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Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders: Tips for Product People

Leading stakeholders and development teams is notoriously challenging for product people: They lack the power to tell the individuals what to do, but need their support to progress the product. To make things worse, stakeholders come from different departments and often have different perspectives and interests, which leads to disagreements and conflicts. This talk shares my tips for dealing with difficult stakeholders, constructively resolving conflict, and creating value together.

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Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders: Tips for Product People

  1. 1. Roman Pichler DEALING WITH DIFFICULT STAKEHOLDERS Tips for Product People
  2. 2. 2 © 2020 Pichler Consulting Limited Product Person Development Team(s) Users and Customers Business Stakeholders This diagram is inspired by Martin Eriksson’s definition of product management.
  3. 3. 3 © 2020 Pichler Consulting Limited “Listen, I really need you to add this feature to the release, and I am not going to take no for an answer,” says Sophie, the head of sales, as she stands in front of your desk. You can feel your shoulders tensing and your stomach tightening. There is no way that you can add more work to the development effort—the dev team is already struggling with the current workload. But Sophie is a powerful senior manager who will not be afraid to escalate the issue. What should you do?
  4. 4. 4 © 2020 Pichler Consulting Limited Common, Unhelpful Conflict Strategies Based on Oren Jay Sofer, Say What You Mean. Competitive Confrontation Engaging directly with aggression or force. Passive Aggression Engaging indirectly by expressing aversion while pretending that all is well. Conflict Avoidance Attempting to avoid addressing conflict, staying out of it. Passivity Letting the other person win, giving up your own needs.
  5. 5. 5 © 2020 Pichler Consulting Limited Time Active Listening Empathy Rapport Influence Behaviour Change The Behavioural Change Stairway Model Based on Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference.
  6. 6. 6 © 2020 Pichler Consulting Limited Three Listening Tips Be fully present and listen attentively. Be respectfully curious, suspend judgement, and cultivate an open mind. Listen for facts, feelings, and needs.
  7. 7. 7 © 2020 Pichler Consulting Limited More Trust Building Techniques • Speak and act with integrity. • Get to know people and allow people to get to know you. • Involve people in product decisions. Encourage them to share their ideas and concerns. • Be supportive and offer help whenever possible and appropriate. But don’t neglect your core responsibilities and don’t sacrifice sustainable pace. • Strengthen your product management expertise.
  8. 8. 8 © 2020 Pichler Consulting Limited Summary Dealing with difficult people is part and parcel of being a product professional. It’s at least as important as other product management work like product roadmapping and prioritising the product backlog. Unresolved conflicts don’t go away. They affect relationships, impact our mental well-being, and reduce productivity. Learning to resolve conflict and building trust are two key leadership skills that product people should actively develop. They strengthen connections, improve the work environment, and help us grow as individuals and leaders.
  9. 9. You can find more information about product leadership at: Please send questions and feedback to: Thank You for Listening NEW