5 Common Misconceptions About Product Managers

Powerful product managers are increasingly critical to a company’s growth strategy. To be a competent product manager, it’s imperative to understand that it’s all about the bigger picture, and not just about getting a product out the door and unleashing it as quick as possible to the market, but rather with a long-term scope that helps solve a larger problem. Unfortunately, there are several common misconceptions about product managers that can interfere with getting the right talent for the role. 

This quote from Ken Norton hits the nail square on the head, and provides a perfect segue into illustrating how misinterpreted this role appears to people who don’t work shoulder to shoulder with product managers everyday.

Product management is a weird discipline full of oddballs and rejects that never quite fit in anywhere else. – Ken Norton, Partner Google Ventures.

With that being said, here are the top 5 misconceptions about product managers—debunked.

  1. Product managers are the boss

Product managers have been linked to mini-CEO’s. They embody the influence, but they lack in authority—meaning they aren’t direct supervisors over other teams. Their entire focus and primary mission is on the success of the product. You’d be hard-pressed to find a successful PM on a power trip.

  1. They absorb all the credit 

It might seem that in an influential role with great visibility and exposure to the executive team, that also gets called in to help close a deal, that product managers would seem to marvel and thrive in the spotlight. However, great product leaders deflect praise and give credit to others and building a great product to stand the test of time in a competitive marketplace is truly a collaborative process. Egos have been checked at the door long ago.

  1. They’re deep in the technical trenches

A product manager is dug too deep in the technical trenches that it's not necessary to involve them in any business, sales, marketing, pricing or strategic discussions, right? Wrong!

A product manager is essentially a mini-CEO, and their responsibilities are stretched deep to make sure that the product not only matches up to customer expectations, but are also in line with the overall strategy. While they do embrace the technical requirements for a product’s success, they’re also out listening to customers, working on the market approach, staging out a product timeline and acting as the gateway portal enterprise-wide.

  1. It’s the same thing as a Project Manager

An incredibly common misconception about product managers is that they are the same as project managers. A project manager is responsible for managing non-technical projects and special programs—not launching major products. It’s time to end this conversation. 

  1. They aren’t interpersonal 

This position is at the intersection from where founder strategy, user feedback, development team management, and market awareness come together.

Product managers need to be able to convince engineers to work on the project and the direction it needs to be headed in, not to mention the ability to speak with the executive team. If they can’t convince influential members from other functions to join them, then it’s going to be a steep climb to convince the market.

These mini-CEO’s are imperative to the longevity of your product. Having product ownership transfer hands too often leads to delays and constant shifts in the overall vision. Don't let these common misconceptions about product managers get in the way of finding the perfect candidate for your organization.