How many days has it been since you last talked to a customer? Jeff Lash, Vice President and Group Director of Product Management at SiriusDecisions, believes this to be the very essential question for all PMs.
This week on Product Love we talked about the fundamental mistakes that product teams often fall victim to, how PMs need advocates, and why empathy and passion are the traits that differentiate a “good” PM from a “great” PM.
I’ve Gone X Days Without Talking to a Customer
Similarly to the old production companies that would have signs such as “I’ve Gone X Days Without Causing an Accident,” Jeff has his own white-board sign in his office that says: “I’ve Gone X Days Without Talking to a Customer.” It serves as a constant reminder for teams to reflect on how often they were genuinely interacting with customers and addressing their needs.
While spending time with customers who love your product is gratifying, spending time with customers who hate (or don’t use) your product can be much more beneficial. You may not always want to appease/convert them, but you’ll certainly learn a lot.
Advocate for Your PM
Is your PM glued to their desk, writing user stories all day? How are their 8-hour days being utilized? We discussed the best way for PMs to set priorities. Jeff believes it’s absolutely essential that PMs are going to conferences or visiting customers so they can fully grasp how their product is being used and understood. But it’s also important to note whether or not the PMs are given the time and resources to talk to the right customers.
The role of a PM is not to be confused with the role of a product leader. PMs might have to carry the burden of managing user stories, conducting customer research and analysis but Jeff believes it’s important to take a step back and ask: “Can someone else answer these questions in the meantime?” PMs may wear multiple hats in many organizations, but having a defined role would let them better advocate for their own space and time as well.
The Anatomy of a Product Manager
To Jeff, the most important trait for a product person is empathy. Having empathy for the customers, users, and buyers enables the PM to be more effective at their job.
Passion is another key trait he looks for in candidates because it helps to distinguish between a “good” PM and a “great” PM. But it’s not necessarily passion for the product. Instead, Jeff says, the best kind of product manager is the one that is excited to help customers, that’s the kind of passion that drives the most results.
We discussed Jeff’s best tips for product managers, as well as the upcoming trends that would affect the craft of product management.