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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Product Managers, learn to listen

"To Listen" is very imported for a product manager. Listening is a skill, and for a product manager this skill is on the top of the skills list that a product professional must acquire. Effectiveness of core deliverable like identifying opportunities, writing business plan, collection requirements, PRDs, and release prioritization largely depends upon how well the product manager has mastered the skill of listening.

The purpose of listening for many as I observe is to reply. Start replying, even while the speaker continues to put his point or frame up reply while speaker is talking and start speaking as soon as he is done.

One of the major role a product manager (read expectations from product manager) is to consolidate inputs from various sources (read requirement gathering), compile them and take decision that would best benefit product & business strategy. It is hence imperative that product manager masters this skill of listening to its best. 

Listening is as I mentioned is not to reply. For a product manager, the sole purpose of listening is to understand the message and utilize information to improve or correct the product. Listening has few important steps;
  1. Let the speaker be done with his thought
  2. Consolidate points from talk
  3. Confirm your understanding, usually re-state or paraphrasing with a ?.
  4. Analyse the input just received (learn more read expectations from product manager
  5. Appreciate the point, usually also thank the user from bringing this to your notice
  6. State your views, you were aware of the situation, already discussed, will consider etc
  7. Ensure that your views are correctly understood

Be it board room discussion, a casual chat over phone or a discussion while walking in aisle, be sure of what you are expected to do when someone starts talking to you. Listening is valuing, demonstrating a person that 'I value your views'. It is important as it also acts as a first-aid for an emotional outburst. Inject above mentioned steps in your nature, this will help you earn greater respect at work and also helps in maintaining the decorum at work place.


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