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14 Jul 2020

The Top 10 Skills and Qualities of a Thriving Product Manager

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Digital professionals playing the role of a product manager, product owner, business analyst, scrum master or product consultant have 3 thriving characteristics in common:

  • Desire to work with excellent products, company and people
  • Determination to be the best at what they do
  • Drive to add value and grow in their career
Characteristics of a thriving product manager
Characteristics of a thriving product manager

This article will cover the fundamental development areas every product management professional need to master to thrive in their role. Alongside that, I am sharing a list of top 10 skills and top 10 qualities you need to pick up to become a thriving product manager.

1) Who is a Thriving Product Manager?

Thriving for me is a state consisting of internal and external qualities that as a product manager, you acquire & develop over time. When you are in a thriving mode, you are growing in your career, doing well personally and flourishing as a digital professional.

What are the internal and external states of a thriving product manager?
As a product manager, thriving internally means your ability of ‘being’ in control of:
• Your emotions & feelings
• Your mindset & thoughts
• Your language & behaviour
As a product manager, thriving externally means your ability to ‘act as a’:
Results-driven product manager
Hands-on person with the ability to demonstrate a leading-by-example attitude
Product-centric and customer-centric product manager
Diligent & passionate about your products, customers, and the digital product management ecosystem

A Thriving product manager needs to focus on these 3 ingredients for their success:
1) Concentrate on 5 development areas
2) Continuously enhance their skills
3) Confidently showcase their qualities

Top skills and qualities of a thriving product manager
Top skills and qualities of a thriving product manager

2) Who will benefit from learning the top product manager qualities?

Junior or associate product managers: Working consistently on these product manager skills and qualities will help you reach your professional potential
Senior business analysts or Lead business analysts: If you have been looking to transition into the role of a product manager, then focusing on the 5P development areas will increase your chances to demonstrate your capabilities and get into the new role
Product managers: If you have just transitioned into product management and want to grow your expertise quickly and methodically, then focussing on these skills and qualities will show you the right path to becoming a great product manager
Product owners: I call them digital product managers. You need to practise these qualities and become an effective product manager
Digital product professionals: Scrum Masters, Project Managers, Data Analysts, Technical Solution Architects, Testing Managers or Analysts – virtually anyone with a job to solve digital problems would benefit from focusing on these development areas, skills and qualities


3) What are the 5 development areas for a Product Manager?

5P Development areas for a product manager
5P Development areas for a product manager

The development area is your focus area to evolve and grow as a product management professional. Taking this holistic approach, you need to consistently focus on these 5 development areas:

3.1) People development area

The people development area is your ability to handle human beings. In my personal experience, people do business with people they like, respect and trust.
Therefore, for you to become a great product manager, you need to build your expertise in handling people, such as:

• Understand your customers’ needs & wants
• Deal with internal user expectations
• Deliver towards your own teams’ needs
• Manage your senior stakeholder demands and deliver results

If you focus on the above points, you know you are consistently mastering the people/relationship management area.


3.2) Process development area

The process development area is your subject area knowledge and expertise. You will be a subject area expert (SME) when you can showcase your industry knowledge while solving critical problems.

Your subject area knowledge will include an in-depth understanding of:
• End-to-end processes of your industry/sector
• Supply-side, demand-side, and marketplace fulfilment processes
• Customer service, customer pain-points
• Internal business processes
• Other supplier processes

As a digital professional, your subject area expertise is paramount to you becoming a successful product manager.


3.3) Product development area

The product development area is your understanding of the fundamentals of digital product management.

You need to acquire the digital product management lifecycle knowledge such as discover, design, define, and deliver phases of a digital product.

Digital product management lifecycle
Digital product management lifecycle

Your product management experience will include your ability to :
• Work on a product idea and convert it into an actionable strategy
• Depict the visual user journey and design wireframes to demonstrate digital features
• Write business requirements in the form of user stories
• Discuss aspects of technical implementation
• Verify the marketing messages and communication
• Manage the product launch activities

If you focus on improving your product management expertise, along with training yourself to upgrade your skills, you will be an effective product manager.


3.4) Project development area

The project development area is your ability to plan, prioritise, estimate and measure the success of your product launches.

