This is part two in my series of articles building on the Adobe 99U profile piece on Katie Dill, the Vice President of Design at Lyft. Katie has built a sizeable team of more than 100 designers at Lyft. In the 99U article, they cover what she regards as eight important parts of scaling a design team.
I will post my article on each of the eight points over the coming days. I hope you stick around for all eight as there is a lot of valuable information to benefit from. So, let’s continue with the second of Katie’s topics on scaling your team, that of the mixing a cocktail approach to team building.
2. Think of building a team as mixing a great cocktail.
“One area where managers tend to develop a blind spot is in who they hire – often, they look for the same type of person over and over without thinking of the overall mix of skills, backgrounds and perspectives needed for the team to thrive. Dill, however, likens her approach to building a team to mixing a cocktail. “You really have to think about the different way that ingredients play off each other – to create a nice comprehensive and elegant composition,” she says. “When I think about building a team, I look at all of that. Do we have people who are going to lead? Do we have people who are going to support that leadership? Are we going to have people to fill the different skills that we need? Having a diverse team not only leads to more comprehensive work, but a greater diversity of ideas and learning opportunities for all.”
This is advice from Katie that is in line with my experience and hiring practices. When I am looking to add new members to my teams I’ve got three things I want to identify and confirm, supported by an overarching rule.
No team can be successful with a single persona or profile of team member. The environments that I’ve worked in and the teams I lead have been a kaleidoscope of cultures, histories, experiences, and personalities. Thankfully talent and ability come in all shapes and sizes. The greater the breadth and depth of expertise and experience you can build in your team and manage well, will produce a better work environment and creative output.
The three things
These sweeping statements don’t mean that you should hire just anyone. When I have interviewed candidates the three most important things I want to establish are:
- Skills: That the candidate knows their trade and has relevant skills.
- Development: That the candidate can take on board constructive criticism and feedback and use it to improve.
- Service: That they grok the concept of service and are prepared for those times where the best outcome is achieved by being a servant.
To establish that an individual knows their trade during our time together we discuss the candidate’s experience and portfolio. Where does their interest in the design and style of work in their portfolio come from, and where do they want to go with it? This can be important to ensure a candidate is a proper fit for the style of work your team are engaged with.
I also ask candidates to do a small project piece before our interview session. I’ve designed this to demonstrate specific creative, design, and decision-making skills that we can discuss in the interview and that can be produced with 30 minutes of effort.
When we discuss this piece, it feeds into their ability to be engaged with a discussion regarding their approach, their decision-making process, and the art that they produced in this short project. If relevant it also provides room for feedback and, if applicable, constructive criticism of how they completed the brief.
Finally, while I want to hire designers and creatives who are talented and who will add to the mix of the team I need to hire people who understand the idea of the need, at times, to be a servant and deliver what the customer needs.
This may not always be the cutting edge design you’ve been working on – there is a whole other piece to be said on the skill of picking your battles. There have been times where I and members of my team, notably when working evenings or graveyard shifts, have been involved with trying to solve technical problems, or source everything from meals, taxis, transport, hotel rooms, venues, and even clean clothes.
While I have a unique list of previous requests we’ve delivered, I believe that it’s important to have team members whose ego will allow them to just get stuck in and help teammates, colleagues, and customers if and when it is needed.
Finally, the overarching rule of all of this is to hire people who are better than you. I learned about this quote by David Ogilvy from the renowned copywriter Drayton Bird.
If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.
Become a giant! In my experience, it’s the best way to build a team and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.
I’ll address the next element of ‘thinking beyond the pixel’, in the following article.
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