Mar 09, 2021 | by Budi Tanrim
Product design leadership - Managing and leading
A few readers were asking what skills are needed if they want to be a design manager. First, you need to understand that design managers are responsible for both managing and leading.
Management is about dealing with complexity. To optimize what the team did yesterday to be a little bit better and faster. While leadership is about analyzing the current condition, knowing where to go, and make a necessary change for the better.
Management is not less important than leadership. An undermanaged team can be less effective in its delivery and execution. In contrast, an underled team could move forward but don’t know the destination. We need both.
Planning. When the team knows the objective, design managers would collaboratively plan how to achieve the desired outcome. Explore different team setups or approaches that most effective and efficient.
Staffing is about hiring new team members, plotting resources, and evaluating performance. Typically, design managers will work closely with the HR team. But it’s important to remember that the HR team is not going to replace design managers’ responsibility. What type of designers or researchers should we hire for the team? What’s the composition of the people in the team?
Coaching. Managers should improve and develop both themselves and their team members. Help them lookout for what project potentially aligns with the direct report’s development plan. Support the team members to participate in conferences or any other external activities. What are their aspirations? What is the plan to develop their skill and confidence? How to spark motivation?
Optimize the operations. Each team has its unique way of executing the work. The design manager should look for opportunities for the team to execute and deliver products and services effectively.
The goal of leadership is to create change by providing an environment where encourages people to change.
There are different philosophies of leadership. But if people ask me about the leadership role, I’ll start explaining that they need to set direction. Typically by establishing the urgency and create a strategic focus for the team. As the effort to make the change progressing, it’s important to celebrate small wins as well.