How to influence strategically?

To be an effective product manager (PM) one needs many skills. However, there are some core skill that one needs to have to be a successful product manager. Ability to influence people at various levels is a key product manager skill. Here are some ways a product manager can influence others.

Develop Informal Authority

The statement ‘Product manager is CEO of the product’ is not completely true because in most of the cases a product manager does not have all the teams involved in product development reporting to her. Thus, a product manager does not have a formal authority over people on whom she relies to make the product happen. However, Product manager is responsible for the success of product at each stage from inception to grave. The key is to develop an informal authority over the teams you are relying on to deliver the product.

A product manager must be seen as an ultimate authority on the product domain and develop a deep understanding of customer use cases. Based on this knowledge a product manager must create product goals and articulate these goals in context of the product domain and customer requirement to all the team members. Every solution overview, epic and story created by product manager must have customer context. It is a product manager’s responsibility to make sure each and every team member is crystal clear about the purpose the product will ultimately serve.

Importance of trust

The foundation based on which one can influences others is trust. A product manager must seek out opportunities to build the trust. These opportunities often get presented through negative situations. Make sure you show ownership of the situation, be tough with problem but not with people and take responsibility for failure and do not forget to share the success.

Customized influence strategy
A product manager must be able to influence individuals from varied backgrounds, teams and jobs. Categorizing these individuals by job function and having a strategy to influence each category is the key.

For example, engineering teams need well-defined use cases, detail user stories and clear acceptance criteria. Marketing team is interested in product strategy and messaging. Executive are interested in ensuring that the product is aligned with the company goals and product portfolio strategy. Support teams want to make sure they understand product features under-the-hood and need features that enable them to debug the issues.

Product manager must think upfront about needs of various categories and have appropriate messaging and collaterals ready. The collaterals can be high level feature description, solution overview, designs, presentations, write-ups, FAQs, demo videos etc.


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