Design management makes your life easier by employing best leadership practices and improving team performance.
Design management is all about managing stakeholder expectations and coaching designers toward high levels of performance. A successful design manager must bring to the organization an impeccable design sense, a keen eye for detail, well-honed organizational skills, and the ability to collaborate, prioritize and communicate with authority.
Listen: "A good leader encourages followers to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear."– John C. Maxwell
Empower: “Empowerment involves people in assuming control or mastery over their lives.” – Rappaport
Advocate: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Celebrate: "The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate." – Oprah Winfrey
You need someone who will onboard people who are skilled enough to get the job done and willing to try on new roles. Knowing that team members will stay only as long as they feel that their work is meaningful and appreciated, your design manager must create opportunities for the creative team to improve their skill set and move up into leadership. As you know, time is one of the most precious commodities during a work day. A leader’s job includes creating the time to develop their team.
MENTOR & INSPIRE
Probably the best tool of an effective manager is to ask for solutions rather than prescribing them. People desire respect, listening and belonging. And empowering people with the opportunity to solve their own problems goes a long way toward addressing the innate desire for meaning and purpose in the workplace. Plus, it’s a great recipe for job satisfaction. A successful design manager will create mental and emotional space for his/her team, thereby reducing stress levels and carving out more time for the real work of creating. Your team needs to be a beacon of creative thinking for the organization and to challenge the business to think more deeply about ways to achieve its growth goals.
PRODUCTIVITY & EFFECTIVENESS
Understanding the business of design is another skill set at which the best design managers excel. Time management should be seen as a business problem. When your design manager can show you how many projects their team has delivered on time and within budget, they can prove how they’ve reduced time to market. Reduced time to market means increased or accelerated sales — that’s success a CFO can understand. And this makes everyone look good! Especially you.
Nothing drives empathy like transparency. Walking clients through workflow processes can eliminate unmet or misaligned expectations. Giving a stakeholder frequent and accurate updates about the status of their projects and progress against the original work agreement is a great way to alleviate stress and manage expectations. Stress caused by unmet expectations can deflate a department’s morale overnight. Crafting systems that provide stakeholders with a comforting level of project transparency is a great way to enhance their empathy and assure them of ongoing service excellence.
THE TEAM'S FUTURE
One of the greatest challenges the design manager faces is providing the company with an efficient and affordable source of creative problem solving while fostering an inspiring work environment for the members of the creative department. A successful internal team will become more effective and efficient, and eventually earn a solid reputation within the larger organization. And a good design manager will proudly communicate that success, knowing more and better work will come to the team. This becomes a virtuous cycle, with a win-win outcome for all.