I recently read a book titled “Do What You Are” (by Tieger and Barron-Tieger) recommended by Tess George of Speakwell training, and it made me think: what kind of personality makes a good product manager?

Myers-Briggs define people by four dimensions of personality:
· How we interact with the world and where we direct our energy 
(E) Extroversion ------Introversion (I)
· The kind of information we naturally notice                                        
(S) Sensing----------------Intuition (N)
· How we make decisions                                                                         (T) Thinking------------------Feeling (F)
· Structured/Making decisions or Spontaneous/taking in information          
(J) Judging---------------Perceiving (P)

I have observed that most product managers are either ENTJ or ENTP and here is why:
As a product manager being an extrovert is a must—you need to be able to interact with customers, peers, and management, and that means putting yourself out there.
Intuition means trusting inspiration, leading new ideas & concepts and being imaginative. Intuitive types are oriented toward the future—another key attribute.
Thinkers are logical, tend to be critical and are motivated by achievements. They make decisions based on analysis and consider it more important to be truthful than tactful.
The other dimensions are where this gets a little fuzzy.

Are you better off making decisions upfront based on info you have (J) or should you leave some options open to change (P)?
Are you product oriented (J) or process oriented (P)?
Do you set goals and work towards achieving them on time (J) or do you change goals as new information becomes available (P)? 

Circumstances often lead us to behave in certain ways, particularly at work where decisions need to be made.

The bottom line is regardless of your personality type, you are the customer advocate and the product champion. Remember to use your personality to your advantage to connect with customers and colleagues  alike.

 


Comments

02/14/2012 00:12

I have worked for 20+ years in product/proposition management. According to Myers Briggs i am an INFP and i can relate to the piece very well - oftentimes i find I need to make additional effort to overcome my 'I', and sometimes my 'F' in order to make an impact. Saying that, i have been lucky enough most of my career to work in a team with colleagues with complementary strengths to my own.

Reply
Paul Cashman
02/20/2012 09:58

I'm a long-time product manager and an INTJ type. ("Do What You Are" is a great book as an introduction, but "Please Understand Me II" is even better.) Introverts can succeed as PMs if they are willing to "put [themselves] out there" and overcome their natural tendency to hide in their office (spoken from personal experience).

Reply
Glenn
02/23/2012 16:46

I think we need to be careful of using the words introvert and extrovert as the MB usage is not the commonly-accepted definitions as used today.

People who prefer extraversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. If they are inactive, their motivation tends to decline. To rebuild their energy, extraverts need breaks from time spent in reflection. Conversely, those who prefer introversion expend energy through action: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. To rebuild their energy, introverts need quiet time alone, away from activity.

It doesn't seem to me that either of these personality types would explicitly be better at being a PM. As a PM you need to plan, act, measure, refine and repeat. Do you need to have some level of social skills and willingness to interact with strangers, yes. Are some people better at this than others, yes. But then some PMs are better at more comfortable with numbers and data analysis than others.

To me the main thing about PM is being well-rounded. You basically need to be a jack-of-all-trades and as such the role is open to many personality types. No, you can't be shy and unwilling to talk, as a PM you need to give your opinion and sometimes enforce an unpopular decision - but you don't need to be the life and soul of the party to do so. I would also argue that you can be too outgoing - as a PM you need to be willing to listen, to ask questions, let others talk and weigh up the options - focus groups/brainstorming sessions/scrums don't work if you keep talking/interrupting. Yes you need to have the skills to lead/direct and keep these activities moving but it shouldn't be all about you.

The thing to me is that being a PM encompasses so many disciplines that very few of us are well-rounded enough to be good at them all. The trick is being good enough to understand what you need and to know when you are getting good (or bad) info/advice. Our job is to direct the orchestra, not play the instruments. The people you need on your team need to complement your strengths - being able to hire/select the right people and manage a team are critical to the role.

Reply
02/24/2012 17:14


Interesting discussion. It seems all are agreed that PMs have to be 'Intuitive' and 'Thinking'. It seems to me that being Intuitive helps you identify new products and go after new markets. Being Thinker also makes sense, since that is probably why many of us are attracted to PM work and the complex problems we have to solve.

As to 'Perceiving' vs. 'Judging' types, I wonder if the development process favors one over the other. Being an INCP, I seem to thrive in an agile world. It would seem that 'Judging' would fit with a waterfall approach.

To add to what Glen said, the MB distinguishes Extroverts from Introverts this way:
• Extraverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented.
• Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence.
• Extraverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction.
• Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

I think that "good" PMs are often in the eye of the beholder and to a significant extent defined by their team and environment:
• B2B or B2C client base
• Complex integrated product or simple SaaS offering
• Waterfall or Agile development process
• Etc.

I live in a B2B world with a complex product and an agile development process. Being an INTP is a good fit since my depth of knowledge (Subject Matter Expertise) is rewarded over breadth and significant time is required during client interaction, so they tend to be infrequent. In other words, my 'Intuitive' way fits with my product and client base.

Reply
Sarela Bliman-Cohen
02/25/2012 13:09

I am very excited to read all the comments, and many of the points are very well thought. Although this has been my experience, I agree that there are many types of PMs. Thank you all for sharing your personality types and experience.

Reply
06/29/2012 06:42

I must say, you have write this article very well. It is true that personality is your advantage to connect with customers and colleagues and improve your business as well.

Reply

Exciting conversation. It appears to be all are decided that PMs should be 'User-friendly' and 'Thinking'. It appears to me that becoming User-friendly allows you recognize new products and solutions as well as go right after new marketplaces. Becoming Thinker also creates feeling, considering that is most likely why a lot of of us are fascinated to PM perform as well as the complicated problems we have to fix.

Reply

Thanks for sharing most valuable information. If you have more information then please share with us Thanks for the post

Reply



Leave a Reply