After starting at Oracle Bronto, one of my top priorities was to help the team bond. At the time, our team had already more than doubled in size, and it was important that the team had the opportunity to get to know each other outside of the office. Our team planning event helped us do this. We spent the first half of the day at one of our team member's home, where we had breakfast and played a few rounds of "What do You Meme" to break the ice.
Then we transitioned into our team planning and strategy session, where we brainstormed around six different areas: Challenges, Aspirations, Focus Areas, Guiding Principles, Activities, and Measures. Brainstorming on each of these topics and discussing all the ideas helped create a shared vision for the team and ensured that we would move forward with greater unity. After we finished our brainstorm, we went out for a team lunch and spent the rest of the day throwing axes at Urban Axes in Durham.
I've used this method successfully at Citrix and Allscripts, and I find it an excellent activity to conduct once a year with the teams I've led.
Mentoring is critical to me. I've been fortunate to have had some incredible mentors during my life. Over the past ten years, I've prioritized passing on what I've learned by mentoring individuals across all levels of User Experience, from new college grads to those transitioning from a different career to experienced UX managers looking to take their skills to the next level. I usually try to mentor anywhere between 2-4 individuals at any given time. Below you'll find a few of the individuals I've had the pleasure of recently mentoring.
Onboarding is always tricky. As a manager, I've worked hard to ensure onboarding goes as smoothly as possible for all my new hires. At Allscripts, I took the initiative to ensure new hires would have a much more welcoming and enjoyable experience. I was given a small budget for each hire and bought a basket for all sorts of goodies. Before new staff started, I sent an email asking about favorite beverages and snacks and what type of notebook would be preferred (ruled, grid, plain). I visited the HR department and found some company swag. I also created an extensive manual filled with everything they would need to know, which I jokingly called the "Quick Start" Guide. Aside from the everyday practical things like accessing email, submitting timesheets, etc. I included material to help new folks feel a warm welcome, such as personal letters from each team member and pictures and biographies of each person.
Checklists and 30-60-90 day plans have always been a standard part of the onboarding experiences I create. New hires must have a sense of accomplishment and clearly understand how their success will be measured. Below is an example of a checklist from Citrix I created that marks out the necessary tasks for this new hire to address and tasks I need to complete on her behalf for added transparency.
One challenge with geographically distributed teams is helping them feel connected to other teams worldwide. While at Citrix, I managed a team in Bangalore, India. I quickly learned that the Bangalore team was not well connected to the team in Raleigh, NC, and they each worked primarily in isolation from each other. Even worse, the India team was often forgotten about by teammates in Raleigh. Those in Bangalore often felt left out and not important. This created a dismal team culture for Bangalore.
As the manager I worked tirelessly to improve the situation.
Helping team members advance in their careers is one of the most exciting parts of being a manager. I've employed several methods to help spur growth for my reports.
I feel fortunate to have positively impacted the teams I've managed; here are some words of praise from some recent direct reports.
“The 1-on-1s I have with you felt like design therapy, which really helped me to build the needed perspective and gain confidence to be effective at my work.”
“I love working with Keith. While direct reporting to him for the past year at Oracle, I’ve grown professionally and learned a lot about what it means to be an excellent manager. Not only is he 100% supportive of his team and our best interest, he genuinely cares and wants us to succeed.”