Your project management experience will include your ability to conduct the following activities:
• Plan the MVP launch (using T-1, T-2, T-3 weeks)
• Influence and lead product prioritisation
• Estimate your product release cycle
• Define metrics to measure the success of product launch

We are overloaded with information and data. Your ability to define the right success metrics (KPIs) for your project ensures you can ‘measure and manage’ your product launches successfully. Focus on project development area as this will make you a strategic product manager.


3.5) Personal development area

The personal development area consists of your own emotional, behavioural, mindset traits. Your personality on the inside gets showcased on the outside. To become a leader in the field of product management, focus on your inner wellbeing should be your number#1 priority.


How to build skills and qualities as a product manager?

Your development area and its relation with skills and qualities
Your development area and its relation with skills and qualities

There are three simple steps to start the journey of becoming a thriving product manager.

Step 1) Start to focus on the 5P development areas which contain many skills and qualities that will help you become a great product manager

Step 2) Identify the skills you want to master in each development area

Step 3) Identify the qualities you need to focus on in each development area

Before you start, there are some definitions you need to understand.

5P development area: The development area is your professional focus area where you want to evolve and grow. Treat the 5P development area as your professional environment/ecosystem within which you will build your expertise.

Skills: Skill is your ability to do something well. When you take meaningful and constructive actions in your projects as a product professional, you are practising and building your skills.

Quality: Quality is the essential characteristics or attributes you demonstrate. Quality is your inner ability to BE or BECOME a better professional part while performing your duties as a product manager.

Therefore from here on, I am breaking the concept of professional development down into two levels: skills and qualities

Let us take a closer look at the top 10 skills and top 10 qualities that will help you thrive in product management.


4) What are the top 10 skills of a thriving product manager?

Top 10 skills of a thriving product manager
Top 10 skills of a thriving product manager

Skill 1) Stakeholder Management

Your ability to engage, involve and collaborate with multiple people in your team, organisation or customers. Stakeholder management is your ability to build and maintain relationships.

When your values match with that of the company, and you feel a cultural fitment, stakeholder management skill will be mastered quickly.

How to demonstrate stakeholder management skill:
• Efficiently manage customer interviews or focus groups
• Conduct internal product workshops
• Support different team members
• Convince and influence critical decision-makers

Skill 2) Communication

Communication is a two-way street consisting of two events: transmit and receive.
Transmit: Your ability to say the right thing, at the right time and to the right people
Receive: Your ability to listen actively, understand what has been said and know how to respond

Communication skills for a product manager
Communication skills for a product manager

How to demonstrate communication skill:
• Send regular internal progress updates
• Review marketing messages before product launch
• Summarise the product release for senior management
• Keep all team members informed on products issues and next steps
• Keep your emails precise, action-oriented and informative (length of email does not matter, remember – quality over quantity)

Skill 3) Subject Matter Expert (SME)

To become an expert in your industry/sector, you need to have a practical understanding and experience of the internal and external processes relevant to your company and industry.

Subject matter expert (SME) skill will help you become a strategic thinker & leader in the long run within the product management domain.

How to demonstrate SME (subject matter expert) skill:
• Define detailed processes related to the industry
• Find customer pain-points arising from broken operations
• Conduct a specific market assessment
• Get involved in pricing and revenue modelling
• Map out detailed process flow diagrams

Skill 4) Analytical Thinking

As a product manager/product owner you need to know how to identify the right problem, deduce solution options, compare pros & cons and present possible solution recommendations.

Analytical thinking skill will help you become a decisive product manager within the product management domain.

How to demonstrate analytical thinking skill:
• Identify the problem accurately
• Investigate possible solutions
• Define various solution options (for example conduct root-cause analysis)
• Translate business requirements into product requirements which the development team can implement
• Review the technical solution and decide which one fits the customer experience journey

Skill 5) Product Management Lifecycle

This is ‘how to do’ part of digital product management.

Product management skill will help you become an effective product manager, and this is your core skill-set!

