This will build your credibility right off the bat.
Thinking you are the customer instead of thinking like the customer
It can seem like the natural thing, you support your product, like what you are building, therefore, you are also the end user. But this is not the case. As many lead product managers will tell you, “we build products for our customers.” Don’t skimp on usability testing; do it early, do it often and use prototypes as often as you have them. A product won’t have an outstanding launch if you’re the only one that is excited about it.
Not knowing when to shut down a feature
It’s important that you are able to tell when a feature is not working or needs to be put down. Even though there may be a handful of users out there, if it’s not bringing the value to your user base in it’s entirety, it’s time to remove it. LinkedIn demonstrated this when they shutdown LinkedIn Events, as it wasn’t being used by a large amount of their users, and it wasn’t adding value to the site as a whole; they decided to pull it. It might not have been a popular decision, but internally, they decided it was the best. You’re product is not out to be for everyone, it’s for your user personas. Make sure you know who that is, and build a product that provides the most value to them.