One thing Iâ€™ve quickly realized while leading design in a dynamic start-up context is that I need to let go of the pressure of being the â€œanswer guyâ€ with the â€œrightâ€ answer to every single question asked or issue raisedâ€¦Indeed, I was hired for my range of expertise, both tactical execution and strategy insightâ€¦and also my ability to facilitate, educate, and evangelize, as someone leading teammates towards some positive outcome or decision-point. Accordingly, my value as a leader is being developed and recognized (implicitly) in a variety of ways already:
* Providing immediate near-term design â€œfixesâ€ and tangible outputs for delivery to the engineering team (i.e., UI specs and assets) to prove I can deliver gritty details, thus earning trust capital. (Besides, how can you lead the design function for a company if you canâ€™t, you know, actually design??Â ;-)
* Directing productive dialogues around the product UX (via an extensive UX Audit, for example) and the customer (via discussions around personas/scenarios) where Iâ€™m mostly extracting prior knowledge and back-stories from everyone.
* Raising critical questions about the nature of Â design strategy, process, and principles through ongoing discovery about the product functionalityâ€”even playing the role of the â€œnaiveâ€ student, innocently asking some â€œwhy notâ€ questions!
* And lots of plain old active listening! Truly absorb what folks are saying are the high-priority issues and opportunities and then just mull over the responses. Take notes and follow-up with deeper dives or brainstorm sessions, accordingly. Often just being that listening agent provides ample comfort and calming assurance to the team, that â€œsomeoneâ€ (clearly qualified, of course!) is taking care of this.
Iâ€™ve said many times before that a big part of being a designer is simply functioning as a â€œtherapistâ€ of sorts, not always jumping to quick answers, but offering that supportive voice and mindful presence that someone is focused on these tough UX issuesâ€”and expressing the captured listenings in some form: sketches, diagrams, stories, etc. I think thatâ€™s even more true at a leadership level, where your presence is the signifier that someone is taking command, with facilitative guidance backed by bonafide execution.