How to demonstrate product management skill:
• Do market research, conduct customer interviews
• Build a product strategy
• Define strategic product roadmap
• Build product backlog
• Prioritise the items on a product backlog
• Write requirements for identified features
• Visualise user journey steps, run design workshops
• Work with Agile software development team

Skill 6) Technical Know-how

Are you able to confidently answer this question: How to manage the technical aspects of digital products & services?
If the answer is no, then you need to start building the technical know-how expertise.

How to demonstrate technical know-how skill:
• Have awareness of technical terms and constraints
• Understand the impact of technical debt on future product releases
• Handle software development queries during the development cycle
• Conduct thorough product testing
• Manage post-launch development issues and customer queries

Skill 7) Planning

Planning is a crucial part of a product manager role. Sometimes, it is assumed that Scrum Masters or Project managers are responsible for project planning; therefore, you might not bother to master this skill.

However, if you want to become a leader and climb up the ladder in product management, then this is your number#1 go-to skill!

How to demonstrate planning skill:
• Plan the backlog items for future release
• Define the product roadmap and estimate MVP timelines
• Plan the “go-to-market” strategies
• If you are working on multiple products, then do release planning and delegate work to team members
• Do efficient resource allocation
• Be excellent at time management

Skill 8) Performance Monitor

Ability to identify, define, track and measure success metrics of your product & service.

Performance monitor skills will help you become an evidence-driven leader in the long run.

How to demonstrate performance monitor skill:
• Define key performance indicators (KPIs) for your product
• Track success metrics (KPIs) on a regular interval
• Interpret the results and document the understanding
• Help senior management make evidence-based decisions
• Measure before & after success metrics for a product release

Skill 9) Your Emotional Control

You can’t change or control the outer world, but you can always stay in control of your inner world through the practice of building your emotional quotient.

Your overall career growth and success in the field of product management will depend on your ability to manage your emotions.

How to demonstrate emotional control skill:
• Be self-aware
• Adapt to a changing environment
• Know what motivates you & inspires you
• Practise self-restraint
• Be self-disciplined (for example: finding time to learn)

Skill 10) Your Behaviour Depiction

Behaviour depiction is your ability to handle outward stress of timeline, deadlines, and deliverables.

Does this mean you will never face a problematic situation – of course not, behaviour depiction skill means that you know how to focus on your personal growth to manage stressful situations with ease!

How to demonstrate behaviour depiction skill:
• Showcase a helpful, understanding, driven, results-oriented demeanour throughout your professional conduct
• Maintain your professional demeanour even under stress, tight timelines, and changing environment. Its showcases who you are from inside out
• Manage stressful situations, tough stakeholders and tricky customers keeping your focus on serving the product


5) What are the top 10 qualities of a thriving product manager?

Top 10 qualities of a thriving product manager
Top 10 qualities of a thriving product manager

Stay with me here on this concept; this is a tricky bit to grasp. Quality is the essential characteristics you demonstrate. This is your inner ability to BE and BECOME.

For example, in order to demonstrate the quality of a visionary, you cannot read a blog, attend a course on vision, and at the end of it, you will be visionary. A class or blog cannot help you build a certain quality in an instant

However, there are a few simple ways you can start to gain quality:
• By focussing on your inner strengths
• By practising the quality regularly
• By demonstrating the quality by being or becoming the person, such as becoming a good leader or being empathetic with your fellow team members
• By focussing on skills that will, in turn, help you build required qualities

We are all leaders, some born, some in the making, and some getting chiselled into becoming one. Focusing on the 5 development areas, you can build on the top 10 skills, which in turn will help you bring out the top 10 qualities in you as a successful product manager


People-related qualities of a product manager
People-related qualities of a product manager

Quality 1) Empathy

Empathy means being able to understand the needs, emotions, thinking process and expectations of people you work with and serve. This includes your team members, seniors, customers and you! Strengthening your empathy quality will make you a tactful leader.

Quality 2) Collaboration and Consensus-building

Collaboration and Consensus-building mean becoming an effective communicator. It improves your ability to get a group of people on the same page, agree on problems and help find solutions collaboratively. Quality of Collaboration and Consensus building will make you an intuitive leader.


