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My life as a PI Individualist

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My name is Emily Mias and I’m a Individualist. What’s an Individualist? More on that in a bit.

I’m also a senior product manager at Drift. This means I’m the product manager of two small product teams inside of a larger squad. My day-to-day consists of talking to customers, doing research on other products, writing specs on what the team will work on next, and doing whatever it takes to help our team ship awesome products for our customers. Drift is the new way businesses buy from businesses, so staying close to the customer is key for me (and Drift!) to be successful.

My job is to make sure the people on my team know exactly what they should be tackling next in order to make our customers’ lives better. Our engineers and designers don’t have a long backlog of features to tackle like at most companies. Instead, Drift uses our customers as our North Star to make sure we’re building things that actually solve their problems. Having long backlogs and yearly roadmaps make that impossible. We have general guidelines for the next few months, but our weekly and monthly plans are constantly evaluated and updated to make sure we’re making the most positive impact we can for our customers.

My behavioral pattern

The PI Behavioral Assessment essentially reveals where you fall on a spectrum of four primary workplace behaviors:

  1. Dominance: Dominance is the drive to exert one’s influence on people or events.
  2. Extraversion: Extraversion is the drive for social interaction with other people.
  3. Patience: Patience is the drive for consistency and stability.
  4. Formality: Formality is the drive to conform to rules and structure.

Here’s my pattern:

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 2.08.10 PM

To the uninitiated, that behavioral pattern may not mean a whole lot, which is where Reference Profiles come in. All behavioral patterns map most closely to one of our 17 Reference Profiles, which gives us a way to paint the picture of someone’s behavioral drives in broad strokes. You can think of these as easy-to-reference groupings of the characteristics of people who have similar drives.

My Reference Profile is Individualist 

An Individualist is highly independent and persistent while remaining results-oriented.

We are a bunch of creative problem solvers with a strong, factual way about communicating. This Reference Profile is at ease with risk and always willing to act on unconventional ideas.

I found my Reference Profile to be extremely accurate. Someone once told me the Individualist Reference Profile is one of the more difficult ones to work with because not only are they focused on getting things done their own way, they’ll do it at their own pace, and follow their own rules. It’s a very “individual” state of mind.

There’s a phrase in the PI behavioral report that says I am “more concerned about getting things done than the feelings of others,” and I run into that a lot during my day-to-day. I have to make a conscious effort to ask about someone’s weekend on a Monday morning before I launch into the laundry list of things I’m waiting on them for. It’s not that I’m not interested in their weekend, I’m just pretty task-oriented.


Individualist coming through!

I think one of the superpowers of the Individualist Reference Profile is the determination to be purposeful in all things. Instead of just blasting through a billion things half-heartedly in a spray-and-pray productivity tactic, we pump the brakes and spend time on the things that are really going to move the needle. Individualists are very pointed in getting things done, and not necessarily how they’ve always been done before.

“If [Individualists] don’t understand the point of something, it can be hard to motivate us to work on it.”

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The dark side of being an Individualist

Nothing makes me feel more like an Individualist than when I have to take time out of my day to update people on what I’m working on. For example, at Drift, we have a “show your work” kind of culture, and people are expected to post daily updates on what they’ve worked on yesterday and today. When I get the daily reminder to post, my immediate instinct is to update with:

Yesterday: Did my job

Today: Doing my job

Now, that’s very not helpful to everyone reading it and it’s totally an immature and emotional response, but this derives from the Individualist mindset.

The Individualist in me is going, “Every single person at the company is expected to do this. The problem is, most people output actual, tangible things you can point or link to, while most of my job is unblocking and conversations. I’m different!” But the thing is, I’m no different. There is an expectation that every person at Drift needs to show their work to remain accountable and I need to remember that. I don’t have a pass on updating the people around me just because I might be getting things done.

20180420-IMG_8114I objectively see the value in doing the daily update because it asynchronously shows your work to the entire company but as an Individualist it’s hard to not want to just be heads-down, getting work done; taking the time to tell everyone what I’m working on feels counter-productive. Individualists need to often check themselves on this type of thing. Remember, teamwork does make the dream work.

Another thing to note about Individualists: if we don’t understand the point of something, it can be hard to motivate us to work on it. This can come across as stubbornness, ego, or pride when in reality, we might just need context. What’s fascinating is this problem might never come up if the Individualist is working with competent, show-your-work type people. I work with another Individualist at Drift who is always down to work on anything. This is because he asks a lot of pointed questions and motivates himself on the importance of it.

How to work with (and manage) this profile

When working with Individualists, give them space. They’ll want to develop and act on their own ideas. Challenge us! We enjoy digging into problems and overcoming those challenges. We may come off opinionated but that’s just because we like our independence and need flexibility.

Managers, it’s important to remember that I am at my most productive with space and the ability to self-delegate. I will always raise questions and concerns as I come across them but when I’m micro-managed or hovered over I get frustrated and will not execute properly.

“Knowing I’m an Individualist has made me more mindful of my own reaction to new changes.”

I’m a strong believer that once you’re self-aware of something you now have no excuse forcing you to level yourself up daily on your known weaknesses. Making sure I’m conscious of the feelings of others around me and understanding that I might not always have the context for something has been helpful for me as well. 

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