So, I accidentally got a job.

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A job? Like, a real job?

Let me start over. After close to a year (10 months!) of coaching managers and senior contributors full-time, I am winding down Practical Works and starting a new adventure. As of May 28th, I’ll be the CXO at Primary, where I’ll oversee Product, Product Design and People. Yep, you heard that last one right (and will be hearing a lot more about it from me in the future). :)

Before I get too into the news about Primary, I want to take a moment and say thank you to all the people who supported…

I want to start writing or give a conference talk. I’m just not sure what to say that hasn’t already been said.

I wrote a post, but it’s really boring.

I’ve been trying to put together a talk, but I feel like it’s all stuff people already know.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? Over the years of writing my own blog and regularly giving talks at conferences, I’ve found myself fielding these kinds of doubts from people I meet. They have a strong desire to share their experiences and engage with their community, but are stuck on…

Often when coaching managers, I’m asked about prioritization and focus. For newer managers, it can be difficult to understand all the aspects of your new role. Where do you put your time? What skills should you focus on developing? How do you ensure that you aren’t overreaching with your designers or engineers or product managers? For more seasoned managers, it’s more about prioritizing all the different parts of your role. How do you strike a balance between leading and managing? …

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Look how happy I was before I started managing all those spreadsheets. Photo by Erin Ortiz.

In a few days, I will have been working on building Practical Works for four months. In my entire career, I’ve been a part of a lot of different businesses: from small startups just getting off the ground, to enormous tech giants, to mid-sized commerce and media companies. But before August, I’d never started a company all on my own. …

When teammates go rogue, you need a system for reining everyone back in

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Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images

It happens to every design team at some point. Someone has the horrible realization that even though you’ve all been designing the same product for years, you’ve been doing it inconsistently. The apps, websites, and marketing pages are direct reflections not of a shared set of design styles and components but rather the individual taste of each designer who worked on them.

Look, there’s Jared’s signature love for big typography. And Karen’s affinity for pastels. And Jordan, for some reason, likes his interstitials to have buttons that say “close” rather than the X-shaped icon everyone else on the team uses.

I still remember my first performance review from my time at Etsy. It was the first real review I’d ever gotten in my career (startups before that didn’t have much of a process, and my manager changed suddenly for my one review at Amazon, so the resulting review was… light), and I was pretty nervous not knowing what to expect. As many reviews do, it started out with what had been going well. Randy, my manager, told me that people I worked with really appreciated how straightforward I was, and how they never had to worry about me playing games…

Advice for high performers in any company

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Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash

Since starting my own business as a leadership coach, I’ve spoken with a lot of folks who are at a crossroads in their careers. Should they become a manager, or should they continue to pursue excellence in their craft? Are those paths mutually exclusive? If not, how can they do both?

For many, this can be a very nebulous, stressful decision. There are only a few people I’ve spoken with who’ve known without a shadow of a doubt which path they wanted to take (I was not one of them, surprisingly).

After hearing from so many struggling with this decision…

I’m excited, and a bit nervous, to share that today I’m launching Practical Works, an organizational and leadership consultancy. Whether you’re a manager in need of coaching, a leader looking to increase velocity, or a team desiring better collaboration across disciplines, I’m available to help you establish a strong foundation for future growth and take your work to the next level. …

To be honest, this isn’t a post I thought I would ever write. Not because I thought I’d never leave BuzzFeed, but because I always thought there were enough “I’m leaving my company” Medium posts out there in the world. However, as I’ve gone through the process of telling people I care about that I’m moving on from the company — my team, close friends, parents — all the same questions kept coming up. And it occurred to me that the reason people find goodbye posts interesting is because they know that, someday, they will be faced with the calculus…

Just over a year ago, we posted a major overhaul of our Product Design Roles documentation. With that revision, we aimed for our role documentation to facilitate more actionable discussions between managers and their teams, set clearer expectations for each level, as well as help our designers and design managers set better goals. And while we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from our team over the past year, we’ve also noticed a few holes and areas we could improve our documentation. …

Cap Watkins

Leadership coach and organizational consultant at @practical_works. Prev: VP of Design@BuzzFeed. Also worked at Etsy, Amazon, and a bunch of failed startups :)

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