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Manage Talent — Not Time, and Other Tips From a Team Leader

A veteran Accurat designer shares lessons learned from years of experience.

Jun 10, 2021 Marco Bernardi

I started working at Accurat as a data visualization designer back in 2013, when we were about ten people gathered around one big desk and most projects were all hands on deck. As the company grew and we took on more clients — and bigger ones — I took on a leadership role in the design department. And since last summer, I’ve been the proud captain of the fabulous, fearsome Team Pirati: a crew of designers and developers, all with unique expertise and experience.

As someone trained in design — a field where individuality is king — I’ve always approached team leadership with curiosity. Here are ten things I’ve learned in adjusting to the role.

  1. Observe and listen.

I started working at Accurat as a data visualization designer back in 2013, when we were about ten people gathered around one big desk and most projects were all hands on deck. As the company grew and we took on more clients — and bigger ones — I took on a leadership role in the design department. And since last summer, I’ve been the proud captain of the fabulous, fearsome Team Pirati: a crew of designers and developers, all with unique expertise and experience.

As someone trained in design — a field where individuality is king — I’ve always approached team leadership with curiosity. Here are ten things I’ve learned in adjusting to the role.

2. Show appreciation.

A healthy workplace is one where people feel appreciated. When you’re working under a tight deadline, though, it can be easy to take phenomenal work for granted. That’s why it’s important to voice praise, especially when a project wraps. Always reserve a few moments to congratulate a team, and make sure to articulate exactly why an achievement is commendable. Did they work against the clock to deliver a product in record turnaround time? Did they stay calm and collected while juggling responsibilities? Make sure to also share any positive notes from outside sources — i.e. client contacts — that you may have forgotten to mention while you were hyper–focused on delivery.

3. Manage talent—not time.

I’ve borrowed this one from an article by Know Your Team (thanks for sharing, Mariano!)

It’s impossible to have total control over every project your team tackles, so you need to be able to trust your teammates enough to delegate. To build that trust, you must understand and accept that there are different ways of doing things. Plus, it’s in your (and your manager’s) best interest to foster unique talents. As precious as time is, specialized skills are even harder to come by.

The secret to effective delegation is avoiding micromanagement. Don’t try to plan out activities from start to finish. Set goals and let people find their own ways to achieve them. At first, people may ask for a little extra guidance. But over time, they’ll become more autonomous. This is how you nurture leadership within your team.