Career UX Design

How not to suck as a Lead

I have worked as a UX Designer for almost a decade now. In all this time I had played multiple roles, including the Lead UX Designer and Delivery Leader. I have seen a lot of Leads who struggled and had no ideas what they were doing, the only reason for being in the “lead” role was time with the company.

So I thought it’s appropriate to share my tips and tricks on how not to suck as a Lead, regardless if you are doing this for five years or you just started.

Trigger warning! — This article uses irony and sarcasm.

Learn the difference between leadership and dictatorship

One motivates team members to achieve more while the other, well, you know it’s bad; don’t be that person.

Don’t ask for respect. Earn it.

We all get it! You are awesome. You have a dozen years of experience in design, but that does not mean people will drop everything they are doing and start listening to you just because, well you told them.

Be humble. Your team’s success is your success.

Jonathan Rivers once told me in a meeting a true and rock-solid fact:

“Leaders always get the blame.”

Whatever happens, your team gets the prise, while you get the blame. Let me tell you why. If your team fucks up it’s not their fault, it’s your fault because they got to the point of failure and for whatever reason, you were not aware of that to intervene and help them out.

Be tactical and strategic at the same time.

Better yet, be high level, but also boots on the ground.
There is an old chess saying about tactics and strategy which goes like:

“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do, while strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”

Of course, this might sound like an exaggeration because there is always something to do, but when you think about tactics, you’re expecting an immediate outcome, while strategy is for long-term, seeing the result of slow maneuvers. I’d suggest you start playing the game of chess. For me, it has done amazing things and helped both personally and in my professional career.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

You would be surprised how important it is for your team to see you getting down from your precious throne and pitch in side by side with them. Don’t just tell them what to do, show them how to do it better.

Know your team.

Probably the most important thing about this job is to know and care about your team. Make time to know them. Who they are, what they do. Make use of their skill set and put them in win situations.

Be honest and transparent.

We all hate people who like to put a spin on things and transform something into something else. Just be honest. If someone screwed up, pull them aside and let them know it and why it was terrible.

Always make time for your team.

Nothing is more important than your reports. When they ask for help, you drop everything, and you help them out. Don’t ever tell them to google it, because I swear to, I will find you and I will…well, you can probably imagine the rest.

If you want to become a better lead, manager or whatever title you might have, Teambit put together a sweet checklist. I’ll list a couple of things you should do immediately here:
– Provide helpful feedback to your team
– Find time for the things that matter
– Have 1-1 meeting with your team member to better understand them
– Recognize the great work they do and don’t be afraid to give negative feedback
– Help them with their career paths
– Coach them
– Be transparent about what’s going on in the team or company

If you want to get better and learn more about leadership there are a lot of great resources and people who are awesome leaders. The first one which comes to mind is Simon Sinek and one of his books Leaders Eat Last was a really nice read.

And whatever you do remember. You are the benchmark.

If you are not serious, your people won’t be serious. If you don’t care, you can’t expect them to care.

So pull your shit together and lead by example!

Stay awesome,