The Top 5 Essential Skills for Product Managers

Product Management

Close-up image of programmer working at his desk in office

Whether you are a seasoned veteran of the industry or an aspiring product manager, there are several skills that you should work on honing throughout your career. These skills help you make decisions, manage your team, and ensure that the product you manage continues along its established roadmap. While there are definitely hard skills that are required – technical knowledge and training – there are also soft skills that make your overall job much easier.

Problem Solving Skills

A product manager’s job is to ensure their team is progressing. Roadblocks can – and do – happen during the development process. One of the best skills a product manager can have is to solve their team’s problems and remove them. This may require talking to engineers to help them work through the problems or finding alternative ways to accomplish goals. It could also mean meeting with other teams to ensure that the process is running smoothly.

Managing Tradeoffs

Product managers may receive hundreds of feedback messages on the product. But that doesn’t mean all of the feedback is useful. It’s up to them to decide which features make it into the next iteration and which ones don’t. A good product manager is able to prioritize features based on the user experience, the needs of the business, and the technical budget.

Delegation Skills

A good product manager knows that no person is an island, and that they can’t do it alone. Gary Vaynerchuk says to “double down on your strengths and outsource your weaknesses”. Luckily, product managers have a team of reliable, amazing people to help them. Find the high-leverage work that only you can do, and find ways to eliminate or delegate everything else.

Strategic Thinking

A product manager needs to be able to think strategically through every part of the process. This usually means reading, research, and rumination – and lots of it. It means that every stop on the roadmap is as meticulously thought out as it can be. If this sounds hard, just remember: the product manager get to set those processes! They get to own the playbook, follow it, and encourage/inspire others to do the same!

Communication Skills

Let’s be real: product managers will be in meetings. Lots of meetings. They’re in meetings with their engineering team to discuss features and progress. They’re meeting with clients and users to understand how they can better manage their products. And they’re meeting with executives and stakeholders to keep them up to date on the progress as well.