Product Managers Have Radically Different Personas

Which one are you?

Swapna M
Swapna M
Sep 6, 2019 · 5 min read

Having had experience and pleasure of working with multiple product managers on my teams (old and new) and by observing, having insightful conversations with product managers almost on a daily basis, I’ve realized there are myriad personality types within the product management role.

Take the following breakdown of personas with a pinch of salt, since it’s written as much from a place of sincerity as from hilarity.

The Magician

the show-runner

This type of Product Manager typically has done the tactical work in their early years, written the user stories, done the data mapping, created documentation, worked closely with their engineers, run scrum meetings and so on. Basically did the whole rigmarole of a business analyst role.

However now they might be at a stage where either:

  • The thought of writing detailed requirements makes them roll their eyes in their sockets
  • They want to focus on the big picture and move towards the strategic side of the product development process
  • They’re at a stage of moving into the people management side of things
  • They’ve been doing this for too many years, are truly done with product management and want to explore a different function altogether
  • Are in the running for a new job/role/switch careers/midlife crisis

Whatever might be the reason, but the magician now wants to wave a wand and expect the magic to happen. They want to oversee, provide their domain expertise, set the vision, objective, high level requirements etc., but they don’t want to get into too many technicalities for any of the aforementioned reasons. They don’t want to sit down to elicit detailed requirements, but are more than happy to help collaborate across teams, build relationships, enhance the culture of the team.

Especially in a large team or organization, this product manager would have other people that are experts in their functions, might have product analysts to help them out with the nitti-gritties, leaving the direction, roadmap and team challenges in their capable (or not) bucket.

The Hustler

the sous-chef

The Hustler is the sort of person who is either new to the field, and hence wants to prove themselves, or is truly an overall hyperactive person putting energies into whatever they do. Which is a good thing to have someone like them by your side if you’re their manager.

Having a product manager with excellent product management skills and a criminal mind is sterling. They can get things done by hook or by crook. They can rally up the resources to get the job done, call upon favors from different teams to expedite things, move fast to get a project to completion, according to the business deadlines, navigate the complexities with a sweet and sharp tongue. They’re truly invested in the job, at-least right now.

They’re like the sous-chef by the side of their experienced chef. They have their manager’s back, are like the right hand of the boss, like Batman and Robin.

The Silent Doer

the quiet-one

The silent one is not a bad product manager, but they have lost some of the previous magic they might have had. They do a moderately good job of shipping products and basic product management, are adept at following rules of the big bad game, but they either don’t push hard enough, or are not innovative enough to break boundaries and do something daring. They lack the personality, so to speak.

Maybe they don’t speak up, or speak up enough, are afraid of getting dinged at their job for being too ambitious or have a fear of failure. This quiet attitude might not be so bad for products that need the lights on (maintaining the product), with set processes and known ways of working.

But you can’t count on them to lead a vague new initiative, rally up the troops, and create a fan following behind them.

The Cub

the over-eager newbie

This over-enthusiastic newbie to product might be the hustler but hasn’t yet developed the chops required for product management. With the best of intentions, mistakes abound but they’re eager to learn and take on any or all projects out there.

Lack of confidence (or sometimes egoistic overconfidence), deference, false cautious steps proliferate behind their wake. This is not a bad thing per-se, because a good product leader would be able to mould/train them over time and help them learn the ropes of the trade. Time is what they need. And experience.

The Martyr

the saint-like

The Martyr is a high performer or has been quite a stellar performer till now, however when not given recognition or when they feel their value is not validated by the team; they might go into the martyr mode.

The Martyr knows their potential, others know their potential as well. However they have seen enough or are truly disillusioned to continue giving their best to the job. They might be in a funk, thinking they have given everything to the business that doesn’t give anything back to them. They might need serious inspiration to get them out of their slump — maybe a brand new project, a role in a new company, a good inspiring chat with someone, or maybe they just need a vacation.

The Personality

the weird-one

This product manager has a distinct personality — overeager, enthusiastic, silently stubborn, visionary blue sky thinker, sarcasm prone, eccentric genius or the most coveted of all — don’t-give-a-shit kinda carefree and ballsy attitude. This distinct personality might serve them well because it makes them interesting. They might be the future CEOs, startup-tinkerers or high-calibre executives, not because they know everything or because they have hustled or because they can network well, but because their personality is unique and entrancing enough to capitulate or upsurge them towards greatness.

What kind of Product Managers have you seen in your ecosystems?

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Swapna M

Written by

Swapna M

Product Lead @RBC | #Fintech #Innovation #Payments #AI | Previously Head of Product @ Klood, @Scholastic, @Accenture | https://www.swapnamalekar.com/

Agile Insider

Exclusive and practical insights that enable the agile community to succeed.

Swapna M

Written by

Swapna M

Product Lead @RBC | #Fintech #Innovation #Payments #AI | Previously Head of Product @ Klood, @Scholastic, @Accenture | https://www.swapnamalekar.com/

Agile Insider

Exclusive and practical insights that enable the agile community to succeed.

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