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How to run a "Venting Session"
The best way to get closer to your stakeholders and bring some peace of mind to your PM life
Your product will always feel incomplete. Your stakeholders will always complaint “𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘥𝘰 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴?”. New feature releases will be shortly celebrated, only to be shadowed by “𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘴𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘟, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘳”. Your PM life will resume itself to frustration and a feeling of failure. But there’s actually a way to deal with it.
I call it the “Venting Session”.
In every company I’ve been through, the most common feedback I get from stakeholders is “𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘵 𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘮 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦” mixed with “𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘬 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘤𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘳, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶’𝘭𝘭 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘦”.
What gets people anxious is not the fact that the product is missing feature A, B or C. It’s the uncertainty whether a) the product team knows it’s missing, and b) when, and if, it ever gets into the roadmap.
To deal with this, I run a meeting where stakeholders are invited to freely vent their frustrations towards the product team. It’s not personal. It’s not about you. It’s about what they feel when dealing with customers.
Here’s how to run one:
 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐟 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐬. Before starting a venting session, explain everyone the rules of the game. Let frustrations out. Focus on the product, not the builders. Challenge the process. Don’t sugar coat it. Bring customer data or examples, not opinions.
 𝐆𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞. Don’t rush this, otherwise it will feel like a favor or a “let’s just get over this”. It’s a different setup, so a certain reset is necessary. People need to go through their own feelings about the product.
 𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐞𝐥𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐬. Nobody likes to be talking to someone writing on a computer. They’ll get defensive or feel you’re ignoring them. Get one person simply listening, making eye contact, offering feedback. Someone else takes the notes.
 𝐄𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐫: 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐢𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐢𝐬. If you feel someone is pulling back, hesitant because it feels hard, be the one pushing for it. Make them feel safe about saying it. Again: it’s not personal or about you. It’s about understanding what success looks like for both sides.
 𝐃𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐟𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐯𝐞. As a PM you’re used to defending yourself, the team or your decisions. Not here. You’ll hear some tough stuff, and most are justified. Understand most stakeholders lack a 360º view of the business, or your understanding of limited resources. But they’re the ones listening to customers scream. It’s ok.
Sometimes getting stuff out of your chest is the best remedy to move forward.
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