It’s simple: Have the vision, Sell it and then..Lead
I’m starting with the vision(1st), because managing a product means leadership(3rd) and leadership means organically selling(2nd) a vision. But in order to be able to sell a vision, you first have to have one. This is where everything breaks apart in most companies. So whoever you are and assuming that you want to become a great product manager, first try to be the one who also has the vision. By all means, you need it to go along this path.
Selling comes second, prior to execution, because you’re not going to be the one that’s executing it (at least not on the long run). You will have a team. You may also have a boss and you will definitely have customers. And the only way to go further is to be able to sell them that vision of yours. So learn how to sell. But be careful. You won’t learn how to sell if you lock yourself in a room to figure things out. You have to engage with your prospects if you want to sell them anything. Don’t be afraid of them, either team members, boss or most importantly, your customers.
Finally, please remember that the magic is in leadership. We tend to call it product management, but the best people I’ve seen who do this are not PM’s, they’re product leaders.
Why leaders? Because a leader, as Sir Ken Robinson said a couple of months ago, in a brilliant TED talk, is doing his magic.
“you take an area[..] you change the conditions, give people a different sense of possibility, a different set of expectations, a broader range of opportunities[..], you offer people the discretion to be creative and to innovate in what they do, and organisations that were once bereft spring to life.
Great leaders know that. The real role of leadership[..] is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility. And if you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that you completely did not anticipate and couldn’t have expected.”
When that happens, it doesn’t mean you are great at building products, it means that you’ve created magic.
So whether it’s a two person team, a 5000 people organisation or a small startup and despite of who holds the role of managing the product, I consider product management the art that could lead any organization to glory. And to be able to reach that glory, a product manager should do exactly 3 things:
Have the vision, Sell it and then..Lead, whereas the leading part is where the real magic happens.
Will follow-up with part 2 which will be about execution and it’s importance. Enjoy.