As a product leader, your job is to represent a product from its inception, launch and throughout its growth stages. Your job entails you to lead teams, create cohesive business strategies and understand the technical mechanics of building a digital product. It’s a career that requires its cross-functional leaders to hold a nuance of both soft and hard skills.
To make it in the demanding world of product development, what are the key traits you need to have to succeed? After years of working as a product developer and Lead Strategist at eBay, a Director of Media at Yahoo! and now as the founder and CEO of my own company, Enfavr, I believe these to be the essential skills that will help you develop a winning product, development team and company:
Designing a superior product requires understanding the people for whom you’re creating the product. Emotional intelligence or EQ is required for you to empathize with the consumer and solve problems with the assistance of the product. A product leader with a high EQ builds strong relationships with their team and an awareness of how to tackle both internal and external hurdles to create and launch a successful product.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a few aspects of emotional intelligence include:
Relationship Management: Form authentic and trusting relationships with stakeholders. Great product managers encourage, support and inspire their team members and customers, creating friendships and helping people reach their full potential. People skills are also beneficial for resolving conflicts, sharing ideas and working toward a shared goal.
Self-Management: A product manager needs to know how to multitask, manage deadlines, analyze revenue targets, meet market trends, manage conflicts and prioritize resources. They also know how to stay persistent throughout the project’s journey.
Self-Awareness: Remaining objective is key to managing others effectively and developing an effective product. A lack of self-awareness often derails more important priorities or damages the relationship product leaders have with engineers who, in turn, may lose confidence in the leader. For example, if a feature the product leader loved and heavily promoted doesn’t meet consumer needs, it could make engineers distrustful of the product leaders’ insights going forward.
Social Awareness: The characteristic is often associated with empathy, organizational awareness and service to others. Product leaders must understand the customers’ emotions and concerns about the product as well as the concerns of the sales team and how they sell or the engineering team and how they build the product. An in-depth understanding of how the company operates is important to create social capital which influences the overall success of the project and company. Ultimately, it also allows product leaders to address the needs of their customers.
Understand Data or “Street Statistics”
Another way to understand consumers is through data or “street statistics”. Data guides product managers to make accurate and necessary decisions. It allows product leaders to understand what users are doing within the product, which features customers enjoy and how successfully the product attracts new customers. It also shows the revenue flow. Understanding the data allows you to test quick experiments and harness the information to improve the project. For instance, we can identify a behavioral analysis via the creation of behavioral cohorts.
Smartly Sell Your Ideas
A knowledge of the sales process and how to sell your ideas is crucial to developing cohesive ideas and pitching them — especially to the engineers in your company. Part of the job is to understand how engineers think, so you need to be careful when talking about the technical aspects of the product and clearly communicate a vision which they can support.
Julie Zhou, the VP of Product Design at Facebook, says, “Engineers make every good proposal real, and this fact should never, ever be forgotten.” Zhou continues, “Even if your company has five, or five hundred, or five thousand engineers, engineers are not a ‘resource.’ They are the builders of the foundations, the keepers of everything that makes your product tick.”
Many people can’t admit when they don’t know something. It serves product leaders when they’re able to own up to the gap in their knowledge or skills.
Ben Horowitz and David Weiden believe that a good product manager doesn’t ruin their credibility by over-stating their knowledge. As a champion of products, take the opportunity to seek out new information so you can be more effective in your position. Talk to others on your team. It’s especially important to speak with consumers and conduct market research on your competitors.
Additionally, develop skills like a fundamental understanding of code will help you work with developers. Start by asking questions to iron out the functions or details that aren’t yet clear. As issues emerge, you’ll slowly be able to become more involved in the project. Learning code will allow you to offer more viable and proactive solutions for the team to explore. Remember: A clueless product developer can’t help teams if they don’t know what they’re talking about. Plus, product managers are there to better help teams confront challenges, so knowing the technical basics can go a long way. For example, it could help a team find better programming tools which may help during the launch of a product.
The more you understand about all aspects of the business, the industry and its people, the better you can make decisions regarding your product’s development. Always continue to learn and ask questions. Your team will respond positively. Remember, it’s always important to pay attention, stay humble, ask questions and admit when you don’t know understand a concept. Having an open mind and a willingness to learn is what helps leaders succeed.
Project leaders should take ownership of their products, making sure to help at all stages of its success. Some of these skills are easier to gain than others, but it’s important to make an effort and implement each skill over time. In doing so, product leaders can build a trusting team and a more effective and innovative company. Taking the time to learn can allow any project leader to develop mastery and success in their field.