You can’t manage someone’s performance; you can only help them manage it themselves

Photo: Tom Werner/Getty Images, modified by Alex

Dealing with someone who isn’t performing at the level they should be is frustrating. It’s stressful. And honestly, it can be scary when it escalates to the point of needing to let someone go. It’s been the hardest part of my job, bar none.

It’s also one of the most important responsibilities that any leader shoulders. But here’s the thing: Our job isn’t to manage performance because frankly, we can’t manage another human’s performance.

Let’s pause for a second and think through how different life would be if we truly could manage how someone else performs, via a snippet from…


Photo by Alfonso Puerto on Unsplash, modified by Alex

This post on effort resonates. This piece serves as a good reminder on the relationship of talent and effort:

if someone’s much better than you at something, they probably try much harder. You probably underestimate how much harder they try. I’m not saying that talent isn’t a meaningful differentiator, because it certainly is, but I think people generally underestimate how effort needs to be poured into talent in order to develop it. So much of getting good at anything is just pure labor: figuring out how to try and then offering up the hours. If you’re doing it wrong you…


A question came up about dealing with office politics in a leadership group which reminded me that many people don’t understand a key facet of a leader’s job… What is…


As a leader, it can be easy to forget that you can’t manage someone’s performance; you can only help them manage it themselves. Telling people to work harder, faster, or…


The reality that your design program hasn’t taught you.

Man jumping over a gap in the walkway, with a river in the background
Man jumping over a gap in the walkway, with a river in the background
Photo by Jordan Opel on Unsplash

Hi, a quick note: I love to hire recent grads, and was on the advisory board of a bootcamp a while back. So, this isn’t a knock on design programs, quite the opposite! I want to ensure you’re prepared to join the corporate world.

Okay, let’s talk about some key differences between the expectations of recent grads, and the reality of the hiring process. Every role and company is different, but the experiences aren’t that far off.

Yes, the process is important, but you’ll rarely follow the “full” design flow

And that’s okay. But that also indicates that your beautifully designed flow diagram isn’t a useful part of your portfolio. …


You too can have

Two apps that boost my effectiveness as a colleague and leader

Illustrated photo showing a laptop screen of people in a video conference next to a mug
Illustrated photo showing a laptop screen of people in a video conference next to a mug
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash, modified by Alex

As a design leader, I know that how I present myself needs to be crafted to the same level of detail as the work I’m responsible for. So, when I come across tools that add to my capabilities, I don’t hesitate to adopt them. Today, I’ll share two tools; one saves me time while ensuring I stay on schedule, and the other helps me look good, literally!

Meeter

Available for: macOS & iOS

I’m a firm believer that punctuality is a sign of respect, doubly so when you’re a leader. The fact that all of my meetings now occur over video…


“Empires do not suffer emptiness of purpose at the time of their creation. It is when they have become established that aims are lost and replaced by vague ritual.”

—…


BEAT YOUR ANXIETY

Strategies from a true story with a happy ending.

Woman sipping coffee, looking pensively at her laptop
Woman sipping coffee, looking pensively at her laptop
Photo from Burst, modified by Alex

Countless posts affirm what we all know — the job interview process is stressful. It’s a roller coaster of emotions: excitement, fear, hope, nervousness…

Often you’re on multiple roller coasters at the same time, interviewing with more than one company. And of course, life may be throwing a lot of other things at you too. It’s a lot to handle, but you can handle it with some perspective and a few tips.

So, I’m going to let you listen in on a real conversation I had in Slack with a designer interviewing for an exciting role…

Note: I’ve tightened up…


A mentor can be a huge boon to your career development, but you’ll need to come prepared

Two hands stretching toward each other, but not touching
Two hands stretching toward each other, but not touching
Photo: Toa Heftiba via Unsplash, modified by Alex

When you’re trying to land your first job or looking to make a big leap, it’s helpful to talk to someone who can provide guidance and answer your questions. That sort of relationship can accelerate your efforts, but only if you proceed thoughtfully.

Whether you’re looking for a formal mentoring relationship or just hoping for a quick call or coffee with someone already in the industry, treat the process as you would any major project. Take the time to prepare, and set a specific goal for what you’d like to learn and achieve.

The most effective people come prepared with…


To be a good design leader, encourage your team to challenge your decisions

Photo: suedhang/Getty Images

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the privilege to lead a design team at a well-established SaaS company as we’ve built a whole new suite of products. During that time, our team more than tripled in size, with a combination of full-time employees and contractors spread across the U.S. and engineering teams located overseas. It’s been an exhilarating ride, to say the least.

At our peak, we had a well-balanced cadence of reviews and meetings, which helped us feed a large number of development teams while holding a high bar for usability and a cohesive experience.

Simply put…

Alex Jones

Leading at the intersection of strategy & design. Autodidact. Barbecue acolyte. I start fires (the good kind).

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