When a new team member joins the UC team, whether in the design function, my peer group across the organization, or someone with whom I will be working closely, such as my EA, I share a document with them. I first created this document in 2018 and shared it with a select group of colleagues. Since then, I have continuously improved and tweaked it to suit the needs of different teams and to incorporate what works best for the current group of colleagues.
This is what it's like working with me.
I follow a hierarchy of communication, starting with the most urgent: call, Telegram, Slack, and email (only if an existing thread needs my attention). If we discuss something important over undocumented channels, such as during a call, ensure that it is documented in a relevant location, so we don't miss it later on.
I prefer fast turnaround and acknowledgement on written communications. A quick 'got it' or 'on it' type acknowledgment lets me know that things we're discussing are moving forward. This is important so I don't have to keep a mental note to remind everyone later.
I am always available if you need me. I consider my time with all of you to be the most important part of the week. If you suggest a meeting or discussion, please try to block my calendar. My calendar will mostly be updated, and only under certain last-minute changes will I ask you to reschedule. If I suggest a discussion, I will initiate finding the time. Don't say 'let's discuss' without a follow-up of when we'll discuss.
I don't expect you to respond to everything in real-time, but I do expect you to close the loop on everything we open. If it's on my plate, I will do the same, but I will try to take things that are in your function off my plate. I don't prefer asking about something twice.
Frameworks and context are critical to sharing your work. I am always interested in the reason why you believe what you believe. Please share your logic, particularly if you are new to the team and we are building trust. Point to precedent, other industries, or if you're reasoning from first principles, please mention so. It's important that we learn how we think, so don't worry about over-communicating.
I appreciate having clear personal space boundaries, and I will respect yours.
I enjoy having longer, open-ended discussions over dinner or drinks after work at least once a month.
I make an effort to take weekends off to recharge and spend time with family, but will be available if you need to discuss anything during the weekends. Essentially if anything's urgent, ping me anytime.
When you go on vacation, please let me know how I can help or what could go wrong in your absence. I'd appreciate being brought up to speed so that I can be ready to step in if necessary.
Please keep your calendar up to date and mark your responses accurately (for example, decline meetings you can't attend and mark "maybe" if you're not sure). This will help ensure that we can all make the best use of our time.
3. Reporting updates
Create a regular, systematic, and clearly framed written process for sharing progress against plan. You can collaborate with me or your direct oversight on this.
Share your progress update at the start of each week before noon.
When sharing your progress, please be as specific as possible. Instead of saying "WIP in Project XYZ," provide details such as "First cut circulated with the team; setting up a meeting tomorrow to discuss next steps." This level of specificity will avoid the need for follow-up questions.
Progress updates should fall into one of the following categories:
A Slack message outlining the work progress or an update to the overall document and specifying where the update was made.
If the work involves a small tweak or adjustment in a fast-moving project, describe the change precisely.
If your work output is mentioned in Ally or is a key result of an objective, share an Ally link and provide details on the current status and next steps.
Avoid using "Progress on XYZ project" with a Figma URL. As designers, we must document our work clearly to avoid miscommunication. Instead, provide a clear update on the progress made and any next steps.
If your update doesn't fit into any of the above categories, please discuss it with your direct oversight before sharing it.
I am hands-on until I trust you. Once I trust you, I’ll be hands-off and we’ll collaborate as you need me, or when I bring you ideas for us to work through together. It could be at a project level or certain specifics of a project.
If I become more involved in your work again, it's usually because I'm losing trust in you or don't feel like we're making adequate progress on a given topic. This might be due to a lack of communication or reporting, or because you're not following the guidelines outlined in Section 6.
I enjoy working through problems together, but I expect you to come prepared with a few ideas and to have done your homework. Be clear about the specific area in which you need my help. This way, the conversation is not one-sided.
It is expected that you maintain a running document for our 1:1 meetings.
We will schedule these meetings every 1 or 2 weeks, and I ask that you make a regular effort to maintain this discipline.
During these meetings, we will primarily focus on your agenda.
I would like to use this time to check in on how you're doing, what you need from me, any broad strategy questions you'd like to discuss, and any professional development items you would like to address.
Additionally, once a quarter, we will formally document your performance.
6. My feedback for you
I'll give you direct feedback, whether it's good or bad.
Good or bad you'll be first to know it from me. If you're doing a good job; I'll point and let you know that you're on track. If you're doing a great job, I'll express my gratitude both privately and publicly!
However, there are a few reasons why my feedback for you might come out negative:
You work didn't meet my expectations - it was poorly constructed, incomplete, or inadequate.
