The idea that being an introvert or an extrovert affects your way of working is hardly new. The self-described ‘freakishly accurate’ 16 Personalities test blew up a few years ago, embedding itself in our culture as a way to express our personality types. But how does personality, specifically introversion and extroversion, affect your work as a Product Manager?
More importantly, how can you wield your unique traits to be a better one?
Here we’ll go into what it means to be an introverted or extroverted Product Manager, how to turn your personality to your advantage, and which introverts are leading tech giants!
Before we get into it, let’s find out which you are…
Start the Quiz 👇
Mostly As: You’re a bolshy, extrovert PM 🎤
The stereotype here is that you’re a natural born leader and, as an extrovert, you’re afraid of nothing and nobody!
You’re not afraid to take charge, and things like speaking up in meetings doesn’t phase you at all. In fact, you’re very upfront about your opinions…but be careful that you’re not too upfront.
Benefits: Fearlessness will get you far
Being fearless is a great trait to have as a Product Manager! You’re more likely to take risks, which is an absolute must for innovation. You like to explore different avenues, and hate doing things ‘just because that’s how they’re done.’
On the personal side, as a people-person you’re well poised to form great interpersonal relationships with your team. You’re the person who makes sure people turn up to after-work drinks on Friday, acting as the glue that holds your team social calendar together.
Watch out for: Steamrolling
One thing to watch out for is steamrolling. It’s great to want to talk in meetings, but if people find that you’re talking over them it’ll form resentment, and you’ll also lose out on hearing their opinions and ideas.
An an introvert, the temptation is certainly there to fill the center stage, but Product Managers don’t work in a vacuum. It’s your responsibility to bolster your team and make space for them to shine as well, especially as your climb the career ladder.
Mostly Bs: You’re a balanced PM 🧘♀️
A little of this, and a little of that…you’re a perfectly balanced PM. You have your reservations about certain things, and don’t like to dive in to anything without asking the important questions first.
In meetings, you’ll speak in you have to, but you’re not the first person to volunteer to give big presentations!
It’s easy for you to relate to others in your team, because you’re a little bit of both. You can go all out with your extroverted teammates, and you recognize when your introverted teammates need some time to themselves.
Your expertise in forming relationships with coworkers is second to none, which is incredibly important. You may find that people outside of your organization warm to you quite quickly, and you find it easy to collaborate with others.
Watch out for: Fence-sitting
Walking the middle road certainly has its benefits, but there will be times when you need to push yourself a little further. There are some risks worth taking, and by tapping into your extrovert side and taking the leap, you might find gold on the other side.
If there’s something you’ve been dying to try out, but have been holding back, go for it! Whether thats a new qualification you want to achieve, a new skill you want to pick up, or even a whole career move.
Mostly Cs: You’re a full introvert 🙊
Benefits: You’re an all-star individual contributor
Nobody needs to hold your hand to make sure things get done, as you’re more than used to working by yourself and know how to get things done. You probably have a routine which you stick to rigorously, making you more organized and up-to-date.
You’re also brilliant at finding solutions to problems, as you’ve done it for yourself for years, and you might find that others seek out your guidance.
Watch out for: Missed opportunities
They say that the meek shall inherit the Earth, but that’s not going to help you in the here and now. While your knack for analyzing situations and assessing risk is incredibly useful in certain moments of your career, you also need to empower yourself to take more leaps of faith.
That side project you’ve been dreaming of doesn’t have to start off huge and intimidating. You can start small, test the waters, and build it up from there.
The only way to get more comfortable doing things, is to do them.
If you enjoyed this, you might also like, How to Convince Your Boss Based on Your Personality
What Does it Really Mean to Be an Introvert/Extrovert?
We’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, that the overwhelming stereotype for years has been that extroverts make the best leaders. Because extroverts love people, they’re the first to volunteer themselves to try something new, and the perception is that they have endless energy.
