Skills of the top 1% Product Managers

February 6, 2023
Product & Growth

When you open any blog or article on product management skills, you will be bombarded with a lot of skills that will at best, confuse you and, at worst, frighten you.

Don't feel overwhelmed, for I will dissect the top skills needed to succeed as a PM.

First things first, you are NOT the CEO of the product. You are not the “product owner”, yet you need to own the product.

Confused? Let me clarify. Without actually owning the product, you have to ensure everyone is aligned on the product and consistently ship features that delight the user and move the business metrics. 

Keeping this in mind, let me share the top 6 skills needed for a PM. I will divide them into technical and soft skills. First, I will explain the technical skills. 

Tech Skills Required for a PM

Learn to work with engineers and designers

You might not know how to code or design, but you need to understand what it is like to work with engineers/designers and understand their processes.

It helps to empathize with the teams and helps you set effective deadlines and a roadmap. It also enables you to know when the inputs of these teams are valid for your product roadmap.

How to develop this skill:

  • Talk to engineering and design teams and understand their working philosophy.
  • Take a primer on engineering and UX design like a 1 hr overview or a 2 day workshop.

Writing Technical Specs And Requirements

You should be able to write clearly, and the detailed requirements must provide a specific direction for the engineering team and the designers. Ambiguous documents can cause the wrong features to be built and can derail the product and the upcoming plan.

How to develop this skill:

  • Look at previous product specs which worked well and replicate the style.
  • If no product specs are available, keep close feedback for the initial specs with the team. Once the team is comfortable with the specs, reflect on the elements that worked and replicate the same.

Conducting Market Research 

Doing adequate market research is also important for any good product manager. You must do the competitor analysis and understand the audience for whom the product is built.

In this phase conducting the user interviews and surfacing the insights becomes very important. With these insights, reconvene with the marketing team to understand their perspectives.

How to develop this skill:

  • Talk to marketing teams regularly and understand their processes for market research.
  • Designers too conduct user interviews - collaborate with them initially and go forward from there. 

Soft Skills Required for a PM 

Critical Thinking And Analytical Skills

PMs must be able to crunch data and provide actionable insights. Good frameworks here would help in considering the different options and making an informed decision.

Priorities keep changing, and you must be able to adapt and refine the requirement with your thinking chops quickly. This skill must be used to resolve deadlocks and move forward quickly.

How to develop this skill:

  • Read up on different mental models and apply them in the day to day decision-making.
  • Reflect on the feedback and the outcome of the decision to refine the process. 


This is tricky! You must be able to lead without actually leading the team. You have to work with multiple stakeholders and get them on the same page.

The best way here is to take a collaborative approach and using data to guide the other teams into proper decision-making. You need conviction, compassion and diplomacy.

How to develop this skill:

  • If not in a PM role, take more cross-team responsibilities and get a few wins through small projects.
  • Shadow other leaders and learn from them. Join product communities and network with others to learn this skill. It is a skill so it can be learnt. 
Source: Just another PM - PM Memes

Learning Mindset

Being at the intersection of multiple teams, an essential quality is a thirst for learning. If you write decently, learn how to write better. Keep up with the trends and keep honing your skills. Write better, communicate better, give feedback, act on feedback better and so on.

How to develop this skill:

  • Follow the important people in your field on Twitter/LinkedIn.
  • Attend the conferences or webinars done by the top product leaders and gain knowledge from them.

There are a lot of other skills that would help a product manager like - empathy, emotional intelligence, product vision and so on. But starting with the above skills is a decent start to the journey. 

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