12 June 20245 min

Mastering Soft Skills for Successful Product Management

Tobias Schroeder
Written by

Tobias SchröderProduct Owner

Being a successful product manager, product owner or a product person - no matter how you call it – that doesn’t only require the right skills to run discoveries, interview users or create a product strategy. There are much more than learning techniques. One thing we often neglect, are the needed soft skills! Since we, product people, work within the triangle of business, users and tech.

The business aspect of the triangle refers to the product manager’s ability to understand the market, create a business strategy and drive business value. The technology aspect refers to the product manager’s ability to understand the technical aspects of the product, including its development, implementation, and maintenance. Finally, the design aspect refers to the product manager’s ability to create a product that is user-friendly and provides a great experience for the customer.

Despite the fact that mastering the triangle is necessary, there is much more needed in the world of product management, since:

  • • we interact with users and people
  • • we have conversations and conflicts every day
  • • we make decisions
  • • we need to take care of ourselves

In this blog, you will find some essential techniques or frameworks for the topic of interactions.


Within product management we are in touch with many different people and different roles, like engineers, domain experts, data analysts, marketeers. In every meeting, there are interactions, which are the key for effective product management and product leadership. Let me present you some learning nuggets without any boiler template, and ‘blabla’ around it. ;-)

A) Trust

Trust is necessary in every relationship, so it can blossom. To trust anyone, you need to have faith and believe in their good intentions. With trust, you can speak openly and free your mind. A trustful relationship is the foundation for decisions and conflicts, which are part of any collaboration. The following tips will help you build trust with anyone around you:

  • Come from a place of curiosity and care: Try being empathic at work and in private whenever/wherever you deal with human beings.
  • Listen with an open mind: Try to listen actively and try to understand what your counterpart is trying to say. Very often we do not speak in our mother tongue, therefore picking the right words might not be that easy for everyone. Besides that, do not be biased or judge individual's concerns.
  • Speak and act with integrity: Simply ‘walk the talk’, and don't talk badly about others.
  • Get to know people and allow people to get to know you: Every time and every day we are influenced by our surrounding, family, background etc. Bringing your whole self to work allows people to get to know you and your motivation, which will make feedback and working with you a lot easier!
  • Involve people in product decisions: Carefully listen to everyone, appreciate further input and respect other perspectives. This will increase the trust in you and your decisions.
  • Be supportive and offer help: Don't tell how it's done but offer guidance and directions.
  • Strengthen your product management expertise: Knowing your tools and frameworks, as well as the user and the market never hurts, right? ;-)

B) Guidance

You can say what you want, but in some ways, you are guiding a development team since in some decisions you have the last word as a product manager:

  • • Give people a choice: This is one of the most important parts but also the benefits in our Matrix-organization. Individuals are more likely to be motivated if they are able to choose the team on their own by doing a self-selection. So, it's not only about letting them choose the latest tools, framework or language, but also the team. When colleagues volunteer to be part of a team, they are psychologically more committed to the success of the team. On top, we have cross-functional teams, but the smaller the team gets, the more likely it is, that is has to be cross-skilled. But I highly recommend, that also bigger teams are cross-skilled, so that any engineer has a basic understanding of UI and UX. And last but not least, have team events so that people get to know each other, no matter if the team is onsite or distributed
  • • Don't manage the team: It's great to care about the people in your development team, but the product manager should manage the product, not the team. They have a people manager for this and for the agile processes they'll have support by an agile master. Of course, you can join them in any technical discussion, but let the team decide how the product is build, do not interfere here (believe me, since I'm a product manager with an engineering background).
  • Effectively interact with the team: My five advices here are very simple:

  1. • Get the product backlog ready and collaboratively decide on the sprint goal
  2. • Respect the team's right to determine the workload
  3. • Participate in retro's if you are in touch with the product
  4. • Make time to interact with the team to build up trust!

  • Give the team time to experiment and learn: If you don't have the time to invest into new trends and technologies, competitors may overtake the product pretty fast. Having some kind of discovery week, maybe even steered into any direction is a real productivity boost for the team and a good point to get to know each other very well! Did you know that Youtube and Google Maps have been the results of discoveries?
  • Let the team own the solution: This is all about empowered teams, where they should join different discoveries, do product backlog tasks with the product manager, or they are empowered enough to raise a flag when the debts are just too high.

C) Stakeholders

When people talk about stakeholders, it often has a negative tone. From my perspective, they can be a very powerful ally and boost for the product! In the end, a product managers should not only build products that customers love, but also create value for the business. Therefore, product people need to involve the right people at the right time and distinguish between internal stakeholders (like other products, solutions or domains) and external stakeholders (like agency or our countries).

Once anyone has identified the stakeholders, they can be clustered into the Power-Interest-Matrix, which I won't explain in detail here. In the end, any products need has to have a community around the stakeholders, show them the artifacts, invite them to workshop or even retros. In the end it's up to the team and the workflow within the domain how they are working with stakeholders, but in the end, I can only recommend using their knowledge, gain their trust and involve them into products discoveries and strategic work to push the product to the next level!

Besides these soft skills, at METRO.digital we pay a lot of attention to our set of values for successful product management – Product Manifesto. Read about it here!

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