Everyday, product managers all over the world open their laptops and prepare to take on the challenges of product development with their teams. There will be setbacks, there will be leaps ahead, and there will be moments of flowing innovation. In this hectic, yet intensely rewarding career, there are also many habits you can adopt that will help you in each hurdle, support each sprint and keep development moving forward. Here’s our list:
Spend time with your team
Your team is the driving force behind the development of your product, and your job is to support them. By spending time with them, this will give you a chance to understand their challenges, roadblocks, and frustrations. You’ll have gained greater intuition on how to help them and where you can be most effective. Need ideas? Get everyone out of the office once a week for lunch, take a brainstorming session outside of the office, get some exercise. This will also build relationships and give them greater confidence in you, the product and the entire team.
Spend time with your customers
You are the advocate for your clients. You’re the connection between your product team, your product and your users; it’s important to get to know everyone involved and know them well, especially your user base. Talk to them about your product, about your competitor’s product, find out what they think of them and don’t be afraid to ask. You’ll be gain a better perception of what your main audience needs, what features are most important to them and more importantly, understand why. Do this on a regular basis, and you’ll continue to build a connection and story around your product that resonates with people.
Spend time with your product
Get to know what you are building from all perspectives. Look at it, try out the features, remove one. It doesn’t have to do everything, but it has to do what it does extremely well, beautifully and intelligently. By taking the time each week to breathe, and look at what you are putting together, you will know how to talk to people about why you are building what you’re building. Great product managers know the product better than anyone. You will have intimate knowledge of each detail of each feature, and you’ll develop a powerful intuition.
Your office is not your entire universe. Step outside of the world of your product and read about the industry, check out other products, learn about new trends, new design ideas, gain inspiration. Know what the marketplace looks likes, what’s trending, and what’s moving out. Build in 30 minutes a day to read an article, a chapter in a book, a product teardown. Read every day. If you genuinely don’t have time, check out a podcast and listen while you eat, or watch a cool TED talk while you make dinner.
Hang out with an engineer
Pull a chair up and sit next to them and gain some insight from their perspective. See what they are doing and how you can give advice, take some good notes, (mental or written), chat about new ideas, see what they think, tell them what you think. This sharing will give you opportunities that you may have otherwise missed. Do this especially if you’re not a technical product manager, and you’ll pick up some knowledge about what a developer’s day is like, what their pains are and how you can support them.
Everyone in product says this, more so the product managers. You’re not there to do everything anyone asks, including your CEO; you’re there to build a great product that your team is proud of and consumers love. Focus on what should be on the roadmap to make that happen. Consider the rest, and know where you can cut out features that are not necessary.
There’s a lot to learn from every conversation with designers, engineers, marketers, customers. Keep your ears and eyes open, and always encourage feedback and be genuine and respectful. This will go a long way among your team.
While listening is a soft skill which can be easy to brush off and forget about, its vital for being a truly great product manager.
Take a walk and think
Take some time to think about your strategy and your vision, where do they align? What changes can you make to improve it? Reflect on previous weeks or months and consider what you’ve learned. Looking for a solution, developing a complex idea, needing to make a final decision or just needing fresh air? Step outside, eat outside, walk to a park, take 10 minutes, breathe. It’s the little things that help make the biggest decisions. Sometimes distance is the perfect tool for providing clarity.
Write: Master note-taking and take the time to review them
Meetings come up every week or even every day, especially if you’re an agile development team mid-sprint. Be the best note-taker on the team, but most importantly study what you wrote the day before and refresh your ideas and perspective before going into a meeting. Have a list of questions prepared, bring answers to potential questions from your team, try to foresee what they might ask. In each meeting, be the most prepared person in the room. When running one-on-ones with your team, take notes and send them an email afterwards with a summary of everything you discussed, to make sure you are both on the same page.
Also, write down your ideas, whether it’s about features, innovation, marketing, customers etc.
Give someone a virtual high-five, or a shout-out. Share a congrats with everyone, celebrate small milestones. This not only builds morale for your team but also for you as the product manager. It will help keep everyone focused, on track and will also be a continuous reminder of why you are are building what you building. Make sure your team feels valued, and they will value you.
Do you have any good habits that make PM Life easier? Tweet us @ProductSchool!