Becoming a manager can be one of the most exciting career transitions one can go through — it’s exсiting to become the person who will act as an interface between business and user. At the same time, all freshly promoted UX professionals should understand that the skills they gain in the role of UX designer or user-researcher are not the same skills they’ll use as a manager. Of course, having a solid foundation in UX design and research is necessary, but not sufficient to become a good UX leader. First-time UX managers have to master new skills and attributes to be successful in a new role.
This article provides a set of recommendations that can help you become a successful first-time UX manager. Many tips mentioned in this article are applicable to all managers, not just UX.
1. Find a mentor
A mentor is a person who provides clear insights and recommendations; it’s a person who you can ask for advice and who will be happy to provide guidance and support. Having a mentor is especially important during the initial months of transition because mentors can help you determine the areas you need to improve in order to be successful in your new position.
When you search for a mentor, look for someone who shares your passion and can inspire you to improve. It should be a person who will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Such mentors will help you avoid making the same mistakes they did when they were in your place, and, as a result, you will gain insights into your management career path.
2. Hire the right people
When you were an individual UX designer or user researcher, your success depended greatly on your personal expertise and ability to solve problems. As a manager, your success depends on how your team is able to achieve goals. This means that your new role will be less about direct execution and more about getting each team member to produce the best work. You should design the team that delivers great results.
To make that happen, you should take an active, primary role in team building:
- Identify gaps in a team’s skills and experience. Try to fill the gaps with training or new hires.
- Define who is the right candidate for you. Every UX team has its own definition of “the right candidate.” Create a portrait of the ideal employee — identify a set of characteristics (professional competencies, soft skills) that characterize the perfect team player.
- Take an active part in your organization’s UX hiring process. Set clear criteria on how to evaluate talent through CV and portfolio reviews. Share these criteria with HR departments so they’ll be able to identify relevant candidates.
3. Set clear objectives
Delivering spectacular results comes from having a clear focus. Without a clear focus, it’s almost impossible to achieve good results. That’s why it’s so important to define the direction for your team by setting clear objectives and expectations.
In order to set clear objectives you need to:
- Clarify what is required from your team. Figure out what higher management expects from your team. Having a clear understanding of what’s required from your team will help you define what you can and will do to meet those expectations.
- Define what good experience is. Figure out what good UX looks like for a customer, and deliver this information to your team. Set the bar for what the UX team and the business should strive for when creating products.
- Prioritize your team’s activities. No team has unlimited resources. It’s vital to use the resources you have to work on the projects that matter most to your organization. The UX manager should be the person who connects the dots between efforts. By focusing on the highest priority projects and delivering solid examples of your work, you not only save valuable time for your team but also make your team more valuable for the entire organization.
- Create an emotional connection with your team. When it comes to setting goals, you need your team to buy into the direction you establish. Emotional engagement makes people do their best work.
4. Build trust
Once you have great people on board and set clear objectives for them, you need to work hard on building trust. Trust is an extremely important factor in any aspect of business and personal relationships.