Top 5 ways to keep product managers happy

Product managers are valuable members of any product development team. Tom Merritt recommends five ways you can make sure you keep them happy.

Product managers... you know one, you work with one--you probably really enjoy working with one. If you keep your product managers happy, your product is better, your work is better, and things go smoothly for everyone. But they are not you! First of all, don't call them "project managers"--they hate that. It's a valuable, but completely different role. Call them "product managers," and keep in mind these five other things to keep your product manager happy.

  1. Talk to them. If you think of improvements, or problems, or have a question, don't wait for the product manager to bring it up. Communicate smart--don't schedule a meeting for what could be an email. Don't write a 50,000 word email for what could be a five minute face-to-face.
  2. Remember, they want to make things right. A product manager doesn't ask for something because they enjoy it (they may or may not)--they ask for it because it's the right thing for the customer and the business. Product managers are only truly happy when users are happy. They fight for the user!
  3. Work with them. Product managers love to collaborate and learn from you. Share your expertise. Find a whiteboard and work the problem with them. And remember, they don't like the paperwork any more than you like bug fixing, but nobody can anticipate what will go wrong on any given day. They put tremendous trust in your teams and your code, so give them that trust right back.
  4. Dream along with them. Spend as much energy imagining how a project is going to succeed as how it will fail. Once a decision is made, don't keep debating whether it was the right decision--figure out how to make it right.
  5. Be honest. Don't hide your side projects. Yes, you may be embarrassed about the time you spend on them, or worry they'll get deprioritized, but it's also possible that a product manager might put more resources behind it and make it a bigger thing. And they'll be much happier knowing about it up front rather than finding out about it some other way later.

Product managers are just folks like you who want to get along and make great things. Treat a product manager well, and they'll treat you well right back. And you'll have a better product to boot.

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