You're giving up too soon and are not showing enough grit. You're not exploring enough ideas that may demonstrate your creativity.
You are not working 'deep' enough to integrate evidences, information from wide range of sources, examples to make a solid, smart decision or case - your first idea (without much research) is your final handoff.
You are not fostering collaborative, and positive environment. I love when you bring inputs from wide range of sources together on the table and take an informed decision. Remember, more knowledgable you are, more humility and less frustration will show. When you're working in siloed groups, your ability to even comprehend more knowledge gets compromised.
You are not engaged enough in your own learning and teaching. A common thread tying us together, I believe is innate curiosity about our industry, business, users, function, and life long learning.
You're not growing in your skill-set. If you're not getting better with your questions, you're not growing. If you're not getting better at design skills, you're not growing. If you're unable to optimise your own workflows and decision making, you're not growing.
If you feel I'm not listening to you - your ways of working, capabilities, projects of interest, I apologise. Message me on Slack immediately and we'll discuss this.
7. Your feedback for me
Commit to providing me direct feedback (don't wait for 1:1s for this) when I’m blocking you or your success probability in any given project.
I'll admit I'm not great with processes but I try to be. My working style has been called 'militant' in nature by few (or most, I don't know). I can be over-analytical as well and sometimes slow to act on some things. I am also strict when it needs to be. All in all, I have flaws — you'll learn about those more as you keep working with me. However, I will try to fix them if they're affecting our team, culture, or work. So, feel free to be as transparent and open about it with me. Call it out to me if I fuck up.
I respond well to feedback. Our relationship will only get better if you do this well.
8. Contributing to the big picture
If you want to contribute to the company strategy, the easiest way to do that is by observing user behaviour and developing a solid understanding of the product.
For instance, stay on top of how the last feature you worked on: How is that that feature used by our users and what are the gaps you see after it went live? Build your backing and research with qualitative and quantitative data. Discuss with me if you need help.
The only way you can get better at the work you last did is to learn and be interested in how users are using what you built.
9. Managing the team
Collaborate with me closely for defining responsibility. Set clear ways of working, alignment and practices to follow.
If you want to hire a new person, you should be capable enough to hire them by yourself. Source candidates, prepare interview rounds and get to closure. I, along with your oversights, will keep publishing content and guidelines to help you achieve your hiring goals.
Performance of your direct reports is a reflection on your management. If one is not performing up to the mark, take responsibility and act for next steps: either a performance improvement plan or termination.
If someone is doing a great job, call it out; ensure that recognition is shared publicly.
10. Professional development
My biggest value to you is to be a strong vocal advocate for your success, get you the resources you need, and create a platform for you to be successful.
My primary responsibility towards your professional development is to empower you with frameworks, practices, and tools using which you can do your best work here.
I can further help you constantly by being transparent about my role if you aspire to become a Head of Design. I can help you connect you with folks in the industry who might be able to help you with a specific insight on something you're working on. Most importantly, I can help create an environment where you can perform and feel fulfilled.
I'm highly results and outcome oriented. A discussion on professional development only applies if you're performing at your best in your professional goals to begin with.
11. Few more things
I'm people first. I have seen happy, informed, and productive people build fantastic products. Within the team, you'll always find me optimising for one of these three.
Leadership ≠ manager. I don't believe that one has to be a manager (or, a "title") to show or exercise leadership. It can come from any of you; in some aspects, more than your managers (including me).
I practice systems thinking. I try to reduce things into systems. I've found this way to be most helpful when it comes to simplifying complex things. I learn this regularly from my peers, oversights and people around me in personal life. With every design review, 1:1 sessions, this is one of the dimensions I'll stress the most on.
Bias towards action. I'll prefer progress reviews over process of progress meetings.
Bias towards sharing work early. I like to get involved in (and involve in case it's something I'm working on) as early and frequently as possible. I don't like bottled up feedback towards the end of a working sprint.
Honesty. 10+ years of work experience teaches you cutting and seeing through bullshit. Be honest in every conversation we have if we want to have a long lasting relationship.
Don't state opinions as facts. I like strong opinions. They reflect effort, passion, homework, and experience. What I don't like is opinions projected as facts.
I can be hyperbolic. I'm mostly excited about a lot of topics, projects at work - always. I might also dump them on you and not follow-up. Flag it out, when that happens. I'm working on it.
Psychological safety. I'm a huge believer in this. Remember, you have room within the team to make mistakes, laugh about them with each other during the process. I, along with other leaders of the team have your back. All you have to is just open up.
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