For a Product Manager, Here’s How Emotional Intelligence Enables Success (2022)

Soft skills, power skills and people skills. In the office, emotional intelligence goes by many names. But whatever the name, these skills are the key to success for product people. I talked with 10 product thinkers, most of whom hold product manager titles. All mentioned leveraging emotional intelligence to conduct user research, manage and lead teams or secure buy-in across their organizations.


As a product manager, you must be able to empathize with your users, stakeholders and team in order to develop successful products and take people’s experiences and motivations into account. Jenny Friedler, head of product management for consumer products at Vox Media, said it’s important to understand the real community of users who will benefit from your product.

For a Product Manager, Here’s How Emotional Intelligence Enables Success (1)

“Always, always, always do your user research with your hardest to reach, most underserved audience,” Friedler said. “Trickle-down design doesn’t work; trickle-up design totally does.”

As senior director of the digital product lab at Planned Parenthood, Friedler used this methodology while designing Spot On, an app for tracking menstruation. By conducting user research with people who menstruate, but do not necessarily identify as women, she and her team were able to create an app that served this community and felt refreshingly gender neutral to cisgendered users.

(Video) (5Mins) Why does emotional intelligence matter for product managers?

Kris McKee, senior product manager at Optimizely, said a key part of empathy is being able to take your own perspective out of the picture. It can be tempting, particularly for young product managers, to assume that they are the customer, or that the audience for their current product is the same as the audience for the last product they worked on, McKee said.

Empathy also plays a major role when working cross-functionally, as product managers must. Experience in non-product roles, such as reporter, editor or engineer, enables product managers to intuit some of the needs of the internal users involved. This experience also allows them to communicate more easily with key stakeholders.

“[Product managers] must have a lot of empathy for the fact that people’s roles are different,” said Becca Aaronson, interim president of the News ProductAlliance.“You have to understand what they’re accountable for and what they’re trying to get done.”

In news organizations, the ability to understand the newsroom is critical. That’s why many hiring managers in news organizations look for newsroom experience when hiring product managers, and why many working news product managers came from a journalism background.

Setting priorities

It’s no secret that media organizations have to contend with serious resource constraints. It’s the product manager’s job to help prioritize where to invest limited resources to meet the organization’s goals.

For a Product Manager, Here’s How Emotional Intelligence Enables Success (2)

“I don’t think that anyone should be setting priorities on their own,” Aaronson said. “It requires a lot of buy-in and perspective from across the organization, and an understanding of what your users really need.”

(Video) (Teaser) PM Masterclass: Emotional Intelligence for Product Managers

Product managers are often asked to choose which projects to prioritize – say, a new revenue-driving product for a business team that’s behind on its revenue goals, or a fix for a content management system issue that is frustrating the newsroom. If you have strong enough relationships with the stakeholders on these teams, Aaronson said, you can start to ask questions that bring them into the decision-making process. Tools such as the “urgent vs. important” matrixcan help stakeholders come together, understand each other’s product requests and gauge the effect of their prioritization decisions on other areas of the organization.


Focusing on building relationships across the organization can pay off when it’s time to get buy-in on products. While developing a product, McKee said she provides stakeholders with an update every week, even when she has fallen behind and does not have progress to report.

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“It shows that I care what they think … and it gives them an opportunity to give me feedback,” McKee said. By laying a foundation during the product development phase, McKee said that when she finally presents the product to her stakeholders, they feel informed about the process and are more likely to give their approval.

Putting in the work to build strong relationships has allowed the New York Times to be agile in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, said Kellen Henry, who was then senior product manager for story formats at the New York Times.

“Having news editors who are close to the product team and having the kind of relationship where those people can say, “What if we did this?’ … made an environment where we were able to iterate and come up with creative ideas in a moment where we were all sort of thrown far apart,” Henry said. She points to At Home, the New York Times section and newsletter launched during the pandemic, as an example of how investments in team- and relationship-building can pay off.

Advocating for your team and products

While some media organizations have embraced product thinking, the role of a product manager and the work they do is still confusing to many in the media industry. Product managers are trying to change this by advocating for the work they produce.

(Video) The Top 5 Skills You Need To Succeed in Product Management

“It’s your job to be the champion for your product, and really be talking it up and hyping it up as much as possible,” McKee said.

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This can be done in a lot of different ways. Jessica Morrison, senior product manager at Chemical & Engineering Newsand product lead at News Catalyst, sends out a memo to the C&EN staff after each development cycle, letting everyone know what her team accomplished.

“My team and I try to think about what will resonate with editors, like what is the first thing they care about and how can we talk about the success of our workin a way that will make sense and excite them?” Henry said. Beyond actively telling and showing people your products, coming up with a good name for them also helps, she said.

Celebrating the work of the product team is another way product managers are advocating for product thinking. “It’s not just the writers and the editors, we’re literally responsible for everybody seeing your content.” said Breana Jones, director of web products at Vice Media.

Jones said that the engineers she works with at Vice love the brand but are invisible to much of the organization. By calling them out, sharing their work with company leaders and encouraging them to present projects before they’re done, Jones tries to make their work more visible and motivate them to continue to do good work.

Horizontal leadership

If stakeholders are key for buy-in, team members are key for getting product work done. In most media organizations, product managers straddle multiple teams without authority over these staff members.

(Video) (5Mins) How product managers can deploy emotional intelligence on themselves to maximize impact

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“You tell people what to do, but you’re not their boss,” Jones said. “It takes what I call horizontal leadership. You have to be really good at strategically understanding who people are and what motivates them.”

For Jones, knowing her team allows her to think strategically about how to involve members in developing products. Jones said being transparent and presenting her team with problems that need solutions, rather than a series of unrelated tasks, allows her team to feel invested in the product development process. She said this approach also creates more space for iteration.

The emotional intelligence required of a product manager can seem daunting, but having empathy and maintaining relationships with team members and stakeholders can become second nature. These are skills that good reporters already have – to develop empathy with people they interview and build relationships with sources.

“Be somebody that people want to work with,” Henry said.

This article is one in a seriesexploring product thinking as an emerging discipline in journalism.

About the author

For a Product Manager, Here’s How Emotional Intelligence Enables Success (6)
Meredith Gallo

Graduate Fellow

(Video) 10 Emotional Intelligence Insights for Driving Corporate Governance


What is EQ in product management? ›

Product EQ focuses on the emotional intelligence / emotional quotient competencies that were introduced by Daniel Goleman and remain essential to the product management craft such as influencing, teamwork & collaboration, leadership, organizational awareness, and empathy.

Can you give an example of when you used emotional intelligence to handle a situation at work or school? ›

Every day, countless people use empathy and understanding to handle social interactions at work. For instance, in an office meeting, when one person speaks, others listen. This happens spontaneously and such behaviors are examples of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

What are the 5 principles of emotional intelligence? ›

According to Daniel Goleman , an American psychologist who helped to popularize emotional intelligence, there are five key elements to it:
  • Self-awareness.
  • Self-regulation.
  • Motivation.
  • Empathy.
  • Social skills.

What does emotional intelligence represent for you as a manager or employee? ›

Emotional Intelligence Increases Self-Awareness

It's about knowing yourself: understanding your fears, skills, capabilities, limitations, strengths, beliefs, and values. Self-awareness helps you be more attuned with yourself and others.

What are the 4 examples of emotional intelligence? ›

The four domains of Emotional Intelligence — self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management — each can help a leader face any crisis with lower levels of stress, less emotional reactivity and fewer unintended consequences.

What is a good example of emotional intelligence? ›

Being able to say no when you need to. Being able to share your feelings with others. Being able to solve problems in ways that work for everyone. Having empathy for other people.

How do you demonstrate emotional intelligence in the workplace? ›

So, here are a few common examples of it in action at work: Listening to colleagues in meetings. Don't interrupt anyone and always provide constructive feedback. Offering upset staff members understanding.
Well, your employees will be:
  1. Happier.
  2. Healthier.
  3. Motivated.
  4. Productive.
  5. Better at teamwork.

Why is emotional intelligence so important? ›

But what is EI and why is it so important? Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and regulate one's emotions and understand the emotions the others. A high EQ helps you to build relationships, reduce team stress, defuse conflict and improve job satisfaction.

