Do you lead a team of designers, developers, or UXers? Would you like to know how effective your leadership is and how to be even better? Find out if your team are as focused on users as you think they are. The most obvious way to assess your leadership qualities would be to judge the end result. If you’re launching great work that users love then you’re clearly a rockstar UX leader and you don’t need any help.
Fret not, in the next few of minutes I’ll take you through a very simple way for you to test your UX leadership skills. All it requires is for you to nonchalantly walk through your studio and drop by someone’s desk for a chat. It really is that easy. So why not read this next bit and go and try it out.
All you need to do is walk up to one of the people in your team, ask how their doing, and then casually ask these 5 questions. It will work best if the person you chat with is actively working on something that will directly impact user experience. So pick a designer, developer, or UXer.
Slide up to their desk and start with something simple:
This helps set the scene for your next questions. Try to find out about the specifics of what they are working on right now. Hopefully you’ll get a clear response telling you about a specific piece of work with a clear deadline. If you do, line up the next question.
If the answer is vague and non-committal then you might need to start with some leadership basics of setting goals, motivating, and inspiring your team.
With this question you’re looking for a good understanding of the type of user they are designing for. If your team have created personas for the project, you get bonus points if they reference the persona’s name.
If you get a vague answer probe a little deeper by asking about the specific characteristics of the user. Assess whether they really do have the user in mind or not. If not, this highlights the need to re-introduce personas into your process and emphasise the importance of focusing on end users. I find that showing videos from user testing sessions here can be a great way to re-ignite their passion for the users. Even better, set up some user testing sessions and get the whole team along.
What you’re looking for here is an in depth understanding of the core user goals. Why will users be using it? What is their end goal beyond using the site? How will the person you’re talking to help users reach their goals? You want to know that the person you’re talking to knows exactly what users need to do, and what success looks like. Again, extra bonus points if they point to specific user profiles and their scenarios here.
If you’re getting blank looks, it’s time to re-introduce personas and scenarios. Get your team to focus on mapping out the user journey and then get them to draw up an ideal user journey that will help users. Again, more user research is a great way to re-energise your team.
Great UX leaders ensure their team fully appreciate the need to marry user goals with business goals. The kind of responses that will give you big points here will show you that your team understand the bigger picture and how they contribute to it. If they can tell you who the user is, how they are helping them, and what the benefits are for your organisation then you deserve a big slap on the back and a gold star.
If you didn’t get the ideal answer here don’t worry. You may just need to remind your team of the bigger picture. Perhaps you haven’t given them enough insight into the overall strategy and what they can do to help. Another thing that can help here is to make sure the user profile template you are using includes a section for the business goals for each user.
This last question is a tough one that might catch even the best UX leaders out. You’re looking for some kind of plan to test their ideas and assumptions that they’ve been making along the way. If they tell you their plan to test some kind of prototype with users before they go live, then you should take the rest of the week off. You’re clearly on top of everything and really should be writing a UX leadership book.[Tweet “If they plan to test with users before they go live, take the rest of the week off”]
If they don’t have a plan to test and refine their work with user feedback then you’ll need to look at integrating more user research into your process. Encouraging your team to test with users regularly will ensure top answers to all these questions.
These five questions should be enough to give you some insight into how user-focused your team really are. It may be difficult to ask these questions in a way that doesn’t raise defences in your staff. So be careful to adapt and amend how you ask them. Depending on your leadership style you could even tell them that you want to ask a couple of questions to see how well you’ve briefed them. It’s a good idea to place the emphasis on you and not them.
If you can try this out on a regular basis with different team members you’ll get great insight into how well you’re doing and which areas you should work harder on.
I’d love to know how you got on. Let’s see if we can adapt and refine this process to make it better.
Damian is our Founder & Director who has 16 years experience in UX working for companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services researching & designing websites, apps, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. With two kids under two he spends his rare free time catching up on lost sleep or immersed in his xbox.