I had lunch with my friend Julian Scaff on Sunday. He teaches UX Design at General Assembly. We talked about why companies succeed or fail and the role that user experience (UX) design plays in the outcome. The more we talked about it, the more it became clear that most of what I’ve taught about being an effective manager are a version of UX design for a team or organization.
Let’s start with a definition of UX design. Jesse James Garrett, the author of “The Elements of User Experience,” defines it as “understanding what your users need, how they think, and how they behave – and incorporating that understanding into every aspect of your process.” Now, we’ve talked before about managers working in three directions. So, in our case, the “user” is either an employee, customer, peer or senior manager.
We’ve also talked about gaining a better understanding of psychology so you can anticipate the reactions you may get based on the actions you take. Little did I know that we’ve been incorporating UX design principles into making you a more effective manager!
We’re going to take deeper dives into the principles of UX design and how they overlap with management best practices. For now, let’s take a quick look at a few areas where asking a few UX-centric questions may improve the experience for your team members and your effectiveness as a manager. For all of these questions, you should ask yourself “what conclusion or presumptions might the other person draw about my organization or me?” There are no right or wrong answers here, just perspectives that are colored one shade or another by the person on the other end.
- How does the job description “read?” Is it funny? Is it straight? Is it a boilerplate?
- What’s the experience of applying? If you want a resume and cover letter, is that clear? If you’re ok with the email serving as the cover letter, do you let applicants know that? Do applicants fill out an online form or a paper form? If they fill out a form, do you also request a resume and why? (Seriously, it’s a pain the ass to fill out a form that compartmentalizes information that’s on the resume.)
- When you phone screen, do you drive to call right at the scheduled time?
All of these questions address first impressions. They can give a feeling of your organization being easy-going or structured, forward-focused or traditional.
- Is the new hire’s desk set up and ready to go or are they going to do that?
- Do they know where to go when they arrive? Who will greet them?
- Where do they go for lunch on the first day? Will you take them, will they join the team, will you assign someone or are they on their own?
- How will they meet people? Will you walk them around? Will there be a meeting where they are introduced? If they are expected to introduce themselves to a group, do they know this ahead of time?
These questions address the “what have I gotten myself into” concern of new hires. They get a feel for if the team is process-driven or spontaneous. They’ll learn whether your organization is nurturing and supportive or encourages self-reliance.
- Is the goal structure based on individual performance, team performance or a combination of the two? If a team or a combo, how can team members alert you to an issue with an underperforming teammate?
- Are the metrics for reaching the goals subjective, objective or a combination of the two? Can/will the metrics change from one period to another?
- Can the employee “see” how they are performing along the way? If not, how do they get updates to make corrections?
- Can the employee over-perform on their goals (be compensated at more than 100% of the goal amount)? If so, is there a maximum?
These questions help your team learn about you and the organization. They learn if you value teamwork over individual accomplishments. Subjective goals emphasize communication while objective goals encourage a focus on process.
Keep in mind that you want an alignment between the experiences you provide and the people who are attracted to those kind of experiences. Otherwise, you or your organization may run the risk of being seen as either lacking self-awareness or being unable to walk the walk after talking the talk.
Being thoughtful in the creation of your processes, communications and actions to affect your audience is the hallmark of UX design and cornerstone activity of being a highly effective manager.