PTPA #012: 5 things every PM should learn early onDec 03, 2022
Read time: 4 minutes
Being a Product Manager can sometimes (most days) feel chaotic. On a good day, only a few of your meetings will overlap and your inbox won’t be full of fires, emergencies, and urgent requests.
A good day for a Product Manager makes you feel like everything is under control, which is rare.
Today I want to share with you 5 things that I believe every Product Manager should learn early on to have as much control as possible over our projects and our career.
5 Things to have as many good days as possible:
- How to negotiate effectively
- How to say 'Why yes' instead of 'No'
- How to use the 80/20 rule every day
- How to deal with HIPPOs (and similar)
- How to move from execution to strategy and vision
Let’s look at each one in detail.
Learn how to negotiate effectively.
For Product managers, negotiation is not about thinking “how do I win”. Instead, it is about thinking about how might we “expand the pie” and have both parties benefit from it. Most likely you’ll be negotiating with other parts of the business and other Product Managers; sometimes you’ll negotiate with customers.
A few tips for your negotiations:
- Understand that negotiating requires thorough preparation. Researching as much as you can before the meeting, the email, or the call you’ll have is key to success.
- Have a clear Goal. What is it that you want to achieve out of the discussion? The more clear, concise, and actionable your message, the better for everyone involved to understand the context.
- Listen as much as you can. Spend time listening to what the other parties have to say, what they are asking for, and why.
- Remember that it’s about “increasing the pie”, not fingerpointing. Focus on solving the problem in front of you, ideally, together with the other parties involved.
Learn how to say 'Why yes' instead of 'No'
Product Managers, especially new ones, have 2 challenges ahead:
Challenge 1: Learning how to say “No”. No to meetings, projects, priorities, requests, ideas, etc.
The hardest part, for people pleasers like me, is understanding that saying “No” is part of our job - it’s how we help our team move forward, move fast, and in the right direction.
Challenge 2: Transform “No” into “Why yes?”. While saying “No” to incoming requests will become part of your job, it is much better to transform it into “Why should we say yes to this idea?”.
However, Your job is not to answer that question alone. Work with other parties and search for evidence (data, like customer research) to convert an idea or a suggestion into 'Why we should build X' - most of the time, there won't be enough evidence to say 'Yes', but you won’t end up as the person who just says “No” to everything.
Learn how to use the 80/20 rule every day
The classic Pareto Principle where 80% of the outcome comes from 20% of work.
There won’t be enough hours in a day, or days in a year to complete everything that a Product Manager needs to do.
Each day you need to focus on what really matters. Sometimes your calendar will be so full that you won’t even have time to sit down and work on a document or a presentation that has been pending for the past few days.
PMs, especially new ones, need to learn how to Prioritize their backlog and roadmap, as well as their daily tasks. Prioritize your tasks each day to work on the 20% that produces the 80%.
Learn how to deal with HIPPOs
HIPPOs - Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Or, in other words, when someone with a much higher pay-grade forces their ideas, priorities, and opinions on your team’s work.
The best strategy to deal with HIPPOs is to combine the use of data (customer research, surveys, in-Product data) to back up your decisions and a data-driven strategy that allows them to evaluate the trade-off.
For example, provide HIPPOs with the data that back up your decision and the risk of not implementing the features you prioritized. Have them decide whether their idea should be prioritized against your features at the cost of X impact (+X% sessions, -Y% drops, etc.) because your team won’t be able to deliver it.
While most HIPPOs just rush into a decision and change your plans, asking them to prioritize through data at the cost of not having the impact you estimated can help you either defend your backlog or raise questions about the strategy being followed in the organization.
Learn how to move from execution to strategy and vision
Products start with a strategy and vision created, and then move on to execution.
But Product Managers start our journey with learning execution and then suddenly, when you become a Sr. PM, you have to drive strategy and vision.
Your job as a PM is to unblock your team, launch products, collect feedback and continue improving your product.
But soon, you’ll need to move from the ground view (execution) into the 30,000 ft view (strategy and vision). Do not wait until you are a Sr. PM to learn about it, instead start working early on with Sr. and Principal PMs on crafting the strategy and vision for other products.
Build the muscle early on and try working on the strategy for your products, even if the first iteration is bad. You want your work to be bad when you are learning, not when you want to get promoted or worse… when you become a Sr. PM.
See you next week!
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