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The Introverted Product Manager - Advantages
Last week, I discussed the challenges of an introverted product manager. And like I said, introversion is not a disadvantage in product management. Because introverts do have unique strengths that are highly desired to succeed in product.
"What are the unique advantages of an introverted product manager then?"
Is the question I'll answer in this post.
So you've identified yourself as an introvert. But do you fully understand yourself? In "Introvert In Product" talk I mentioned the importance of the self awareness as the first step toward improvements. And the best resource that helped me better understand myself as an introvert, is Susan Cain's "Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking". It does not just resonate with me. It speaks deeply to my heart.
If you are an introvert, you HAVE TO read it. If you're an extrovert, you HAVE TO read it if you want to understand introvert :). (BTW, I'm not affiliated).
The following is NOT a summary of the book though. It's my personal synthesis (from books and personal experience) of what applies to me and in product management.
Advantages in Product
Or let's say, strengths. I'll speak to top 3:
Listen well. Think Deep. Humility.
STRENGTH #1: Listen Well
"You're such a great communicator".
I was shocked the first time I received this from a colleague of mine, after a very first introductory 1:1 I had with him. I couldn't believe what I heard. A great communicator? I barely said much!
Then I received the same feedback from different people over and over again. I realized it was because I listened more than I spoke. People fundamentally desire to be heard and understood. As product managers, we build connections, collect information, understand problems, influence people. All start from listening to people, VERY WELL.
Introversion (vs extroversion) is non-binary, and it doesn't mean extroverts don't listen well. Introverts are just typically inclined to say less. If we use it to our advantage by paying every attention to and thinking about what you hear, it becomes a huge asset.
STRENGTH #2: Think Deep
"What do I enjoy the MOST in a day of the life as a PM?" If you ask me.
It's when I strategize my next move, write up my thoughts, or think about how to solve a problem. With my favorite pour over coffee, and the background morning jazz. ALONG.
No it's not the only thing I enjoy as a PM. But it's what I enjoy the most. Yes PMs have to talk to people, get out of the office, and step on the stage. And I do all those and I enjoy all of them at different level. It's just the fact that introverts enjoy being along with minimum stimulation, more than being exposed to lots of attentions and external stimulations.
As product managers, having a clear mind to think both creatively and logically is one of the most important skills. You might be brainstorming about the next strategic move for your product in an hour, and finding yourself digging into a hot technical problem in the next hour. The most effective way is always to be 100% focused on thinking about them (vs being distracted by other things). That's why having time along is so important (and yes, in addition to managing many necessary meetings effectively).
Again, it's definitely NOT saying only introverts think deep. Introverts just enjoy being along more, so to our advantages, let's make the best use of it, say by batching your most strategic work for when you get to spend time along and focusing 100% on it. (think twice about opening that YouTube or TikTok!)
STRENGTH #3: Humility
Some confused humility with lack of self confidence or pride. I believe it's the opposite. You need to be very confident to know what you are good at and admit what you're not. You're never afraid of saying what you don't know because you have the confidence to be able to learn it quickly. You don't brag because you know people will see from what you do. You don't mind showing vulnerable side of you and people are more able to relate and listen to you. It's a major strength, very much so in product management as well.
As introverts, we might more often come across as understated. And it's not a bad thing at all. Go along with it, develop your true humility, and use it well to your advantage when working with people as a product manager.
OK now you've seen the challenges and advantages an introverted product manager (such as yourself) might experience. What's next for you?
Well, let me remind you of the 3 bullet points from my Introvert in Product Talk:
Be self aware
Harness your superpower
Be keenly aware of the challenges you'd face and be ready to tackle them in your way. Do not change who you really are. Make the best use of your strengths to your advantage. Remind, reflect, improve, repeat.
You will be more than fine. You'll shine in what you do.
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