Product Management Principles
Principle #1: Take Ownership.
By taking ownership of the initial failure, We built trust with our team and our manager. By being the first to admit my mistake, I encouraged my teammates to take ownership as well.
Taking ownership starts with being humble. As a product manager, you succeed or fail through your team.When your team runs into a problem, it’s easy to blame others or make excuses. Instead, be the first to admit how you contributed to the problem and what you’re doing to address it. When other people see you lead with your mistakes, they’re more likely to share their mistakes and focus on solving the problem as well.When your team achieves a new milestone, it’s easy to take credit for it. Instead, give as much credit as possible to your team.
Control Negative Emotions
Take ownership of your emotions. It’s natural to get emotional when you’re in a heated debate with a teammate or receiving critical feedback from your manager. But people don’t make good decisions when they’re emotionalAs a product manager, you must check your ego and control your negative emotions.Controlling your emotions is easier said than done, so here are a few tips:Recognize the warning signs when you’re getting emotional, such as your face getting flustered.Take a breath and listen to the other person’s point of view.Reflect for a few seconds, then respond in a clear, calm manner.Practice these steps all the time. If you can get good at controlling your emotions, it’ll make being a product manager much less stressful.
Take ownership of your relationships. Building relationships is just as important as owning a list of tasks because your hardest tasks require collaboration and alignment with other people.”If you’re humble, collaborative, and genuine, you’ll soon develop great relationships with people who will be eager to work with you.
Principle #2: Prioritize and Execute.
In your PM career, you will face a similar situation. There will be multiple things to work on, and you’ll feel overwhelmed. Which brings us to our second principle:
It’s better to achieve a breakthrough in a single goal than to pursue multiple goals at once.Every morning, identify no more than three tasks that you want to accomplish during the day. Update your calendar to reflect these priorities and say no to all non-essential work.”Figure out what matters and focus on doing that well, don’t waste your time on anything else.
Communicate Your Priorities
Just as important as knowing which priorities to focus on, is communicating your priorities to others. This way, everyone has shared goals and expectations.It’s especially important to make sure that you’re aligned on priorities with your manager and your team. Use your weekly 1:1 with your manager to align on the top three tasks that you want to accomplish during the week. Similarly, use your weekly team meeting and daily stand-ups to align with your team on what the most important tasks are.
Do Whatever It Takes
Once you, your team, and your manager share the same priorities, you must do whatever it takes to accomplish them. Whether it’s entering data, testing your product for bugs, or aligning with another team on a dependency, no task is too menial or trivial for you as a product manager.
Principle #3: Start with Why.
The majority of disagreements happen when people are not aligned on the why. Aligning on the why can help you avoid:
Building a product when your team doesn’t know why they’re building it.
Sharing data with executives when they don’t know why the data matters.
Arguing about a product design when no one knows why the product matters to the customer.
Always get aligned on the way early, it’s one of the best time investments that you can make.
Obsess Over the Customer Problem
As a product manager, your most important why is the customer problem that your product is trying to solve. Include your team and other stakeholders in understanding the customer problem and selecting the right goal metric to grow. This way, everyone can contribute, feel ownership, and stay motivated to solve the problem even if the product changes.
Communicate Why Constantly
Once you’ve aligned on the why with your team, you need to communicate it regularly to everyone. It may seem redundant to remind people about the customer problem and goal all the time, but this constant communication achieves two objectives. First, it helps everyone internalize the why so they can make decisions with the same goal in mind. Second, if people are not aligned on the why, they’re more likely to bring up objections if you talk about it constantly.
Keep It Simple
When communicating with others, the most critical question that you need to answer is, “Do people understand?” If people don’t understand the why, they won’t be able to execute.Keep your communication simple, short, and specific. Check to see if people understand your message by asking them to explain it back to you. Encourage them to ask questions if they’re not aligned so that you can discover the truth together.
Principle #4: Find the Truth.
When you get into disagreements with others, remember that your job as a product manager is to find the truth, not to be right all the time.Because people expect PMs to know everything about their product, I used to spend hours looking at customer research and crafting a polished document before sharing it with anyone. I would then go into a meeting with a goal to convince everyone else to see things my way. This approach is inefficient.It’s inefficient because no matter how much preparation I do, there’s always a chance that I could be wrong. So instead of going into a discussion with a goal of “How can I convince this person to see things my way?” I now have a goal of “How can we discover the truth together?
Seek Knowledgeable People
The fastest way to find the truth is to seek knowledgeable people who are willing to disagree. Knowledgeable people could include your customers, your teammates, or anyone with relevant experience. After you form an initial opinion about a decision, find others to debate the decision. During these debates, identify significant unknowns together (“How do we know that users want this?”) and follow-up on these unknowns as quickly as possible to find an answer.With the help of other knowledgeable people, you’ll quickly find questions you’ve missed or holes in your logic. If you’re wrong about something, admit it early. There’s no shame in changing your mind to get closer to the truth.
Balance Decision Quality with Decision Speed
Even with the help of other knowledgeable people, you’ll likely won’t have all the information that you need to make a decision. It’s useful to think of decisions as one-way or two-way doors. Two-way doors are decisions that can be easily reversed, so prioritize decision speed even if you don’t have perfect information. One-way doors are rarer. These decisions are hard to change, so try to gather more information if you’re uncertain.
