Tips and Best Practices for Leading a Web Design Team

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Becoming a team leader, supervisor, director, or mentor of some kind is a career path that many web designers follow. After years of designing and developing websites, and likely mentoring and teaching others along the way, formally taking on a managerial position is a logical step in a web career. However, just because someone can create successful websites does not necessarily mean that they have the leadership skills necessary to succeed in this new role as a team leader. The skills needed to be a successful designer or developer differ from the ones you need to thrive as a manager and team leader. In this article, we will explore some tips and best practices that web professionals taking on a leadership position in their organizations can use to succeed in their new position.

Know When and How to Delegate

One of the hardest lessons that new web team leaders must learn is that they cannot do it all themselves. They must be ready and willing to delegate tasks to the other people on their team. Even if you know that you can do something in half the time it will take someone else to do it, you cannot take every task onto yourself. An important part of being a leader is ensuring that your team is kept busy with meaningful work and that they are allowed to learn and grow in their own skillsets. That is a perfect segue into our next point…

Allow People to Make Mistakes

Delegating tasks to other team members is important, but you also need to allow them to make mistakes and therefore learn from those mistakes. With deadlines looming and more work to be done, there is a temptation to push someone aside and fix the problem yourself (or do it yourself in the first place), but if you do this, then your team members will never learn. You need to not only allow them to make mistakes, but you need to ensure them that it is OK when they do. As long as you have a mechanism for testing their work before it is released to the world, simple mistakes can become important learning moments in the development of the web professionals under your leadership.

Remember, as a leader, you are no longer judged solely on your own work performance, but also on the performance of those whom you are leading. Allowing them to learn and grow will ultimately benefit the company as a whole and your career as well - and by delegating less-important tasks to team members, you free yourself up to do the more important work that comes with being a manager.

Get Out of the Office

It’s so simple to do, but taking an hour or so to get out of the office with your team and buy them some lunch is one of the best ways to build positive camaraderie and create a better working relationship. A team that enjoys each other as people is much more likely to work well together, so regardless of how busy things are, take some time to connect as real people outside of the office environment.

Lead by Example

Your team will take their cue from you and your behavior. As such, there is absolutely no room in your day for negativity. This means no trashing clients or complaining about projects. It also means no gossiping about other employees or work issues. Yes, you are human and you will have bad and frustrating days, but as a leader, if you show a negative attitude you should expect your team to reflect that same negativity. Conversely, if you maintain a positive attitude, especially when things get bumpy, your team will follow your lead. 

Educate Your Team 

We’ve already covered the benefits of helping your team members grow in their skills by allowing them to learn from mistakes. You should take this growth initiative a step further by making professional development an important part of your planning. Encourage team members to read the latest articles or books on website design and development and allow your fellow web professionals to experiment with new techniques and approaches. It can also give your team a well-rounded set of skills by bringing new knowledge into the company (SEO, responsive design, web performance, etc.)

Look for website conferences and events where your team can meet others in the industry and get both educated and energized. By making personal and professional growth a key element in how you plan for and evaluate your team members, you show them that you want them to be the best they can be and you are prepared to help them get there.

Encourage Others to Lead and Teach Too

Teaching doesn’t end with your responsibilities. Your team members should know that they have the responsibility to teach others as well. If they attend a web conference or read a great article, they should be prepared to share that knowledge with the rest of the team and to mentor others as needed. In this way, you are not only strengthening the team as a whole, but you are also helping to create the next group of team leaders who will be ready to fill your position as you also grow in your career and take on additional responsibilities and positions.

Edited by Jeremy Girard on 1/11/17