Not all product roles are the same - it is unique depending on the kind of product involved, the stage of the product, the company size and maturity, the business goals, and the domain or sector. Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics (archetypes) that each product person should embody in order to be a trusted leader and teammate in any industry.
We have found that there are four Archetypes that strong product people embody. These are::
🗺 The Explorer
Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than a master of one.
Product people with an explorer mindset embrace diverse experiences and perspectives, have a background of diverse experiences of their own, and explore interdisciplinary thinking. Generalists or those who have been a wearer of many hats (in consulting, marketing, customer service, engineering, business analytics, education, etc) and are able to take the conceptual knowledge from one industry and apply it to an entirely new one is a skill that is difficult to master without experience. The ability to take all the unique challenges and learnings related to each of those different roles and make connections is what will bring creative thinking to each new workspace, and is what facilitates long-term deep learning (Epstein, 2019).
They are also visionaries and have a gift of storytelling that can ignite people’s passions around a product. They read or listen to podcasts often, have a deep knowledge of customer needs, stay on top of industry trends, look for patterns from the past, and learn from other explorers and visionaries.
🧠 The Thinker
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.” - Maya Angelou
Thinkers don’t just ensure decisions are made or problems are solved, they also make it a priority to ensure these are both done correctly. They are able to prioritize tasks effectively for themselves and for their team, have strong time-management habits, and consider the many factors that go into the decision-making process (Moss, 2018). They have some level of technical proficiency in order to be able to access dependencies and deadlines that can make-or-break details of a product or feature’s feasibility (Appcues, n.d.). Understanding what makes a meaningful metric and some technical knowledge will make this product person an effective partner to their cross-functional team (Appcues, n.d.).
These individuals at the very least will know why the car engine works, but do not necessarily need to know how to fix it (analogy by Cole Mercer).
By taking the time to get to know the product, the market, and the business inside and out, thinkers are able to identify and limit the risk of unknowns that hide in the shadows of complex problems (Elezea, 2019).
These creative thinkers are fantastic problem solvers. They also increase team-wide productivity, and are important for continued innovation and staying current in the ever-changing market and tech world (icanbecreative, n.d.).
These product folks intentionally nurture their creativity by engaging their brains to switch between activity and rest, effort and letting go (Schwartz, 2011). Being in an environment that helps them to gain these insights are vital for the success of the business - it keeps the team and the business one step ahead of the competition, dreaming up new and unique ways of transforming the product, the business, and the industry (icanbecreative, n.d.).
❤️ The Self Aware
Self-aware product people are not afraid to ask questions.
They know where their knowledge ends and when to push for more information. They have strong communication skills and are able to communicate at multiple levels across the organization in order to effectively ship new products (Mercer, 2020). They are excellent presenters, skillful diplomats, and good listeners (Mercer, 2020). They practice the 7Cs of communication: They are Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete, and Courteous (Moss, 2018). They are able to understand and speak to the needs of different stakeholders and communicate them appropriately.
On top of being self-aware, they also have self-control, are self-motivated, have empathy, and have the social skills needed to behave in a mature, wise, empathetic way with the people around them.
“Product people with strong emotional intelligence are a joy to work with” (Moss, 2018).
🌱 The Authentic
Authentic product people build trust with their team by leading by example,
Authentic product people are able to build good working relationships with people at all levels because they focus on relationship building, creating high-quality connections, and respectful engagement (Moss, 2018).
They are able to bring people together, know how to facilitate meetings well, and are skilled at managing group dynamics. They build trust with their team by leading by example, communicating honestly and openly, getting to know their teammates as people, avoiding blame, and discouraging behaviours that breach trust. This great communicator is able to get their message across to different people by using different language techniques (verbal, written, body) in order to establish rapport with each member (Moss, 2018).
They know the importance of building strong teams and actively work on developing positive relationships with each teammate. They are their team’s role models - they act with integrity, honesty, and are constantly improving their self-development.
A strong product person is someone who embodies elements from all four of these archetypes.
Can you identify where your strengths and opportunities are? Which is your strongest archetype? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 💬
📌 The overall underlying takeaways of each archetype
As a product person, you should:
Never try to BS your team
Never promise what you cannot deliver
Never be obscure, misleading, or dishonest when communicating with your team, stakeholders, and customers
Do: Explore diverse perspectives
Do: Kick your ego out the door
Interested to pivot or grow in a product role? Check out PMDojo’s Accelerator Program! Applications for the next cohort is closing soon🔥
“10 Skills Every Product Manager Needs To Succeed” www.appcues.com/blog/product-manager-skills.
Epstein, David. (2019). Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. First Riverhead.
“Learning The Importance Of Creative Thinking In Business” Icanbecreative, icanbecreative.com/article/the-importance-of-creative-thinking-in-business.
Mercer, Cole. “7 Skills Every Product Manager Needs to Build a Winning Product” Udemy for Business, 16 Feb. 2020, blog.udemy.com/skills-product-manager-needs-build-winning-product/.
Moss, Desda. “The Top 10 Management Skills You Need” 24 Oct. 2018, www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/book-blog/Pages/the-top-10-management-skills-you-need.aspx.
“Prioritization, product stewardship, and the hardest part about being a product manager” Elezea, 9 July 2019, elezea.com/2019/07/prioritization-product-stewardship/.
Schwartz, Tony. “How to Think Creatively” 14 Nov. 2011, hbr.org/2011/11/how-to-think-creatively.html.