Managing growth: run a lightning round of feedback
Short iteration loops are just as essential for your designers as it is for the products they design. Frequent, kind, and actionable insights can accelerate your designer’s growth and strengthen your relationship together. With this method, expect to spend 3 hours per designer, per quarter in addition to regular one on ones.
- set goals with your designer
- request written feedback from the team
- gather feedback in person from the team
- synthesize feedback alone
- deliver feedback to your designer
Setting Goals (30 minutes)
During your next one-on-one remind your designer that feedback is a regular and essential data point of personal and career growth. Create a topic list of technical and soft skills about where they are excelling, where you see challenges, and where there are questions. Doing this helps your designer see you’re invested in their career and creates transparency into private conversations about their performance.
Requesting Feedback (15 minutes)
Send a message to an expanded list of teammates requesting feedback for your designer. Schedule 15 minute sessions 2–3 days after your feedback request for the most important teammates on the top of your list.
I’m working to gather feedback for Dieter on the Braun project. Specific recommendations on things to continue doing well or places to give extra attention are meaningful. You can reply to this email or RSVP to the calendar invitation where we can talk it out instead. It’s not necessary to do both.Dieter and I are also looking to learn about:
• Communication + collaboration with other team members (e.g., pms and developers)
• Translating research insights into actionable design tasks
• Lean solutions to complex problems
• Anything else?
Regular feedback is more important that perfect feedback. We hope to hear from you this week. Thank you on behalf of Dieter and myself!
Gathering Feedback (1 hour)
You can expect many will want to share feedback in person. I recommend scheduling the sessions back-to-back with a few 15 minute breaks. Book a conference room with enough time to do a setup and and synthesis. This should feel somewhat like a user-research session.
Remind your designer’s teammates that feedback is to motivate growth. Specific stories, direct feedback delivered with kindness is most helpful.
Start the session by inviting feedback givers to think out loud and that you’ll ask follow up questions at the end. During this, make detailed notes on your computer and transcribe important quotes. I make an Evernote Notebook per designer and a new note for every feedback giver.
Here are good followup questions that help gather actionable feedback:
“It sounds like you’ve had a lot of positive experiences working with Dieter. What would help him move to to the next level? What would push Dieter forward in his career? What could he do that would really help him grow?”
At the end of the session ask if you can share the feedback and source of the feedback with the designer. Immediately mark in your notes if the feedback private or public. It will be hard to remember later.
Synthesizing Feedback (1 hour)
I organize my insight insights into three topics: Product (technical skills), Project (team skills), Peer (role in the company). This method is directed at career growth and is an explicit departure from binary strengths/and weaknesses. Try out my Product, Project, Feedback template.
I translate the feedback into bullet points that highlight ways the designer has grown and goals they can choose to set. Every individual owns their own career, you are here to support their growth.
Delivering Feedback (30 minutes)
Sharing what you learned can be one of the most difficult steps . But your role now is the messenger, synthesizer, and mentor. Approach the topic in the next one-on-one from the perspective of celebrating the work that’s been done and making an action plan for the coming months. Depending on your designer and the content, decide if the feedback would be better received written or in person first. Some people like to digest information in private, and some people like to discuss immediately and reflect later. It’s your call or you could ask your designer.
Use the following one-on-one to help your designer articulate where they want to focus. Ask what it was like to receive this kind of feedback and if it translates into their day-to-day activities. It’s perfectly acceptable to choose only a 1–2 goals to work on, even if they’re already strengths. It’s your job as a manager to help your designer see their work from an outside perspective and move their career in a positive direction.
There are no universal rules in design and leadership. Adjust these practices for the individual, the context, and your personal management style. You can also replace every occurrence of “design” with the role you are managing and it mostly works.