When working solo, it’s very easy to plan, to work, to evaluate, to make decision on everything. You know yourself and the work best. Working in a team, acting as a person in charge, you have to know strengths and weaknesses of your teammates. You have to know what makes them happy and what’s not, what brings the most value out of their creative minds. Designer is a picky type of character.
Anduin needed more design leadership back then, so i took the challenge.
My leadership at Anduin went through these organic steps:
Company grows, work is multiplied. More works mean more teammate you’re gonna need. Switching from a solo designer, i have to plan on how to recruit new designers. This includes:
Hiring was never be an easy work, it takes practices to be better. Luckily, all interviews went quite well so far that even if interviewees did not pass, some of them all came back and said thanks to me specifically for being clear and nice to them.
Having a bunch of designers together doesn’t mean you will produce productive works right away. I had to think who can do what, who can help who (you as a leader will have to help everyone in your team including yourself already, of course), even who sit next to who so that they feel the most comfortable.
Even from day one, they should feel like this is the workplace where they will do their best.
The ultimate goal is, over the time working in the team, they will learn something for themselves. The more they can learn, the better the team is, and they become better also.
From my experience, i believe a good culture will maximize productivity. So, when i have a chance to build culture, i told myself: at the very least, my team should have the best environment to work in as long as i still be part of it. So i was pursuing these values for Anduin design team:
You know it works when your teammate start doing the same things just like you do. I’m really happy to see my fellow designers carry on these values until today and it engages us very well.
I believe nobody likes processes, unless there’s no other way.
Here’re design processes that i really like:
To keep everyone in synced, we created a weekly sync up on each Friday. We’re thinking it’s a good chance for us to review the week and prepare better for a new week. This is not to mention in early of every week, we’re all packed with other meetings. So we try to avoid that precious time slot.
Sometimes, in a sync up, i included a pre-registered share-out from team member, this can be anything from the book you like to the interesting website you found recently with cool animation. A chance to learn from each other.
Described in the `Trust` section, 1 designer will have at least 1 important feature/product in his hand. We found out that’s not enough. That designer need a buddy to constantly share/discuss about his work. Gathering all team members will be really time consuming for day to day work. Having a pair will also add a backup solution for the main designer when he’s not around. It’s likely to have 2 designers (sometime 3) working with a feature rather than solo. Pair assignment will be discussed among teammates.
With engagement, each of us always wants to improve ourselves, but work sometimes so pressure and having constrains. We initiate fun, small project to help us stay creative.
I see 2 main benefits from this:
And when i say tributing i really mean it, not just to attend to a design event and network with people. I want all of my team to do this, not just me represent the team.
So we end up having something like:
One on one (1-1) is a pretty popular driver nowadays between direct manager and employee. It’s also part of Anduin policy.
Here’s my way of doing it:
Within 3 weeks, i make sure i have one 1-1 session with each designer. This should happen outside the office during working hour, can be anywhere. It’s part of the work anyway. I use this chance to understand individual designer more:
My goal after each 1-1 is that both of us feel motivated and happy to get back to work.
There’s a time right after a 1-1, i have Duy wrote up a Sketch plugin similar to Content Generator to render our special data. Or, Ben sent out a quick design deliverables checklist. Really happy with this.
Things do not always work. Sometimes your day-to-day buddy can’t find enough motivation to keep up with the work. It’s time to let him go. Before doing that, i make sure i understand his problem from multiple perspective (including his), give him trials on performance plan. If things still don’t work out, we sit dow, talk and i motivate him with next career advices.
Having a selective hiring saves me here. It makes me understand what a current hire can capable of. If he’s underperformed, usually it’s not a good environment for him anymore. To me, coaching people out will help them save their dignity and be better later on. This also reduce a burden on company side. Win-win
Over 4 year leading product design at Anduin, i’ve learnt a lot, done a lot. I have a solid, engaged and high-performance team always ready for any design challenge. I've made it clear that i’m trying to lead them, not manage them. I've earned their trust and respect.
My teammates can work as individual contributors or together as a team depends on the need. They’re also the co-owners of the team and the work. The kind of owner that can keep thinking on how to improve the team and provide honest feedbacks and contributions, even when i'm not there.