Learn the qualities of a successful product manager and leader.
Part of the path to becoming a product master is developing as a leader. Leaders of product management need agility, influence, trust, empathy, and motivating vision.
And, those are the topics our guest, Roman Pichler, explores with us in this episode.
Roman is a product management expert specializing in digital products. He is the author of several books, including his latest, titled, How to Lead in Product Management. His popular blog is also available as a podcast and both are simply named Roman Pichler.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:00] What is agile product management?
Agile product management is product management infused or enriched by agile practices and principles. It’s interactive, iterative, incremental, and collaborative.
[6:15] You recently published How to Lead in Product Management: Practices to Align Stakeholders, Guide Development Teams, and Create Value Together. Why did you write this book to help product leaders?
Over the last 15 years, the product community has changed for the better, benefiting from tools like scrum and agile, but the soft skills have received less attention. Hard skills like market research or roadmapping are important, but they’re not enough. Product leaders can’t succeed if they neglect people skills and leadership skills. I wanted to offer practical help for product people and draw attention to the importance of soft skills in product management. As a product manager told me recently, product management is 80% people and 20% technology.
[10:18] As product managers, how do we approach having responsibility but no authority?
We don’t have any positional authority or transactional power. We can’t make people do things, but we rely on people’s work. To encourage stakeholders and development team members to move in the same direction, we have to influence them and get them to listen to us and follow our guidance. That’s only possible if people trust us.
[12:09] What are ways to facilitate trust?
Empathize—develop a kind and warm-hearted attitude; take a genuine, respectful interest in them; and be concerned for their well-being. Empathy is not about approval or agreement; it’s about accepting. By empathizing, we can discover their underlying needs, interests, and goals, and build trust. Listen deeply and actively. Don’t be overly critical or judgmental; be present for them. Speak and act with integrity. Saying what we believe and acting accordingly is easier said than done. Get to know people personally. This could be as simple as having coffee together, or it could be sharing failure stories, which shows vulnerability and builds trust. Strengthen product management expertise.
[17:30] Tell us about product vision.
Product vision is an inspirational goal that describes the positive change that the product will bring about. The vision is the foundation, and it’s important that stakeholders and the development team buy into it. A collaborative workshop with key stakeholders is a great way to kick off a new product development effort and create the initial vision. When you make a major change to an existing product, revisit the vision and adjust if necessary. The collaborative workshop gets people’s buy-in, leverages collective wisdom, and ensures there is a shared understanding. To avoid a few people dominating the workshop, it’s valuable to prepare the workshop and have a skilled facilitator.
[28:22] What are other important qualities that are key to being an effective product leader?
Again, empathy is important to train ourselves in.
Also, mindfulness is very helpful. Bring awareness to what is going on and increase your ability to stay present and be aware of yourself. This gives you more choices and makes you less likely to do something you’ll regret later.
[35:28] Bonus Question: What are your tips for better time management?
Focus on your core responsibilities. Instead of helping meet a need outside your job, investigate the real cause of that need. Don’t neglect less urgent but important work. Invest in building relationships. Take proper breaks to let your body and mind recover. Empower and coach others and delegate work. Avoid task-switching and timebox your activities.
Action Guide: Put the information Roman shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Roman’s website, RomanPichler.com
“A person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable) … it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.” – Carol Dweck—Growth Mindsets
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.