8 Traps Threatening Product Managers and How to Avoid Them

When you go on a journey, you are excited and curious. There are several traps that you could fall into but you don’t really think about it until something happens. When a Product Manager embarks on the pursuit of building a new product, s/he doesn’t think about the traps either. Enthusiasm and eagerness give you the kick to start but can be misleading later on. After reading this article you will know how to avoid the traps threatening Product Managers.

Trap #1 – Too many cooks spoil the broth

This common proverb applies to pretty much all situations in our lives and is particularly accurate when it comes to product development and project management. A product team should consist of specialists in different fields with different opinions in order to get a holistic overview of the project. However, having too many opinions could take you to a blind alley.

Ideally, a Product Manager should be able to pick the people s/he wants to work with and think of the value they bring to the team. Product Manager needs to have a vision and clearly communicate it to the whole team. Very often PM also needs to take the role of a moderator who listens to people but takes his/her own decisions. Therefore, PM’s mind needs to be clear in order to make unbiased decisions.

Trap #2 – Are you an Eager Beaver?

We all recall situations in our lives when we got too involved in something. Eagerness is great in the beginning or right before embarking on a new project. It helps motivate team members and successfully kick off the project. However, those who get too high on a project, might miss some important elements or end up doing everything on their own. Controlled trust allows to move things faster and focus on the product vision.

Writing down team’s responsibilities helps in getting the full picture of the project. Product Manager can do a lot by himself but the point of having a team is to allow them to take care of different tasks. PM’s role is to define the product vision, execute on the parts of the project, and make sure they are high-end in order to achieve the goals of the project.

Trap #3 – Being a Good Cop

Some people have this urge to make people think that they are nice either because they’re really good-hearted and are afraid of hurting people or because they want to achieve something. Regardless of the reason for being nice, one shouldn’t allow this to affect his judgement or decisions. Product Managers should consider many factors including what people think but this should never be a priority. Otherwise, they will end up backing up ideas of people who they’re afraid to stand up to and these ideas might harm the product. Think about product, not people. At the end of the day, everyone will judge the effectiveness and the ability to make smart decisions and not how many times one said „no”.

Trap #4 – Getting pissed at small failures

The reverse of being too nice is getting pissed at small failures or even worse, at people. Shit happens but the failures are there to help us grow and build our self-awareness. It’s a part of gaining experience. If someone in the team fails at something, it’s better not to take it personally but rather think about what could be done better in the future. Getting pissed at someone will not move the project further. It will only discourage other team members and may result in getting some more grey hair or even worse – wrinkles (Nooo!)

Trap #5 – Loosing track of time

Being an Eager Beaver makes it easy to loose track of time. Deadlines are there not only to sound scary (suffocated by a dead line). They’re there to help execute things and finish particular parts on time. The team should be reminded  about the timeline of the project. Believing that everyone will respect deadlines without a (kind) reminder might backfire in the least expected moment.

Trap #6 – Pushing team to the limit

Being a bad cap has its pros in moving the project forward but it can also discourage the team. Usually product / tech team members are smart and they know that shit needs to be done. It’s the way one motivates them and cooperates throughout the project that makes them want to do a good job for the product.

If someone is underdelivering, it’s better to ask questions about the status of the project and the blockers that stop it from being done instead of asking the passive aggressive “Why this is not done yet?“. Smart people will not want to seem like they underperfom in front of the team. If nothing changes, a 1-on-1 might be a good idea.

Trap #7 – Taking a wrong way on a crossroad

Product Manager doesn’t have to know everything! It’s better to take a step back and admit that you don’t know something than to follow the uncertain path. Sometimes a rapid change in the way of thinking can result in a 180 degree turn in the product that can exceed stakeholders’ expectations.

Trap #8 – Mister Always Right

Assertiveness and following your gut are the two crucial qualities of a good Product Manager. However, not listening to stakeholders and team members can seriously impede the project. One of the reasons of having specialists in different areas is to avoid mistakes. However, listening to everyone might take ages (no one has that long). Meetings should be moderates so they’re effective and succinct. Stop, look, listen, and always think of the goals of the project.

 

Every journey brings memories. Make the good ones on a journey with your product by avoiding falling into these common traps. For those with a stubborn personality who value experience over a peace of mind (I know this type) – It’s best to follow your gut and never bend under pressure. You’ve got the power!