Mar 16, 2021 | by Budi Tanrim
If you coach a designer, do you need to know all the answers?
Imagine you coach a designer.
She asked you a question.
You’re clueless about it.
Are you a bad design manager? Do you deserve to be a senior designer?
This morning, a designer shared her insecurity with me. She has been coaching a young designer in her team, but she feel inadequate to be a coach.
“What’s a good coach in your mind?” I asked.
“Calm, insightful, have the answer to most of the questions.” She replied.
“Know all the answer?”
“Yeah, to be helpful when they stuck.”
“Well… Surely no one has all the answers.”
She laughed, then quickly added, “But, what should I do in that situation?”
“You can be the thinking partner,” I replied. “Acknowledge that you don’t know, then try to define the questions and figure it out together.”
Being a thinking partner is always my style when it comes to coach someone. I see my subordinate as a peer. When you’re confuse, think through the challenge together. Maybe analyze the pros and cons. Consider potential biases. Frame it as a question and figure it out.
Also, even if you have the answer. You don’t want to give everything away. You need to trigger them to think and experiment. It’s tempting to give the answer and finish off the job, but that doesn’t help them to grow because the next time they have a problem, they will come to you again. In the long run, your goal is to make the junior designer independent.
Your goal is to coach them on how to think. Not simply giving the answer.
The more senior you become, the more opportunity for you to coach junior designers. Coaching is a generous act. You help others to grow. When you don’t have the answer, don’t feel bad about it. You are not a god, aren’t you? Just frame the question and learn the best way to answer it with them. Grow together.