What Product Managers can learn from Actors

Last year, I did a podcast related to my article in Mind the Product, Oh the Drama! What Product Managers Can Learn From Actors

Hosted by Chad MaAllister, I didn’t disseminate it because I only recall mentioning rabbit poop.

The words were uttered in a little improv scene that Chad and I enacted on air. 

When I summoned the courage to hear it back, I realised I talked about so much more than rabbit excretions. 

I should rename the podcast ‘Beyond the poop: acting skills for leaders’ but we’ll stick with whatever Chad decided.

For those who like more of a visual presentation, we’ve got the words down below.  For all those who prefer the content in your ears, the podcast is right here. 

By the way, when you hear ‘Alison Kemp’, it is actually me but I changed my name 2 years later. 

Here’s a summary of the main points:

[7:20] What does it mean to think on your feet?

Life does not go in line with a script, so thinking on your feet is a basic life skill. It’s trusting that the words will come when you need to give an impromptu speech and that you’ll have the confidence to deliver the speech. In a professional setting, I discourage people from scripting a presentation and instead have them focus on how they’ll interact with the audience. It also involves working with silence during one-on-one interactions.

[11:27] How can you utilize these techniques in a meeting?

It’s all about finding someone’s point of view, what’s underneath the things they are saying. Everyone reacts to things but they rarely say why they react that way. In order to really work through a difficult conversation, you need to show curiosity and a willingness to understand where someone is coming from.

[16:05] What role does body language play in these interactions?

There are many reasons for closed body language and it’s not always about the situation you are in, so you have to look at it in context. When someone is closed, it could mean that they are listening and thinking about what’s being said; that’s what an introvert often does. Active listening can help you show a closed person that you are willing to come along with them and creates buy-in needed to commit to an idea or proposal. Maintaining eye contact and matching body language, whether directly or indirectly, can also help build trust.

[24:40] How do these techniques apply in email or other communication that’s not face to face?

Email is the opposite of giving a presentation. You need to tell people what you want them to do first, then go into the rationale for why you want them to do it. Try to match your email style with the other person’s. If they write short emails, you should try to make your emails to them shorter. If they want more details, give them more details. It’s not always good to match when it comes to the time you send emails. If you have someone who emails you in the middle of the night and you respond, you are enabling that behavior and sacrificing your boundaries with them.

[27:13] How can you develop curiosity?

We all have unconscious biases that we need to make conscious in order to challenge them. Put your biases aside and become curious. You can buy yourself time by asking questions that get at someone’s story. The stories we tell ourselves become the stories we tell other people and become our decisions. You need to understand what those stories are in order to truly understand someone.

Useful links:

Innovation Quote

“To begin, begin.”  -William Wordsworth

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