Five ways to make good with your Product Manager
February 23 2018

Business is one of those things that's incredibly simple, but immensely difficult. Within just a few seconds, I can explain to you exactly how to make your business a shining success and all your dreams come true. Then I waltz out the door with my 'consultation' fee and run laughing to the bank. Meanwhile, you're stuck with the nightmare of trying to actually implement everything you've just 'learned'.


Here's the perfect example of this kind of advice; all you need is a truly great product and it will sell itself. Really. It's perfectly simple.


Of course, we already know it's not that easy. There're a thousand things that really go into making a remarkable product. It takes years of learning, relationship building, vision, and failure to get to the point where you can hold your own creation in your hands and say that it's truly great. But never forget that you're not alone on this journey. There should always be at least one person by your side that has the guts to tough out the hardship and help you build something fantastic - your product manager.


After all, their dream of building something wonderful is why they took the job in the first place. If anybody has a reason to make sure it comes out great, it's them. In our time as a delivery partner, though, we've seen some strained relationships between product managers and business owners. This is painful to see, as it's one of the most crucial relationships that you can maintain if you want your product to be a success.


Let's take a look at how you can encourage your talented product manager to stick it out for the long haul.


Find someone you click with

The relationship between you and your PM is a partnership. You both need each other if you're going to make this work. For that reason, it can often be more important to find someone you have rapport with than to find the on-paper 'most qualified' person for the job. When the stresses and strains of the development cycle kick in, you need someone you can communicate clearly and earnestly with.


Understand their strains and pressures

Talking of stresses and strains, crucial to the communication process is the maintenance of a mutual empathy. A really great PM will be as invested in the quality of the product as you. When it goes wrong, they're likely to be as stressed and grumpy as you are. This is the crucial point where empathy can make all the difference between a healthy relationship and a dysfunctional one.


Have realistic expectations

Even if they are super-talented, your PM can't work magic. They're also likely to be more acutely aware of some of the challenges and limitations that you're going to encounter. Step one is doing a self-check on your own expectations. However, a truly wise CEO listens carefully to colleagues and aims to set mutual expectations together.


Don't dictate, ask

On the subject of setting expectations, I'd like to introduce you to one of the most powerful questions you can ask your product manager - "Is this feasible?". If you're a director with vision but not much of a technical background, there's a fair chance you simply don't know just how much you don't know. Don't be afraid to ask whether your vision is realistic, but make sure you present it as a question, not an order. Otherwise, you maybe find yourself writing cheques your PM simply can't cash.


Be as rigorous with yourself as you are with them

And be as rigorous with them as you are with yourself. At the end of the day, great relationships come down to two main ingredients; communication and mutual respect. Your PM needs to know that you're performing at the same level as they are and that you have the same vision for the company. Whenever that balance shifts in one direction or the other, your working relationship is under threat. Keep it mutual, empathise, and never forget that the quality of your product rests on your ability to work side by side as respected partners.

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