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How To Succeed In Product Management | Jeffrey Shulman, Red Russak & Soumeya Benghanem

87: Emotional Product Management

Wed May 31 2023
Product ManagementEmotional IntelligenceCommunicationStakeholder ManagementData-Driven Decision MakingUser-Centric Product Development


The episode covers various aspects of emotional intelligence in product management, emphasizing the importance of kindness, effective communication, stakeholder management, data-driven decision making, and user-centric product development. It features insights from experienced product manager Avi Noam and introduces frameworks like ELMR and Likert scale. The episode also discusses the balance between intuition and data, interviewing strategies, and the significance of emotional resonance in creating successful products. The Product Management Center's inclusive accelerator program for marginalized communities is highlighted as well.


Emotional intelligence is crucial in product management

Avi Noam emphasizes the importance of emotional quotient (EQ) in influencing and empathizing with others, and the speaker introduces the ELMR framework that highlights the role of emotions in decision making.

Kindness fosters innovation and better outcomes

Being kind to oneself, teammates, and customers creates a safer environment for sharing ideas, taking risks, and building great products. Kindness is not just about feeling good at work; it enables innovation and good ideas.

Effective communication and stakeholder management

Clear and kind communication with teammates and customers fosters psychological safety. Building a support network and using frameworks can guide decision-making when faced with differing opinions.

Balancing intuition and data-driven decisions

Intuition helps decide what to move forward with for learning, while data provides a common language. Experienced product managers balance both depending on the situation. Survivorship bias is an example of how data can work against you.

User-centric product development

Teams should focus on doing the right thing for the customer, establish user-first principles, and create emotionally resonant products. Engaging with customers directly and using contextually triggered surveys can capture valuable feedback.


  1. Introduction
  2. Emotional Framework in Product Management
  3. Kindness and Communication
  4. Balancing Stakeholders and Feedback
  5. Understanding Stakeholder Needs
  6. Data-Driven Decision Making
  7. Interviewing and Decision Making
  8. Balancing Intuition and Data
  9. User-Centric Product Development


00:00 - 07:05

  • The podcast episode is sponsored by the inclusive product management accelerator, a 12-week program offered by the University of Washington.
  • The guest for this episode is Avi Noam, an experienced product manager who has worked at multiple companies including Atlassian and LinkedIn.
  • Avi discusses the importance of emotional quotient (EQ) in product management and how it helps in influencing and empathizing with others.
  • Listeners are encouraged to participate by asking questions on stage or through direct messages to the hosts.
  • The hosts mention the success of the inclusive product management summit and express gratitude towards Avi for supporting aspiring product managers.
  • Avi shares his interest in the emotional side of product management, highlighting his natural ability to listen and stay calm in challenging situations.

Emotional Framework in Product Management

06:45 - 13:48

  • The speaker embraces their natural personality and brings it to their work as a product manager.
  • They believe that everything starts and ends with a feeling or emotion when using a product.
  • They introduce the ELMR framework, which stands for Emotion, Logic, Motivation, and Reward.
  • The framework emphasizes that emotions often trigger decisions, which are then rationalized with logic.
  • Kindness is important within the emotional framework, starting with being kind to oneself as a PM.
  • Being kind to teammates and customers is also crucial for building great products.
  • The speaker highlights the importance of remembering that we are all human beings working together.

Kindness and Communication

13:21 - 19:46

  • Innovation and outsized outcomes don't happen in the necessary and important system one.
  • Kindness is not just about feeling good at work, it's a powerful enabler for innovation and good ideas.
  • Being clear and kind in communication with teammates and customers fosters a safer environment where people feel more psychologically safe to share, take risks, and open up.
  • Being kind doesn't mean being cutthroat; finding a balance is possible.
  • Treating others well has a profound impact on business outcomes.
  • Managing emotional well-being as a product manager is crucial; remembering that feedback is about the product, not personal, helps detach from negative emotions.
  • Building a support network of other PMs or friends can provide perspective and help navigate tough feedback.
  • Using frameworks like plotting problem-solving efforts on axes of improving business outcome and reducing pain/increasing happiness can guide decision-making when faced with differing opinions on what to build.