Disagree and Commit
Every decision has two phases:gather and debatecommit and execute.During the first phase, if you genuinely believe that the decision is wrong and have the evidence to back it up, then disagree openly. It’s always easier to compromise with the decision-maker to avoid damaging a relationship, especially if that person is your manager or an executive. But your goal should be to find the truth no matter what, even when doing so is uncomfortable.After a decision is made, you must commit yourself and your team to execute on it. Even if you don’t agree with the decision, it’s your job to make sure you understand the rationale behind the decision and explain that to your team. It’s never acceptable to say, “Because my boss said so.
Principle #5: Be Radically Transparent.
Many people have written books about radical transparency, but the best framework that I’ve found is from the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Kim recommends that you measure radical transparency on two axes: how often you care personally, and how often you challenge directly.
Caring personally is about investing in other people’s success:At least once a month, find time for real 1:1 conversations with your teammates. Seek to understand their goals and offer to help in any way.If people ask you for advice, share personal stories, and show vulnerability. Be genuine about your past failures and mistakes and what you learned from them.If people are doing a great job, praise them both publicly and privately. Call out specific examples of things they did well and make sure that other people can see it, too.If you build caring relationships with people, they will be much more likely to listen to you when you deliver constructive feedback.
Challenging directly is about giving constructive feedback effectively:Deliver feedback as soon as possible. For example, if your teammate ran a meeting that didn’t have clear next steps, pull her aside and provide feedback when the meeting is still fresh in her mind.Give specific examples in your feedback. For example, you could say to the same teammate: “You discussed a few next steps in the meeting, but I think people are confused about who is responsible for each task. Next time, it could help if you wrote the steps down on the whiteboard and assigned owners before the meeting ended.”Make your feedback about the work, not the person. For example, the above feedback is much more helpful than telling your teammate: “I think you could work on running better meetings.”As Kim describes: “Be humble, helpful, offer guidance in person and immediately, praise in public, criticize in private, and don’t personalize.
One way to measure your success as a PM is how successful your team is without you. If everyone on your team is executing well even when you’re not there, then you’re probably doing a good job.How do you empower other people on your team to lead? First, you need to make sure that they understand why the product they’re building matters to customers. Then, you need to set up the right processes to enable them to execute efficiently. When everyone on your team understands the why and can prioritize and execute without you, you’ll have more time to think about long-term strategy instead of worrying about daily execution. Everyone wins.
Principle #6: Be Honest with Yourself.
To lead others as a product manager, you first need to lead yourself. Since you have no real authority over anyone as a PM, you’ll only succeed if people want to work with you. That’s why great product managers are honest with themselves and have a growth mindset. They are constantly looking for ways to improve by setting goals, reflecting on progress, and seeking constructive feedback.
Set Clear Goals
Setting long-term goals helps you focus on what truly matters to you. Like product goals, your personal goals should have clear success criteria and time constraints. For example, your goals might be to “transition to PM in a year” or “get positive feedback on collaboration from colleagues in my next performance review.” Although these goals should rarely change, you should be flexible about how you achieve them when new opportunities or challenges arise.For example, my goal was to transition from product marketing to product management. To achieve this goal, I prioritized learning skills from other product managers over making progress in my marketing career. My plan, however, wasn’t flexible enough. I focused too much on transitioning internally at my company that I didn’t consider external options. Only after I became more open to external opportunities did I finally make the transition.
As you make progress toward your goals, you’ll experience both successes and setbacks. When these events occur, you must reflect to identify your strengths and weaknesses.When you reach a milestone like launching a new product or moving a goal metric, reflect on what strengths helped you along the way. These strengths are usually activities that you’re both good at and enjoy doing. For example, you may excel in execution and can balance multiple projects at ease. Or you may be an excellent mediator whom people rely to resolve conflicts. Whatever your strengths are, you should find opportunities to use them as frequently as possible.”When you experience a setback like failing to resolve a team conflict or receiving a negative performance review, reflect on what weaknesses led to it. Based on my experience, people usually have one significant weakness that’s a common thread through most of their past setbacks. For example, I struggle with being impatient. My impatience has surfaced in past mistakes like becoming frustrated with colleagues or leaving good jobs too early. Whatever your weaknesses are, you must stay vigilant and keep working on them.
Seek Feedback from Others
After you’ve had a chance to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, you should validate them with people you trust. It may feel awkward to ask others for feedback, but the earlier you know what they think about you, the sooner you can take steps to improve. Here are a few ways to ask for feedback:After an important meeting, pull a teammate aside and ask: “How do you think that meeting went? What did I do well, and what could I have done better?”After working together with a teammate, ask: “Now that we’ve spent some time together, I’d love to understand how I can be a better partner for you.”If you’re aware of your strengths and weaknesses and actively seek constructive feedback from others, then you’re well on your way to becoming a great product manager.
Reading List :
- Intercom’s principles for building product
- Understanding the problem we’re solving.
- Amazon Leadership Principles
- How We Crafted Our Product Principles
- Product Principles for Development Teams