Managing Designers with Respect

I have been managing staff now on and off for… ever. Although I still have a lot to learn, obviously, or at least I hope, I have learnt a thing or two and feel that perhaps it is time to share one of the most important lessons.

That lesson is to respect your staff.

Work is all about people. People are… well… people. They’re human. The point here being that they are not machines and do not react well to being treated like machines. They do however react well to being treated like people. Sounds like logic? You might not be surprised to hear that I have found this to be not commonly understood or practised.

I have no respect for the computer I am writing this on. None at all. I treat it like a machine. I abuse it, hammer it, and work it relentlessly. I do however have a deep and sincere respect for the people that built this wonderful machine. You see the difference?

Respect your staff. Why did you hire them to begin with? Hopefully you hired them because they know their jobs. Normally a good manager will hire people who are better at a job than the manager is. This is the first of many forms of respect. This one often gets forgotten however. If your designer has advice or comments, listen to her. The designer knows what she is talking about. If not, why did you hire this person? Allow this respect and you will have full access to their superior knowledge.

Another form of respect is more general. Allow people to play. There should be little or no difference between work and play and if you allow fun, joy and laughter into the workplace productivity will increase, especially for creatives. Ever try to force creativity? Sometimes you have to but it is resistance.

Allow mistakes. We all make mistakes. Respect people for being honest about them. Never punish design mistakes and instead laugh at them. This both allows people to think outside the box, try wild ideas and eventually come up with new and fresh ideas some of which will come from the freedom to make mistakes without actually making any and also happy accidents, Happy accidents are wonderful design solutions that happened by mistake. They can be quite revolutionary so never stop that avenue of design by frowning is mistakes.

All work, to a greater or lesser degree, demands a certain level of creativity. Designers, as in both UI and UX design are just about 100% committed to creativity. I mention this as what I am writing about here is applicable across the spectrum of roles, jobs and hats in an organisation.

Another reason to treat people well? I am selfish. I am greedy and sometimes lazy. I watch out for myself. I am a survivor. Why be so honest? Honestly the best way to get away with all these traits is to treat people right. If you do they will treat you right. I am not saying that they will let you get away with being greedy, selfish and lazy. I am saying that they will not make it worse. In fact they will go out of their way to not make it worse.

Why not let people have a fun time?

Work should be play.

Manager’s job is to encourage, nudge and clear a path. People want to do a good job.

– Nikolai Bird

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