Clement Kao empathy interview On the Job Product Management Product Manager Skills stakeholder Tech

Stakeholder Empathy – Product Manager HQ

Product managers are basically non-essential to the creation of a viable product – that’s, we allow features to collaborate and prioritize to offer 100x the impression they in any other case would, however many profitable merchandise out on the planet don’t have product managers.

Actually, most small startups run with no devoted product supervisor, as a result of they haven’t reached the size at which they would wish a fully-dedicated worker to deal with product administration.

Product managers will not be worth turbines – they’re worth multipliers. The foundational worth turbines at an organization are our cross-functional stakeholders and contributors.

Subsequently, having empathy for stakeholders is simply as essential as having empathy for patrons, or else you possibly can’t get something achieved.


Earlier than we proceed, let’s outline what stakeholders are. Stakeholders are anybody in your group who has the affect to influence your product.

Right here’s an illustrative set of stakeholders – observe that it isn’t exhaustive, and that totally different organizations could have totally different units of stakeholders.

Who’re stakeholders?

  • Engineers
  • Designers
  • Consumer researchers
  • Knowledge analysts
  • QAs
  • Enterprise line leaders
  • Gross sales
  • Advertising
  • Providers
  • Operations
  • Help
  • Business material specialists
  • Authorized
  • Compliance
  • Info Safety
  • Finance and Accounting

Gaining Empathy for Stakeholders

How do you achieve empathy for a stakeholder?

You achieve empathy the identical method you achieve empathy with clients – you interview your stakeholders as clients, and also you deal with their wants the identical method you’d deal with your clients’ wants.

The important thing precept to remember is that each stakeholder holds a singular position within the group. Once I say “position”, I don’t essentially imply job perform. For instance, some knowledge analysts have the singular capacity of influencing the CEO. Some entrepreneurs have the power to affect the finance group.

Your job as a product supervisor is to perceive the position that every stakeholder performs, and empower every of your stakeholders to the most effective of her talents.

Consider your self as a coach of a staff, or as a conductor of an orchestra – you unlock most potential by empowering every stakeholder to do the most effective that she probably can.

Once you perceive your stakeholders, you can also make them simpler.

When your stakeholders are simpler, you turn into simpler.

Keep in mind – product managers are multipliersso the stronger your contributors are, the bigger the influence you’ll make.

Stakeholders don’t simply maintain specific roles in a vacuum, nevertheless. Every stakeholder has a specific method through which she sees the world.

For instance, an operations supervisor will focus closely on the right way to hold processes environment friendly. To greatest empower your operations supervisor, present them with clear documentation of course of flowcharts and choice timber.

An engineer will give attention to whether or not the answer is technically possible, whereas a salesman will give attention to whether or not the answer has income potential and matches in with what prospects have been asking for.

To allow stakeholders to drive probably the most influence attainable of their roles, you might want to keenly perceive their wants, their fears, their hopes, their logic, and their mindsets.

And let’s be actual – you’ll by no means perceive 100% of your stakeholders with 100% accuracy, identical to you’ll by no means perceive 100% of your clients with 100% accuracy.

The aim is to be directionally in tune with stakeholdersin an effort to information them in the direction of creating most worth for the corporate and for the client.

For me, the litmus check of whether or not I’ve adequate empathy with a stakeholder is whether or not I can symbolize her within the room with different stakeholders or clients.

In different phrases: say your stakeholder wasn’t capable of make it to an government assembly. Are you able to argue all of her factors on her behalf? Can you are expecting how she is going to react to specific selections?

Whenever you attain empathy for stakeholders, your selections turn out to be rather more strong. Keep in mind, the last word output of any product supervisor is the standard of her choice.

So, how can we set up empathy with stakeholders?

We achieve this by way of casual interactions, by means of formal interviewsand thru common checkpoints.

Casual Interactions

The overwhelming majority of the time, you’ll construct stakeholder empathy by means of casual interactions. I see casual interactions as unstructured, unplanned touchpoints – drinks, meals, randomly bumping into one another within the hallway.

Stakeholder are colleagues, so don’t overthink it! Simply work together together with your stakeholders genuinely. Do maintain notice, nevertheless, of the next info that they could present:

  • Complaints
  • Achievements
  • Objectives
  • Considerations

Nearly each colleague will convey up no less than 1 of the four above in informal dialog. As an empathetic product supervisor, you possibly can all the time probe just a bit bit deeper with one or two extra ranges of “why”.

For instance, say that I’m chatting with somebody on the help group, and we’re simply speaking about our weekends. Sooner or later, she’ll proudly inform me that she didn’t have to log into her pc to search for help tickets.

That’s an fascinating perception. I’ll ask her whether or not she frequently will get tickets on weekends, and what types of tickets these are. I’d study that she repeatedly will get weekend tickets when customers get locked out of their accounts.

