The past 6 months I have been practicing being a design leader, this has been incredibly challenging and rewarding. Here is what I have discovered so far;
- Letting the persons you lead express their working style as a first step, this will create a sense of confidence. As a leader, showing how to improve their working style will deliver better value rather then imposing a working style.
- Experimenting and never reprimanding failure. Acknowledging a mistake and helping drawing a conclusion will help not only avoid repeating the mistake again, but it will create a climate where failing is rewarding for the future. Therefore it is essential to make sure the persons you lead will feel safe being vulnerable in front of others.
- Mentoring is not only about showing how to do things, you also have to provide feedback while they are doing things. Teaching and providing feedback go hand in hand, there is great value in providing feedback on staff using what you have just taught them. Even if things are not executed with my style, I still have the confidence that the end results will be the same.
- Providing clear expectations and setting clear deadline is essential. This comes with clear explanations on what the final objectives are. I also noticed that repeating often the end goal makes people focus better because it is easy to get lost in big project.
- Making sure that you have a forum for the persons you lead to express what works well and what can be improved in a project. Working in consulting I have discovered the great reward of having a mid point retrospective, these retrospective are actually more valuable than a end of project retrospective.
- Providing support beyond the work per se, will go a long way. I recently had a chance to report to my own leader that a junior designer genuinely deserved a promotion because I noticed incredible progress. I am very proud to say that the designer recently had a promotion and can now lead junior designers.
- As a leader, I have more pride in leaving the spotlight to the persons I lead. I noticed that being extra visible in case of failure will minimise damages and bring back a sense of confidence, however success needs to go through the persons you lead first.
- From time to time, you will need to be firm however it is the role of a leader to explain why your firm decision relates to the end goal.
I would like to conclude this short article with this quote that inspires me every day:
— Justin Cheong (@jcfiction) August 10, 2016