10 Bad Habits That Will Set You Back as a Product Manager

Collected from dozens of real-life PMs, we determined the top ten worst habits a PM could have.

Bad habits that could be detrimental for PMs

Product management is a hard job. You need to consider not only your team, but stakeholders, and customers, too. You’re expected to be perpetually adaptable and available. You should be certain of your product, while also open to criticism and feedback.

You’ve probably already developed some habits that have led to your success, but don’t fall victim to some bad habits that could hinder you and your team’s progress. The following bad habits have been designated as some of the worst by dozens of PMs with years of experience in the field:

1. Not prioritizing customer needs or believing every customer inquiry is of utmost importance

Don’t fail to listen to customer needs—this will only make a product that doesn’t solve the user’s problems or meet their expectations. Product managers should prioritize customers' needs because they are the driving force behind the development and success of your product. Taking their feedback and inquiries into account is vital if you want your product to succeed. That being said, some customer needs are more immediately urgent than others. Prioritize the most important problems first so you can spend your energy finding solutions that solve multiple problems.

2. Working with toxic bosses

Product managers have a lot on their plate. You have to keep your product in mind whilst answering stakeholders and higher-ups. And you need to relay information to a diverse team. It’s a stressful job—but working with toxic bosses can be unbearable. If your heart's not in your work, or if there is a lack of communication within the company, your product, and your roadmap will suffer.

Don’t be a toxic boss either! There are a few things you can do to ensure there is no toxicity in your workplace:

  • No information hogging: Product management and development is a collaborative process. Don’t hog information and be as transparent as possible when communicating with your team.
  • No micromanaging: A healthy work environment revolves around trust. And although it’s your job to obsess over strategy and vision, micromanaging can lead to everyone’s burnout and resentment.
  • No self-centeredness: Consider your team and open communication in everything you do. Don’t put your own interests ahead of your team or your product.
  • No steep hierarchies: No one wants to feel unvalued or belittled at work. Don’t get trapped in a workplace with a toxic boss, and don’t be one to others. Try to level hierarchies as much as you reasonably can to foster collaboration and open dialogue.

3. Obsessing over frameworks

Frameworks are an important tool because they can lend much-needed structure and guidance. But product managers shouldn’t follow them blindly and bindingly. One size does not fit all; different products and teams have different needs and visions. Don’t allow frameworks to become limiting by hampering your creativity or flexibility. Frameworks can also be extremely time-consuming, and sometimes that effort can best be used elsewhere.

4. Not setting boundaries and knowing your job description

A well-seasoned and successful product manager will be multi-talented and flexible. But make sure that you and your company know the difference between product, project, and program management. Product managers focus on the “who,” “what,” and “why” of a project. Your main responsibility is to understand the customer needs and your product’s market, whereas project and program managers are responsible for the implementation of details and internal communication, respectively. Sometimes product managers know how to navigate all three jobs, especially in a small company or start-up. But even if it’s very important to stay flexible, don’t allow yourself to burn out by continuously taking on too many roles.

5. Over-promising on your own deliverables

Along the same lines, don’t promise more than you can deliver. If you overexert yourself and burn out, your product and your company will suffer. Stick to your personal and professional boundaries, and things will flow from there.

6.  Prioritizing feature requests rather than understanding the problems behind them

So, you’ve started to listen to customer needs and prioritize them as a guiding force in your work. And you’ve begun to create a collaborative workplace. Great!

Similar to our first point, it’s important not to get distracted by shiny feature requests or unnecessary changes to your product, which might mean saying “no'' to requests from leadership or other stakeholders. Don’t get stuck in the “feature factory” cycle and end up with an overstuffed roadmap and even more issues down the line.

Instead, take the time to address real pain points and problems with your product, and not just the symptoms behind them. Work closely with your engineering and design team to solve the problem, or create new feature requests which prevent the problem from happening in the first place.

7. Forgetting the data

Let data and metrics drive you and your team through decision-making. Intuition and personal experience are exceptional tools that you’ll collect along the way, but never forget that hard data is your most important instrument to understand your product and its future. Allow metrics like user acquisition and engagement, product usage, customer satisfaction, technical performance, and market share, to inform your decision-making process, and let it be a benchmark of your success.

8. Underestimating scalability and maintainability

One thing that can be detrimental to the success of your product is if you don’t keep in mind scalability and maintainability while developing your idea. One of the most important attributes of a successful product is that it can be built to scale while also being easily adaptable to market changes or customer needs. Don’t back yourself into a corner by not considering scalability and maintainability changes in your future. Consider performance bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities, lack of documentation and testing, and codebase complexity before they are problems. No need to get stuck.

9. Ignoring new tools

Since product management is a growing field, more tools are always becoming available. They can provide valuable insights or efficiencies. New programs can keep you on track, while new data tools can provide deeper insights into market or customer trends. Using new tools can also show upper management and stakeholders that you’re adaptable and current industry developments and show that you are committed to improving your product and team. That being said, make sure you only use tools that add value and focus to you and your team.

Cut through the noise.

Keep your team’s favorite tools while making distributed information fully accessible. Stop wasting time trying to keep everyone in the loop.

10. Don’t let imposter syndrome consume you

Don’t indulge in imposter syndrome. We know, easier said than done. Since there is no standard path to becoming a product manager, and it’s next to impossible to fully train for, it’s easy to fall into the trap of perpetual self-doubt. But everyone is in the same boat! Embrace your strategy, analyze your data, and spur creativity and collaboration. Go get ‘em, tiger! 🐯🐅

👩‍💻 Tl;dr

We live in the fantastical world of product management. We need to be flexible and adaptable, but headstrong and self-assured. But it’s vital that we set professional boundaries for the well-being of ourselves and our teams. Know your role, and keep an eye on the data and the competition. Don’t subjugate yourself to toxic bosses, and don’t allow yourself to be one, either. Use new products and programs to make your life easier. And most importantly, be sure of yourself!

Content Writer
Benjamin is passionate about all things product management—from development to launch. A Baltimore native, Ben enjoys discovering customer needs and transforming them into opportunities.
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