Learnings from Product Managers

Positivity and Winsomeness

Positivity and Winsomeness

At Handsome, we staff our project teams with 3-7 people who have expertise in research, design, development, strategy and management. We’ve intentionally created roles with significant overlap because we want to cultivate an ethos where everyone feels responsible for shipping a great product (rather than individuals in silos creating one-off deliverables & decks).

One of the roles for every project team is the Product Manager. I know the topic of what makes a great project manager has been and will continue to be the subject of many blog posts across the internets but for the remainder of this entry I wanted to highlight two traits that in my experience are often overlooked when hiring Product Managers; winsomeness and positivity.

 

Winsomeness

the state or quality of being charming and engaging. Because product managers need to work with every part of the product ecosystem including: designers, developers, customers and clients, they need the ability to quickly get all creators and decision makers to work towards a specific solution to a problem. This is much easier if people like and respect the Product Manager. So when hiring Product Managers we look for instances of specific practices that indicate winsomeness. For example, one of our Product Managers at Handsome had a history of decorating her team member’s desks the night before their birthday. While we’re not suggesting this be the litmus test for every future product manager, it definitely helped confirm for us that she would be a great fit.

In addition to celebrating birthdays, a more frequent practice our Product Managers engage in that indicates winsomeness involves giving credit and taking blame. Marty Cagan says it well in his book Inspired:

Product Managers do not micromanage…they are quick to take blame when something goes wrong and they give credit to the rest of the team when something goes well.

 

Positivity

The second trait, is positivity. Shipping a product is like pushing a battleship uphill. To keep people motivated, a product manager has to stay positive. Marcin Treder, founder of UXPin notes:

Be endlessly positive. Your team is likely composed of engineers and some of us tend to be very cynical. A very positive PM can make a world of difference in the mood of the team. You may feel silly being so positive all the time, but it’s infectious and your team will feed off of it. Remember that you and your Tech Leads (lead engineers) may know of a million things to get you all down, but the rest of your team is likely not exposed to all of that. You help them do their jobs better by not wallowing in your worries because as the PM, you are the team’s window/messenger to the larger company. If you are negative, then that’s how the team will think the rest of the company perceives their work.

I’m sure there will be more posts in the future about our thoughts on product management, but below are a few books we’ve found to be especially insightful on the topic.

Inspired by Mary Cagan

The User Experience Guide Book for Product Managers by Marcin Treder

Anything by Jon Kolko on the topic. Blog post here.

Other Journals