In the world of Saas (Software-as-a-Service), one role stands out in its importance - the product manager.
But what differentiates a good product manager from a bad product manager?
Is it their work ethic, their leadership skills, or perhaps their ability to foresee market trends?
In truth, it's a complex blend of traits and skills.
The good product manager anticipates customers' needs and navigates the team towards success. The bad product manager, on the other hand, can steer a product into irrelevance.
As product strategy experts at Human1st, we've seen both. We've seen the impact both types of managers can have on a SaaS enterprise.
In this article, we'll take a deep dive into the key traits and differences.
Are you a product manager or aspiring to be one? This comparison will illuminate your path to excellence. Or perhaps you're a leader looking to hire or improve your product management team? This guide will be your compass. In either case, we promise insights that will change your perspective on product management.
Understanding the Role of a Product Manager
A product manager is a strategic linchpin in any SaaS enterprise. They're at the intersection of business, technology, user experience, and cross-team synergy.
But what exactly do they do?
Essentially, they shepherd a product from concept to launch and beyond. This involves identifying market opportunities and defining product vision.
A good product manager does more. They are not just great product managers, but leaders who inspire their teams.
Their job doesn't end with product delivery. They monitor performance, iterate, and pivot when necessary.
They're the bridge between different departments, aligning everyone towards a common goal. They advocate for the customer, putting their needs at the forefront of decision-making.
Can any product manager be a good product manager? The answer is yes, but it requires a unique set of skills and mindset. These soft skills are what we'll uncover in the next sections.
Let's dive deeper and explore the key differences.
Comparison of Traits: Good Product Manager vs Bad Product Manager
In understanding the difference between good and bad product managers, it's crucial to explore their traits. These traits manifest in their daily interactions, decision-making processes, and overall approach to product management.
Customer-Centric Approach vs Feature-Centric Approach
A good product manager adopts a customer-centric approach, focusing on customer needs and experiences. They design solutions that solve real problems for real people, driving customer satisfaction and product loyalty.
In contrast, a bad product manager adopts a feature-centric approach, obsessing over features and specifications without a deep understanding of the value these bring to the customer. They risk alienating users with products that may be technically impressive but don't meet the user's needs.
Problem-Solver vs Task-Doer
A good product manager is a problem-solver. They're proactive, constantly seeking to identify and rectify issues before they escalate. They create environments where problems becomes challenges or opportunities for improvement. With a bias to get started, they favor progress over perfection and believe in the process being at fault, not the people.
Meanwhile, a bad product manager is a task-doer, reacting to situations rather than anticipating and preparing for them. This reactive nature can result in higher stress and reduced efficiency within the team.
Clear Communication vs Vague Directions
A good product manager excels in clear communication. They articulate and write ideas clearly and concisely, ensuring everyone is on the same page. They understand that clarity fosters engagement and drives team performance. They help themselves with visual collaboration tools and whiteboards to practice visual thinking. Believing in structured collaboration, they avoid stagnation and collaboration chaos.
On the flip side, a bad product manager provides vague directions, causing confusion and misalignment within the team. This lack of clarity can lead to decreased productivity, morale and even more long (unproductive) meetings.
Market Awareness vs Ignorance
With a keen sense of market awareness, a good product manager understands the industry landscape, competition, and trends. They use this knowledge to make informed decisions and drive strategic direction. They don’t rely on creativity, rather they use robust idea generation processes that ends with validation test to take the risk and unpredictability out of innovation.
A bad product manager, however, is ignorant of these critical factors, which can lead to strategic missteps and missed opportunities.
Collaboration vs Isolation
A good product manager values mentorship, providing guidance to their team and learning from others. They foster a culture of continuous learning, boosting individual and team growth. They believe in collaborative intelligence over a siloed mentality, enabling the exchange of ideas and promoting cross-teamwork.
Conversely, a bad product manager works in isolation, missing out on opportunities for growth and collaboration. This isolation can lead to stagnation and a disengaged team.
Trust-Building vs Trust-Breaking
Trust is critical. A good product manager fosters a culture of trust within their team, which promotes engagement and productivity. They understand that trust leads to open communication and better collaboration. When in doubt, they disagree and commit, quickly validating if they’re on track.
But a bad product manager breaks trust, causing disengagement and team dysfunction. This loss of trust can lead to a lack of cooperation and decrease the team's overall effectiveness.
Technical Feasibility Understanding vs Wishful Thinking
A good product manager understands technical feasibility, balancing vision with the realities of technology. They know how to work within constraints to deliver the best possible product. They believe in repeatable collaboration processes and toolkits that can help translate theory into practice.
However, a bad product manager leans towards wishful thinking, neglecting the practical constraints of software development. Unfortunately, this tendency results in seemingly never-ending development cycles, overpromised and under-delivered projects. A bumpy road that feels like a rollercoaster ride, one that neither they nor their team signed up for.
Embracing Constraints vs Resisting Limitations
A good product manager embraces constraints, seeing them as opportunities for innovation. They use limitations to inspire creative problem-solving and believe that innovation can be a repeatable process, mitigating the need for reliance on creativity alone.
A bad product manager resists limitations, which can stunt the growth of the product and the team. This resistance can lead to a lack of progress and hinder innovation.
