Question Page

What is the most underrated soft skill of a high performing PM?

6 Answers
Mamuna Oyofo, MBA
Mamuna Oyofo, MBA
Shopify VP of ProductFebruary 9

I personally believe this to be communication. Often times, we as PMs dive heads down into a problem with understanding that we need to have a time with us to do the work. It is important to develop a communication style that resonates meaningfully with your audience. As a PM, you will need to communicate with:

1. Stakeholders

2. Peers

3. Direct reports

4. External partners 

Each of these groups will require their own set of nuance that you will need to determine based on the relationship you are working to develop OR need to maintain. Often times when you see friction in organization, it comes down to a miscommunication or lack of communication. It's better to set yourself up for success here. My recommendation:

1. List your who your audiences are

2. Capture their needs and the required cadence for communication. Understand the best mode to share communication, whether that is slack, in person or email. 

3. Kick off your process

4. Important step... ask for feedback frequently. You don't want to wait until something breaks to know something is wrong. Ask people if they are getting what they need from you until you feel satisfied you are meeting the mark. 

804 Views
Milena Krasteva
Milena Krasteva
Walmart Sr Director II, Product Management - Marketing TechnologyJune 9

I'd love to answer this in a slightly different way: The single most important skill, that cannot be rated highly enough is Communication. Many other soft skills are fundamentally still rooted in or are dependent on communication. 

Nuanced aspects of communication also matter:

  • adapting communication to the audience and situation
  • timing the communication
  • communication in all forms: written, verbal, non-verbal/body language.
510 Views
Clara Lee
Clara Lee
Hootsuite VP, ProductJuly 27

Sharp communication skills that enable proactive stakeholder management. This doesn't just mean blasting memos and updates to everyone, everywhere – it means: 

  • Speaking about what matters to who; 
  • Understanding what is the right timing;
  • And knowing which channels are most effective for getting your point across. 

In some organizations, you may be lucky enough to have a Product Operations team to help you with that; in others, you won't.

Leaning into comms and stakeholder management means: 

  • Risks are assessed early;
  • Issues requiring help are unblocked;
  • Expectations are adjusted at the right time; 
  • And – most importantly – that your teams (from executive leadership to direct reports to cross-functional collaborators) know they can trust you.
583 Views
Bhaskar Krishnan
Bhaskar Krishnan
Meta Product Leadership - Ads, Commerce & AIJanuary 17

Empathy and the ability to connect with people across the board is the most under-rated skill for high-performing PMs. Empathy enables PMs to connect dots, build relationships, solve problems and dive-deep, to increase their expertise

PMs need to exhibit people skills that span three broad categories and empathy for each of these different categories helps in its own way.

1. Managing XFN - PMs typically work with large cross-functional (XFN) teams and need to adapt their working styles for each of the XFN teams, their involvement in the product/ problem, the individual team members' seniority & their time at the company. Initiatives that are amongst the top priorities for the company might have a fully staffed XFN team and others would have varying degrees of staffing. Likewise, new initiatives, esp 0-1 initiatives would have gaps in resourcing and would sometimes be staffed with new hires or interns.

The ability to connect with people will ensure the PM is able to partner with all XFN appropriately to get things done. For instance, at Flipkart & Rakuten, we were resource constrained and I hired interns for our Tiger (Innovation) teams. It was one of the most fun experiences I had since we could think big, not fear failure and also time-box our work (to match with internship cycles) to launch a prototype or pilot. Products such as Flipkart Merchant Ads, Flipkart Funnel Attribution & R-Pay Merchant Rewards developed from these pilots

2. Team leadership - PMs, esp later in their careers, would be managing teams of Product Managers, across their career spectrum. Every PM is different in their approach, some lean on context, others lean on passion, yet others on structured problem solving process and being able to identify what makes the team tick and make them the best version of themselves in key! My team had Rakuten had PMs that spanned multiple archetypes from the Captain (who likes to lead large initiatives themselves), the Generalist (who can shape-shift to any project), the Specialist (who likes to specialize in a domain), the Architect (Technical PMs who like to build) and the Integrator (PMs who are good at managing large, complex initiatives).  Meta has an equally impressive range of archetypes for PMs and more for TPMs & Project Managers.

3. Executive Presence -  The last & most critical category of people interactions for senior PMs is working with executives & Sr leadership in any firm. Here again, empathy for the leaders, for the scale & scope of problems they are solving, for what keeps them up at night, will go a long way in helping the company, the org & the product team. Sr PMs need to think of themselves as Chief Enabling Officers and the more they enable Executives, the more they enable their own teams

1206 Views
Aleks Bass
Aleks Bass
Typeform Chief Product OfficerFebruary 28

The most underrated soft skill of a high-performing PM is the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with stakeholders.

This includes the following:

  • Ability to listen to and understand the needs of stakeholders
  • Ability to effectively negotiate and resolve conflicts

The reason these skills seem to be the most elusive is most likely because of the confirmation bias that permeates us as humans. Once we've invested a significant amount of time into an idea or a point of view, we assume that we have thoroughly thought this through. Therefore, other people's questions, concerns, or counterpoints are incorrect and distracting rather than insightful and valuable. Instead of seeing those questions and points of view as valuable questions to validate so that we can determine the veracity of our beliefs, we dismiss them.

The problem is that sometimes we see a conflict that isn't there because we expect it to be. The number of times I've been in a team meeting where two individuals were saying very similar things in slightly different ways, but they couldn't see it as anything other than a conflict is higher than I would have imagined. At that point, those neutral in the conversation start to shift into a translating and clarifying role until the individuals in question realize that they are in fact saying essentially the same thing.

Listening to understand is a skill PMs need more than the average person, and the skill to build relationships and trust with stakeholders is key. It is possible that your team members are lacking in this underrated skill if they are anchored on power and control over communication and collaboration.

498 Views
Tara Wellington
Tara Wellington
BILL Senior Director of Product ManagementDecember 19

Storytelling.

Communication is a prerequisite for any PM, but storytelling is communication with impact at its core. When you move from just communication into storytelling, you move from sharing information to inspiring, motivating, influencing, and activating your audience.

For PMs, they need to be able to:

  • Influence

  • Activate

  • Motivate

  • Inspire

This is how PMs deliver high quality products. PMs can't deliver value alone - they need their team to deliver. And when teams are delivering from a place of motivation and inspiration, their work is just BETTER.

In Marty Cagan's book Inspired he discusses the concepts of missionaries vs. mercenaries. Mercenaries build whatever they're told to build. Missionaries are true believers in the vision and are committed to solving problems for their customers. Storytelling is one of the best tools for turning Mercenaries into Missionaries.

438 Views
Top Product Management Mentors
Sirisha m
Sirisha m
Uber Director of Product
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product Management
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise Agility
Deepak Mukunthu
Deepak Mukunthu
Salesforce Senior Director of Product, Generative AI Platform (Einstein GPT)
Farheen Noorie
Farheen Noorie
Zendesk Senior Director of Product Management
Mike Arcuri
Mike Arcuri
Meta Director of Product - Horizon Worlds Platform
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Square Product Manager
Hiral Shah
Hiral Shah
DocuSign Director of Product Management
Guy Levit
Guy Levit
Meta Sr. Director of Product Management
Mckenzie Lock
Mckenzie Lock
Netflix Director of Product