There’s some great relationship advice out there. When you want a girl to like you, you don’t try to get her to like you—you try to become someone worth liking. When you want a (better) job in product management, invest in becoming a better product manager.
I was reminded of this by Laura Klein’s article about what companies should expect from a product manager. Her article is geared toward what startups should expect from a product manager, but product managers can use the same advice to invest in improving themselves. Her advice is outstanding, and I love her quote near the end—“This sounds hard because it IS hard.”
Many of her points sound deceptively simple and can be summarized as understand your market and understand your product mixed in with work well as part of a team. My favorite is the section titled "Keep Engineers from Getting Jerked Around.” It may not be the most important—they are all important—but it is an area that is often overlooked.
Where Laura focuses on the things you do as a product manager, Paul Young developed a great presentation—and accompanying article—about how to be a rock star product manager. Paul is an instructor on product management, and where his day job focuses on product management skills, he has noticed that there is also a need to be organizationally effective.
Paul frames the needed skills along a great continuum—from skills that are learned to those that are inherited. A framing of nature and nurture as contributors to the success of distinctively good product managers, his analysis ranges from executive acuity to personality traits.
You can learn how to become a consensus builder. And while you can’t learn how to be confident, you can invest in yourself to develop confidence—or at a minimum, learn how to present yourself confidently. Both of these articles give you a point of view for strategically investing in yourself to become a better product manager. Over time, these investments add up.
Jeff Lash writes a blog, How To Be A Good Product Manager, that also covers these long-term investments but also provides regular, discrete advice and insight that helps with situational opportunities. Product management is a very broad discipline, and Jeff’s steady stream of advice about how to address specific issues is a great complement and provides immediate value.
Becoming a better product manager is something you never stop doing. As you get better, your work will improve, your satisfaction with your work will increase, and opportunities to do even better work will come your way. Don’t try to make them want you—make yourself someone they should want.
Scott Sehlhorst is an agile product manager, product owner, and business analyst and architect. He helps teams achieve software product success by helping them build "the right stuff" and "build the right stuff right." Scott started Tyner Blain in 2005 to focus on helping companies translate strategy and market insights into great products and solutions. Read more at tynerblain.com/blog.