What sort of leader do I want to be?
Although it was a short week, it was full of a lot of reflection, on the type of leader I want to be, and how I present myself.
Monday night I was a speaker at a Code for Canada fellowship recruitment event. I wrapped up my fellowship in late March, and spoke alongside two current fellows, Keith and Alex who are currently working on a Seafarer Certification project at Transport. There was a lot of interest from attendees of the virtual panel, and in addition to answering questions in real time, I welcomed people to reach out and connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.
I bring it up because I really find answering peoples’ questions rewarding. I had some back and forth email exchanges with some potential applicants. It’s important to me to be able to share my perspectives on things, if it can help others.
This is something I came to recognize in myself on Tuesday, when I attended a two-hour virtual workshop called Take the Lead by Women Talk Design (hosted by Sara Wachter-Boettcher). The session was really well-done, especially for a remote event. We were guided to reflect on our experiences, such as when we felt most capable and powerful, or when we had stood up for something important to us, and then were split into pairs to talk through those experiences, and imagine how we could tap into those moments when we were “most ourselves”. Ok, it may sound a little ‘woo-wooey’ written like this, but I really valued the time to be introspective and confront some of my self-defeating attitudes head-on.
I have to say, I was pretty impressed by the women I had a chance to speak with. Everyone was so supportive (in the 1:1s as well as in the larger group chat we all had). Many of the participants were from the US, and a lot in particular from the Bay Area. We all had aspirations to be successful leaders, and I felt like I was part of a supportive community, even though we only spent 120 minutes ‘together’, behind our respective video cameras.
We were also guided to create for ourselves “inner allies” (instead of ‘inner saboteurs”), to tap into parts of ourselves that can help see us through moments of internal turmoil or strive. One of the moments I had identified as when I felt most powerful and capable was during the Lake Tahoe Marathon. It was my third marathon in three days (the end of a multi-day event known as the “Tahoe Triple”), and by the third day, I knew I could do it. Yes, I was sore and tired, but I knew I would accomplish my goal. As a result, that whole day I was smiling, chatting with people, taking pictures and just being fully present, taking it all in. I didn’t have doubts, I didn’t think about what I could or should have done differently. I exuded joy. When I think back on that moment (moment! It was about five hours on the course….), I think about how I’d like to tap back into “Trust the Process Andrea”. There was literally no other training I could do at this point. There was no benefit to being regretful or anxious. I was able to just be present. This is something I want to carry with me as a leader as well. Trust the preparation, and then don’t hold back when the time comes.
Wednesday was Canada Day! I really enjoyed a mid-week day off work.
I spent some time on Thursday working on documentation. Reviewing and commenting on a strategy doc, making revisions to my UX research overview plan, and preparing a presentation about UX research that will be presented to a senior committee. I enjoy writing and sharing my views on things, so I didn’t mind digging in — especially since many of my coworkers had taken the day off, so it was pretty quiet.
However, the one piece that was hard was not really knowing who the audience was, and what was important for them. I know I’m very passionate about user research to drive product decisions, but I was a little unclear about whether I was writing something to educate, inform, or persuade. Again, since so many folks were off this week, I wasn’t really able to get good direction, but I’m sure that will come.
I did have a meeting late in the day with another UX designer on another team, just offering to sync up with her to see how I could support her. We were part way through the meeting when I realized this was precisely something I’d identified in the workshop on Tuesday: I get energized when I can be behind the scenes, providing people with information, resources or support they need to achieve what’s important to them. I was once described by a coworker as a maven — eager to share information (as well as introductions/connections) if I think it could help. In the workshop on Tuesday I’d realized that I have some misgivings about this, I worry that sometimes I can bombard people with too much information, but ultimately I decided I shouldn’t ‘negotiate against myself’ and withhold information out of fear that it won’t be appreciated. It’d be helpful to devote some more time to my individual relationships to understand their personal preference with regards to how much information they want to receive from me :-)
Friday morning was a lot of fun as I had a brainstorming session with a few members of my UX team. I had some rough ideas about what I wanted us to go through in the session, but really hadn’t put as much time into “setting things up” as I may have liked. But I stopped myself from feeling like I had to have everything perfect, just “trusted the process.” And it worked great! Instead of my attempting to structure the session too much with prompts, we did this organically as a group, which also had the positive effect of (I think) everyone feeling extra-invested. It was a fun exercise, and one I plan to continue with. We set up time to reconvene next week, and afterwards I invited another member of our broader Digital Oversight team to join us for future sessions. I think it’ll be nice to involve others in our ‘brainstorm-affinity-map-suspend-judgement-classify-things’ approach to problems.
It was a busy week, and didn’t really feel like I made a lot of headway in terms of specific UX research / product initiatives. But I know that the investment in myself, and communicating what we’re doing and way, will pay off in the long run.
Originally published at https://medium.com on July 6, 2020.