If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t evaluate your performance or attempt to improve. Assume you’re doing a fine job and leave it at that. You were hired for the job and you’re still in it, so you can’t be doing that badly, right? You’ve read some articles and part of a book a few years ago, so you’ve got the basics covered, and since you’re actually doing product management, that’s the best way to learn.
If you want to be a good product manager, measure your effectiveness and work to improve. It sounds so obvious but is such an easy thing to miss. To a very small percentage of people, being a good product manager comes naturally. Most need to learn how to be good product managers and continue to evaluate their efforts and work to continuously improve.
In her article Are You Decent? The Naked Truth About Product Management Performance, Alyssa Dver provides several suggestions for assessing your effectiveness as a product manager and improving. First and foremost, get feedback from relevant stakeholders:
Talk with key people in all the functions you interact with: Engineering, Finance, Marketing, Support, and most importantly, Sales. Talk to your manager and other managers. Ask for honest feedback and let them know that you are interested in ensuring you are contributing valuable, priority product management services. … Listen and learn what other people think. Again, you don’t have to agree with them but like gathering product requirements, carefully note the feedback. Decide later what to accept and change. Don’t just ask what they think about your job performance, ask why.
She also suggests that you “Assess yourself in a measurable mirror” through questions like
- Do you prioritize a customer meeting over an internal meeting or other diversion? Are you getting in front of as many customers as possible to get product input and better yourself as a PM?
- Can you list three things that you could do better as a PM? Do you have a plan for how to measure and improve those things?
- Would your boss hire you again if he/she went to another company? Would your colleagues act as good references for you with a future employer?
Once you have a better picture of your current status as a product manager, you can figure out what to do to improve. The good news is that if you’re reading this, you’re already started. Blogs like How to Be a Good Product Manager are helpful to learning about, well, how to be a good product manager — though there’s plenty more blogs that can help you be a great product manager listed on the resources page. Certification, conferences, training, continuing education and college courses, books, and networking or even just “talking shop” with other product managers are great ways to increase your knowledge of product management.
Ultimately, to be a good product manager, you have to continually and actively try to be a good product manager, to learn more, and to improve your product management capiabilities. As long as you can remember that, you’re well on your way.