The Best Product Managers are Truth Seekers
One of the personality traits I value most in successful product managers is they are inherently truth seekers. Truth seekers have a strong bias towards discovering the truth being their primary motivation and what ultimately guides their decision-making. It takes incredible humility and curiosity to embody this trait, but when it exists, the benefits are felt throughout the entire R&D team.
When a truth seeker is having a discussion with a product manager, designer, or engineer and hears an opposing viewpoint, they start by listening carefully to understand it. They seek to discover the proof points and data points behind the viewpoint. Only then do they start to defend their own viewpoint, but with a focus on articulating the proof points behind their own viewpoint to elicit a discussion on the various merits of the opposing views. When it's still unclear on an approach to take, they ask if there are any expediant ways to discover the truth through further research or follow-up.
This has the benefit of making everyone on the team feel heard and understood, an important aspect of building strong rapport with the team. It also sets the tone for how an ideal decision-making discussion should happen, with opposing viewpoints being defended through data points that individuals bring to bear.
Keep in mind that you'll often be making decisions without the luxury of hard data to defend it. And that's fine. But it's important to remember when you are leveraging gut, or more specifically product instinct, you are in fact leveraging data in the form of patterns you've discovered in the past. And a truth seeker is great at articulating those patterns that are driving their product instinct, enabling them to defend their viewpoints better, educate the team on why they have a specific view, as well as re-calibrate their product instinct as they learn and see cases where it has failed. They also understand that their product instinct was built on the patterns they've had a chance to observe, so they are always seeking new experiences to increase their exposure to more patterns.
A truth seeker focuses on celebrating not only classic team wins, but also when new truths are discovered. They see these team learnings as absolutely critical to improving the capabilities of the team, even when those learnings come from failure. They don't directly celebrate failure, but celebrate the leverageable learnings that will drive future decision-making.
It's equally important to callout what a truth seeker is not. They can't have an ego to be effective, they can't be focused on always being right, and they can't be worried about how what they are saying will look to others.
Next time you are looking to hire or work with a product manager, do the whole team a favor and find a truth seeker.
Want to accelerate your product career?
I've finally distilled my 15+ years of product experience into a new course designed to help PMs master their craft. Join us for the Summer '22 cohort of Mastering Product Management.
Enjoyed this essay?
Get my monthly essays on product management & entrepreneurship delivered to your inbox.
Oct 31, 2016