Let the Talent Shine

Let’s think for a moment about how user empathy and advocacy is intrinsic to creating optimal user interactions.

Despite our years of accrued knowledge and experience over various projects, we cannot impose a solution simply because we feel it’s correct: the user is always right. We test, we refine, we test again, all toward an organically perfected user experience.

As passionate craftspeople, we can counsel and advise, being ever-cognizant of how the user will best achieve their goals makes for a better product. It’s no ding in our fender to iterate, learn, and evolve in tandem. Just as we accept this fact — metaphorically stepping aside to allow user empathy to guide us — we must do the same for the skill sets and abilities of our team members.

We need to make ourselves open to letting our teammates do what they were hired to do. In short, let’s get the hell out of their way and let them shine.

What we find all too often in any business setting where designers and front-enders co-exist is that internal stakeholders higher up the food chain impart constraints throughout the project lifecycle. Be it through lack of inclusion in vital meetings, agreeing to client requests without an internal dialogue on implications, or imposing solutions at the sake of team members’ input.

So then, how does respect toward our team’s talent (whether as their manager or their peer) operate in unison with compromising their contributions? Project-wise, client communication-wise, or problem solving-wise?

In complete totality, it does not. Ever. Oil and vinegar, fire and ice, Batman and Joker.

Humility + Support

The special sauce here comes in the form of how project-focused interactions between teammates transpire. There is a fundamental difference between ordering (“It needs to be like this.”) and guiding (“Good thought behind that approach, but it might be more successful if…”). The former is fed by ego and serves to imprint a singular mindset upon visual or programmatic communication. The latter is predicated upon humility and serves to leverage alternative perspectives.

In terms of the day-to-day, this means not hovering over a teammate (or employee)’s shoulder. Being a victim of back seat directing is belittling and nerve wracking. Involvement-wise, it also means not completely abandoning team mates to flounder without guidance up until the last minute, or at all. There are shades of grey on the spectrum of interaction between smothering and detachment.

Casual check-ins and informal dialogues throughout the day serve to humanize the experience, talking through any current hang-ups or concerns. The successful dialogue is an open exchange of ideas. It’s also a validation of approaches against a project’s goals and a user’s expectations. Being respectful of an employee’s thought processes doesn’t mean not challenging them, however, should they factually need augmenting per project goals and overall quality of work. It’s organic coaching, transparent and respectfully delivered.

The Dynamic

People are hired to perform based on their experience and abilities, and acting as a barricade in any capacity is an endless loop of mutual lost opportunity.

Providing and fostering an environment for open creativity and dialogue is valuable beyond measure: to the overall business, as well as the human-centered energy of the office space. We need to value conversation over oration, collaboration over delegation.