Both companies and HR consultants consider communication to be the most important social skill for the future. For you as a product manager, good communication skills are decisive, both for your career and to ensure that you deliver a successful product. Yet we often still hear complaints about communication not functioning well with other departments and about the lack of acceptance of product management in many companies. Using examples from the real world of business, this unique self-help guide looks at the typical communication difficulties which often arise and highlights potential solutions. There are also several exercises for you to test your new knowledge. The communication skills you acquire will simplify your everyday working life: You will improve your communication skills. You will learn how to convey information more effectively and how to convince stakeholders of your ideas.You will enhance your ability to pose tactical questions in order to increase your knowledge of the market. You will build up skills which will enable you to deliver customer-focused product management. Your company will benefit in different ways: senior management will be able to make decisions faster and development teams will be able to carry out their development work according to real market requirements. In addition, the sales team will find selling easier and employees will get more enjoyment out of their work. I wish you every success in putting these ideas into practice. You will soon find you are experiencing more acceptance from the various departments you deal with.
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Both companies and HR consultants consider communication to be the most important social skill for the future. For you as a product manager, good communication skills are decisive, both for your career and to ensure that you deliver a successful product. Yet we often still hear complaints about communication not functioning well with other departments and about the lack of acceptance of product management in many companies.
Using examples from the real world of business, this unique self-help guide looks at the typical communication difficulties which often arise and highlights potential solutions. There are also several exercises for you to test your new knowledge. The communication skills you acquire will simplify your everyday working life:
You will improve your communication skills.
You will learn how to convey information more effectively and how to convince stakeholders of your ideas.
You will enhance your ability to pose tactical questions in order to increase your knowledge of the market.
You will build up skills which will enable you to deliver customer-focused product management.
Your company will benefit in different ways – senior management will be able to make decisions faster and development teams will be able to carry out their development work according to real market requirements. In addition, the sales team will find selling easier and employees will get more enjoyment out of their work.
I wish you every success in putting these ideas into practice. You will soon find you are experiencing more acceptance from the various departments you deal with.
Ulrike Laubner is an expert in product management. She has a profound knowledge of the value which product managers generate for a company, having herself spent time working as a product manager and in other leadership roles in various international companies. She understands the challenges involved in communications and knows what it is like to come up against internal hurdle. She has experienced this situation herself. Her methods of improving communication skills are very convincing on account of both their ability to be implemented quickly and the visibility of the success they bring about. The information which provides the basis for her knowledge has been collected from a range of companies and industries and she has worked with the methods herself.
She enables companies and employees to develop their expertise in product management through certified training courses, workshops and consultancy. Companies and product managers achieve a noticeable improvement in collaboration and are able to launch new products onto the market faster through systematic product management and effective methods of communication.
As a member of the international non-profit organisation ‘Toastmasters’, she coaches and trains other members. Through this initiative, Ulrike Laubner provides training in management skills and communication which they can use in both their private and their professional environments.
In this practice-based self-help guide, she has summarised her findings on communication at the interfaces of product management, as well as her experiences as a coach, consultant, speaker, manager and lecturer.
Katharina Brunner spent 20 years working with considerable success in the field of corporate communications for number of companies, based both in Germany and further afield, before setting up her own consultancy focusing on user experience in 2014. She had already laid the foundations for this with her degree in Journalism and Communication Studies. With her company Maevis Consulting, which is based in Zurich, she advises companies who want to make user-friendly and successful products on improving the interfaces between product management, IT and marketing.
Eduardo Lopes has been working as a product, marketing and project manager in the engineering and connectivity industries since the year 2010. His style of product management is distinguished by products which create value as well as by a rapid time-to-market. For his Bachelor thesis, he carried out an in-depth investigation into the subject of product launches in the B2B market.
Frank Lemser is a Business Engineer and has been involved with his passionate interest, product management, since the year 2000, in both practical and academic terms.
As Managing Director of and coach for proProduktmanagement GmbH, he trains and issues certification to product managers according to Open Product Management Workflow™. He developed Open Product Management Workflow™ and its tools for product management in order to simplify collaboration with other departments, thereby saving valuable time for all those involved. He is regularly faced by new challenges in his training and consultancy sessions and succeeds in providing solutions for profitable product management.
I would like to thank all the product managers who have spoken openly to me about their difficulties. Without their input, it would not have been possible for me to write this book. My special thanks go to Meike Diesing, Jana Sachtleben-Wochnik, Gudrun Houry and Jenna Olejiczak for their support of this book.
SPEAKING AND PRESENTATION SKILLS
1. The four styles of communication
2. Ego Marketing – Product Managers are important
3. 5 ‘Hot seasoning techniques’ for more spice and increased effectiveness
4. SERVIS – The listener is your customer
5. Effective presentation in five steps
6. The ‘Black box’ of your communication
7. Communication for technical experts
8. Understanding the gibberisch of other cultures
COMMUNICATION WITH TEAMS
9. The Open Product Management Workflow™ as a communication booster
10. Gain more with good communication
11. Facts mean faster decision-making
12. Good communications improve motivation
13. Improving the level of acceptance of the Product Manager
14. Performance indicators for Product Manages
15. How does Generation Y tick?
16. Meetings which are more beneficial for everyone
17. Talking to ‘difficult’ employees
18. Recognising ’difficult’ employees
19. Conflict Management – The calm after the storm
20. Listening increases the amount of information acquired
21. Product Managers gain knowledge of the markets
22. Precise customer requirements reduce costs
23. Prioritising customer requirements
24. “Let me have a look” - Visualisation for better products
25. Marketing communications for real customers
26. A Framework for product launches
27. Marketing for Generation Y
Bibliography and list of source references
Quick transfer exercises
“The art of communicating with one another properly is like learning to walk – you keep falling over, again and again, until finally someone kindly takes you by the hand.” (Wilma Eudenbach)
Imagine the following situation – you are talking to your manager and he keeps looking at his watch and tapping his foot. Then he says, ‘Could you maybe get to the point?” How does that make you feel?
