Research Your Team First: Key Communication Techniques to Build Trust & Clarity in Product Teams
Matthew Eng presented “Research Your Team First: Key Communication Techniques to Build Trust & Clarity in Product Teams” at UX Camp: Home Edition on Saturday, June 13, 2020. Enjoy!
The following transcript may contain typographical errors. Please forgive any mistakes!
Thanks everyone, a, a brain, Russ for putting on this event. Even despite the times and the challenges we have, and I am also learning to present my slide somewhere that the school down or up… They got beautiful.
Okay, so awesome.
So it’s just a little background about myself.
Let’s see, here we go.
I had done a few things in the UC space, I did UX research, I did UX design, and currently I’m focusing on design ops, and so all of that experience is coming into this talk, and I love to share that with you.
Mostly, the focus of it is to talk about how we communicate with their teams, how we open that space up to where we can have clear and an honest communication with each other.
When I talk about teams, I’m talking about your UX team, your UX designers or researchers or visual designers and so on, and then the wider team, which would be the focus of how we communicate with each other, your product managers, your developers, your architects, and then further out in enterprise, who are your directors and your VPs and so on, and so the assumption is that if this resonates with you, I’m talking about UX teams in enterprise that are new to the company, so the culture of UX is family new, your team is smaller or smaller smaller compared to, let’s say, your engineers, and that’s oftentimes the kids, and then the education is required… Hot Steven, talk about that. Some of the griping, if you were a common thing that people say is that I constantly have to educate people what designers to do, and I think that’s something that we more Arliss, I’m gonna accept as an assumption. And another thing that I hear a list, I’ve paraphrase is that no one listens to me, that’s the problem I wanna tackle with this talk, so I’ll be quoting or at least referencing three of these authors and some of the foundation of some of my coaching for my team and how they structured their conversations around their team and their wider team, Elias Gilbert in Big Magic, he talks about creativity and how we embrace and should embrace the energy of creativity and see it as that Chris Foss was the lead negotiator for the FBI, and so his use of language and creating space for negotiation, yes. But ultimately creating trust with the people you’re checking, trying to work with and join the… Or he’s an FBI, not so sure is a negotiator, but he does work a lot with body language and how you use that to understand the person that you’re communicating with, and also how you use that to communicate with the person that you’re working with… In the bar, a little bit from kin. Good wins. Talk in 2018 should be speaking a little bit later today.
And hopefully, I’m not fussing too much. Give and I apologize if I am.
She referenced the UX process and us calling ourselves UX designers more or less opened us up to feeling responsible for the US process, so it’s a lot to think about anything within this process, whatever it might be, that affects the experience we as designers feel that we should own, right.
And so if we look at the UX process, at least one version of it, as a designer, you soon learned that your immediate team, you need to work with your developers, you need to work with your product managers, but pretty quickly, there’s of course a larger team that you have to bring into the conversation, but a lot of times design is… Think of it as a Goulet.
I have this idea, this creative idea of how to make the experience better, and I have to force that idea through all of these people and convince them, and I am the expert, and according to Elizabeth Gilbert at least, and I believe this is… Well, it’s to shoulder that responsibility of that creativity and that idea is a lot for a design or even a team, and so I feel that, yes, designers, we should be the stewards of our user needs of the experience, but we could only really do that by bringing in the voices of that lighter team, everyone we saw on that side, and I’ll go back on that side throughout this presentation.
So let me dig a little deeper into the UX designers experience. If I can bring up, this is, I guess, the representation, not quite a persona, at least the people that I have on my team, a lot of them are due to the industry, they’re two to three years into career, they’re definitely new to Enterprise UX team and all of us were new to the product, the main space, and so if we borrow again, one of the A form of the UX process and we mapped that out in a journey, if you will, how we would go through that process, lease typically in the last couple of the projects I’ve been on, a designer would get assigned to a project and they would use that time to understand or wanted to to understand what that project was, what the domain space is and really understand really what the problem is that she would try to solve, however really quickly, the team discovers that and we’re behind and that our dev counterparts feel that they’re block because there’s no designs cold to work on in their weight trust, and so the pressure is on, so we skipped forward and yet designs out just real quickly, so they’re not blocked and then is a lot of rework because we don’t know what we’re doing and the design seeming complete, and so we have to abandon all efforts really validate a lot of ideas with users, and then we kind of push forward again, so that got on of people through demos and re-finding work and so on, and eventually get that over to development for that thing to go out to movies. Right.