Introverts on the other hand are meant to be shy, sometimes to the extreme. Picture a hacker, sitting in the dark in their home office, only speaking to people online and living off of ramen noodles to avoid going outside. That’s the societal perception of introverts, so evidently we still need some re-education about what it means to be introverted.
In reality, introversion and extroversion isn’t about these stereotypes at all, despite what our extremely scientifically accurate quiz would have you believe. It’s about where you get your energy from.
You might also be interested in: How Soft Skills Can Save a Business
Extroverts feel more sluggish the more time they spend by themselves, and thrive when around other people. Introverts can enjoy being around other people just as much, but need some alone time to recharge their batteries.
The truth is, that no one is really stuck at one end of the spectrum or the other. As people, we often find ourselves fluctuating between the two. In a workplace setting, this means that sometimes you’re excited to grab a coffee with your team and brainstorm ideas, and other days you just want to stick to your desk and get your head down.
If you’re an introvert, you’d want this time by yourself more often than an introvert would.
Bill Gates: Tech’s Most Famous Introvert?
This is a man who needs absolutely no introduction, but what you might not know is that Bill Gates is an outspoken introvert.
In ABC’s ‘An Audience With Bill Gates’, an audience members asks him, “how have you managed to succeed in a predominantly extroverted world?” Gates responded that
“Well, I think introverts can do quite well. If you’re clever you can learn to get the benefits of being an introvert, which might be, say, being willing to go off for a few days and think about a tough problem, read everything you can, push yourself very hard to think out on the edge of that area.“Bill Gates
He goes on to make the point that you need to have a balance of introverts and extroverts in your company, especially when starting your own.
It’s more than OK to be an introverted tech founder (evidently, since Gates, Zuckerberg and Wozniak aren’t doing too badly!) but you have to make sure you hire some extroverts to work alongside you.
If you want to get the full run-down of Bill Gate’s introversion, according to his 16 Personalities profile, he’s an archetypal introverted genius.
Julie Zhuo: Silencing Negative Inner-Voices
Julie Zhuo is the Co-founder of Inspirit, former VP of Product Design at Facebook, and author of the bestseller ‘The Making of a Manager.’
She’s a very well respected authority on tech, product, and design, but she’s also an expert on managing certain introvert tendencies in order to success in business.
Speaking at a Women in Design event run by Medium in San Francisco back in 2016, Julie touched on how to leverage constructive criticism. Instead of letting it fuel the negative voices of self-doubt in her head, she used it to her advantage.
At Facebook, she was given a 360 performance evaluation in the form of a 30 page report. When Julie faced her fears and cracked it open, she found that the fear of criticism is always much much worse than the reality. Her perceived shortcomings were actually not that bad to read in black and white.
Now, she says, she refers to that report all the time.
“It was like a source of truth that grounded everything, helping me recalibrate the voices in my head.”
Which Is Better for Product Management?
According to Inc., the narrative around introverts and extroverts has changed, and introverts are being recognized for their leadership skills. This is for a few reasons:
1. They allow others to shine. Introverts are especially good at providing a platform for others to speak, and are very receptive to other people’s opinions. This is especially important for a collaborative role such as Product Manager.
2. They think before they act. An introvert isn’t afraid to say ‘let’s go over this again before we proceed’, taking the time to make sure everything works before launch. This might mean going over notes again before an important stakeholder meeting, running more tests, and double-checking data sets.
3. They’re relatable communicators. Extroverts, when dealing with introverts, can sometimes come across as a little brash. Nothing puts the fear into an introverts heart more than a last-minute Zoom call! A introverted leader is better at understanding which modes of communication people feel comfortable with, and sticking to them.
That’s not to say that extroverts can’t be great leaders, because of course they can! Extroverts bring people together, keep things moving forward, and take risks.
So at the end of the day, which is better for Product Management?
You need to have a little bit of each in you to be able to succeed. You need an introverts analytical mind, independence, and collaborative nature. And you also need an extroverts bravery, and sense of adventure.
No matter where you are on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, if you have the skills and the hunger, there’s a place for you in Product Management.