When I was aspiring to be a good product manager, I did some research on what makes a good product manager or product people. I have gathered some intel from the various books and articles while I was interviewing some of the successful product managers I know. I put together a list about the common traits of the best product managers, but I left out some of the typical things like “become a good person”, “work hard”, “be respectful” and so on.

Before I start, I want to say that, you might not have all of the traits I list here and it’s normal, you can’t have everything, but you have to focus on the skills you have, focus on your strengths and become even better. Don’t try to be good at everything. It is tough to be ‘Jack of All Trades’ at least in a today’s competitive business environment. Identify which one of the traits I mention on the list you have, and focus on these to become a better product manager. At the end of the article, I will share some of the books, which is a must-read for every product manager out there or anyone who aspires to become one.

Strong Emotional Intelligence

Good product managers can easily handle customer interviews. What I mean by that is, they know what to do during this process. But the best product managers can put themselves into their customer’s shoes and empathise with them. Ability to see from your customer’s perspective will allow you to pinpoint ‘what are the problems of your customers?’ and how your product will solve this. A product manager with high Emotional Intelligence can overcome the hurdles of creating a great product which has a product/market fit.

Great Product Manager is the one who can decide what is best for his product. Understanding what your customers want and need is important but is not always the best thing to priotize their needs. As Henry Ford once said “ If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”

Questioning

A great product manager puts the customer into his perspective and always begins with ‘why?’. You should always ask questions like “why should someone use our product?”, “what problems are we solving?”, “what difference do we make?” and so on. Simon Sinek has a very inspirational book called “Start With Why”, I recommend this one.

Out Of The Box Thinking

I think this one of the essential things great product managers should have. We all know the best business leaders are out of the box thinkers. The same rule applies to the product managers as well. Innovative mindset combined with the enthusiasm for building novelty products is a fundamental skill set that differentiates ordinary product managers from excellent ones.

To be a great product manager, you should be a big thinker with an innovative mindset, but you should also be realistic as well. You have to be aware of your resources and your constraints.

Desire To Build

If you are not burning with the desire to build products which would be loved by your target audience, then how are you going to create a great product? You have to have a desire to develop products. If you have this mindset, then I suggest you work in an industry you love, chances of building a quality product will be higher if you are working in an industry you are interested in.

Building Products That Solves Your Problems

When you are looking for ideas to build great products, you should go no further than yourself. When brainstorming for a product idea, great product managers always think about their problems first, and if the product you are going to built solves your problems, then you will be the best tester for your product. You will have a better understanding of your product because the idea came from a problem you are facing in your daily life. In my opinion, a product idea which came from the problem you are facing in your daily life could have pitfalls. If it solves your problem, you need to make sure that there is a market for it, meaning other people are facing the same problem as you. Make sure that you do your market research well. You should not have an emotional attachment to your product just because it solves your own problem. Prioritise the pain points of the customers first.

Time Management

It’s a hard thing to be a product manager, and it’s even harder and more stressful to be a great one. You have to deal with a lot of people both external and internal. On top of all that communication conflict you will have to generate new features for your product, and most of the times you will have a disagreement on this because sometimes, what customers want would not match with what your team wants. In times like these, you have to keep calm under stress, not get confused and focus on your priorities. It’s normal if you stress or panic, try to keep it hidden so that other won’t sense. The great product manager is the one that can stay cool and maintain his confidence under pressure.

Focus On Strengths

At the beginning of this article, I have mentioned that being a Jack of All Trades is not going to work for product managers. If you try to chase many rabbits at the same time, you will not catch any. Focusing on your strengths while knowing your weaknesses is a way to go. Identify your unique skills but don’t stop there, try to make them even better and once you are there repeat the same process and turn this into a loop.

Focus Like This
Don’t be like this guy

Market Knowledge

Just because I listed market knowledge in last doesn’t mean that it’s not essential. I didn’t put the list in order. Knowing your market is a vital part of finding product/market fit. Great product managers are always informed about the latest trends and pattern in their markets while keeping an eye on his competitors. Its great to have a good understanding of your market, but I think it’s best if you share this information with your team. You can do that by sharing the news, videos you found or doing presentations. If your whole team is informed, then you will put a better team players out there.

Have a Great Sense of Humor And Be Likeable

This one is from my personal experience. If you have a good sense of humour, your team will love working with you, and your customers will enjoy your chats more. Being a funny and likeable guy works like a charm. We are under stress while working, but if you are someone who can make your team smile, you can turn this stressful work environment into a cheerful place. When you are a likeable guy, people around you will enjoy working with you, and because they like you, they work more efficiently. Don’t forget that we are playing a team game here its always better to have teammates who enjoy working with you.

Book Recommendations

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail