Slack Product Lead on Product Meets Improv #3

No one likes dealing with conflict – but as product managers, we’re often at the center of resolving problems. From delays in executing your roadmap to dealing with internal politics, it’s an essential skill that we need to work at (just like an improv routine). Ultimately, the best way to look at how to resolve conflicts isn’t too different than keeping your loved ones or friends happy.

Simply put, you look good if you make your partner look good.

Over time, every product manager needs to manage challenges and unexpected hurdles throughout the course of your product lifecycle. From roadblocks and delays to personal conflicts – there will be plenty of moments that take you away from doing what you enjoy most.

As a result, the key to moving forward is finding ways to set your team up for success. In the midst of chaos, your job is to figure out ways of empowering your team to move forward. Bringing it back to improv, there’s a right way and a wrong way to get people’s attention and get them into the action. Let’s start with ways to quickly turn people off.


Simply put, no one likes someone who’s hogging the spotlight. Furthermore, you don’t want to be the only “funny one” in an otherwise forgettable routine. As a product manager, here are some equivalent statements that will also turn people off.



When you take this sort of approach, your team will shy away from getting involved. Instead, try to figure out ways to set up every member of your team for success.

First, it all starts with listening and offering “gifts” that will encourage people to contribute. Just as you would in an improv routine, you want to remove blockers and set people up to feel like they have a role in the show.

Ultimately, you’re trying to find ways to set up the punchline for others rather than yourself. Getting back to setting the stage, everyone needs to know where they are and how they can help. As a result, you avoid scenarios where people are struggling to take credit. In the end, everyone is contributing and knows exactly what they’ve done to make a difference.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2


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About the Speaker
Ellie Powers
Slack Product Lead
Ellie Powers is a Director of Product at Slack - where she manages a team focused on optimizing the platform experience. Prior to joining Slack, she worked at Google for over 6 years - working on the Chrome browser and Google Play products. In addition, Ellie worked on product teams based in Europe for TalkTalk and VirtuOz. Following internships at Microsoft and Pfizer, she also worked at Microsoft for 4 years in program management. Ellie holds a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently lives in the Bay Area.

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