Designing confidence into your design team.


One of my favorite parts of being a design leader is watching my team kick ass.

I say watching my team, because it’s their work that gets to shine. But it’s a bit more than just watching, since my job is to make sure my team wakes up really looking forward to killing it each day. Here’s how I do it.


Give each person a chance to wow you.

Start each working relationship by giving your designer work that is slightly harder than you think she can handle. Then track her very closely for the first few days and adjust her workload to what’s an achievable challenge for her.

You don’t want her to drown. But you do want her to swim hard. Doing so gives hotshots a chance to shine. But it also allows you to jump in and give more detailed direction and dial it down for other folks.

As a manager, nothing is worse than missing out on someone’s ambition or design chops. Everyone has a strength with which to shine.

When your designer gets a chance to show off her skills, she’s confident. Confident designers bring a lot of mojo to the team.

Keep dialing things up, until your designer is just at the edge of her comfort zone. Otherwise, she won’t feel like she’s growing.

On the other hand, if someone is performing below the level you need, it does no good to continuously push her so much that she feels like she’s always failing. Again, we’re looking to build confidence. Confident designers at every level of your team will help team cohesion and camaraderie.

Sometimes you get a designer who is not able to shine on a particular project. Maybe she just doesn’t know the detailed differences between Material Design and the HIG. It’s okay. Adjust her workload so she’s shadowing a more knowledgeable designer. And be sure to communicate to your staffing team to make sure her assignments are better suited to her skill level in the future.

Let your designer own his piece of the project!

You’re awesome. That’s why you’re the leader ;-) But everyone already knows how awesome you are. So when you delegate, assign whole portions of the project to your designers. A Junior UX Designer could design a threaded commenting UX, while a Senior UX Designer could work out a user dashboard experience.

Once you delegate, let go of things being exactly the way you imagined it. Give someone else a chance to try his own design solutions. Try to see how a designer’s solution may work even if you had a different idea in mind. If you want to frustrate your designer, redo or take over her work at some point. Sounds crazy, but I see it all the time.

If you’re used to being the rock star designer you will be tempted to “fix” other people’s work when it doesn’t match your exact vision. Don’t do it!

If you want to see better design work, become a better design leader.

Tobi LeBron