I’ve decided to take a bold step, and add my small voice to the others who have taken the task of defining the character traits of great product managers. I hope you’ll join me in this three part series and add your voice of consent or dissent as both are equally valued!
What in tarnation is a product manager? I know what we do. I know what we solve. But WHO are we? WHAT are we? I suspect if you ask ten product managers this question, you’ll get ten different answers. If you ask me, you’ll get three! Today, I’ll talk about one of them.
We are Entrepreneurs!
If you take an entrepreneur and a product manager, boil them down in a crucible (ok, that might hurt), you’ll end up with four shared characteristics that drive both of these individuals. These are deep rooted characteristics that are visible in these people all of the time.
We see problems – Great product managers see problems everywhere! Not that our glass is always half empty, but rather we see opportunities to solve problems. No matter where we are, whether we’re talking to customers, reviewing software, or just shopping at the store, we always look for problems waiting to be solved. We try to create a better mouse trap because we’re always looking. We look for ways to add value!
We are creative – We don’t want to catch up to the competition, we want to pass the competition! Why? Because we don’t want to paint another Mona Lisa by numbers! We want to create something new that can stand on its own. Granted, there are plenty of people that make a lot of money copying other company’s brilliant ideas, but I call them good business owners, not entrepreneurs. Great product managers, like entrepreneurs, have a creative muscle in their genetic make-up that is always flexing.
We are passionate – Once we’ve found a problem, and have a solid way of solving it, and can prove that people want it (don’t overlook that last one), we’re in! Hook, line and sinker! Great product managers strongly believe in the cause. It’s the kind of passion that makes us work smarter and harder. The kind of passion that has us keep a notepad next to the bed to write down our “Eureka!” moment from the middle of the night. The kind of passion that causes us to overshoot our exit on the highway because we’re deep in thought.
We are courageous – This is the defining moment of every great product manager (and entrepreneur). This is the moment when we decide to DO something, to put ourselves out on a limb and risk falling off. It takes courage to tell everyone “this way is the right way”. You know why? Because we might be wrong! We might get half way there and discover problems that potentially change everything. And for reasons that (should) have nothing to do with ego, we figure out ways around those problems to keep the fight alive. We have such a clear picture of the future, we can paint it with absolute clarity to those around us.
What other entrepreneur character traits are shared with product managers? Comment welcome!
Next week - Part II: A Product Manager is a Leader