When I talk to someone on my team, I’ll often mention that I’m looking for people to be proactive, take ownership, and be humble. This is not me trying to control everything but serves as a guide to tackle a task with gusto, and to increase the chance of a successful outcome.
These stem partly from my own experiences in tackling a task, but also results speak for themselves when a task is concluded without some or all these qualities. I also believe, as Aristotle said, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
UXers can sometimes become frustrated at the lack of UX work that they get to do. They signed up to change the world through research, testing and design, but later find they’re expected to ‘be the user’, or the expert in the room, or to deliver a new design without the grounding of user research.
The pressure for short term wins and quick fixes overpowers the desire to trust and stay true to the process. We hear you, and this echoes with some of the frustrations voiced through the Insider Insights survey.
So, what can you do? I believe these three behaviours will place you on solid foundations on which you can build:
When you decide to own a task, your mindset shifts. By deciding to own a task we are taking on the responsibility and, in so doing, approach the task with a bit more gusto. Try it. There is a spark that makes you sit up a little straighter and inner doubt recedes. It may be that you are not able to action the task itself, by taking ownership you still hold responsibility for the output even if you need other people to help.
This might be with regards to implementing good UX practice into your work. Our Insider Survey highlighted people’s frustrations in trying to convince colleagues and bosses to afford the time for UX research, and it can be easy to give in and ride with it. However, when we decide to own it, we buy-in to the process to continue to chip away and, whilst it might take time, with our ownership we glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now we own the task, we must do what is required to move it forward. This might be to clarify the brief and better understand what output is expected, it might be to do some desk research on possible suppliers, or to pull a team together to help. The first step in being proactive, is to challenge or validate assumptions, and have any questions answered. Don’t think you know everything you need to know!
Now you are owning your cause to include more UX research into your practice at work, you’ll need to be proactive. Regardless of your project, include a bit of usability testing or user research. Even if this is just with one person, for 15 minutes. Get the ball rolling, and you can add a bit more next time. You’ll learn what works best for you at this stage, but be sure to present findings, solutions, and end results.
Being humble reminds us to be human. Maybe we need help from colleagues, suppliers, or customers. In all that we do we should be courteous and empathetic. When the to-do list grows, or deadlines loom, the stress levels creep up. Being humble reminds us to ensure this doesn’t affect how we treat others, not because we might need their help, but because it is the right thing to do.
Be humble with those around you, especially those who may not (yet) be bought into your cause. Be humble when testing your product, remove bias and make sure you see what is happening. And be humble when you present your output, it should be constructive and useful.
And as we pull these three behaviours together, we witness how tasks just happen. Our mindset doesn’t need shifting and we are able to approach the task, and its many sub-tasks, from a place of ‘can-do’.
Our energy levels ebb and flow. Sometimes a task can be completed with minimal effort but, on another day the same task feels like a slog. The task is the same, what changes is our mindset, and we have a few options:
- Slog it out – this can work, but the time to complete the task will be longer, the output is likely to be below par, and the satisfaction on completion is one of relief rather than contentedness.
- Leave it for later – This is a good option if you have time to spare. Unfortunately, when you come back to the task, there is no guarantee you’ll be in a different mindset. Also, time creeps up and suddenly we’re out of spare time and are left with #1.
- Shift our mindset – a tool to remind us that we are more than capable of completing this task with a bit of gusto. For me personally, when I remind myself to be proactive, to take ownership, and be humble, I can suddenly move forward with the task with little effort.
With this understanding, we can pick up some of those big unwieldy tasks we’ve previously parked, or we can see the light on our journey to imposing change. Be sure that helping your employer be user-focused is the right thing to do. The business will perform better, and you’ll have more remit to undertake user research and test your prototypes with customers. What might seem too steep a hill to climb, own it, be proactive, and be humble, and you’ll soon find that you’re riding an escalator.
Importantly, and in conclusion, we should be humble to ourselves too and remind ourselves that we don’t need to strive. Simply own it, be proactive, and be humble. Just be you.