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Ten Traits Of Good Product Managers

Effective product management is more than just visiting customers and writing requirements. Good product managers posses certain traits that allow them to excel in their roles. While it may seem that some people are just born with these abilities, most have them in some degree and just need to learn how to express them effectively. This presentation covers ten important traits that good product managers possess and offer specific suggestions on how to emphasize your natural traits while addressing those that do not come as naturally.

From Jeff Lash of

Ten Traits Of Good Product Managers

  1. 1. Ten Traits of Good Product Managers Jeff Lash [email_address] How To Be A Good Product Manager – Ask A Good Product Manager --
  2. 2. What is a trait? Why do we need a dictionary when we have wireless? : Uploaded to flickr by ElektraCute
  3. 3. What is a trait? <ul><li>Often called “soft skills” </li></ul><ul><li>Something you have (and everyone has) </li></ul><ul><li>Not binary </li></ul><ul><li>Malleable, to some extent </li></ul><ul><li>“ Just enough” is good; too much is bad </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have certain traits </li></ul><ul><li>Learn to exploit yours for fun and profit! </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why should we care about traits? <ul><li>Traits make people who they are </li></ul><ul><li>Traits make people good or bad at certain things </li></ul><ul><li>Traits can put the “good” in “good product manager” </li></ul>between the tangible and intangible: Uploaded to flickr by lil’bear
  5. 5. Learning about traits from the Wii
  6. 6. You need “just enough” of traits A little A lot “ Amount” of trait Effectiveness Pointy- haired boss Superstar
  7. 7. Ten Traits <ul><li>Passion </li></ul><ul><li>Empathy </li></ul><ul><li>Humility </li></ul><ul><li>Self-awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Tenacity </li></ul><ul><li>Decisiveness </li></ul><ul><li>Innovativeness </li></ul><ul><li>Confidence </li></ul><ul><li>Focus </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasiveness </li></ul>
  8. 8. Passion <ul><li>Bad product managers have indifference </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have passion </li></ul><ul><li>You need passion to build great products </li></ul><ul><li>You need passion to inspire others to build great products </li></ul>Sparkly heart: Uploaded to flickr by *saxon*
  9. 9. Passionate about vacuums Source:
  10. 10. Does Passion Matter? <ul><li>“ I think ‘inspiring passion’ matters a lot … There’s an art to creating a shared vision that people can adopt as their own, a vision that will motivate them even when you’re not around to keep the fires hot.” -- Bob Corrigan </li></ul>
  11. 11. Empathy <ul><li>Bad product managers have disdain </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have empathy </li></ul><ul><li>Empathize with customers in order fulfill their needs </li></ul><ul><li>Empathize with colleagues to create effective and high-performing teams </li></ul>
  12. 12. Source:
  13. 13. Humility <ul><li>Bad product managers have arrogance </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have humility </li></ul><ul><li>“ Credibility is the capital you trade with, start with humility. … Humility and honesty gain respect, as does asking for help and being reciprocal about sharing thanks for getting it.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: “Surviving Product Management” by Louis Columbus </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Self-awareness <ul><li>Bad product managers have ignorance of their strengths and weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have self-awareness </li></ul><ul><li>“ Self-awareness is being conscious of what you’re good at while acknowledging what you still have yet to learn. This includes admitting when you don’t have the answer and owning up to mistakes.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: “ Self Awareness and the Effective Leader” by Chris Musselwhite </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Humility vs. self-awareness <ul><li>You can have humility and not self-awareness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You give credit to others for a successful project… </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… yet you do not acknowledge that your incompetence nearly caused the project to fail </li></ul></ul><ul><li>You can have self-awareness and not humility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You acknowledge that your incompetence nearly caused the project to fail </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>… yet you do not give credit to others for saving it and making it a success </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Tenacity <ul><li>Bad product managers have low tolerances for overcoming challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have tenacity </li></ul><ul><li>“ have a wellspring of spiritual energy to call on to surmount any obstacle.” -- Stewart Butterfield (flickr) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: “ The Unexpurgated Stewart Butterfield” by Chris Musselwhite </li></ul></ul>Words to live by: Uploaded to flickr by Erik Charlton
  17. 17. Decisiveness <ul><li>Bad product managers have difficulty making decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have decisiveness </li></ul>Cold stone: Uploaded to flickr by tyger_lyllie
  18. 18. Decisiveness + decision-making <ul><li>“ The best, most succinct definition I ever heard as to what my job as a product manager entailed was: ‘Your job is to make decisions.’” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: “The Exceptional Product Manager: What is the Right Stuff?” By Mark J. Tiedman </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ The choice to not make a decision — to do more research, run the numbers again, talk with more customers — is actually a decision!” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: “T he importance of decision-making” By Jeff Lash </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Innovativeness <ul><li>Bad product managers have limited success approaching problems in new ways </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have innovativeness </li></ul><ul><li>Product management is inherently an innovation activity </li></ul>Post Office Innovation: Uploaded to flickr by Kris Cohen
  20. 20. Confidence <ul><li>Bad product managers have doubt and fear </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have confidence </li></ul><ul><li>Confidence in </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Abilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Effectiveness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Themselves </li></ul></ul>buff canoer: Uploaded to flickr by mahalie
  21. 21. Homer Simpson, Product Manager? <ul><li>“ The Homer” </li></ul><ul><li>For only $82,000… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A bubble dome for the driver, and another for passengers. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An “extremely large beverage holder” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Car horns that play “La Cucaracha” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shag carpeting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chrome air scoop and spoiler </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tail fins </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Straps and muzzles for small children </li></ul></ul>Thanks to Tom Grant for the reminder about this episode:
  22. 22. Focus <ul><li>Bad product managers have too many “agendas” to be effective </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have focus </li></ul><ul><li>It is better to do one thing well than to do a lot of things poorly </li></ul>irony ; Uploaded to flickr by mrpattersonsir
  23. 23. Persuasiveness <ul><li>Bad product managers have an inability to influence others </li></ul><ul><li>Good product managers have persuasiveness </li></ul><ul><li>If you can not persuade, everything else is irrelevant </li></ul>3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept: Uploaded to flickr by lumaxart More at
  24. 24. Using traits to your advantage <ul><li>What traits do you not have enough of? </li></ul><ul><li>What traits do you have too much of? </li></ul><ul><li>Improving your effectiveness comes from awareness and understanding of your traits </li></ul><ul><li>When hiring, seek to understand traits of prospective product managers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask questions which will provide examples of how traits are (or are not) used on the job </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. What was not included here <ul><li>Industry experience </li></ul><ul><li>Technical skills </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to write MRDs/PRDs </li></ul><ul><li>MBA </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge of Agile </li></ul><ul><li>Etc… </li></ul><ul><li>“ Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill” </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Other resources on the topic <ul><li>Seven Traits of Successful Product Managers </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Product Managers </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How to be a Great Product Manager </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Thanks for listening! Questions / comments / feedback encouraged [email_address] Visit me at