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What is the difference between a good product manager and a great product manager?

Posted on May 13, 2010 · 6 Comments

Question: What is the difference between a good product manager and a great product manager?

Answer from Greg Cohen of 280 Group: Many things break down to the 80/20 rule. This question gets to heart of what is in that remaining 20% that will move a good product manager to great. A product manager must be an expert in many things, including the customer, the product, the market, the competition, the technology, and how engineering develops products. All of this, to use a poker analogy, is the ante. You have to master these areas.

But “what separates the best from the rest” are the soft skills. Most important are leadership and influence. The product manager must sell their vision up down and across the organization including the executive team, their product team, sales and marketing. Selling a vision is never easy; it demands persistence. To have persistence, you have to believe in your vision and this requires passion. Lastly, product managers are pulled in many directions. The great ones maintain focus on the activities that will make an impact on their products success.

To summarize, there are five soft skills that separate good product managers from great: Leadership, influence, persistence, passion, and focus.

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