Strength Investment vs Jack of All Trades
A good product manager invests in their strengths, becoming a master in their area. They understand that focused expertise drives value. For instance, a product manager with a knack for data analysis may choose to invest time in honing this skill. They'll attend courses, seek mentorship, and engage in related projects, continually improving their ability to interpret complex data and make sound decisions.
In contrast, a bad product manager tries to be a jack of all trades, potentially diluting their expertise and effectiveness. This approach can result in mediocre performance across the board instead of excellence in specific areas. Instead of being excellent at one thing, they end up being just satisfactory at many.
Prioritizing vs Haphazard Task Management
Prioritization is key. A good product manager prioritizes tasks effectively, focusing on what truly matters. They are organized, believe in structured collaboration, and cut pointless discussions to get focused.
A bad product manager manages tasks haphazardly, causing important tasks to fall through the cracks, and wasting valuable resources.
Action-Orientation vs Risk-Aversion
A good product manager is action-oriented, taking calculated risks to drive product growth. They have a bias to get started, favoring progress over perfection, and understand that learning comes from doing.
A bad product manager is risk-averse, potentially missing out on game-changing opportunities and stifling the product's potential.
Adaptability vs Inflexibility
In the fast-paced SaaS industry, a good product manager is adaptable, ready to pivot when necessary. They understand the value of collaboration and inclusive decision-making, fostering an environment that welcomes change.
Conversely, a bad product manager is inflexible, struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape and possibly causing the product and team to lag behind.
Curiosity vs Complacency
A good product manager is inherently curious, constantly learning and evolving. They value continuous improvement and innovation, viewing every challenge as an opportunity to learn.
A bad product manager is complacent, stifling innovation and growth, and potentially hindering the product's success.
Data-Driven vs Opinion-Driven
Decisions must be grounded in facts. A good product manager is data-driven, basing decisions on insights. They believe in showing rather than telling, visualizing ideas for tangible debate.
Meanwhile, a bad product manager is opinion-driven, risking decisions on mere hunches and potentially driving the product in the wrong direction based on subjective biases.
Simplification vs Complication
A good product manager strives for simplification, understanding that it drives efficiency and clarity. They have a bias for structured collaboration and prioritize clear, concise communication, minimizing wastage of time and effort.
In contrast, a bad product manager leans towards complication, which can confuse the team, waste resources, and slow down progress.
Creation vs Criticism
A good product manager values creation over criticism. They believe in the power of ideation and understand that the best solutions often come from a robust, repeatable idea generation process. They work together, alone, allowing outstanding ideas to surface.
A bad product manager, on the other hand, may be overly critical, stifling creativity and potentially hindering innovation.
Zooming In and Out vs Narrow Vision
A good product manager can effectively zoom in and out, maintaining both a broad perspective and an eye for detail. They appreciate the bigger picture, while also understanding the importance of individual tasks and challenges. They are structured and collaborative, fostering an environment where diverse perspectives can come together to achieve a shared vision.
In contrast, a bad product manager suffers from a narrow vision, overlooking the big picture, and potentially missing opportunities and threats that could significantly impact the product's success.
Strong Opinions, Loosely Held vs Inflexible Beliefs
A good product manager practices having strong opinions, loosely held. They are confident in their ideas but open to changing their minds when presented with new information or perspectives. They disagree and commit, creating an environment that values learning and progress.
A bad product manager, on the other hand, clings to inflexible beliefs, stifling open debate, and potentially inhibiting innovation and progress.
Highly Leveraged Material vs Fluff
A good product manager values highly leveraged material - clear, concise, and actionable insights that drive decisions. They show rather than tell, focusing on visualizing ideas for tangible debate. They believe in zero waste, cutting pointless discussions, and ensuring that every resource is used effectively.
Conversely, a bad product manager falls into the trap of producing fluff - vague, unnecessary information that can confuse the team and slow down the decision-making process.
Feedback Culture vs Ego Defense
A good product manager fosters a feedback culture, understanding that constructive criticism is a valuable tool for growth and improvement. They practice transparency and inclusivity, ensuring that every voice is heard. They appreciate that the best solutions come from collaboration, not ego.
Conversely, a bad product manager tends to defend their ego, potentially ignoring valuable feedback, and creating an environment that discourages open communication and collaboration.
Conclusion: Be the Product Manager You'd Want to Work With
It all comes down to this: the product manager you aspire to be directly impacts the quality of your product, the satisfaction of your customers, and the synergy within your team. After exploring the characteristics of a good product manager versus a bad product manager, we see that leadership, collaboration, customer-centric focus, adaptability, and a bias for action truly make the difference.
Remember, as a product manager, your role is integral to the success of the product and the team. By embodying the qualities of a good product manager, you not only ensure the product's success but also cultivate an environment that nurtures growth, innovation, and teamwork.
Being the product manager you'd want to work with involves continuous learning, improvement, and adaptability. Keep fostering your skills and expanding your understanding of the dynamic field of product management.
To continue your learning journey, we recommend reading these articles:
- Collaboration is Broken, Here's Why
- Innovation in a Crisis: Why It's More Critical Than Ever
- Empathy, The Product Manager's Secret Weapon
Your journey as a product manager is a continuous one. Let it be guided by the principles and characteristics that shape successful product managers, fostering not only an effective product but also an engaging, collaborative team environment.
The question is, what kind of product manager do you want to be?