Thoughts on Leadership & Design

I’ve had the opportunity to work with many smart people in a range of organizational contexts. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences that have shaped how I think about my work. Here is some of what I learned:

Compass

Teamwork & Leadership:

  • Being part of a team means that there will come a day when you don’t agree with a particular decision. Being able to disagree & commit helps you and your team move forward with agility.
  • Once a decision has been made, it should not be revisited unless there’s new input. Constantly revisiting decisions can be a killer to productivity and team morale.
  • Use your intuition to reach a conclusion. Then, try to prove yourself wrong & always be open to people challenging your thinking. ‘Strong opinions, loosely held’.
  • Always create a safe space for your team to speak up with ideas, ask questions, and raise concerns. The lack of psychological safety leads to a dysfunctional team, and can have major business repercussions.
  • People often underestimate the significance of the organization’s culture & the huge role it plays in the success or failure of the business.
  • If culture is not defined, any team or organization will naturally develop one of its own. Not taking the lead to create a healthy culture in the first place means taking a huge gamble. Cultures developed over time are hard to change.
  • Transparency & taking initiatives go hand in hand. When you promote transparency, you encourage everyone to take action & speak up if they see something wrong.
  • Favor collaboration. Assume good intentions before jumping to conclusions.
  • Great leaders speak less. When they speak, they are clear and concise.
  • Ultimately, the perception of what what you say matters more than what you actually say
  • As a leader, your job is to ask the right questions, more than it is to have the answers.
  • Documentation is vital. People can forget or misunderstand what was discussed. Documentation ensures team alignment and the sustainability of your operations, processes, and product.

Design & UX:

  • Design, at its core, is all about problem solving. The first step in solving a problem is understanding it, being familiar with it, and empathizing with the people who experience it. If a client comes to you with a solution in mind, ask a lot of “why” questions to understand their problems and motives.
  • When everything is highlighted, nothing is highlighted.
  • Little details may not seem like they matter, but micro moments of unpleasant experiences do add up to a larger frustration.
  • Heavy design constraints could introduce friction. To offset for that, it helps to invest more in the value your experience could offer.
  • Don’t let your users wonder what to do next. Don’t make them “think”. The best experiences provide answers before users think of their questions.
  • Consistency improves usability, decreases user error, and establishes trust.
  • Following best practices & standard design conventions helps your users achieve their tasks by leveraging their pre-existing mental models. Innovation in this territory can be dangerous.
  • Assume that your users are always in a rush, and do not dedicate the time to learn your product or read your copy. A good experience is thoughtful & intuitive that it does not need to be explicitly taught. If needed, integrate the teaching process in your product experience. When users actually use your product, they learn better than when they read about it.
  • Your users’ perception of how fast your product is matters more than how fast it actually is.
  • Part of giving the user the power might be by providing them with less & more focused options. Too many options could lead to analysis paralysis & to users abandoning your product.
  • When showing early design concepts to stakeholders, having polished looking UI elements can get people distracted by little details. Using low fidelity mocks helps everyone stay focused on the overall concept and the high-level experience.
  • When presenting your design work, treat your presentation like a UX problem; make sure everyone has the right context, do not overwhelm people with a lot of information at once, and be thoughtful of how your work is presented to ensure everyone’s understanding.
  • Clearly defining your team’s roles / responsibilities, and having a clear decision making process, helps you and your team avoid the pitfall of “design-by-committee”.
  • Back up your design decisions with research data & industry knowledge on best practices. Showing articles or examples from other leading products can be helpful too.