Leadership advice to your younger self

Leadership advice for experience designers from some of the countries top female leaders.

There’s a point in everyone’s career where they look back and think, I wish I’d known this five, ten, fifteen years ago.

With a focus on leadership we invited three high ranking ladies in UX to highlight things they wish they knew when they were younger that would have helped them be better leaders.

We annually partner with the Ladies that UX community for an event that always focuses on leadership and helping people become better leaders, highlighting challenges they may face and ways to handle them – no matter which stage they’re at in their career.

I moderated last year’s panel which focused on Finding your Leadership Style and was excited to return for this year’s panel and topic: Advice to your Younger Self. This year’s topic allowed the panellists to debate and discuss what they wish they knew, as well as share their inspiring stories and advice with the audience.

We heard very different stories from Tarnjit Tiyur at Rolls Royce, Samantha Kingston at Virtual Umbrella, and Christine Hoover Lanoy at Ticketmaster.

Here are our Top 10 Takeaways from the night that can be applied to anyone’s leadership style.

1. Align everyone around the same goal

Many people assume that being a leader is a solo activity, but being a leader is actually about building a team that will work together to achieve the goal. Have the team focus on getting the mission done collaboratively and achieving a common goal.

2. Take on a leadership role through public speaking 

Speaking in public positions you as a leader in your field. It is an effective way to find your voice and encourages those around you to share their opinions as well. Sharing your knowledge and ideas forces you to adopt a leadership role and form an opinion. While it can be terrifying to get in front of an audience the long-term benefits make it worth pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

3. Go where your strengths are

Instead of working harder to become better at a skill that may not come naturally to you, focus your energy on what you’re good at. Build up the skills that you’re already good at and become the go-to person for that skill. By surrounding yourself with a team that holds qualities you lack you’ll be a stronger team. That’s not to say you shouldn’t build new skills, but be more selective of what skills you’re putting time into developing.

4. Learn emotional intelligence

Learning how to speak to people is a key skill for a leader. Learn to express your discontent without putting your team down. Keeping the team motivated, while still providing direction can be difficult at times and is a skill worth learning. Enhance this skill by watching how other leaders deal with difficult situations and by speaking with leaders you admire.

5. Deal with your nemesis

You’re going to encounter people that challenge everything you do. Sometimes it’s personal, but usually it’s just business. Recognising early on that there are people who are going to challenge you is an opportunity to start considering how you might deal with these difficult situations. This pre-planning will prepare you to overcome these moments in future rather than rashly responding as they crop up.

6. Age is just a number

It is never too early, or too late, to start out on a new career path. What’s important is having the passion to strive for something better and to achieve your goals. Passion is contagious, no matter your age you can help lead in the tech industry.

7. Know the difference between mentors and coaches

A mentor is someone who passes on their expertise, but a coach helps someone find their own answer. To identify potential mentors, look for people who exhibit leadership styles and skills that you want. Asking yourself the question “how do I get that?” will help you identify skills that you want to improve and people who can help you get there.

8. Find your allies and be human

It’s okay to be emotional and passionate at work. Find people who you can share those emotions with because being emotionally disengaged makes it hard to do great work. It’s okay to be stressed out and passionate about something, but it’s different if you’re negatively affecting your team through constant complaining. Be a constructive sharer.

9. Sell yourself with confidence

Learn how to present your best, confident self to establish yourself as a leader and someone who knows what needs to be done. It’s not just about what you know if nobody is listening. If you position yourself as someone who knows what’s going on and what to do about it people will start listening to what you’re saying. Body language and how you’re physically taking up space are important aspects of selling yourself, before ever needing to sell your ideas. Learning business acumen will also help you convey ideas with more senior stakeholders.

10. Find opportunities to help yourself grow

Too often people find themselves floating through the minutia of their day to day work lives. It’s important to look to the future and what skills you need to build on to grow into the career you want. Small wins are important. By setting yourself small, achievable goals you can build up an increased skill set over time.

This evening event was an excellent opportunity to hear from and speak to UX leaders.

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