I do this. I take teams and individuals for coaching walks in green urban areas, aka parks. I do this to help teams think clearly, bond, feel good but mostly to help them manage the change they’re experiencing.
UX teams are great to work with. They are often not only undergoing constant changes in their work, they are also driving change. They are innovators keen to work in new ways and understand more about how they do and can work.
So, here are five things I’ve learnt from walking with teams in general and UX teams in particular.
One: We Walk as we Work
The way we walk as a team can tell us a lot about how we work as a team.
Does the team move fast or slow? Do some people race ahead, hang back, wander off in a completely different direction, complain about the walk, or ask lots of questions to check where they’re going? Does the team stay together or split off and who walks with who?
Where is the leader or senior members of the team? At the front, at the back, walking alongside or not present?
It can be a fascinating starting point for learning more about how a team operates.
Two: Idealism is a Motivator
Many people I’ve worked with in UX could be described as idealists. Idealists believe in making great things happen. They want to make a positive difference in their work and are driven by a belief in prioritising the user.
This idealism is hugely valuable. It acts as a motivator and gives you energy and a sense of purpose.
On the downside, there is pain when this idealism hits some of the harsher realities. The politics at work. The times when it feels the work is not valued or understood. The times when the company doesn’t seem to be working towards these same ideals.
And this is why being an influencer is so fundamental.
Three: Influencing is Key
Doing great work is not enough. To make that positive difference, UX professionals also need to be influencers. The work needs to be promoted. Others need to know about it and believe in it. It needs to connect up with the wider business goals and be on other people’s agendas.
And this is where the idealism becomes your superpower. It’s the source of your enthusiasm and passion. It engages other people and carries them along with you. It also gives the resilience and perseverance you need to keep going when there’s resistance. (And there will be resistance!)
Four: Roles are Uncertain
UX roles can be confusing and changeable. The question I have is, does the language of UX roles hinder or help in becoming influencers? There is UX, UI, Service Design. There are researchers, designers, architects, leads. I feel nervous about finding the right language to use when talking to UX professionals!
I’d argue that regardless of the roles, the conversation needs to be about value and benefit. What is the value that the work brings? How can the users and the company benefit? That’s the key in engaging others and promoting the work.
Five: Walking Gets Teams Moving, Reflecting, Connecting
Of course I would say this, but walking works. It helps improve physical, mental and emotional health. It gets teams moving and gets you moving. It helps you to connect, with a local area, yourself, your team and beyond.
When we’re walking together, away from our screens, we’re facing out into the world. From here you can have the best thinking and conversations. And then we can engage in activities that help your team think through their values, motivation, how they work together and ultimately how they can influence and work with others beyond the team.
I would urge you to walk when you can. Walk to and from work, in your lunch break, to clear your head, generate ideas, do some planning. Go for a walking meeting. Take your team for a walk. Londoners are usually less than ten minutes away from a park!
Here’s a walk you can try.
Walk with a colleague outside of your team. Have a conversation about what motivates you to work in UX and what keeps you coming back to work every day. Share the idealism and energy you have for your work. Find out what motivates them and take time to really listen to their story.
What can you learn from this conversation? What are your differences and similarities? How can you connect more?
And do have a chat (or a walk) with me sometime too… Thanks.
(This is a transcript from a talk given at Ladies that UX London – a friendly, useful network for women working in UX)
Anise is here to support your team development from one-to-one coaching and running walking team meetings to engaging your team and facilitating your development day.