The Design Your Thinking Podcast was launched little over a month back – on the 17th October. Since then 17 episodes have come out. Having had the pleasure of speaking to some of the finest Product Managers over the last couple of months, I’d like to share 10 reasons why these 10 Product Managers are successful.
In the podcast, one of the things I get deep into is what makes these Product Managers successful. Some questions are easy to ask, but takes a lot of introspection and realization to answer. This question is one such. What I realized is that a lot of us possess these qualities and skills, but only some of us realize and amplify these learnings.
Here are 10 reasons why these 10 Product Managers and makers I interviewed are successful, based on what they told me during the interviews. Read on.
1. Belief that “You Really Cannot Have So Much Pride”
Ellen Chisa believes so and talks about it in episode001. As Product Managers, we often find ourselves in the middle of a lot of people and things. It’s sometimes very easy to start to think about ourselves as the enablers and take pride in the fact that we are indeed the hub that connects the spokes. As much as our job is to enable or facilitate, it’s not right to limit ourselves to the product, but look at everything around the product too.
Our job as Product Managers is to keep the product moving in the right direction and do everything that needs to be done to make it happen. If you have to clean the conference room or get pizzas for the team when they are working hard toward a ship date – Do it. There is no one else who understands what is needed for the product better than we do.
You can listen to Ellen Chisa talk about this in episode001.
2. It’s my “Deep Desire to Build Great Things”
You won’t enjoy doing all the hard things to build a good product if you don’t have a deep desire to build something great. Boris Krstovic loves to see his customers and users use his products and learn how they use them. This is another quality I’ve seen other Product Managers talk about and they use a different term – “passion”. Even Laurence McCahill talks about passion in episode013.
If you are truly driven and passionate about a problem space, and have this deep desire to build great products, you are sure to seek, learn and do everything to build great products. I’ve seen great Product Managers to have this quality in common.
You can listen to Boris Krstovic talk about this in episode003.
3. I’m Successful because of the “People Who Work Around Me”
Nir Erlich is a seasoned Product Manager and entrepreneur, who told me he believes in the fact that he is successful because of his people. He also goes on to explain how he hires a great team. But to come back to the success factor, there is this tendency I’ve seen in companies and teams shift the burden on the product manager when it comes to the success or failure of the product. But end of the day, Product Managers’ success is largely dependent on how good the team is.
It’s the engineers, marketers, salesmen and the larger executive management that comes together to support the product manager in creating successful products.
Do listen to Nir Erlich talk about this and a lot more in episode004.
4. Fail Fast and Look for the Right Metrics Other Than Money
Jon Nastor believes in pulling the plug sooner and looking for metrics other than money to keep yourself from believing that your product is doing well. As Product Managers we sometimes tend to fall in love with our product over a period in time. The product could be performing really well in terms of hitting revenue numbers and bookings. The CEO is probably calling you to congratulate every month and every quarter. But it’s not good for Product Managers to fall for this trap.
It’s important for Product Managers to focus on the right metrics and make decisions. Good revenue numbers with a growing set of unhappy customers or a increasingly unhappy and overworked engineering team is not great. Sometimes listen to your gut and start to look deeper into other metrics and plug in the gaps or pull the plug.
You can listen to Jon Nastor talk about this in episode002.
5. Realization that I spent a Lot of Time Testing Ideas
Many of us have done this or can relate to this – you get an idea and start to build it as a “stealth project” for many months or longer before you even get a user test it. Ash Maurya hit this realization that he spent too much of time testing ideas and it’s this realization that he considers the reason for his success as it continues to help him focus on failing fast with his products or helping his customers fail fast and iterate to go on an build successful products.
Do listen to Ash Maurya in episode007 talk about this and much more.
6. Listening and Active Listening
As Product Managers, it’s important for us to keep learning about not just skills, techniques and hacks, but also about our customers and the market. Listening to what our customers end users say is what Matt LeMay believes is the key to his ability to be successful as a product manager and maker. He goes a level further and says “active listening” is what he is working on learning with the help of his co-founder Tricia Wang.
Listen to Matt LeMay talk about conversations about conversations, the emphasis of scale on product businesses and more in episode016.
7. Learning By Doing
This is the core philosophy that drives The Design Your Thinking team and Marc Abraham put it so well. He said during the interview, and I paraphrase “why wait for permission to learn. Just go ahead and do it”. You learn so much by doing things, especially as a product person. No matter how much we learn from experts or from other sources, there is nothing that speaks like experience. And, experience comes from doing things.
Do listen to Marc Abraham talk about learning and curiosity in episode010.
8. Learning From Experts
There are several experts out there who have built and launched successful products. It makes a lot of sense to use their learnings as a spring board for what we want to do – doesn’t it? Charles Du talks about his secret to success as being able to learn from experts, even if it’s over a cuppa coffee. I use this a lot and have a list of people for every area that I talk to or look up to.
Some of these experts could just be helping us with their blog, while to some you may have access to personally. It matters most that you are learning from these experts who have a lesson or two to share so that you get to avoid making those mistakes another time.
Listen to Charles Du talk about this and a lot more in episode009.
9. “Recognizing that You Don’t Have All the Answers”
When asked about the one reason for his success, Joe Cotellese talks about the realization that he does not have all the answers. He thinks of himself as a filter. He considers himself a shy person and tells a story if how he had to get past his shyness to learn about his product by asking his customers and prospects for help. Like Joe, many of us are shy and sometimes that holds us back from asking people for help with questions we don’t have answers for. It’s important we get past that feeling and ask people the questions we don’t have answers for.
Listen to Joe Cotellese talk about this and a lot more in episode015.
10. “You are In Charge of the Process & Not the Product”
Focusing on the process and not the product per se, is what drives Daniel Zacarias on the success track. As Product Managers, we focus on the product, its features, the product-market fit and so much more that we sometimes lose sight of the outcome that they are trying to achieve. To make this effective as Product Managers, it’s this ability to be effective translators that becomes important.
The better we are able to translate the multitude of conversations, the effective the process is, and it becomes an effective way of creating the right outcomes.
Do listen to Daniel Zacarias talk about this and much more (including product opportunities for the future) in episode018.