As designers, we are in a unique position to collaborate with cross-functional teams throughout our companies. While it is a great honor and joy to serve others in different disciplines, it can also be difficult. Other teams have their own unique goals, objectives, workflows, timelines, and constraints. Despite the certainty of these challenges, it is essential that designers work well with others, doing what we can to help our culture, product, and company thrive. Let’s explore a few ways to make working with others a pleasant and productive experience.
Communicate early and often. What are your goals? What are you looking to learn? What is blocking you? What are your deadlines? Giving people a clear idea of what you need and when you need it ensures expectations and time can be managed well. As it’s been said, software is the easy part, people are the hard part. Prioritize face-to-face conversations, provide documentation, and always be open so things are easy to understand, access, and share.
Pride, stubbornness, and ego make people difficult and unpleasant to work with. Don’t be that person. In general, be open to other’s ideas and willing to learn and iterate on work. Be humble enough to move forward with a non-designer’s design, be happy for the success of others’, and always consider the needs of users above your own opinions. I’ve written about the importance of humility before, and I truly believe it is the secret superpower of UX designers.
It’s easy to feel like design is the most important thing in the world. However, we must remember that the work others do is incredibly important in the grand scheme of creating a great product. We must respect the duties of the Project and Product Managers who give us work, as well as the Programmers and Engineers who take the work we do. Design is part of a whole. An essential part? Yes, but dependent on the work of others to reach clients in the real world. Be empowered by the significance of design, but respectful of the work of others.
And there you have it – three keys to working well with others: communication, humility, and respect. There are many hard, technical skills that are required to be a good designer, but having genuine soft skills will make you a great designer. Our jobs are collaborative by nature – we work to translate complex requirements into beautiful software. Let’s make it our goal to work on translating complex ideas and conversations into beautiful relationships and workplaces.