Few years ago, I worked with a colleague that I consider to this day, is still one of the truly exceptional product managers that I’ve ever worked with in my 5-year career. The reason why I felt she was exceptional are as below:
- Excellent interpersonal skills: there was one time we were both seated in front of a director, and she asked about her daughter and family plans for Halloween, before we jumped into the topic. I also noticed she constantly makes it a point to say good morning to most colleagues & silently supporting their career growth.
- Incredible product smarts. She was silently chipping away at a possible feature idea for a few months before her departure, and unbeknownst to us, when she came to present her findings and solution, it was very convincing, capturing detailed use cases and showed a lot of stakeholder management interviews baked into place. It netted company 100% conversion for that product line. I think what was impressive is that she really demonstrated personal brand in leveraging her sources & her own background in marketing + PM to drive initiatives, usually with a very smooth leadership approval. Exceptional PMs always wins top decision makers over to take a chance on them, because they can prove value through big and small wins
- Risk taker: Despite the trajectory she could’ve gone on to become VP of product, she went to work for a startup, which then became unsuccessful, and she was vulnerable about her single parenthood. Despite that, she is now the Director of product in a fast-growing tech company. Never let setbacks pull you away from learning and growing - both self-growth & professionally.
So - I would love to hear from your professional experience of examples or traits that truly stands out in a colleague who is an exceptional PM or product leader!
Wonderful to see this post!
I just got done reading a 20-page brief on the future direction of the product, which was well reasoned, articulate, data driven and opinionated. Was a joy to read and made me just re-remember why I like product.
It’s great working with my current CPO (even from a distance 2 levels down), she’s amazing!
@RichardsonEva, Oh, I would love to see this too. Been in product for over 2 years but haven’t been able to produce anything close.
That’s amazing to hear that you have a capable, visionary and strategic head of product to learn from!
Since I’ve moved from Engineering to the Product team, I had quite a few managers (Head of Product). I got to learn some valuable lessons from each of them as follows:
- First manager: TRUST - he had trust in my abilities despite my lack of self-esteem.
- Second manager: TRANSPARENCY - he challenged me to provide transparency over the initiatives I was taking care of. Although I interpreted this as a micro-management backdoor, in the end, after he left the company, I realized how helpful his guidance was.
- Third manager: EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE - I learned to challenge everything that seems impossible and remove all roadblocks.
- Current manager: VISION - this is the first manager who really seems to have a vision greater than all the others put together. Moreover, he does not avoid handling technical things and even coding, although he is 60+ years old.
@MarioRomero, Nice summary! They all sound like a really good people manager. All of those values are very important, and especially benefit you and your career. Particularly the self-empowerment aspects through his trust and vision for you to carry out your deliverables n outcomes. And also, encouragement to be transparent of your work, because if your work is being seen and heard then you’ll gain visibility!
This feels like great advice and true traits of great product manager. Much better defined than first point in the original post.
If you haven’t done so already, you should send her a message and tell her you look up to her. It might be the best thing she hears this month. And maybe you’ll have to opportunity to learn from her work!
Yes! Be vocal to those that have an impact on you, lessons I’ve learned from being at funerals.
Be savvy enough to join a great team. Being great at product is not only about what you do, and as a matter of fact, it’s more about how you elevate the entire team.
@ShiyaoLiu, Absolutely, I didn’t mention but she’s also made it a focus to listen and silently supporting every PMs with their skill gapsin the background
The person that took a chance on me and brought me into the product ownership realm. I spent 3 years learning how a highly functional team works to churn through work and features.
- Partnership. Product and engineering are partners. No chickens vs. pigs. No “I” only “us” and “we”. That makes a huge difference.
- Recognition. No one went unrecognized for their contributions to anything the team did because everyone knew we were in it together. Any work shared by the PM in meetings that was done by another team member was always attributed properly.
- Accountability. He took the largest portion of the punishment from the executives above him when things didn’t go as planned. So much so, that when I’d mentioned we succeed as a team as much as we fail as a team, he’d almost fired me for saying that in an executive meeting. His reasoning was that we were better able to perform if we were shielded from most of the politics and that he as the leader of the team was more accountable to the execs. He sort of saw his team as his kids in that protective sense.
- Leadership. He’d practiced in leading by example and when the example was not taken, he’d coach on expectations. He’d take the lead on an initiative, get buy in from the team, have everyone pulling in the same direction, and then we’d crank through the work to get something to clients.
On a side note, good instincts were also a plus.
I love this post and thanks to OP (@RichardsonEva) for it. We really need to shout out positives when we can.
@MichaelYoffe, Thank you! And I appreciate hearing about your managers success factors
This person sounds like she is truly a fit for the PM role and she’s at peace with who she is as a person and what she brings to the job. She has threaded the elusive job / self-fit need.
As the only product person in my first PM role, I’d have to say I really look up to myself, which can be tricky if you don’t have the right mirror. But I think I’m exceptional for the following reasons:
- My humility. Humility is everything.
- I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m SO humble.
- My insane bow-staff skills.
- My dashing good looks.
On a serious note, thanks for the post, it gives me a great list of things to aim for.
- My PM, always took time, even when busy, to make small talk and genuinely inquire about my life for first 2-5 mins of meetings
- Valued an accumulation of small wins as much as one big feature and made sure to create pathways for both.
This had really impressed me and become ingrained in me as part of my own philosophy. Great PM
The most exceptional PM I have worked with was a true jack of all trades or as he put it “had his finger in many pies”. It allowed him to fully understand and support every part of the process.
Note to self: Avoid Dessert Day @YuriRoman’s office.
@RichardsonEva, did you just say she had excellent interpersonal skills for saying ’good morning’ to others?
Jokes aside, I think great PMs support others and don’t really present anything themselves. Silent support is the key skill to master as a PM.
@MariaWilson, Haha yes, I did! I recognized that during the in-person office days, The simple act of greeting somebody and gaining their response in return builds a level of care and trust that overtime compounded to drive team psychological safety!
Yeah, I was just joking that in less anti-social jobs that would be a bare minimum for being a good coworker.