Putting the “I” Back in Team

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This is the third entry in my “Talent Trilogy” series for the EY-Intuitive blog. Previously I wrote about “Measuring Your User-Experience Team,” which highlighted our recent thought-leadership accomplishments, including presenting at key industry conferences. That was followed by “Winning the War for Talent,” which focused on the strengths of two recent hires.

Since then I’ve taken on the role of team lead for one of our three multidisciplinary teams. In this position, one of my primary goals is to support team members in achieving their individual goals in areas such as skill development and project experience. For example, a software developer might want to take on more leadership responsibilities, or a designer might want to work on more visually complex projects.

Traditionally, goal setting and management is a private interaction limited to the employee-manager relationship. But in many cases goals may be better accomplished if they are shared with the larger team. Potential benefits of sharing goals within the team include:

  • Collaboration: Sharing goals increases awareness, and thus the ability for others to support the individual in achieving goals
  • Refinement: Verbalizing goals to a group who can then respond with questions provides an opportunity to crystallize goal definition
  • Accountability: Socializing goals adds a degree of implicit “peer pressure” toward accomplishing those goals

But even with these positive effects, not everyone is comfortable sharing goals, and not all goals should be shared. When I initially brought up the idea of sharing goals within the team, I received some responses of surprise or reluctance. To address these concerns I first met with each of my team members individually to discuss their goals, as one would in a traditional employee-manager model. But we also discussed and agreed on which goals would be appropriate and useful to share with the team.

When we presented our goals to each other in the context of a team meeting, it quickly became clear to the group that several people had very similar goals. This synergy not only means that these individuals could support each other, but it also elevated certain individual goals to become team goals. For example, several non-designers expressed interest in providing better feedback during design critiques. As a result we are going to use some of our team meeting sessions to focus on that issue; even though it stems from individual goals, the entire team can benefit from the process.

Another positive outcome of sharing has come through the discussion of cross-disciplinary goals. For example, a designer wants to improve his development skills and a developer wants to better understand user-research methods. This provides an opportunity for team members of different disciplines to proactively assist each other, rather than just depending on the interested individual to reach out.

In addition to these more direct benefits, team goal sharing can serve as ice-breaker. Even though we were largely a team of people who have been working together for a while, we tend to know what we are working on, but not how we want to improve as professionals.

Finally, because this was a new process for all of us and there were some concerns going in, I felt that it was critical to get feedback from the team following the meeting. Was it comfortable? Was it worthwhile? I received several positive responses including: “I was skeptical of this idea at first, but enjoyed hearing everyone’s goals,” and “I think sharing the goals was beneficial.”

Our next steps are to check in as a group later in the year so that everyone can provide an update on their progress. This does not replace the traditional employee-manager communication, but my hope is that it will bolster it.


Illustration by Ashley Pulli

The author

Image of Rob Tannen

Rob Tannen

Senior Director of UX Teams