LEADERSHIP & MENTORING

Contrary to popular belief, leadership is not simply a personality trait, but a skilled job needed in all organisations. To navigate them well, leaders must balance out various organisational levels – personal actions, shared interpersonal work, mission and vision, culture and goals.

To achieve it, I present diverse leadership styles to match the organisation’s climate, context and people I work with. My role can be visionary (mobilising for change), coaching (developing people to build a strong team), affiliative (making connections in stressful times), democratic (building consensus for big decisions), pacesetting (expecting excellence during challenging times), or commanding (demanding compliance in crisis). I adjust on the task–team–individual axes and, similarly to the management role, I give different levels of freedom and authority – to my teams as well as myself.

In Agile Methodologies, scrum masters are needed until they build a team strong and efficient enough that they themselves are no longer needed, making their own role redundant. This takes humility.

Another interesting example is Design Thinking, where leaders facilitate a project scope discussion early with various areas of a business, clarifying and deciding together on a project’s future. This builds committed teams and better quality products.

Mentor, on the other hand, is skilled in a certain domain, and through a semi-structured guidance shares knowledge, skills and experience to assist others to progress in their own lives and careers. Mentors listen and ask questions that will challenge the mentee to identify the course of action they need to take in regards to their own development.

While as a leader I am adept at inspiring with a clear vision, showing steps to reach it, motivating, encouraging, providing feedback and guidance for better performance, my mentoring is more useful when inducting a new starter, helping individuals work towards promotion, assisting with changed roles, restructuration and learning programmes.

Which areas of your organisation may require my support?

Leading a UX review at Duesday, 2019

“Paula was one of my design mentors for almost a year. From the very beginning I found her to be extremely organised, tackling all assignments with dedication and ease. I often admire the consistency in her work and professional attitude towards any challenge. She has an exceptional eye for detail and an impressive skill set, which make her an invaluable asset for any business. Besides being a methodical and talented UI/UX designer, Paula has the qualities of a true leader. It was a pleasure to work under her guidance. For me, she will always be a prime example of professionalism and self-improvement in any aspect of life.”

Petra Zhivkova, Product Designer

CASE STUDY

Duesday is a financial technology startup on a mission to revolutionise recurring payments, particularly direct debits – a technology which is half a century old and didn’t evolve much over this time.

To champion the user experience on this journey, I built and led the Creative team focusing on all user-facing aspects of the business, except Sales – although we worked with them very closely. With a mixture of my management, soft leadership (encouraging, driving the team forward) and hard leadership (holding them accountable for progress), the team strengthened the company’s mission in a number of ways. Entirely voluntarily, outside of our scope, we assured high quality of our products built in-house and advocated for formal QA, we also introduced design personas to other teams and saw a very successful adoption of them in the Sales team.

Duesday’s culture promotes open-mindedness and flat hierarchy, so a thoughtless resistance to good ideas is hard to find. People lead their functions through their expertise and competence. Inspirational leadership is encouraged, and so, employees follow others because they want to. According to Maxwell’s theory of leadership, this is often attributed to the recognition and appreciation of a leader, who they are and what they represent. And, that’s something I strive for myself, including leading by example and empowering my team to make their own decisions, at the same time accepting they may require support. I focus on living my values, giving right information and maximum support to my team, and occasionally offering them enhancement to their skill sets. After all, if a company strives for top performance, it has to invest in its people.

As soon as my own probation period came to an end, I insisted on a performance review, and continued insisting at the end of each year. My manager, the CEO, quickly noticed and appreciated the benefits of our review sessions, and introduced them for everyone. I helped to shape this process, including reviews of those who don’t report to me. Incorporating a famous 360° feedback as well as development wheel was a welcomed addition. Thanks to it, I could design individual development programs for the team – for example, if an employee could see themselves in a management role in the next two years but lacked the experience of working with junior employees, I’d find an intern to join our team, to help with the scope and exercising employee’s supervision under my guidance.

Performance reviews focused around employees, how they benefit the business and how the business can benefit them, can be a powerful tool, improving even job retention. They can be further enhanced by appraisals, reward programs, and recognition. At Duesday, we introduced occasional team celebrations and team building events, for a higher team morale, integration and trust. Our weekly meetings and workshops were designed well enough to bring similar benefits on a regular basis too.

As a Duesday’s in-house UX advocate, I observed that leadership in my case was not just about leading a team. With thought leadership, I impacted many areas of the business by passionately showing how to put users and employees first, and how much it matters.

PROJECTDuesday
ROLETeam Lead
CLIENTDuesday, 2017-2020