The Product Hero — Develop your relationships to become the hero

The core of product management is you!

You are at the center of the Mind the Product Venn diagram

In the UK 1 in 6 have a mental illness. In the world, 1 in 26 suffers from depression. We are not immune to this as product managers. Our job was reported to be overwhelming and emotionally taxing in the latest ProductPlan survey.

I want to strip away the tools, processes, and techniques so we can focus on the core of product management, which is you. But today I want to share an alternate reality of my product management career.

Becoming the Hero

“What makes superman a hero is not that he has powers, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely.”

Christopher Reeves

Using my wisdom is not about using the right technique at the right time but to develop our relationships with the people we work with. I have always avoided conflict and never had the confidence to confront people who were strong. I focused on what I knew best. Developers and creating products.

The development team is important for the success of the product. Each member of the team is an individual. They each have their strengths, weaknesses, frustrations, and needs. Knowing your team and knowing how to leverage their skills will help to be more successful. I have 3 example team members in my team now:

  1. Beautify the mess — They like to take his time to create great code and take messy code and make it into a thing of beauty. They are suitable for tech debt or foundation work.
  2. Eager to deliver — They like to deliver fast and are driven by results. They are great for iterating fast on feedback.
  3. Relishes in the unknown — They are curious and like to figure things out. Great to work in product discovery and ideation of solutions.

However, I had to face my first villain, the sales guy. He oversold, made many commitments we couldn’t make. He made us reactive and forced us to cut corners. He was a threat to the team. I was afraid to challenge him and was close to quitting.

To overcome this challenge I consulted my mentor who said I was deceiving myself and in the box. He referred to the book “Leadership and Self Deception” by The Arbinger Institute. The box distorts our view of the world. You’re either

  • Out of the box, we see people as people and we believe their needs are as legitimate as our own.
  • In the box, we see people as objects or threats and we disregard their needs.

The sales guy did not force me to cut corners or be reactive. I betrayed the team. Once out of the box, I could work with the sales guy and focus on his strengths, weaknesses, frustrations, and needs. He was finally a part of the team.

My fears and my wrong beliefs were my villains. I learned that I have to always see people as people and put myself in their shoes to truly understand who they are and how they can help you become stronger as a team.

Becoming the hero is about:

  • Developing relationships with each team member.
  • Include those in your customer journey.
  • Review your most challenging relationships.

To be continued…


This is a series that originated from my ProductTank talk in Amsterdam. I will share the slides once I have delivered the talks to a few Product Tanks in the UK. Here are the books I have read andi recommend:

Develop relationships:

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Gino Toro

Gino Toro

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