What are the strengths of emotional intelligence? ›

5 Qualities of Emotional Intelligence
  • Self-awareness. The first step in attaining a high level of emotional intelligence is understanding and knowing oneself. ...
  • Self-regulation. Another aspect of EQ involves discipline and self-regulation. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Motivation. ...
  • Social skills.
3 Dec 2019

Why is emotional intelligence important as a manager? ›

A leader with high emotional intelligence is likely to be more effective in their duties: communication, problem-solving, and management because they have the primary skills required to handle their job and also a deeper understanding of themselves, their team, and how their words and actions impact success.

How does emotional intelligence make you a better leader? ›

Developing your emotional intelligence will make you a better leader as you are able to inspire confidence, communicate effectively, and successfully collaborate with others in the workplace. This key skill ensures you can get the most out of your team while achieving your own personal and professional goals.

Why is emotional intelligence an important leadership quality? ›

Emotional intelligence is important in leadership because it improves self-awareness, increases accountability, fosters communication, and builds trusting relationships by helping leaders process their emotions in a more positive way that allows them to address challenges more effectively.

What are 3 key components of emotional intelligence? ›

There are three areas of personal skills or competences in emotional intelligence.
  • Self-awareness. Self-awareness encompasses: Emotional awareness. ...
  • Self-regulation or Self-management. Self-regulation includes: Self-control. ...
  • Motivation. The final personal skills aspect of emotional intelligence is Motivation.

What is the most important element of emotional intelligence? ›

Many people believe that this self-awareness is the most important part of emotional intelligence. Self-Regulation – This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People who self-regulate typically don't allow themselves to become too angry or jealous, and they don't make impulsive, careless decisions.

What is another word for emotional intelligence? ›

What is another word for emotional intelligence?
emotional intelligence quotientemotional quotient

What are the 7 signs of emotional intelligence? ›

7 signs you are emotionally smart
  • You can read non-verbal communication. ...
  • You are interested in other people and their feelings/thoughts. ...
  • You are emotionally resilient. ...
  • You know where you need improvement. ...
  • You are aware of your own feelings. ...
  • You avoid negative self-talk. ...
  • You pursue success.

Why emotional intelligence is important in the workplace example? ›

How Does Emotional Intelligence Help Managers? EI is also essential to conflict management in the workplace, which involves having the ability to help others through tense situations, tactfully bringing disagreements into the open, and defining solutions that everyone can endorse.

Is emotional intelligence a skill? ›

Emotional intelligence skills are abilities that allow you to understand and manage your emotions. These skills are linked to a range of benefits including academic achievement, decision-making abilities, and overall success in life.

How does emotional intelligence improve workplace relationships? ›

People with higher EQ communicate better with team members than those who are not in tune with their emotional intelligence. They share ideas and are open to others' ideas. They are less likely to completely take control of a situation and “run the show” on their own without thinking of others first.

How do you grow emotionally? ›

Below, learn 9 steps for leveling up your emotional maturity.
  1. Drop the shame. ...
  2. Notice your triggers. ...
  3. Identify how emotions feel in your body. ...
  4. Label your emotions. ...
  5. Learn how to soothe your emotions. ...
  6. Observe rather than react to other people's immaturity. ...
  7. Write it out. ...
  8. Find a role model.
16 Oct 2019

How can I become emotionally strong? ›

In those times you need to be mentally strong.
Here are 15 effective ways to become more mentally strong:
  1. Focus on the moment. ...
  2. Embrace adversity. ...
  3. Exercise your mind. ...
  4. Challenge yourself. ...
  5. Respond positively. ...
  6. Be mindful. ...
  7. Don't be defeated by fear. ...
  8. Be aware of self-talk.
31 Mar 2016

How do you describe an emotionally intelligent person? ›

When you're emotionally intelligent, you understand yourself at a deeper level. That means recognizing both your strengths and your weaknesses. You're confident about what you contribute and where you need help from others. You're also in tune with your emotions.

How can emotional intelligence be used in the classroom? ›

Having a heightened awareness of others' emotions, as well as being aware of their own feelings, gives the individual an advantage when working in a group. For teachers, for example, it allows them to gauge a student's mood and permits the instructor to carefully examine the classroom climate.

