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This is How to Be a Bad Product Manager

We have many posts on how to do Product Management better all over this site.  We also try to slice and dice it many different ways by talking about how you manage people, manage teams, managing technical, design or business skills.  As product managers we must do this.

But we rarely talk about what to do when we encounter bad product managers or how to become a bad product managers.  There is a famous saying that says, "Tell me where I will died and I will never go there."  I'm paraphrasing but it's true.  Learning how and why bad product managers will go a long way to ensure that you never go there to the dark product management space.

Bad Product Manager

I ended up encountering this blogpost that already started talking about the same thing!

Sometimes avoiding things you ought not to do, is a better strategy than doing all the right things wrong.

It's the theory of avoiding unforced errors.  Making sure that every swing of the bat is going to make a home run for sure.

One of Charlie Munger's (Warren Buffett's right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway) often quotes:

"Invert. Always invert."

 Thinking about how not to do something is just as important, if not more so than to find out what you want to avoid.

So what traits would make you be successful at being a bad product manager. Let's discuss.

Stop Listening

We wont sugar coat it, but whenever you work on a high-profile product, you are bound to encounter a lot of egos.  People are doing it for all sorts of reasons and also have expectations of what their job is or is not.  How many times have you encountered that person on your team that doesn't listen or take comments or advice and just is concerned with their own way of thinking?

Luckily, I haven't encountered many people like this but there are few that do.

In product management, that's how to be a bad product manager.  You have to be able to listen well, be able to absorb feedback at a high-level.  It's not to say if you're passive, but product management is partly an art of knowing who to count on and who to rely on.  Listening well means knowing when to defer to your team and when not to.

Listening is also important to address concerns, suggestions and comments from current and future users.  The surest way to build an app that has a higher likelihood of failing is to stop listening to the feedback from customers.  Try it, stop listening and just do what you're going to do and see how far you get.

Break Promises (no matter how small)

I know it seems silly to be on-time for every meeting, but that is sign that you respect your team and their time too.  It's important that you take your job seriously and by trying to uphold integrity, your word and build trust.

Trust is important for the team because it's the thing that binds the team together.  We all are messy and teams are messy.  There's high-performing teams and then there's low ones.  But on an individual level you can keep your promises to set a good example and role model.

Building trust is hard to narrow down, which is why inverting in this case makes sense.  What would a bad product manager do to erode the trust?  Some thoughts below:

  • Don't do what you say you would
  • Don't show up on time to meetings
  • Don't thank people on your team
  • Don't defend the team and its members

We can go on to fill another 10 or so, but you get the picture.  Don't do these things at your peril as a product manager.

Think People and Situations Stay the Same

We've talked about how this is important for entrepreneurs and product managers.  Neither of these roles know everything about everything and we need people to help us get there.  But just like no one person knows everything, we also need to set the expectation that we are not perfect.  However, what's great about us humans is our ability to change to adapt and to believe that we can grow.   Growth in this case be knowledge, new habits, new attitudes etc.

People or product managers who don't have a growth mindset, tend to do one or both of these things:

  1. Do not think they can learn, evolve, absorb, intake more
  2. Do not think that their team can grow, adapt, learn etc.

This mindset is 'set in stone'. The dangerous part of this mindset is that these people hold grudges or don't trust their team to be able to adapt to new thinking, new ways of doing things that are better or generally think that we can do anything if we tried.

If you think you're stuck in the situation you are in, if you think you can't turn things around no matter how bad it seems to be, then I would say you don't have a growth mindset.

Tell us below what you think, anything you learned as a product leader and what habits, behaviors did you stop to be better at your job?

Comment below and we'll add this to the article...