And so the mood of the design or crashes down as we go through that conflict, and ultimately, this is a snapshot of one of my last projects of where through five months, we’ve done all these demos through the extended team, constant check-ins, tons of one-on-ones, and really no sessions with user, so we don’t know really what is the strength of our work, if you will, and then on top of that, the feedback we get from a wider team is that our work is slow, is incomplete, and it forces them to do more work, it’s nothing that we I’m very proud of.
And then I camel, for example, the UX designer feels that it really… All that hard work. But what is it worth? It doesn’t feel like it’s a great piece, import anyway, and that every step of the way she felt that she needed to defend it and that her work itself wasn’t accepted but set as suggestions, and so this eventually burns designers out. They have to feel on all the time that they have to have a logical, articulate answer for any question that comes across about whatever they’re presenting, an offending their ideas, basically at all times.
So the problem of No… And listens to me, I think that is one thing. If we turn it outwards and think of a larger team, I feel that no one really feels heard, a lot of people are pitching to each other while maybe you’re pitching your idea, the person on the other end is thinking about their idea and how that reflects against that, and so, who’s really feeling hurt?
And so if you think of this approach of really pitching everyone on that team, they’re more or less what are… There are stakeholders, there are people that you have to convince along the way, if you flatten that out a little bit, if you really think of them as a team, how do you work best as a team?
And I think everyone on the team ultimately feels in order to be a successful team, we all have to have some level of safety and with each other, and we also have to have some level autonomy with our work and some control over it.
So there’s a few steps I’ll go through where you can build that with your team, and I think Steven talked about that as far as visualizing sort of the landscape you’re on, and this is the first step, and the second step is really working on one-on-one than… So if you think of visualizing who design new team, who are the people that influence your project, we think of the stakeholders, but ultimately try to map the mount, and so this is one version of the stakeholder map, and it’s one way to kind of visualize who is on your team, and how do you need to say, communicate with and manage the conversations you’re getting from them, really what this is, is a good way to map out with you with maybe other designers that are working with your wider team and make sense of what the conversations you’re having… What are the opinions? What are the fears even… And I think one thing I’ll take away from Stevens talk as well, where are the egos in there, and he goes, and fear, I think are pretty closely tied together, what is the… I would say often say the weird spots that you’re stepping in… Another tool that I love to use is called a race matrix. I won’t go too much into this today, but it’s a good way to once you map who is on the wider team, you can kinda talk about what is the work people see that we have to do, and what are the phases of that work, and then you could also talk to them, how involved you wanna be on this, are you responsible for the work accountable… For example, on my team, I was, say, 50% responsible for a lot of the designs going… No, I was doing a lot of the actual work, and then I was accountable for the other 50% as well, so even though I wasn’t doing the work, I was accountable for the other designers that we’re putting them out, and then the other parts of it, consulted people aren’t doing the work, but you do need to to talk to them a lot about what they see that you’re doing, where it lands, where effect somewhere might affect other people’s work and informed is more or less giving them updates on what you’re doing and so on.
This is another great way to look at when you map out what the tasks are, and when you sort of look at what they’re asking for from your extended to your developers, especially in your product managers, what type of work are they looking for, are they looking for things that just give me a couple of screens or really looking at, I need help really understanding the problem, and this helps you think about what is the level of UX maturity, your design maturity in your organization, and then that helps you level set for yourself, at least what types of conversations are you expecting to have… Right.
