Product managers have to interact with many different people to deliver a new product or feature. During my job search, I wanted to understand what a good product manager is to others in an organization especially designers, engineers, and marketers. This is for new people trying to learn more about product management and current product managers who are open to improving.

Some of the following is relevant for any good work relationship, but I've highlighted my takeaways based on conversations I had with people in different functional roles. Ok here's what I've learned.

Designer View

  • A good product manager approaches the relationship with a designer as a partnership
  • Solve a problem together
  • Focus on an outcome not a solution
    • 100% clarity on a chosen outcome - NEED an outcome everyone agrees on
  • Over-communication is best, daily stand-ups are important
  • Be mindful of a designer's time - allow focused time for flow work
    • For small updates use asynchronous chat and work tools (Jira/Slack/Asana etc)
    • For big business/product redirection let them know directly asap to avoid unnecessary work

Engineer View

  • A good product manager leads by influence (soft power)
    • Great listener - makes engineers feel heard
    • Strong communicator - can sell and persuade others
  • A good product manager sets the direction for the produc
  • A good product manager is your peer and partner
  • A good product manager doesn't need to worry about implementation - the engineers are the experts
    • Strong opinions can hinder progress, take your engineering hat off especially if that's your background
  • When outlining stories and tasks, a good product manager thinks through most if not all corner cases - this is where previous engineering experience can help if building software products
    • Documents everything relevant appropriately in tickets, documentation, and during sprint planning
  • A good product manager is receptive to learning new things

Marketer View

  • A good product manager can translate information effectively between parties
    • Problems can stem from product managers that fail to be a good translator between engineers and marketers
  • A good product manager knows the difference between short-term & long-term focus
    • Good product managers ask for the business case & assess
    • Knowing the real problem - they can decide if a quick short-term solution is appropriate or if they need to plan something more long-term
  • A good product manager asks a lot of questions to learn more

Other Views

Program Manager View

  • A good product manager solicits feedback genuinely - doesn't feel forced or condescending
  • A good product manager educates others on the current state of the product and explains what is possible moving forward
    • This is important for external party facing roles because they can better understand the product to set expectations with customers and partners

Product Manager View

The Good

  • Good product managers have enough information to have a confident position on what they’re asking for
  • Good product managers have a vision for their products that spans beyond the immediate asks
  • Good product managers can produce documents that increase clarity for their dev team and designers
  • Good product managers get their work done at a consistent pace and quality
  • Good product managers treat corner cases with respect and spend the time to identify them in the first place
  • Good product managers put themselves in the shoes of the devs before grooming in order to identify obvious gaps that must be addressed before they can estimate work

The Bad

  • Bad product managers don’t write things down enough
  • Bad product managers have a hard time articulating their needs effectively with designers and devs
  • Bad product managers have emotional reactions to stakeholders, managers, or just difficult situations in general
  • Bad product managers get lots of feedback and direction from peers and leadership and still don’t improve their work

If you've ever worked directly with a product manager, I'd love to talk and learn what a good product manager is to you and hear the bad stories as well so I and others can be better. Also, I would be happy to connect with others in product management to learn more and help others where I can.

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Thanks for reading!