I may additionally study that as a consequence of a change within the login display design, customers have been extra profitable in recovering their passwords without having to succeed in out to help, which is why she didn’t have to log on this weekend.

Now I’ve barely extra empathy for my help stakeholders: any time we make design modifications to the login display, we should always anticipate some kind of downstream influence to our help workforce.

Once more, be pure! Don’t overanalyze each interplay – it’s tiring for you, and it’s tiring in your colleagues too.

My ask right here is that you simply take note of complaints, achievements, objectives, and considerations – and that’s what a strong colleague in any position ought to be listening to anyway.

Nevertheless, as a product supervisor, you can’t solely depend on casual interactions to realize empathy.

There’ll simply be some insights that you simply can’t discover until you probe in a directed, goal approach.

You want some goal distance as a product supervisor – you possibly can’t simply be “the good friend who listens”.

Formal Analysis

When product managers begin at a brand new firm or tackle a brand new position, they need to take the time to formally interview their new set of stakeholders.

As a aspect observe, this text covers the primary 90 days on the job as a brand new PM, together with key stakeholders and inquiries to ask.

When formally interviewing stakeholders, deal with these like buyer interviews. That’s:

  • Respect your interviewee’s time
  • Know your goals forward of time
  • Permit for some quantity of spontaneity to find new insights

I often ask some type of these inquiries to my interviewees:

  • Why did you be a part of this firm, and what impression are you trying to make?
  • How do you see your self driving the corporate’s success?
  • What are your objectives in 1 month? three months? 1 yr? three years? 5 years? How do your objectives differ as a person contributor, as a supervisor, and as a whole division?
  • What do you worry probably the most?
  • What obstacles sluggish you down probably the most?
  • How do you often work together with product? What do you want about working with product? What don’t you want about working with product?

Your most necessary goal is to discover ways to assume the best way your interviewee thinks. You need to have the ability to faithfully symbolize her to any of your different stakeholders, and meaning with the ability to perceive how she makes selections.

In the course of the interview, keep goal. Don’t let politics crop up and don’t take sides. Remind your interviewees that your aim is to deeply perceive them and different stakeholders, however to not instantly clear up all of their issues proper out of the gate.

Ask questions in an unbiased, open-ended approach. As an alternative of asking, “Why is it so painful so that you can request options?”, ask “How do you are feeling about requesting options?”

Don’t ask questions that may be answered with both “sure” or “no.” For instance, don’t ask “Do you gather buyer suggestions?” As an alternative, ask “How do you often present buyer suggestions to the product staff?”

Ask “why” to any reply that you simply get again. You might really feel embarrassed, or chances are you’ll really feel the reply is already full – however many occasions, you’ll discover that going one degree deeper will yield new insights or methods of considering.

Once more, your objective is to know your stakeholder all the best way right down to her thought processes!

Common Checkpoints

Profitable product managers arrange common checkpoints with stakeholders, however not simply because they “ought to”. Common checkpoints serve a few key goals:

  • Allow stakeholders to give you suggestions on find out how to enhance
  • Study extra about how stakeholders perceived your processes and outputs
  • Affect stakeholders to offer much more impression

These checkpoints ought to be 1:1, in order that your conversations are extra intimate and are targeted.

Focus these checkpoints on processes and relationships, moderately than on tasks.

For project-based and initiative-based check-ins, use Product Evaluation Conferences to maintain all related stakeholders on top of things.


Probably the most profitable product managers are cheerleaders and enablers. They empower stakeholders to offer most impression, they usually align stakeholders in the direction of a bigger trigger.

By establishing empathy together with your stakeholders, you present them that you simply’re prepared to study and develop alongside them.

Simply as importantly, if you set up empathy with stakeholders, they set up empathy with you. Nudge your stakeholders in order that they develop alongside you to ship most impression.


Have ideas that you simply’d wish to contribute round stakeholder empathy? Chat with different product managers all over the world in our PMHQ Group!

Be a part of 23,000+ Product Individuals and Get a Free Copy of The PM Handbook and our Weekly Product Reads Publication

Subscribe to get:

  1. A free copy of the PM Handbook (60-page handbook that includes in-depth interviews with product managers at Google, Fb, Twitter, and extra)
  2. Weekly Product Reads (curated publication of weekly prime product reads)

Success! Now examine your e-mail to verify your subscription.

Because the Product Supervisor-in-Residence at Product Supervisor HQ (PMHQ), Clement Kao has revealed 40+ product administration greatest follow articles on the PMHQ web site. Moreover, Clement offers product administration recommendation inside the PMHQ Slack group, which serves 6,300+ members. Clement additionally curates the weekly PMHQ publication, serving extra 22,000+ subscribers.

About the author