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Here Are The Results of Google's Intensive Study Of What Makes Great (Product) Managers

Recently Google published their multi-year long study of what makes good managers in their company.

Their overwhelming conclusion: Good managers are still needed despite the rising fear of robotics and automation.

While this study wasn't just about Product Managers, we also know that at Google there are more product managers than most small and medium sized companies -- heck they have more product managers than the entirety of small and medium sized companies.  We can only surmise that the survey and their intensive study reflected the great work their PMs do to support the wonderful software and hardware products they create or us at Google.

Top 10 Things That Makes Great [Product] Managers

Here's the full list (unedited, courtesy of Google re:Work):

  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage
  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information
  6. Supports career development and discusses performance
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team
  9. Collaborates across the organization
  10. Is a strong decision maker

Great Product Managers are Catalysts

There's those are belong to the individual contributors.  We've all been there at some point in our careers or earlier on in our careers.  Great manager rise up the ranks because they know how to get more or get better results or is better are galvanizing the individual contributors to create something great.

Good coaches also do that when knowing the strengths and weaknesses of team.  Knowing when to provide guidance, motivate, use the carrot or a stick to get things done but always knowing how to balance those things out. Not everyone needs coaching and some people are great, but almost everyone can use some coaching some of the time.

Coaches are also good at empowering the team.  In Agile teams or Scrum teams, we want the team to be self-organized and thus we want people to be empowered to be proactive, step in to fill the gaps if there are any and raise/question things when they are not going right.

Great Product Managers are not Micromanagers

We can also take this a bit further and identify that managers in general are not micromanagers (otherwise that'll be the prefix in their title).  Great product managers know this and even though they might have been an individual contributor at one point, they know that they can get more out of people by staying out of the way of managing the minitia of the details.

This gets into the 6th point the Google uncovered in this study -- managers are focused on making their team know that they care about their careers and would give them the opportunity to learn and stretch their knowledge and widen their experience.

Less so is the topic about managing the work itself, but rather to managing the performance of the individual and in the team as a whole.  Great PMs know that those crucial conversations on poor performance.  It's one of the most difficult conversations to have, but is a skill that makes or breaks a good PM.

Great Product Manager have 20/20 vision

Having a clarity of vision and strategy is what great managers and great product managers do.  It's not always easy but keep that steady is the one thing that makes sure that great product managers do for their staff and ot keep the "north star" of their product chugging along and ensure everyone is keeping to that pace.

A lot of these top 10 traits of PMs are synergistic.  A good coach embodies all those qualities.  But the reality is that every one of these needs to fall in line in order to get a good manager in your rank and file.