For the past three and a half years I’ve been heads down building Curalate. A crash course in building a product design practice, ever dedicated on finding a product market fit.
In 2014, I left an amazing team over at Think Company to take a chance on an idea and an opportunity. A night of tacos, margaritas, and “You can do this …right?” with Melissa sealed it for me. I took a big risk, and a pay cut. In return, Curalate took a big chance on me.
On day one, I power-posed in the elevator like a real weirdo, was handed a laptop, and essentially had to figure it out.
This is the reality of most startups. One of the biggest advantages to working at a startup is the ability move fast and wear all the hats. You want to do some user research? Congrats! You’re the user research team. Dependencies? Hah. You simply must depend on yourself.
Oh hey, you’re a manager now. You’ve hired five more designers and are still growing. To hire the right folks, you need to have a clear story to share with the world about who you are, what you’re working on, and how they can contribute. But hey, I had to learn that somewhere right?
Coordinating with leads and stakeholders to define the right goals is your jam now. Shielding the team from conflicts is your butter. But, where is the bread?
Make your bread.
There comes a time when it’s important to build a stronger foundation with the goal to help others so that they don’t have to just figure it out.
- Create a shared sense of purpose
- Focused, empowered leadership
- Enable authentic user empathy
- Clarify to understand, articulate, and create value
If you do this right, the team will do a better job than you ever did. Nothing gives me greater energy than to see my original work burned to the ground because we’ve done a better job organizationally to enable others to produce great work.
This is where we’re at. This excites me.
After years of figuring it out as a design team of one or two. I’m now a design manager of one. Back to where I started. Am I even doing this right? How many times can one read Radical friggin’ Candor?
I hired a leadership coach.
About a month ago I decided to invest in myself. Finding honest, unbiased feedback can be challenging when you’re flyin’ solo.
Are my values aligned with my career path? …Wait, what are my values?
Deep down I thought I knew what my strengths and weaknesses were. But I needed to meet them face to face. With a goal of providing clarity and direction to benefit myself and others.
What energizes you? What drains you?
With the help of my coach, I completed a strengths profile. You answer questions, then receive a detailed report with the following:
Realized Strengths — Things you’re good at, that you know you’re good at
Develop them even further — Dial them up and down depending on the situation
Learned Behaviors — Things you’re good at, but you’ve learned
Try not to use them too much — Use your strengths to support you
Realized Weaknesses — Weaknesses you’re aware of
Delegate to others who have this as a strength — Use your strengths to compensate
Unrealized Strengths—Things you’re good at, but you don’t realize
Look for new ways to use them — Align them to your goals
Knowing which activities boost and drain your energy is important to growth. We’re still sifting through it all and so far, and it’s been an incredible and uncomfortable experience. (Good uncomfortable!)
I’m super excited to see where it takes me.
I’ve taken this approach and extended what I know so far to the design team — focusing on their personal growth. I believe if you’re able to build transparency around these areas within your team, you’re able to fill the right gaps and provide the best support for each other. They will benefit from this long past your guidance as their manager.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, because not only will your team appreciate your desire to grow as a leader, so will the people that use your team’s product.
Thanks for reading! If you practice additional growth frameworks with your team, I’d love to hear about them. Say hello on Twitter!