Ask a good product manager

If you want to be a bad product manager, do not seek out advice from other product managers. The problems you are facing in your job are so unique that surely no one has ever encountered them before. Your product is special and different, and there is no way that someone else could provide advice. Even if there was someone who could help, you certainly couldn’t share any details because of confidentiality, security, and intellectual property issues. Plus, solving problems on your own is good for your character. You’re never going to learn if you’re always asking other people for help, right?

If you want to be a good product manager, ask a good product manager for advice when you need help. So often, product managers get too focused specific tasks and day-to-day duties. They do not take the time to step back from trying to solve specific problems and think about whether they are approaching the issue in the best way.

Think back to a product management challenge you had in the past week. Did you immediately know the best approach? Did you handle the situation perfectly? Were there resources you could have utilized, but didn’t because you were so focused on resolving the issue and moving ahead?

Product managers — and most professionals — often do not utilize resources that can help make their jobs easier and can help improve their effectiveness. Why not?

  • Product managers think their problems are unique. They are not. Everyone thinks their product is special or that their situation is different. There are plenty of product managers who have been faced with similar problems and have experience that can be shared.
  • Product managers are afraid to share their situation for privacy reasons. This is an understandable concern, though in most cases the perceived risk far outweighs the actual risk. It is possible to describe a problem you are facing at an appropriate level of detail to obtain advice without actually sharing anything proprietary, confidential, or unethical. You will likely find that others have faced similar problems as well, and they will be willing to share their experiences and concerns with you.
  • Product managers feel they need to solve the problems themselves. Simply put, most successful people got to where they are because they received help from others. Whether you are a manager or athlete, politician or writer, teacher or doctor, you can become more successful by getting help from others.
  • Product managers do not know where to turn for help. Many product managers turn to other product managers within their organization, though this may not provide a wide enough variety of experiences. Other product managers may not have any colleagues internally to provide advice, or may have a limited network of other product managers to consult for advice.

This last point is certainly a challenge for many product managers. The harder it is to ask other product managers for advice, the more one will likely try to solve the problem on his or her own.

There are resources like the Product Strategy Network, PDMA, and AIPMM which can help you find someone to answer your question; Pragmatic Marketing offers you the ability to Ask An Expert; and there are of course plenty of product management blogs which offer tips and techniques.

However, none of these resources make it easy for a product manager to ask a question, get an answer — or multiple answers — from other product managers, and then for that discussion to be captured for other product managers who have the same question. The LinkedIn Answers section on Product Management comes close, though the signal-to-noise ratio makes it difficult to find the good questions and useful answers amidst the plethora of questions irrelevant to most readers.

Ask A Good Product Manager is a new site in the Good Product Manager family. Many readers of this blog send emails asking for advice on product management questions and challenges. Ask A Good Product Manager was created as a way to answer more of these questions and share the answers with other product managers who have the same questions. Good product managers are called on regularly to provide their advice and all readers are encouraged to join in the discussion as well.

Those asking for advice will certainly benefit, as will those asking the questions, since it is well known that teaching and advising others is a great way to improve your own skills. Whether you have a question which you would answered or you have advice to share, hopefully you will contribute at Ask A Good Product Manager and help build another valuable resource for the product management community.

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6 thoughts on “Ask a good product manager

  1. Leading is a matter of establishing clear goals, and then cycling through your team and asking them how you can help them. You may need to train them to ask for help. Most people will not ask for help. But, helping without permission diminishes people. So once they identify the help they need, you need to offer, but leave accepting the offer up to them. Let them remain in control.

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