Help with workflow?

This discussion has been really helpful for me as well as I have just landed in a design management position very recently myself. I’m slowing finding that some of the a-type behavior doesn’t always jive in the position and that I have to pick and fight my battles much more tactfully than before, but I welcome the challenges of this.

In regards of doing the “doing” work and where I can provide more value, that’s a tricky one for me because of all the hats our designers are expected to wear. Unfortunately we do get some “crap” projects that we have to work on and push through and I tend to jump on those grenades so that the designers can get the good stuff. While these projects are easier and shorter they’re still a time drain on me and I’m starting to think about what more important things I could be doing with that time. I am considering changing the requirements of the kinds of projects our group will take on so that we all can focus on the important work.

Thanks for the insight so far guys.

  1. congrats on the newish role

  2. extremely hard for the type A’s to do, but I’ve found something that really works is to let everyone else speak first. Let them fully vent their opinions, ask them probing questions for them to explain their opinions even further, and THEN make your comment, give your direction, make your decision. Even if it flies in the face of all the POVs shared, everyone will appreciate the forum to be heard and considered… most of the times I find their vision either aligns with mine and then the team feels super engaged because we did it together (even if I came tot he meeting with that POV) or many times I find the seed of an idea in what the team brings and can adjust the bigger vision, vs if I stated my idea first I would feel locked into it and have to defend it as “the boss”.

    Not sure if that will work for you, but a past director of mine suggested it to me when I transitioned and I found it started to elevate a lot of friction. Sometimes taking more time with people is actually the fastest way. Seems counter intuitive.

Thanks Yo, your comments are right on and I think it will totally work for me.

Essentially I’ve moved into the design manager role as my boss has moved into the design director role, and the interesting part is that when his role was elevated they put all of product marketing, marketing communications, exhibit design, and lead generation under his leadership, which I think is a huge win for us moving forward. So obviously he can’t give as much time and attention to the design group as he has. The toughest challenge I have found is that I am now faced with managing those that have been my peers for quite some time, but the upside of that is that I have gotten to know them as one of them and I think they all appreciate that I know where they all stand, and the exciting thing is that because of this I might be really well placed to help them get where they want to go.

Your suggestions are spot on, I think I found really quickly that trying to solicit opinions about my ideas was the wrong approach and that I just need to question and listen more. When our boss was our direct manager he held weekly meetings and so that has been passed to me. Our first meeting, last week, was shaky, disorganized, and a little awkward I think because I was throwing around lots of ideas that I have for the department. But, today I decided to open it up with a simple probing question to our junior designers and let it ride by listening and tossing in questions here and there. Our meeting flew by, but there were a lot of great things that came out of it and made me feel like I might just be able to do this thing.

Awesome. Great to hear. I have no doubt you will be able to do well in that role. It takes awhile to get it, and you’ll always have good days and bad, but be sure to give yourself time to grow into it. Having to lead you former peers is tough emotionally, but could be great if you level with them, and let them know that you undersand first hand the value of their opinions and that you will be their advocate as well as their manager. It witake time to transition in their eyes from team mate, to team captain, to the coach!

I’ve found that leadership is a push and pull experience. Sometimes I need to push from the back, ask questions, listen, mediate. Other times I need to pull from the front, call something out as not good enough, articulate my vision for the project and how it fits into the greater context of our client’s business and what it means for the future of our work, and sometimes throw down a sketch myself. It is hard enough to be able to do both, add to that knowing when to do which one and it gets incredibly complex!

I mess up all the time, but I try to get better with each attempt and learn from it. It is a process and a design challenge.