Try not to take it personally when someone behaves likes this or in any other particular way. You don’t know what personal ‘baggage’ they are carrying around with them. Stress because of the traffic, a sick child or a divorce, a win on the lottery or approaching holidays – all these factors may influence the course of a conversation or on the atmosphere.
Yet it is irrelevant what situation people happen to find themselves in, because communication styles are dependent on the personality of the individual in question. When you have recognised this fact, then you will react appropriately, and you will make efficient use of both your time and that of the person you are talking to.
“If you want to have an effect on others, then you first of all need to speak to them in their own language” (Kurt Tucholsky)
Speak the language of the person you are talking to and in doing so avoid frustration, misunderstandings and the necessity for further meetings with more presentations to clarify things that were not made clear. The following table gives you an overview of four typical styles of communication and the best way to react to them:
Table 1: Styles of communication and how to deal with them
Style of communication
How to deal with it
resolute manner of speaking, formal, speaks loud and quickly, direct eye contact, firm handshake, keeps distance
good preparation, be well-informed on the facts, summarise content, pose direct questions, tend towards being formal, assume an upright posture
tends to generalise, convincing manner, gives their opinion, acts fast, moves a lot, speaks loud, assertive handshake, a lot of variation in mood
listen to their experience, integrate them into finding solutions, state time available, deliver entertaining information, allow time for discussion, keep eye contact
good listener, uses personal language, a lot of gestures, speaks and moves slowly, gentle handshake, gives verbal support
allow time to get to know one another and for personal matters, address common issues, be relaxed, create an atmosphere of trust for expressing personal opinions
focussed on details, expresses themselves in brief sentences, little variation in mood, controlled movements, not much emotion
focus on facts and figures, define the structure, e.g. time, content, measurement criteria, ask targeted questions about details, don’t speak or move too quickly or in too hectic a manner.
Did you recognise your own style of communication? You will find these different styles of communication or combinations of them everywhere, and you will find yourself in one of them too. There are no good or bad styles of communication – each of them has its place and its specific strengths and weaknesses. If you want to learn how to recognise these different styles of communication, then start in your own surroundings.
You can practise every day and you will get better at it; for example, small talk on the bus or on the train, conversation with friends or colleagues at work, with your partner and your children.
As the person responsible for a product, you are in fact presenting your company when you interview customers, talk to visitors at trade fairs or carry out product training. Your presence is of key importance when you take part in management meetings or lead kick-off meetings. You carry responsibility for the future of the company and the success of the product. You are important. You are in the spotlight, whether you like it or not. Do you know the impact you have when you are standing in the spotlight? Are you aware of your strengths and are you confident?
If you catch yourself asking yourself the following questions every now and then, then you can find methods in this chapter to strengthen your self-confidence as a product manager and to help you to present your knowledge.
How come Ms Miller is getting a pay rise again?
How is it that Mr Owen always manages to transform his innovative ideas into projects?
How come the others are allowed to travel abroad to visit their customers again, and not me?
Why is it always the others who get the interesting products?
Why didn’t I get a promotion this year?
A healthy dose of self-marketing is a strong means of success. Don’t let yourself believe otherwise, as most people will be full of admiration for your self-confidence. Those people are of course to be distinguished from those who have narcissistic tendencies and always exaggerate their achievements - which are often quite mediocre - and broadcast them to the whole world.
It has become clear to me that, in many different companies and industries, self-marketing is a difficult theme for women in particular. Men seem to learn this skill from a very early age and enjoy telling people what they have achieved or have done well. Women tend to assign successes to other people and don't like to advertise their good performance. Yet they often ask themselves why they and their achievements are being overlooked.
It’s quite simple – when we look up at the night sky, the first thing we see is the stars that are shining the brightest.
Your motto therefore needs to be ‘DO THINGS WELL AND TALK ABOUT IT’ and you will experience what Henry Ford once told us:
“Ducks lay their eggs in complete silence. Hens cluck like crazy when they are laying. What is the result? Everyone in the world eats hens’ eggs.“
Self-marketing is necessary for good relationships and for your career. Consider for a moment it is you, who wants to ask somebody for advice. Who would you go to? Those who you trust on the basis of their knowledge and experience. Am I correct? Start sharing your achievements now.
If you invest time in marketing your ego, then you will progress further in product management, you will earn more, and you will be given the more interesting product ranges to work with. You will also be given greater freedom in the way you organise your work. So much for the advantages.
The disadvantage may be that some people become envious of you. But this will be meaningless to you as you are pursuing your goals through honest means.
Think about it – people are only envious of those who are successful! A couple of quotes from my own career – “Ulrike, how come you got the job?” “How can the management trust you after such a short time, when I’ve been on the job for six years?”, “I don’t think it’s fair that you are allowed, repeatedly to travel abroad for long periods of time.”
In this chapter, you will learn some tactical methods of telling others about your achievements, without needing to change your basic character. You don’t need to copy anyone – you are good as you are! It will take you around 15 minutes to note down the answers to the following questions:
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