Too often, I find myself in a workplace situation where I provide information about a particular product need, then an internal UX designer goes away to come up with a design for me to review a few weeks later. That’s not really working together, and it doesn’t give us a chance to develop a strong interpersonal relationship. Even though it can be more work, getting in a conference room or design space together and really working collaboratively on a design not only produces a much cleaner, more coherent design from the beginning, but also helps us to build a stronger relationship.
Recognize Other Peoples’ Strengths and Enable Them to Use Them
When you have a large group of UX professionals working for your company or for a client, it stands to reason that there will be strengths and weaknesses among the team members. However, in the eyes of internal and external customers, it is just the UX team. This sometimes means that stakeholders ask people on the team to undertake projects or tasks for which they are not really suited.
When working with internal UX people, I always try to learn a little more about their background in user experience. What are the aspects of the profession with which they feel most comfortable; what really gets them jazzed about our profession? I once worked with an internal UX designer who was asked to support me in doing research in the field. I would go out to work with clients and bring back product design requirements, then we would come up with designs and take them to customers for review. I found that, although this person was a talented designer, his heart was not really into the design tasks. When I finally mentioned as much to him and asked why, he replied that he would really prefer to do user research instead of user interface design.
Now, this person did not work for me directly, but I was able to convince his management that I really needed this person’s research skills in the field, to be able to pinpoint the different user groups that would be good targets for our products. So, I was able to borrow this person for six months, and he accompanied me into the field. This person’s output was so favorably received that, eventually, I was able to transition him to the user research team.
What this experience taught me is that it always pays to find out a little bit more about people’s true strengths and competencies rather than just accepting what their role dictates that they should be doing. In the case I’ve just described, had I not asked, I might have walked away from our time working together with the belief that this person was merely a competent UX professional instead of the rock star user researcher I later realized he was.