Process-related qualities of a product manager
Process-related qualities of a product manager

Quality 3) Hands-on person

When you become an expert at processes you will be able to solve customer issues and improve the lives of your customers. You will handle projects and get results, and you will start to showcase the quality of being a hands-on effective product manager. You will also become more self-reliant. Building on the quality of a hands-on product manager will make you a customer-driven leader.

Quality 4) Problem solver

Being able to solve problems is the primary responsibility of any product manager; however, becoming a problem solver depends on your analytical thinking skills. Problem-solving quality makes you a decisive leader.


Product-related qualities of a product manager
Product-related qualities of a product manager

Quality 5) Vision & Leadership

I have clubbed these two qualities here because having a vision alone is not enough; your quality of being able to lead, inspire and influence others is also essential. The more closely you work on building your product management skills, your vision and leadership quality will enhance.

Quality 6) Results-driven personality

The moment you understand the technical aspects of building a digital product, you will begin to showcase the quality of a results-driven and motivated product manager. Ability to get results makes you a business and technical savvy leader.


Project-related qualities of a product manager
Project-related qualities of a product manager

Quality 7) Dependable and Organised

When you can plan, you can show the right path to your team. You will be able to provide estimates, draw timelines, and define go-to-market deadlines. This makes you an organised person. Sticking to your plan and delivering on it makes you a dependable person for your organisation and that is a mark of a great product manager.

Quality 8) Insightful

There is a lot of data you can work with. When you are an expert at knowing which data to look at and draw an accurate inference, your insights will immensely help the product, customer and organisation. Your ability to generate insights will make you an evidence-driven leader.


Personal qualities of a product manager
Personal qualities of a product manager

Quality 9) Approachable and Courteous

Focussing on managing your emotions will help you demonstrate the quality of being an approachable (I work well with people) and courteous (I care about workplace ambience) person.

Quality 10) Calm and Cheerful

Focus on your qualities of being calm (during a crisis) and cheerful (maintain a positive work environment). Your calm and cheerful demeanour will help you ride the tensions and high-voltage situations at work.

6) Conclusion

5 development areas, 10 skills and 10 qualities – These are a lot of expertise to acquire. Are you expected to possess all of them at once? Of course not. The purpose of detailing these here is to make you aware of them. These are the traits that great product managers showcase as a digital professional. Now it is your turn to assess, decide and learn some or all of these skills and qualities.

Why bother to learn the top skills & qualities of a thriving product manager?

I can give you three reasons for building your skills and qualities as a digital professional:

Be the BEST at what you do – We all strive to be the best, we don’t want to be mediocre or just about ok. If you focus on these five development areas consistently, it will help you increase your professional potential. In turn, you will be well on your way of becoming a great product manager.

Become a TRUSTED team member – Our greatest human desire is to be a trusted, respected person in our workplace. Acquiring the qualities of an effective, results-driven product manager helps you achieve trust and respect.

Increase your career VALUE – Let us face it, we all want to be appropriately compensated for the work we do. The better we are at doing our work, the more value we can add to the marketplace, the higher are the chances of earning more.

The amount of money you can earn is directly proportional to the VALUE you bring to the marketplace. (Learnt from motivational mentor Jim Rohn)

7) Next steps for you

Step 1) Pick any two development areas
Step 2) Pick any two skills within that development area
Step 3) Pick any two qualities you are going to work upon
Step 4) Gather feedback from your team members, line manager, or mentor to help you understand how they perceive you in these development areas, skills and qualities
Step 5) Start building your skills: set a 3-6-12 month goal and keep checking your progress regularly

If you have any questions related to this post or digital product management in general, do write to us and we will get back to you shortly.

Ask your questions on our Contact Us page.

Thanks, Himani Tiwary

Founder & CEO | Lead Trainer | Digital Skills Mastery

‘Digital Skills Mastery’ platform is led by Himani TiwaryFounder & CEO of Product Hub Hob (PHH) with over 15 years’ experience in digital product management.

Himani has been leading global teams to deliver excellent digital products that make lives easier for customers. She has led both business leadership teams (UK, US, Hong Kong, & Switzerland) and offshore teams (Pune, Delhi, Chennai, & Malaysia) over £multi-million projects. Find out more on about us

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