Having watched various PM interviews lately, I was surprised how many product managers mentioned that they faced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers.
Why do PMs struggle with confidence and how can we improve it?
Product managers are constantly moving into unknown territory and are pushing the boundaries. This makes the job extremely interesting but can also lead to a feeling of not knowing enough. Additionally, things often seem so obvious, in hindsight. For the PMs at the moment in time, they were not so obvious at all. It was them who figured it out over time. Being in good company and accepting this nature of the role already helps us feel less dumb.
As PMs, we're constantly engaging with people who know more than us. Sales know more about the customers, developers know more about the tech constraints, etc. As Product Managers, we highly depend on the knowledge of others. Product managers must realize that generally, they know less about an area than the specialist but more about the intersections. Accurately assessing and knowing where we know more than others helps us be more confident. Asking myself this question and writing it down helped me a lot.
As PMs, we tend to take a lot of ownership and responsibility. At the same time, it's crucial not to over-extend ourselves. We can always refer to the specialists and simply say we need to double-check before committing to an answer.
As PMs in many ways, we are the sum of the people we work with. We use the knowledge of others to find a congruent narrative. From idea to strategy, the way we usually gain confidence is when the narrative withstands the judgment of everyone. It's a truth that certainly every founder can relate to. It's therefore crucial to regularly expose your narratives to others and get valuable feedback.
Despite the importance of listing, and reaching a congruent product story, a product manager also needs to be able to win others for it. We, therefore, need to be a pro in persuasion.
For a long time in my career, I underestimated this part of the role. I valued figuring out what to do higher than working on convincing others and regarded polishing and practicing a narrative as "less productive". However, what good is the best strategy if the team does not fully understand it? These days I value presentation and aligning just as highly or higher than doing the analysis and the research.