How I approach UX leadership

I've been in the field for over 10 years as a product designer, UX researcher, and UX manager. Over the years I've both thrived and struggled as a UX practitioner, and through it all I've gained a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn't in effective user experience leadership.

Put team members first

The people on my team always come first. UX teams rely on each other deeply. I create an environment of psychological safety where individuals and projects can find fertile ground to grow in. I develop high-performing contributors who send the elevator back down, and I recognize my team members for their good work. I try to build a diverse and inclusive team that has a wide range of skillsets and backgrounds to optimize our chances for success.

Find strategic partners

UX teams never work in a silo. Our success depends on working collaboratively with partners in product, development and business. I prioritize developing these relationships by ensuring that design, product, and engineering work well together and keeping our goals aligned through regular check-ins. In this way, we can cultivate an environment of trust and accountability.

Drive great UX projects

The reason that the UX team exists in the first place is to increase the impact and likelihood of success of a project. I help the team make consistent progress and improve project outcomes by ensuring that designers and researchers have enough maker time as opposed to meeting time, and by helping to increase the level of craft and business impact of each designer's project work.

Establish the right processes

Good process makes the work easier, not harder, and this is especially true in UX. I make sure we are following the right processes that will lead to our success by ensuring that product development is user-focused. I make sure that designers have their competing needs prioritized from multiple stakeholders across multiple projects.

Be highly competent in all aspects of UX

UX teams suffer when they are led by someone who is unfamiliar with the UX domain. UX leaders should have experience in each aspect of UX so that they can plan projects, hire the right talent, provide coaching and mentoring, and set up good processes to enable UX designers and researchers to be effective. They should be able to provide great design critiques and evaluate study plans. They should be able to share in the work when needed as well.

Give trust and autonomy

A great UX leader assigns team members problems to solve rather than solutions to implement. UX practitioners need to feel entrusted with ownership in a project in order to achieve the results they were hired to achieved. How they achieve them is up to them.

Provide a vision for UX teams to work towards

UX leaders should establish a clear vision of where the team is headed by aligning with business and user goals, setting up a roadmap to show exactly how to get there, and communicating this vision with the team. By staying focused on the customer and remaining objective by determining success via clear business goals, user experience teams can chart a rational course toward a particular business outcome.

Fill gaps with each new hire

The UX design process is a combination of multiple sub-step specializations that come together to provide the design with its efficiency and results that it produces. A team of experts; each the master of his own craft is required to achieve an impressive UX design. With each new hire, a good UX leader will try to augment the capabilities of the team by adding missing UX roles and specialties to bring the team to the next level.

Advocate for UX as an essential contributor to strategic business decisions

The vast majority of UX efforts fail, because UX teams are typically lacking in influence and authority while still given a massive responsibility for product success. UX teams need to be represented when strategic decisions are made.

Be generous with gratitude and praise

Great UX leaders make other people, including both team members and partners, feel important and appreciated. They create opportunities to provide rewards, recognition, and thanks to their staff.