So optimally, we try to go for visionaries, we are part of the vision of that product, however, most of the time since educations involved tend to be on the one, two or three level, and it’s very frustrating, but at least if you can level set that, you know we’re getting into so the next part is, you don’t have to do these in order necessarily, but you do have to spend time with your extending team, and I recommend doing them on… On what… And so a lot of my new designers, I coach them, entered them, encourage them to do one-on-ones with the product management team, more or less, I wasn’t necessary leading all the calls, but they weren’t establishing those relationships and of course, with a lot of trepidation, they felt intimidated with people with a lot more experience on developments in a product anise, and they felt that they were unsure what to say, are asking… We took a very passive role, and so one key thing I coached them on was to forget about pitching what you wanna do, right, it’s not about you in these conversations, you’re trying to understand them, and the reason why is it’s opening up that space.
They’re intimidated or they’re hesitant for a reason, there’s tension between UX signers and product managers and developers, and it’s probably some history, and so Chris Foss in his book, he says, When you’re jumping in these situations, there’s oftentimes that emotion that people will avoid, and if you actually raise that up or bring it to the surface, it takes a lot of courage to do that, but it does clear the air to move forward beyond that emotional blocker, if you will, and so the key word he gets people to do is to say, How can you get… Or how can you hear? That’s right.
And so what that’s right, says is you eventually somehow convinced the person that you communicate with, that you understand at… And so the next steps… What were you talking about? How you get to that? So not in a virtual world, and since I have been working for multi-national corporations, you tend not to have actual physical face-to-face, so that you do a virtual face-to-face like we’re doing right now, and I look for times setting up a calendar invite itself in some form of art, look for times, that can be a great space for people, where can you have ample time with that other person, where can you set up and write into calendar ET, invite the clear goals that you wanna discuss, and then how can you avoid what the competitive days are, sometimes you don’t always know, but I think by chance, you could bet that Fridays, no one wants to meet Mondays, no one’s really away until around now, and then Thursday is really the last that people have chances to work, so it’s a hard day to putting meeting on, right.
So I like to try from Monday afternoon, Tuesdays or Wednesdays are good talks, or at these times is set to, but I love to hear other people’s strategies if you put them in the Slack channel, and for yourself, set up a nice quiet space for your distractions, I know that’s a challenge at that we’re all at home. Some of it says how families and cats with… But that just jump in your way, if you can minimize those distractions, this way you could keep your focus with the person you’re talking with, and then have your cameras on, review those goals, make sure that you guys understand what you wanna talk about in that conversation and then create prompts and for the other person just talk and then for you to listen as well.
So I stress cameras on, it is very easy for us to keep our cameras often to say, Yes, I’m listening, and then something shows up on my Instagram or I get a text from my wife, and the next thing you know, I’m multi-tasking the person I need to spend time but… And so, do Nova says the camera is a great way to show what tells… Are clues from body language, how is the person taking or understanding or consuming the conversation of things that you’re talking about, and then when they’re talking, How are they feeling, what emotions are coming through?
So I’m not an expert in understanding body language, and I think… I wouldn’t say that anyone here is, however, I think we all have enough experience and our gut tells us some things… Right.
Think back to when I was a kid and I asked my mom for money. I’d probably get any number of those things on the right or some version of something on the left, and so you can see where people are in their comfort level with some of these things that you’re talking about or bringing up as a discussion.
Okay, I told.
Okay, and so the next part is the actual voice part of it, if you will, so I… Earring is a tactic where you more or less repeat what you heard and from a prompt to get the person talking and then you repeated on second.
Okay, and so it’s a very natural thing that we do, and when I say to do it verbally, people tend to be apprehensive about that, they think that it might be very contrived… I assure you that it’s not… I told people to do it and advise them, and I’ve also done him as well, and no one’s ever called pay out on, it’s like, Hey, you’re just marrying me, that’s really annoying. Stop it, right?
