More than a decade of grousing about product management

Reading People

two men sitting at table and having coffee
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Mastering the art of people watching: How observing behaviors and non-verbal cues can lead to accurate profiles and successful management.

One skill that the Dude has honed to a fine edge is the art of people watching. It probably began even before he went to College, when he hung out with a group of people who made a practice of “people watching”.

People Watching, as he and his clan of friends practiced it, was merely hanging out in places where there were plenty of people walking by, or where you could observe their behaviors – such as a sidewalk cafĂ©, and then extrapolate from that personality traits. An example: In a restaurant, a table of guests. The server will have short interactions, but many opportunities to observe their behaviors, and to form concrete opinions of the guests.

If you think about it, listening to spoken language, looking for non-verbal cues, body language, mannerisms, et cetera, and you can quickly build a profile, that often is spookily accurate.

Case in point. About 7 months ago, The Dude started a contract product management position. The first week was a whirlwind of an all hands team meeting, 4 intense days of meetings with his new Boss, and his new peers.

During this, since the Dude didn’t have a computer, he took notes and observations of his new team members. After hours, he documented this in a Microsoft OneNote notebook.

Fast forward 7 months, and looking through his notes, while putting together a new PM playbook for this group, he stumbled on these notes, and in particular the notes on the team, his “people reading” of them. It was eery, that first read, reinforced with 7 months of interaction, shows that that initial read was dead on.

Relating to Product Management

If the Dude has learnt one thing, a key to managing people via influence is to understand their motivations, their quirks, and how to best get them to contribute what is needed.

People Reading is a crucial skill, learned early, the Dude does it effortlessly, and subconsciously. It is part of his toolkit for success.

Written by

A crusty veteran from the product management trenches. Plenty of salty language, references to cannabis, and a connoisseur of White Russian cocktails

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Written by pmdude