The Must-Have Skill for Product Managers

I was recently in an interview and I was asked what skills and traits made a great product manager. I paused for a moment and collected my thoughts before responding.

Instead of jumping to listing the skill qualifications for a great product manager, I jumped to the must-have “soft skill” of great product managers. This one qualification makes the difference between a project manager and a product manager.

Empathy.

If you accept that products are built to solve user problems, then the only way you can understand those problems deeply enough is to have empathy for your users.

There are plenty of product managers without this trait. You’ll likely find them pushing requirements through development teams, focusing on requirements documents, and resting on their assumptions about the market.

Product managers that put people first will build products alongside users and customers. Their ideas come from talking with real people.

A product manager with strong empathy can tell you names of real users of their product. They can tell you about who they are and what they do. They can tell you all about the inefficiencies of the users day (even outside the product).

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