It’s something… If you see here, I, I-He LaValle to feel close. The person that they’re talking to, we ultimately want to bring people into a group of… Want to avoid conflict. And so this is one way to do it. And so, verbally what you do is with the propane, this is an example of a conversation I had of the product manager, and when we talked about a problem, we’re at the process as were… We thought the UX passes needed to be…
I ask that person, what were your thoughts on the UX process? And then this is the response in the black at the top of that got… They weren’t thrilled with the process at all, and so I look for things where I can just repeat it and then give them space, I’d say not at all, and they’d say yes, and they wanted to fill that back in and explain a little bit more and more… One key thing about your voice is remember to slow it down and bring it to a lower town, right. And what that does is, it also brings an energy down in a room or in the call a little bit more and helps the person feel relaxed, and so this way they’re a little more comfortable with talking to you about what they feel the problem is, and so you can kind of say to yourself right now, if you think of a jazz quartet, if you will, the base and then the SAC on really low and slow, you can say Not at all around me right now, things a little nuts, but it is something to practice it and then try it out. Once you’re marrying somebody, and then once you have that conversation and you start getting mirroring and start repeating that a couple of times, and then for that conversation to get a little more of the details of what the metal, the problems they are, could have label on that, and what a label is, is saying like, Okay, this is your frustration, let me put a word on that.
And so this is an example, seems like you feel overwhelmed because of all the feedback you’re getting from different directions… Right, and then if you hit that label right, if you will, and they’ll say, That’s by to… And it’s worked for me so many times. Right.
The challenge for you in the group in the Slack channel, there is one mistake in this typo. I didn’t get a chance to fix it. If you could find it, it’s really the use of pronouns, and if someone could write it out in the Black town, I’ll go back and talk to you about it, that’s why one use of pronoun is better than another one when you’re trying to get… Labelling done properly.
So the next part of it is, if you can connect yourself to what that concern is with a label, then you actually are at a good point to start talking about what are the things that you can do together to start solving problems as a team. And so there’s an actual quote, again, I had from a product manager with the UX team and with our process and what they’re trying to do, and so I said this, it seems like you’re frustrating with the design team and that we’ve been slowing down the process… Right now, this person didn’t say, that’s right, but they did confirm it with their digests and they said it actually tried to defuse it. It’s really not that bad.
And so the power of this is we brought out the problem that we’ve been talking about, I’ve acknowledged my team’s part in that problem, and then I could see, Okay, the product manager agrees, however, wants to move on, it’s not a giant deals… I think we can fix this and then we can do something that we’ve done probably with our users, with our team before, but you could do it, how might we… How can we… Right, Okay, if this is the problem, how can we do X?
And what I asked, for example, in this case is how could we the team help you with focusing all the feedback, if you’re getting feedback from your customer, from our customers, from the ACS and so on, like what things can we do and work ourselves to that and this was really the starting point of really understanding best ways to use the X process within the level of design maturity within our org right now, and then working from that point. So I have a couple of takeaways. If anything, I love you to remember from this talk is these three things, so there is a big picture of your team, some way to visualize where all of this feedback, the opinions of fears that egos are coming from, look at that big picture and try to map it out as far as where it’s coming from, and then how you should consume it and how you should digest it, spend time listening, one-on-ones are fantastic tools, do them really… And watch, open up your camera to really see and connect with the people and how your topics are resonating with them and get to that right, do levels of mirroring, practice marrying with the person on the call, to get to the point of really what is the problem that that is bugging them and find out more or less like how you can connect yourself to a problem and then move off from that.
And so, a little an ego, the person that I used here is a representative came, it’s not a real name, but she started out as that person, she was overwhelmed with all of the opinions, if you will, from a wider team and was getting frustrated, getting burned out pitfal, and once I showed her those books, did a little prompting and some coaching, she took a lot of those lessons and even read those books up and down, and got herself to point where she blossomed as a designer, blossom days, a team member that really brought people in… And she was recently promoted to a senior role, so a super broad over… And that’s all I have. I love to hear some questions.
Or anything from the Slack channel, I can go back to that too.
But thank you for your attention.