Why is emotional intelligence important in the workplace? ›

Having a high level of emotional intelligence doesn't just benefit you in a workplace setting – it can have a positive impact on many aspects of your life. Being able to understand and manage emotions can lead to an overall better outlook on life and leave you feeling more positive about yourself and situations.

How do you use emotional intelligence in a sentence? ›

Everyone brought emotional intelligence and good heart. He would have a high emotional intelligence. It gives social skills and emotional intelligence. School has not supported them in their involvement in their academic development but more in terms of the emotional intelligence, the ability to develop relationships.

How a manager with high emotional intelligence can assist in achieving business objectives? ›

The business case for high EQ in managers

Helping managers to be more emotionally intelligent can turn all this around. Managers with high EQ can build stronger relationships with their employees that, in turn, make them more engaged and productive in their work. And this can have a ripple effect on retention.

How does emotional intelligence help you be more effective at work? ›

The research published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education has proven that a strong propensity in emotional intelligence increases one's ability to make sound decisions, build and sustain collaborative relationships, deal effectively with stress, and cope to a greater degree with constant change.

What are examples of emotional activities? ›

Use these activities to teach elementary students about identifying emotions, being kind and working together.
  • Encouraging positive self-talk. SEL skills: Self-awareness, self-regulation. ...
  • Learning about student interests. Click to download! ...
  • Random acts of kindness. ...
  • Writing a story together. ...
  • Morning questions. ...
  • Playing games.
19 Apr 2021

Why is emotional intelligence important? ›

Emotional intelligence helps you build stronger relationships, succeed at school and work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.

What are the benefits of emotional intelligence? ›

Emotional intelligence is a skill that builds better working relationships, creates value in your role, and gives you confidence to work with others, resolve issues, pioneer new ideas, and drive you and your organisation towards success.

Why is emotional intelligence important in leadership? ›

Emotional intelligence is important in leadership because it improves self-awareness, increases accountability, fosters communication, and builds trusting relationships by helping leaders process their emotions in a more positive way that allows them to address challenges more effectively.

What is an emotional intelligence answer in one sentence? ›

Definition: Emotional intelligence refers to the capability of a person to manage and control his or her emotions and possess the ability to control the emotions of others as well. In other words, they can influence the emotions of other people also.

How do you use empathy in a sentence? ›

How to use Empathy in a sentence
  1. She'd been incapable of empathy or remorse. ...
  2. I did not have empathy for the characters. ...
  3. The policewoman showed empathy with others. ...
  4. It is important to be a good listener and show empathy with the individual's situation. ...
  5. He needed to develop empathy skills.

Why emotionally intelligent people are more successful? ›

A high EQ helps you to build relationships, reduce team stress, defuse conflict and improve job satisfaction. Ultimately, a high EI means having the potential to increase team productivity and staff retention.

What are the actions leaders can take to enhance their level of emotional intelligence? ›

Consider these five techniques that you can use to boost your and your employees' EQ.
  • Stop and think about feelings. ...
  • 5 Key Soft Skills to Drive Business Success in 2019. ...
  • Show empathy towards others. ...
  • Listen to understand and not to answer. ...
  • See challenges and criticism as a learning opportunity.
15 Oct 2018

How do managers use emotional intelligence? ›

Expertise in emotional intelligence enables leaders to understand better and motivate people who follow them. Emotional intelligence can do wonders for the productivity, performance, and management of team members and profitability for the business overall.


1. Chapter 13: Key Skills to Succeed as a Product Manager | Product Management Foundations Series
(Deepak Panda)
2. 6 Steps to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence | Ramona Hacker | TEDxTUM
(TEDx Talks)
3. Thought Leaders Series: Enabling project success within dynamic risk environments
(Engineers Australia)
4. 10 Ways Why Emotional Intelligence Is More Important Than IQ
(Success Psychology)
5. Webinar: Essentials to Becoming a Successful PM by DocuSign Product Leader, Suman Seshadri
(Product School)
6. Mentorship Advice on How to Succeed as a Valuable Product Manager
(Rich Sanchez)

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