Our Simple Trick to More Effective UX Design Project Leadership

by Jared M. Spool

We stumbled across this trick a few years ago. Since we’ve started using it, it’s helped UX leaders keep their project teams more engaged, which produces better results from the team.

The trick comes from the folks at Gallup (the polling research company), who put out a fantastic management book written by Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton called First Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. The book is a great description of the patterns that make managers effective.

(One thing I really love about it is how well researched it is. The UX researcher in me grooved as much on their methods as on their findings.)

Their employee engagement measurement tool, the Q12 jumped out at us. The Q12 is a 12-question survey that any manager can use to assess their effectiveness.

The Gallup Q12 questions.

The authors started with 2,000 possible questions trying to find what would predict whether a manager would be highly effective with their team. They ended up with these 12 questions that best predicted manager effectiveness:

  1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  2. Do you have the equipment and materials to do your work right?
  3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  4. In the last 7 days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission of your company make you feel your job is important?
  9. Are your fellow employees committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do you have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

The Gallup folks intended companies to give the Q12 survey to people reporting directly to their managers. However, that’s not necessary.

Any manager can look through the list and pretty much guess what the answer will be, because they know whether they’ve done a good job on these things or not. Any questions the manager thinks won’t get a solid yes answer points to a place they can improve.

The trick: Using the Q12 for project leadership.

While the Gallup folks made the Q12 to assess managers, we’ve co-opted it for UX project leaders. It’s not uncommon for a UX professional to find themselves leading a major project or initiative, such as rolling out a design system or conducting in-depth customer research.

These projects often involve people who are from other teams. Those team members don’t report to the project’s leader. Yet, that project leader must ensure those team members are engaged and doing their best work. The Q12 helps them do that.

By walking through the questions for each team member, the project leader can quickly identify potential issues to discuss with the team member. The project leader can work to provide guidance and support to that team member.

Most of these questions aren’t difficult to resolve. It should be easy to help a team member know what’s expected of them and to try to help them get the right equipment and materials.

Some questions will need a bit of coordination with the team member’s manager, such as ensuring the team member has available time and opportunity to do their best work. And a question like “Do you have a best friend at work?” may be a tricky one to make happen. But, there’s often a way to pair people together to help friendships grow.

We’ve found the questions to be a great guide to bring a wayward project back on track. We also use them from a project’s start to get everyone on the same page and make sure we’re taking care of each team member’s needs. We’ve found the Q12 to be a helpful project leadership framework.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is a co-founder of Center Centre and the founder of UIE. In 2016, with Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, he opened Center Centre, a new design school in Chattanooga, TN to create the next generation of industry-ready UX Designers. They created a revolutionary approach to vocational training, infusing Jared’s decades of UX experience with Leslie’s mastery of experience-based learning methodologies.

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