Practice what you preach, preach what you practice

Monish SubherwalDesign CareerLeave a Comment

I had a good conversation with my manager today at work about confidence.  Being good at what you do, diversifying your skill set, growing and adding to your portfolio – helps prove to yourself, that you are a great designer.  And that sort of confidence carries itself when you interview and when you socialize with people you work with.

Indeed, TRUE confidence comes from authenticity.   When you are congruent with who you say you are, you have pretty solid confidence.  You aren’t “faking it til you make it.”  You are enough.

Do I need to be a ROCKSTAR designer?

Disclaimer:  I am not saying you need to be a ROCKSTAR designer.  No.  But you have to be competent and “good enough”.  And just so you know, what’s “good enough” is up to YOU (but for heaven’s sake, be honest with yourself!).  How can you plan to manage and lead your team, if you don’t have good design skills or good leadership skills?  Tough love, I know.

Other People Know

People are smarter than you think. Many have built in BS detectors.

You may land a great job – but if you and the job aren’t a good match, people will know very soon.  Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s very clear to others if you don’t  know what you are talking about.

So you better start learning and growing quickly!     Why?  I’ll share with you why.

Why:  Whip Cream on Sh*t

A designer who gets promoted to manager is learning to lead.  He/she is really in transition – almost like a moth transitioning to a butterfly.  This new manager is “clumsy” (so to speak) since they are still learning the ropes.  And that’s OK so long as who you are being is someone who is growing and learning.  This is a healthy growth mindset.

However, where the problem comes is if you HIDE your incongruence from others and even worse, from yourself.  When your ego gets the best of you and you pretend to know it all — you become inauthentic.  This is a power hungry mindset.

There is a difference.  The difference is mainly between being humble and authentic VS. being “THE DESIGN LEADER” and inauthentic.

This example above doesn’t just apply to new design managers – but anyone who is saying one thing, but not feeling complete inside.  Incongruence.

A lot of leaders feel this feeling – it’s called imposter syndrome.  But a coach of mine once called this something else: “whip cream on sh*t.”  When you don’t do the necessary work to be somewhat congruent to your position, you will eventually be found out.   People will SMELL the sh*t under the whip cream.

Not only that, but my take is that your design skills PLUS your leadership skills will be enough to make you a great design leader — but if one of the two are seriously lacking, you will always feel insecure about your job and others will feel that insecurity too.

Know The Gap

I say all this – not being a design manager myself.  I am a UX Design Lead and I am working my way up.  But I am doing so while developing myself.  I am trying my best to be honest with where I am at, so when I do move up, I am congruent and authentic and have the real skills to walk my talk.

I hope this article isn’t making your uncomfortable (or maybe its ok if it is, it’ll be a wake up call).  If you do feel like you constantly have to defend yourself at work or you feel like your reports know a LOT more than you do – then maybe its time to do a skills gap analysis.  See where you are lacking and where you need to grow (design skills and/or design leadership skills) and get to work.

Instead of being busy as a “hot shot design leader” — take the time to grow and expand yourself.   Of course, admitting to yourself that you are missing skills requires a LOT of humility.  But ignorance is not bliss.  “Cream always rises to the top” (back to whip cream examples 🙂 ).  The congruent design leaders sleep well at night.

So remember: Practice what you preach, and preach what you practice.

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