How Making People Laugh Will Help You Be an Awe-Inspiring Product Manager

02 Apr

When I think of the type of product manager I aspire to be, I think of my old boss. He was so formidable in the role. Everybody looked up to him. Everybody waited to hear what he had to say with bated breath. Simply put, everybody believed in him. Did he have strong technical skills and fierce business acumen? You bet. However, what truly set him apart was his personality and style. Which “non-taught” traits will make you an awe-inspiring product manager?

Uncanny Way of Relating to People 

Personal connections are key as product managers interact with practically every role within an organization, as well as customers. You have to be likable. Customers must trust to tell you about the problems they experience in their business. Co-workers must buy into your vision and want to build a stellar product. The key to this is making every person you deal with feel important and heard.

Great Sense of Humor 

Everyone loves to be around someone that makes them laugh and my old boss was notoriously good at this. He would make jokes before and during important, sometimes tense, business conversations. Not corny, stupid jokes, but rather ones that would poke fun of something relevant at the time. A good laugh really puts everyone at ease, and that builds strong relationships and fuels candid dialog.


Different Vision of the Future

Throughout conversations with customers, you truly sense how you can make their lives better in a novel way. Your job as a product manager is to look at things from a radically different perspective than everybody else. You need to be passionate that your product is better than any other solution that already exists.

Ability to Roll Things off Your Shoulders and Not Take Things Personally

There is no doubt that you will end up with a different product than the one you initially envisioned. Throughout the course of validating your product concept with potential customers and co-workers, you will surely hear about the things that don’t make sense, or are just plain incorrect. This isn’t a time for hurt feelings.Embrace the constructive criticism, as this will help you and your product grow.

Knowing When to Call Shenanigans

As a product manager, you must be able to go toe-to-toe with your team and challenge them when something does not seem right. In order to do this, you must be able to technically understand how your product works and the changes required to get there. There will definitely be times when the engineers tell you that something can’t be done, that it will take 6 weeks instead of 3, or that you must use this 3rd party application that is costly. Make sure you are asking “why” and be ready to push back when you know that it can be done differently. This is true on the business side of the role as well. Be ready to challenge financial forecasts, costs, and general margins.

Ask Open Ended Questions

How do you get people to jump in and help accomplish your goals, without them feeling like they are just being told what to do? You ask them questions and let them come to the conclusion on their own. You have to be adept at asking the right questions that will lead them there though! Internally within the organization, ask questions to see innovation sparked, and get people excited about what they can bring to the table. With customers, ask questions to ensure that you really understand their pain points and the solution required to resolve them.

Can you learn these traits in a training class? Not exactly. However, they are ones that you can practice and perfect over time. Any other personality traits that you think make an outstanding product manager?

Deirdre Clarke
Deirdre Clarke

Deirdre is currently a Director of Product Management at Bandwidth in Raleigh, North Carolina. She started her career as a software developer, after graduating from Rutgers with a degree in Computer Science. Before moving to Bandwidth in 2014, she was at Motorola for 18 years where she started as a software developer and then made the leap to more of a business role in product management in 2007. In this new role, she really flourished and today still enjoys creating new software products and features to help solve problems for her customers. At Bandwidth, she spearheads new software products in the call tracking and anonymous calling arenas. In her spare time, she is a deeply involved in the Triangle TechGirlz program, helping to ignite young girls' interest in future tech careers.

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