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Listening and Product Management

Soft skills in Product Management

by Ibukunoluwa Ogundare
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Your job as a product manager is majorly to help people. To do this, you have to understand the role of listening as a vital soft skill in Product Management. You will not be able to achieve the goal of assistance without listening to these people CORRECTLY. To do this, you have to understand the role of listening as a vital soft skill in Product Management.

Can you listen well? Or do you listen just to give a response? Do you pay attention to the words spoken and the silence?

One of the major reasons why people do not listen well based on observation is that they feel the pressure to say the right things and give a great response as opposed to listening and understanding what is being said. As a product manager, the best response you can give to any user is the solution to their need. This means there is less pressure to give immediate responses where necessary and more reasons to pay attention.  

A big part of your role will involve gathering information from many sources to help you make better-informed decisions about how to guide and improve your product. In other words, you will often be interviewing subject-matter experts (both internal and external) about product details, the needs of the market, your competitors, customers, budgetary and resource constraints, etc.  

To understand all of this information intelligently, and put it to use in building the best product you can, you will need to truly listen — to hear and understand what each person is telling you by listening actively. Ask relevant questions and be truly curious. The best listeners are curious, and curiosity begins with a question. 

There are two types of questions:
  • The direct questions (Yes/No response) are used mainly to clarify a statement.
  • The Why questions are questions that seek more information.

A product manager should always be comfortable asking ‘why’ as many times as possible. We are very familiar with information questions: Why is this so? Why is the sky blue? Why would you prefer that option? The two types of questions should be well understood and used appropriately.

A product manager that uses the listening soft skill is halfway to finding great ideas that lead to better products. They are also very likely to come up with amazing solutions to consumer problems.

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