There’s an old saying that Product Management has all of the responsibility and no official authority. Based on my 25 year career in the profession I find this to be a statement of truth. That’s one reason why Product Management is an incredibly difficult job, and at the same time why it is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.
In the 280 Group’s previous webinar, “Earning Influence and Authority to Be a More Effective Product Manager”, Pamela Schure, the 280 Group’s Director of Products and Services taught attendees a variety of techniques for earning the authority necessary to succeed in Product Management. She delivered this at Silicon Valley Product Camp last month and had the highest attendance of any session. It is very powerful information that is also taught in our courses How to Be a Phenomenal Product Manager and Leadership for Product Managers.
Here are five ways that I found to be successful as a Product Manager for influencing without authority:
1. Become the de facto expert on your market and customers so that your opinion weighs more heavily in discussions.
Learn EVERYTHING about your market, customers and competition and have a deep arsenal of facts and data that you constantly use when talking about issues related to your product. Over time people will begin to take what you say as indisputable, and this will give you tremendous influence at critical moments.
2. Build alliances and do favors for the 5-7 most important people that you need to have on your side.
These are likely to be executives you interact with, engineers on your team, your engineering and QA managers and key sales people. For example, when there is a critical issue where make sure you publicly and strongly support these folks so they know you have their back. Get to know them personally – what are they passionate about, what are their values, what is their family like – and make sure you sincerely inquire about these things. When it comes down to difficult issues at a later point they’ll be much more prone to support you if they have become close acquaintances.
3. Learn how to communicate in a terse and highly-effective manner, both in writing and in speaking.
A few well-written or spoken words (as opposed to a lengthy diatribe) can often be far more effective.
4. Speak and write with a tone of certainty.
This doesn’t mean that you come across as a dictator, but be clear that you are confident of your opinions and positions. People like others who are confident and certain, and they want a leader to step into this role.
5. Decide that you aren’t just going to be a Product Manager, but that you are now a Product Leader.
The complete success or failure of the product rests on you (see the Product Management Manifesto). Once you decide this internally it will change how you act and how others perceive you.