How am I doing?  Most managers aren’t able to answer this question, and the ones that can are delusional … or, if they’re serious about improving as managers, they’re surveying their stakeholders, including their team members.  And it’s not just about determining how effective you are as a manager, but how effective you are for the individuals that are on your team.  We’ve found that the better we’re able to align our management style to the personalities and strengths of our team members, the more effective we are as UX team managers.

Here are some tips to help you get effective feedback on your ability to lead:

1    Be clear about your goal in getting feedback
If your objective is to get open honest feedback in order to improve as a manager in general, try an anonymous survey of your team.  Asking what you should start, stop and continue doing in a freeform text survey works reasonably well.  If you’re aiming to tailor your management style to align with team member expectations and needs, you’ll need to have a dialog with individuals.  This form is a useful enabler for this discussion.

2    Show that you were listening to the feedback
Distribute the results of your survey or discussions to the team.  Rather than summarize, try to be as complete as possible, including even outlier comments.  This will show your team that you were listening to all that was said, and gives the feedback process a greater sense of integrity.

3    Make yourself accountable by publicly committing to take action
Developing a list of action items in response to the feedback and send them to your team.  Ask for any additional suggestions on ways to improve your performance as a manager or to better tailor your management style to their needs.

4    It’s okay to get a little help from your friends
Some changes in behavior are difficult, but you can stretch to achieve them.  Others won’t budge not matter how many manager workshops you attend.  It’s okay to hold off on, say, improving your excel pivot table skills.  Heck, why not make that a leadership opportunity for someone on your team who has an interest?

5    Track your performance
This is critical.  Add your action items to your quarterly objectives and key results.  Score yourself (honestly of course) on your performance on a regular basis and send your self-assessment to your team.  This will show that you’re truly genuine about making change.

6    Thank your team members
You may think that you’re doing this for your team, but you’re actually benefiting yourself by gaining insights to your own behavior and actions that you would have never captured otherwise.  By having these discussions with your team, or by them filling in a survey on your performance, they’re taking time to help you be a better manager.  Show them that you appreciate that time and effort.

Need a survey tool?  Try: http://www.surveymonkey.com/

Download: Leadership feedback form

See also Mags’ presentation at Adaptive Path’s MX Conference


About

Margaret Gould Stewart and Graham Jenkin have managed in a range of start-ups and large firms, agencies and in-house. Margaret is currently User Experience Director at YouTube and Graham was an inaugural "Great Manager" award winner at Google and currently works on product and design at AngelList.