Developing the team and managing expectations

As I commented in the chapter Roles, responsibilities and seniority, in addition to defining and implementing the product vision and strategy, it is the responsibility of the head of product to develop his team and manage expectations. In the third part of this book on Tools, I will talk about several useful tools to help the head of product to fulfill these two responsibilities. However, before talking about these tools, I wanted to talk about three very important concepts for a head of product.

As I described in the book “Product management: How to increase the chances of success of your software“, the 7 main characteristics of a product manager are empathy, communication, time management, new technologies, business skills, keen curiosity, and product theme. As you can imagine, these characteristics are also fundamental for a head of product. However, I would like to highlight and remember 3 of them, since I consider them essential for the day-to-day of a head of product:

Empathy

Empathy is the ability of a person to put himself in the shoes of another person to understand his expectations, desires, motivations, needs, and problems. This characteristic is important to understand the customers and users of the product, to know how they relate to it, and what problems they hope to solve or what needs they want to be met. This will help the product manager to better understand its user so that, together with UX and engineering, they can develop the best product.

However, empathy should not be used only with the customer or user. The product manager must also use it in his relationship with all areas of the company to help him understand what the expectations these areas have regarding the product, and what impact his product has on their work. Did legal problems increase due to some new functionality in the product? What is the impact for the sales, support, operations, finance and marketing team? Even in relation to the product team, engineers and UX designers, how does the product interfere with the work of these professionals?

Empathy is also very important so that the head of product can understand how he can help his team to develop. Which of the 7 characteristics mentioned above needs more attention at this moment and why? What is the best way to help this person develop this skill?

The head of product also needs to put himself in the shoes of the owners of the product, to understand their expectation about the product and the results it will bring to the company.

Communication

The ability to communicate is fundamental so that the head of product can manage expectations and help his team to develop. The head of product needs to communicate with people in the most different scenarios: in conversations one by one and in small groups, or making presentations to small and large groups of people, presentations that can be internal (within the company) or external (in conferences, user groups, etc.).

He must also be good at written communication (e-mail, blog, documentation, chat, social networks, etc.), and be able to discern which form of communication is most appropriate for each moment, audience, and means of communication; and to communicate in a way to be understood by different audiences: technical and non-technical. As if that were not enough, he also needs to be able to communicate with confidence and confidence in what he is communicating; after all, the head of product is not only the spokesperson for the product but also the most senior reference in the entire company for the product.

It is important to remember that communication is a two-way street, that is, the head of product must be very good at knowing how to listen and understand what others are saying, and understand their problems and needs; which has to do with the first characteristic, empathy.

Business skills

The product manager must be concerned with whether his product is meeting the business objectives, as the achievement – or not – of the business objectives is the main source of people’s expectations regarding the product. How will the product help the company to achieve its business goals? If the goal is margin, are revenue and costs under control? If the goal is only revenue, how is it growing? If the goal is the number of users, how is this metric evolving?

In addition, the product manager must understand how each area of ​​the company works and how the product affects those areas. How does legal work? How does the product impact the legal department? And how does the legal department impact the product? These questions can be repeated for all areas of the company: support, operations, finance, HR, marketing, sales, engineering and UX.

Summing up

  • To develop your team and manage expectations, the product head must have the 7 characteristics of a good product manager: empathy, communication, time management, new technologies, business skills, keen curiosity, and product theme
  • Three of these characteristics are essential for the work of the head of product. Empathy to understand where expectations come from and what elements need to be developed in your team. Communication to make you understand and make yourself understood when you are talking to the people of the company to manage your expectations and when you are developing your team. Business skills that will help the head of product understand the goals of the company that are important components of the expectations that people have regarding the product.

In the next chapter, we’ll look at the leadership anti-patterns we can find in product development teams.

Missing something?

So, did you miss something in this chapter? What else would like me to cover?

Digital Product Management Books

Do you work with digital products? Do you want to know more about how to manage a digital product to increase its chances of success? While you wait for my new book, check out my Digital Product Management bundle with my 2 books where I share what I learned during my almost 30 years of experience in creating and managing digital products.

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