I recently posted about TPM core skills on LinkedIn. I have seen many TPMs who are hyper focused on perfecting their technical skills and learning new domains. TPMs pride themselves on the technical judgment and ability which is the foundation of the role.
However, I often find that other aspects of the TPM role are given less importance or not emphasized enough, often disproportionately to the amount of impact it can have on the success of a TPM. Solid program management skills, strong leadership/people skills and excellent communication skills are core to the TPM role and crucial to making an impact and achieving success.
I created the following visualization to provide clarity. I call this the TPM Monument. In order to achieve Impact and Success, you need to strengthen all the skills to become a well rounded TPM.
Technical skills form the foundation of the role. Without proper domain expertise and technical judgment, it will be very difficult to take off in the TPM role. Most of you are well aware of this and are already putting in a lot of effort to learn new technical domains.
Program Management skills are not just about tools like Jira or methodologies like Agile. A solid understanding of program management skills means that you are able to plan proactively (short and long term), prioritize effectively, track effortlessly and mitigate risks flawlessly. Don’t make the mistake of creating elaborate sprint boards or tasks with a laborious amount of detail. If you spend hours doing so instead of figuring out what risks will become real, you are focused on the wrong stuff. TPMs are hired to eliminate risk and reduce complexity. The tools and methodologies are just a means to an end.
Leadership skills encompass various behaviors that are critical to the TPM role but are not discussed enough. TPMs have to influence without authority, negotiate with teams to achieve win-win, get buy-in from senior leaders, motivate teams to meet deadlines, build strong relationships with stakeholders and manage conflicts objectively Emotional intelligence, growth mindset and empathy are traits that will help you cultivate these leadership behaviors more easily. Leadership skills play a much bigger role as you go up levels in your TPM career. I often see smart technical TPMs get stuck at the Senior TPM level because they lack the appropriate leadership skills.
Communication skills are spread across all other areas and go beyond just the written text, Your communication style is less about you and more about your audience. You have to adapt your communication style constantly. You have to keep honing the various facets of communication. If your audience does not have the clarity after communicating with you, then you need to strategize better. Any communication you put out there should provide answers not raise more questions. And it should be able to answer the “So what?” question that is more common than you think. Keep in mind that language proficiency is separate from communication skills.
Don't let your TPM monument crumble. Pay equal attention to all skills so you can be the most sought after TPM.
If you feel stuck in your role or not sure on how to enhance your leadership and communication skills, I can help. Contact Us to setup an introductory consultation.