Designing To Managing Designers


Moving from a designer role into a management role is not an easy transition. You essentially go from designing to managing designers. And I’ve had bosses where it was very clear it was their first time in a management position. They didn’t know what they were doing. They were stressed out. They were insecure, and confused. There isn’t enough coaching for those making that transition, in fact, many people have no coaching at all and have to stumble through the uncomfortable transition learning the hard way how to manage by making many, many mistakes. When I’ve had bosses that were clearly first-time managers, I made a point to be easy on them, to show that I was on their team and I was here to help them. Here are three things to remember when moving from being a designer to managing designers. 1. Understand your job first. You can’t manage others properly if your own tasks aren’t clear. There will be a substantial learning curve when starting a new position, especially for first-time managers. But get in there and figure it out as soon as possible so you can start being an awesome boss. Understand that your job probably isn’t to design anymore. It’s probably now more project management and client relationships. So take care of the bigger picture and support your designers in their roles. You can monitor a designer’s projects and progress, but don’t micromanage. Don’t get involved in a designer’s day-to-day tasks. Your performance isn’t measured by your solo achievements anymore. Instead, it’s probably now measured by your team’s achievements. It’s now your job to inspire your team to do great design work. 2. Communicate. Communicate with your team every chance that you get. Communicate your role. Tell your team what your job responsibilities are as a manager, on a regular basis. Just like the designers give you an update on what they’re working on, you should give them an update on what you’re working on as well. Communicate the company goals. Tell your team about company goals and big picture projects. One thing that I was lacking when working for fashion companies was understanding the big picture of the company. This wasn’t usually explained very well and I believe I would have been a more motivated employee in my daily work if I understood the bigger picture better. This helps designers understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Tell them about potential new clients. Tell them how much the company made last quarter, and what you’re on track to make this quarter. This is inspiring. Communicate issues. If issues arise, you have to communicate in a clear, constructive way. I’ve had bosses that were naturally non-confrontational kind of people and went into their default of being passive-aggressive when I under-performed, or disappointed them in some way. Don’t shut off. Talk to your designers. The passive-aggression and avoidance It just makes things worse. So confront your designers like an adult, and like a boss. In my opinion, those not afraid of confrontation make much better bosses. Don’t make your team read your mind. Just talk to them. As you get to know your employees, you’ll find the best way to communicate with each of them. Every individual responds to different communication in different ways. Be sensitive to that, and accommodate each employee. Designers, do your part too. Get to know how your boss prefers to communicate. 3. Motivate. Make your designers feel appreciated, respected, and supported. Keeping up office morale is a big part of managing a team. Morale has a huge effect on productivity and general well-being. Low morale can lead to sub-par concentration and increased mistakes. Also, it can lead to higher employee turn-over rate, and general absenteeism. Be your team’s biggest advocate. Give them credit where credit is due. Managing a team is a lot like a relationship. Get to know your designers, understand their strengths and weaknesses, help to highlight their strengths, understand their life goals, keep their best interests at heart, and never stop supporting them. That’s my idea of an ideal design boss. If I had a boss like that, maybe I would have kept working in corporate design. But maybe not. If I ever lead a design team, this is the kind of boss I would strive to be. Comment below and let me know what your traits in an ideal boss would be. And subscribe!

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