Balancing Stakeholders and Feedback

19:32 - 26:14

  • On the top right, it's a win-win, you're making everybody happy.
  • Most of the things you build aren't always going to be there because of different constraints.
  • The bottom right quadrant means you're mainly making your customers happy, but it may not meet business goals.
  • It's important to be critical about projects that improve performance or infrastructure because they may eventually make customers happy.
  • Listening to feedback from people who work closely with you helps understand unreasonable reactions and how you are perceived.
  • Mimicking and learning from people who do things in an amazing way can help improve skills and thinking process.
  • In sales, being kind despite facing negativity or disappointment is important for building relationships and finding success.
  • Remembering the few individuals who make the job worth it fuels motivation in sales.
  • Kindness and empathy increase the likelihood of success in achieving goals.
  • The show encourages audience participation by inviting questions from listeners.

Understanding Stakeholder Needs

25:55 - 32:52

  • Balancing between external and internal stakeholders in product management
  • Dig deeper to understand the needs and pain points of both customers and internal team
  • Look for common ground and differences in execution or time horizon
  • Ask enough questions to arrive at the same conclusion or align around it
  • Distinguish between misalignment and misunderstanding
  • Use frameworks to objectify disagreements and avoid hierarchy conflicts
  • Highlight the importance of feedback that shows passion and investment
  • Make it about being effective rather than being right
  • Consider using a Likert scale to collect feedback from customers

Data-Driven Decision Making

32:30 - 39:30

  • Using a Likert scale, you can assess the importance and satisfaction levels of features or product ideas.
  • Calculating an objective opportunity score based on the gap between importance and satisfaction helps determine if your product is underserving, serving just right, or over-served for customers.
  • Being objective rather than trying to be right is more effective in product management.
  • Curiosity is essential for product managers and should be encouraged by managers.
  • A question about reaching out to others in order to attract a remote product manager role was asked.
  • Creating a better match with potential employers by researching their culture and core values can help showcase your emotional traits during the hiring process.

Interviewing and Decision Making

39:00 - 46:04

  • Understanding how a company prioritizes its values can be a filtering mechanism when evaluating potential employers.
  • Being authentic and true to oneself in interviews and difficult situations often leads to positive outcomes.
  • Adding playfulness or personal facts to a CV can help attract like-minded individuals.
  • Maintaining consistency in communication style throughout the interview process is important.
  • Controversial opinions can spark interesting discussions, but emotions should be kept in check.
  • The debate between being data-driven versus relying on intuition is nuanced.
  • Experienced product managers often balance both data and intuition depending on the situation.
  • Intuition is built from years of practice and internal data points, making it more accurate for those with experience.
  • Data provides a common language and allows for checks and balances within an organization.
  • Questioning logic and providing anecdotes are critical in decision-making processes.
  • Intuition helps decide what to move forward with for the sake of learning, while balancing it with available data.

Balancing Intuition and Data

45:42 - 52:16

  • Intuition helps decide what to move forward with for the sake of learning
  • Intuition can be based on common sense and patterns, even without data
  • Data is often treated as absolute evidence when it's not
  • Making decisions solely based on data can create gaps and overlook customer needs
  • Balancing intuition and data-backed decisions is important
  • Defending intuition in meetings and challenging its basis is necessary
  • Product Sense is a term used in interviews and companies
  • Survivorship bias is an example of how data can work against you
  • Rapid fire responses are coming up for questions from Samantha and Boza

User-Centric Product Development

51:47 - 56:25

  • Teams should focus on doing the right thing for the customer, rather than just following processes.
  • Establish strong user-first principles in the definition phase of product development.
  • Creating a product that resonates emotionally can be effective, such as addressing frustrations or prioritizing kindness and emotions.
  • Consider using contextually triggered surveys to capture user feedback in the moment.
  • Engage with customers directly to understand their feelings and motivations.
  • Encourage professionals to bring their personal side into their work and not feel constrained by a strictly professional context.
  • The Product Management Center offers an inclusive product management accelerator program for professionals from marginalized communities to land their first PM role.
  • Mentors and volunteers are needed to support and empower participants in the accelerator program.