As Product Managers, we spend so much of our time convincing stakeholders of the right path forward, whether it’s fellow Product Managers, engineers, designers, executives, or even customers. The most successful Product Managers become well versed in making compelling arguments every day around product vision, roadmap prioritization, design trade-offs, resource asks, and so much more.
In fact, it’s estimated that the best Product Managers spend 60% of their time on the substance of Product Management and 40% on the style of Product Management.
- Substance includes the hard skills of Product Management. This includes customer discovery, prioritizing a roadmap, and deriving insights from data.
- Style includes the soft skills of Product Management. These include having a good communication style, being able to influence without authority, and connecting with executive management.
Do you or don’t you have “style”? Well, some symptoms of a lack of style include: Feeling unappreciated, thinking there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and feeling that decision-making is consensus-based and slow. If this is the case for you, you may need to work on improving your Product Management style.
How do you improve it? It all boils down to being compelling. As Product Managers, you’re expected to influence all sorts of stakeholders: engineers, bosses, customers, etc. This doesn’t mean convincing these groups that your idea or solution is the best one. But it does mean that these groups should respect your role as a product person and believe in your work.
Being compelling is a combination of substance, style, and audience. For an audience, identify the stakeholders that matter most and find out who’s succeeded with them. Consider some of the following to help you continue to improve:
- Framing: How you frame a specific situation matters. If there’s a situation that people are avoiding simply because it seems risky, challenge them. Position it as an ambitious one. It may or may not be the right solution, but this can help remove the possibility of people dismissing it simply because of risk alone.
- Social Proof: Leverage the shared opinion of others to convince key stakeholders. Often, data wins arguments. But data doesn’t have to be simply charts and graphs. How others feel about a certain situation is still a data point, albeit a more qualitative data point.
- Goal Seek: Redefine your initiative in terms of a decision maker’s own goals. For instance, if you’re trying to convince someone to greenlight a product, reposition your initiative as the input for their goals (if it does, in fact, match).