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40% of product managers say they experience imposter syndrome
frequently or all the time.
Product Plan (Annual report 2021)
Capability vs Influence
If you look at how the average career unfolds for a PM, their underlying capabilities and experience will tend to develop exponentially in the early part of their career until reaching a fairly high level of mastery.
However, building capabilities outpace building their influence.
Only after consistently delivering value on a repeated basis will PM's develop a strong reputation, cement deep stakeholder relationships and build credibility across all levels of an organization.
Ambitious PMs often struggle with this fact, particularly when looking to advance quickly through the ranks. They may believe they are competent and ready, but they're actually being judged by their influence in the organization, how others perceive them and how they are trusted.
The Product Proficiency Framework
I perform tasks in the skill area to completion at a high degree of quality, without guidance from my manager.
I work with peers, customers and stakeholders to ensure buy-in and alignment, and they actively seek to influence, debate/challenge and embrace the output of my work in the skill area.
I drive high-value initiatives in the skill area for my product and beyond, which are adopted and utilized by my organization resulting in measurable positive business outcomes and learnings.
I am called upon to coach and mentor others, contribute to major efforts outside of my immediate purview, and/or to develop new processes and techniques in the skill area.
I am recognized internally and externally as a thought-leader and are formally empowered by the organization to own substantial responsibilities within the skill area.
A Framework for Product Proficiency
The APP Product Proficiency Framework identifies five discrete levels of mastery. As a Product Manager moves up in skill proficiency, the more critical both Capability and Influence become.
A Product Manager first builds their ability to enact the skill internally and drive outwardly to produce a deliverable or outcome at lower levels. Whereas at higher levels, a Product Manager needs to reflect externally to assess others’ responses to their actions – their ability to build a reputation, gain recognition, become trusted and empowered by demonstrating repeated effectiveness in the skill.
You’ll notice that each level is deliberately a “verb”. Verbs ensure that we judge our actions and outcomes, not our self-assessed knowledge or perceptions. Either the activity has been undertaken and successful or not.
You may notice that as a Product Manager progresses through the levels, the key determining factors to the Product Manager’s success moves from their ability to perform a task to increasing levels of recognition by others as an influential leader in their organization. It fundamentally shifts from what the Product Manager thinks about themselves to what others think about the Product Manager.
To illustrate, consider the skill of Prioritization; it might appear to be a technical product management skill, but is there more to it than just being able to create a forced ranked list of items. Being effective at prioritization also requires driving alignment among a diverse group of stakeholders, the ability to communicate effectively, objectivity and use persuasiveness, diplomacy and empathy are all essential aspects of Prioritization – arguably more so than any single Prioritization tool or methodology.
The Product Management Domain
20 Technical Skills; 6 Adaptive Skills
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