If you want to be a bad product manager, make sure you stay within your comfort zone. There are many different responsibilities in product management, and some of them might not be things in which you are experienced or even competent. Stay away from doing anything that will make you look bad or make you feel uncomfortable. There are plenty of activities you can do within your comfort zone, and either ignore or get someone else to do the things that make you sweat.
If you want to be a good product manager, be comfortable being uncomfortable. Product management is tough work. Some aspects of it are fantastic, and some aspects of it may be dreadful. Just because you may not like one part of the job does not mean you can avoid it. No matter how experienced or skilled you may be, there are some parts of the job you will like better and be better at than others. A good product manager can not avoid the less favored parts of the job just because they are challenging or painful to address.
What might make a product manager uncomfortable? There are some things that probably most would agree are difficult and not the most fun to handle:
- Delivering a presentation to senior management about why your product launch is behind schedule
- Confronting a developer who did not follow the requirements which were agreed upon
- Trying to appease an important — and now upset — customer who is considering taking their business elsewhere
There are other tasks that may be uncomfortable for some product managers and enjoyed by others:
- Analyzing the product’s revenue and sales forecast — Great if you love number-crunching; horrible if you feel less confident in your finance abilities
- Delivering a booth presentation at a trade show — Great if you love giving the same 5 minute pitch over and over again; horrible if you hate repetition and can not focus when you have a transient audience
- Engaging in business development discussions with a potential partner — Great if you know the potential partner’s strengths and like brokering deals; horrible if you are less aware of the potential partner’s business and are not an experienced negotiator
Product managers do not need to excel in every aspect of their job to be successful. However, there are key responsibilities that they need to accept as part of the position. Many of these responsibilities will make them uneasy, as they are not natural strengths or even competencies. Avoiding these aspects of the job is not an acceptable response. Successful product managers confront these head-on, and realize that they need to get outside their comfort zone for their own sake and for the sake of their product.
If there is an area where your discomfort comes from lack of experience or expertise, then bolstering your knowledge should make you more willing to address those types of issues. For example, if you avoid financial analysis because you are weak in that area, work with someone from finance or another product manager with a quantitative background to improve your knowledge. You do not need to become a finance expert, though they can help you improve at least to the point where your lack of experience does not cause you to avoid that important area of your job.
Good product managers succeed by learning to be comfortable doing things that make them uncomfortable. You do not need to necessarily have to learn to enjoy them — that may be impossible — though you do need to accept that they are necessary. A good product manager will put their own personal comfort level aside and do the right thing for the product and the organization.