I’ve worked for a lot of idiot managers in my career. And then, one day, after I had become a design manager myself, it finally dawned on me: Now I’m the idiot! I had a lot of ideas about what a good manager is, how one acts, and the exact positioning of where the spotlight should land on the hero, which was absolutely supposed to be me. Thanks, ego.
Heroically speaking, I failed on many, many levels. I didn’t understand how to understand a team, and help turn their perceptions and expectations into something shared and agreed upon. I didn’t understand how to foster critique; I only knew that I was in charge of design and that I had the final say. Most of my career has been an exercise in “trial by fire” and this process worked well when I was a designer and was trying to master the art of the task flow, site map, wireframe, prototype, personas, and so on. In leadership positions, the option to go back to the drawing board or to iterate hasn’t always been readily available–nor as painless to my pride and potentially my pocketbook.
The passing of time, the second and third chances that I’ve been given, and the sound advice that I didn’t want to listen to in the past have opened me up to a much different perspective. Oh, I’ve still got plenty to learn, and I’m excited to share some of what I’ve learned about charters, critique, and culture of design organizations.