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Coach, Diplomat, Champion, Architect: The Complete Design Leader

Design leaders need to play a lot of roles in order to succeed. This talk shares the four archetypes of the Design Leader: Coach (managing down), Diplomat (managing across), Champion (managing up), and Architect (shaping orgs as they scale.

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Coach, Diplomat, Champion, Architect: The Complete Design Leader

  1. 1. Architect Champion Diplomat Peter Merholz COACH
 @peterme Org Design for Design Orgs
  2. 2. For leaders, the solution is almost never MORE STUFF
  3. 3. Let go
  4. 4. Leadership is about leverage
  5. 5. COACH Diplomat manage down manage across manage up DL Champion
  6. 6. COACH Getting the most out of your team Pat Summitt,
 most NCAA 
 basketball wins
  7. 7. Your team is not an 
 extension of yourself COACH
  8. 8. Provide a vision for success COACH Tell the broad story, let the team figure out the details Focus on outcomes, not output Maintain optimism and positivity
  9. 9. Teach technique in the various methods Lead constructive critique…and speak last Team stuck? Reframe the problem Provide guidance COACH
  10. 10. One size never fits all Acknowledge strengths and weaknesses Let team members be themselves People, not resources COACH
  11. 11. Strength in diversity Common mistake is to build your team with people just like you Seek people with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences COACH
  12. 12. It’s how we learn If you cover for them, that becomes a crutch Let them mess up COACH
  13. 13. Team members notice when others our allowed to slide Make clear what’s not acceptable If you’re aiming just for “likability,” you’re not doing your job But hold them accountable COACH
  14. 14. Diplomat Working cross-functionally to ensure
 design’s voice in the process Eleanor Roosevelt,
 First chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights
  15. 15. Diplomat Design leadership is a lot more talking than doing
  16. 16. Appreciate cross-functional peers’ perspectives, clients’ perspectives (most folks still don’t really know what designers do, 
 and someone needs to tell them) Diplomat Engage with non-designers
  17. 17. Design shouldn’t be a black box that 
 receives requirements and spits out artifacts Welcome people into your work; 
 make yourself a part of their work Diplomat True collaboration, no agency model
  18. 18. Diplomat Assume 
 positive intent Avoid victim stances Everybody is doing their best Diplomacy doesn’t mean being a pushover Have principles and purpose Stand strong for your ideals
  19. 19. KEEP
  20. 20. Champion Fighting for your team 
 and your function Shirley Chisholm, first black woman Congressperson, champion for at-risk populations
  21. 21. (Over-) Communicate about the awesome work your team is doing Champion Evangelize
  22. 22. Don’t let your team get run over or spread too thin Champion
  23. 23. Fight for your team’s good work Stand up to executives who don’t know better Provide cover for team members’ worthwhile pursuits Champion Protector
  24. 24. Don’t give up on what your team needs – 
 staffing, hardware, software, facilities, policies, education, pay Champion Relentless
  25. 25. Scaling from a design team… DL PD PD PD PD CS CD
  26. 26. …to a design org HD PD PD PD PD CS CD UXR DL PD PD CS CD
  27. 27. Architect Shape your org as it scales Julia Morgan, pioneering California architect
  28. 28. Figure out your organizational model Architect Make an Appointment Buyer Design 
 Team Seller Design
 Team S S D D TL S S D D TL Growth Seller Tools Search/ Browse Product Page Shopping Cart and Checkout Reviews Buyer 
 Experience Seller 
 Experience D
  29. 29. Define Roles and Build a Levels Framework Levels Job postings Candidate assessment Training Performance reviews Recruiting 
 and hiring Professional
 Development Team composition Delivery Architect
  30. 30.
  31. 31. Develop agreed-upon criteria
 (brand personality characteristics,
 experience principles, 
 design systems) Embrace subjectivity
 examples of quality work Establish design quality Architect
  32. 32. Get serious about operations Architect
  33. 33. (none of this takes the place of human interaction) Architect
  34. 34. Architect Champion Diplomat COACH You need to do all of this (and no, that’s not fair)
  35. 35. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Peter Merholz
 @peterme Org Design for Design Orgs
  36. 36. BONUS Hard, or at least annoying, truths about design leadership
  37. 37. Your most common drawing tool…
  38. 38. Designers are a pain to manage
  39. 39. No one understands what you do; they all think it’s easier than it is
  40. 40. You won’t get the people or resources you need
  41. 41. Recruiters are bombarding your team
  42. 42. 10,000 ft to 1 ft and back
 without getting the bends
  43. 43. Any meaningful measure for design is the same as product management or marketing
  44. 44. The Head of Design typically has no one to turn to

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Design leaders need to play a lot of roles in order to succeed. This talk shares the four archetypes of the Design Leader: Coach (managing down), Diplomat (managing across), Champion (managing up), and Architect (shaping orgs as they scale.


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