10 Tricks to Communicate Like a Boss

Effective communication is critical to the success of every product manager, irrespective of their experience.

Today, I share 10 easy-to-implement tricks that I use to communicate like a boss.

But, first let’s understand why is effective communication critical

Why is effective communication critical

Communication is the foundation for a successful product management career. If you cannot communicate effectively, you can’t

1. Share strategy, vision, goals, or even a simple idea with others.
2. Drive alignment on the critical aspects
3. Translate ambiguous problems to specific roadmap items
4. Share progress with others
5. Communicate successes and failures

If you’re an existing product manager, you already know this. But in the case you’ve forgotten, or if you’re not a product manager, I will repeat this: if you’re unable to meaningfully do ALL of the above, the path to your product’s success – and your success – will be extremely troublesome.

Now, we’re all on the same page – we understand why product managers need to communicate effectively, and we know what happens if product managers are bad at communication.

So, let’s talk about ten simple and effective tricks to communicate like a boss 😎 🎙️ 📝

TL;DR

1. Focus on simplicity
2. Know your audience
3. Select the correct channel
4. Don’t assume
5. Over is better than under communication
6. Successful delivery of the message != successful communication
7. Prepare well, address all concerns ASAP
8. Listen more, talk less
9. Respond. Never react
10. Be aware and empathetic

1. Focus on simplicity

Always use simple words. Using simple words means that:

1. Your audience will read (or listen) more.
2. Your audience will understand what they consume.
3. Your audience will trust your communication (and hence you.)

A few examples:

  • advantageous ➞ helpful
  • demonstrate ➞ show
  • discontinue ➞ stop
  • accomplish ➞ do

2. Know your audience

Everyone has different preferences and motivations.

Increase the effectiveness of your message by adapting your message to their preferences and appealing to their motivations.

A few examples:

CXOs prefer concise and to-the-point communication

  • If I’m communicating with my CPO over email, I send structured and short emails. And, I include links to resources (in case, the audience needs more details.)
  • If I’m presenting to a larger group of executives, I use well-formatted slides. Each slide focuses on one main idea and has links to relevant resources. (If you’d like to know how to create meaningful presentations, please reply to this email)

Data scientists (DS) are comfortable (and even enthusiastic) with large amounts of data

I show summarised data:

  • I start with visualisations
  • Then, share the most critical insights/action items
  • I always include links to raw data to allow DS to validate the insights.

Engineers like details.

Without details, they might develop something quite different from what you wanted to.

  • For communicating product requirements, I use detailed tickets or documents. (Read more on detailed product requirements doc)
  • In addition to detailing the requirement, I include my thought process behind the requirement. I encourage the engineers to know and agree or disagree with my thinking. This allows me to gain their trust and collaborate better.

3. Select the correct channel

It’s not only what you say but also how you say it.

Select the channel that best fits (in this order)

1. your communication goal
2. your target audience’s preferences
3. your skillset

A few examples:

  • Slides for extensive group discussions
  • Documents, sheets, etc. for detailed context, data, analysis
  • IM for instant conversations
  • Emails for updates

4. Don’t assume

Not everyone knows what you know. So before you communicate, ensure that both (sender and receiver) are on the same page.

Do this to get on the same page:

  • Clearly, share the goal
  • Share detailed context
  • Include links for (more) details
  • Encourage them to ask questions
  • Clearly define the process to ask questions
  • Repeat until you’re confident they understand what you mean

5. Over is better than under communication

Over-communication is better than under-communication, as long as you know what over-communication is and is not.

Over-communication IS:

  • reiterating important messages
  • sharing relevant, important details
  • sharing it with every one who might be (even remotely) impacted

Over-communication is NOT:

  • information overload
  • including irrelevant information

6. Successful delivery of the message != successful communication

Delivery is an essential step in the process, but it is not the last step. And this is where most product managers falter.

Young product managers and weak communicators assume that delivering the message to the audience is equal to successful communication. But it is NOT.

Communication is successful only when

  • The receiver has understood the message as intended
  • Both the sender and receiver can (and do) participate
  • The receiver knows how to respond easily
  • Both sides trust and respect each other (And this only happens as an an outcome of the effectiveness of your communication.)

7. Prepare well, address all concerns ASAP

Another vital aspect of effective communication is the audience’s confidence in your message. To get that confidence, you have to help the audience understand the message and address the audience’s questions or concerns.

I strongly recommend preparing ahead of time, especially for scenarios with a live audience and Q&A.

A few things that work for me:

1. Complete steps 1 through 5 above.
2. Anticipate questions, prepare answers beforehand. If you’ve mastered step #2 (know your audience), you’ll be able to anticipate most of the questions and comments beforehand. Think of effective responses to those questions.
3. When you don’t have an answer, be candid and transparent: let your audience know you don’t know. But, share a timeframe in which you’ll get the answer. Ensure you get back to them within that timeframe
4. Have comprehensive documentation readily available to refer to it or point your audience to it.

8. Listen more, talk less

As simple as this trick sounds, most people choose to ignore it.

Listening allows you to:

  • look interested
  • build trust and respect
  • learn and gain knowledge
  • make them feel understood
  • understand their points of view

9. Respond. Never react.

Reaction:

1. is without thought
2. will do more damage than good
3. is based on fear and insecurities

Response:

1. is understanding the situation
2. collecting your thoughts
3. doing what is best
4. is based on logic

10. Be aware and empathetic

Every person has a unique past and present. You don’t know what they’re going through. You don’t know how they think. You don’t know what they believe in.

But if you did, you’d know exactly how to position and word your message. You’d know what to say. You’d know how to say it. You’d know how to make them understand your message quickly.

So take the time to know your stakeholders. Build personal relationships to understand their past, thought processes, and motivations.

With that said, there will be multiple situations where you’re communicating with a lesser-known audience. In such cases:

  • be open to accepting opposing views
  • positively approach the situation
  • (try to) put yourself in their shoes
  • avoid cognitive biases
  • acknowledge and respect their apprehensions

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