Develop Your Firm’s Most Important Assets

People are at the heart of what you do. From the team of talented designers to the clients you interact with to the partnerships you build, developing strong people skills translates into success for your firm.

Are you ready to strengthen your management skills? In addition to sessions on developing hard skills—like contracts, budgets and business planning—the 2018 SEGD Management for Designersevent will help you brush up on your people skills. A panel of the people’s people—including Julie Maggos of IA | Interior Architects, Pia Sachleben of Gensler and Kristy Sieve of Kolar—will present short talks PechaKucha-style on sustaining and motivating your team, coaching and mentoring young designers and practicing practice.

You know you need these skills. We know you need these skills. Here’s what these experts have to say about why you need these skills:

Why is enhancing your people skills important for designers?

Julie Maggos: In our day-to-day jobs, we do as much designing as we do selling (that is, selling our ideas to our clients), so understanding how to relate to clients is essential. And developing the soft skills of working together with a team is essential to our collaborative profession.

Kristy Sieve: Our business is all about understanding the people—the end users of our products, spaces or designs. Being able to communicate with others and being able to use empathy to understand the pains and goals of the clients are important skills to success. We need to be able to create a rapport with our clients—really connect with them on many layers—to truly be able to design to solve their business needs.

Pia Sachleben: In a project capacity, people skills are important because as experiential designers, our end product needs to be able to connect to a big range of end users and communicate direction or emotion. Our design process takes the big abstract ideas into something tangible, and it’s a designer’s responsibility to be able to articulate these concepts in a manner that clients, consultants and possibly someone without design background could understand.

People skills are definitely important in teams in order to get a project completed. There will be long days and late nights, and you’ll have to be able to communicate with each other, take critiques and adjust. As designers, we tend to give a little something of ourselves in our work and critiques can sting. We need to gauge when to push harder or be kinder with our words.

What are the biggest challenges to…

…sustaining and motivating a design team?

PS: One challenge that comes to mind right away is getting too comfortable. When someone gets into a routine and falls into monotonous work. There are aspects in the projects that are tedious logistical things, such as location plans and schedules. They are a part of it, but they take substantial amount of time to complete—and that takes away from time that can be used to get inspired. The other challenge is how to keep designers engaged when it’s a 3–5 year project. We strive for the right balance in the mix of project types a designer is engaged in.

…coaching and mentoring young designers?

KS: One of the biggest challenges I see is a pro/con of a new and young designer. Young designers are not burdened by the baggage experienced designers carry. Due to that, they are more creative freedom and are able to design more out of the box ideas. But on the downside, they are not aware of certain sensitivities to the relationship.

Being able to teach them the intricacies of a client relationship and still allow them freedom to design and be creative is a challenge. It can be overwhelming to be able to sort the priorities out of a complex “big picture.”

…practicing practice?

JM: Growing and maintaining a proficient and cohesive team is an ongoing effort. It’s a balancing act of combining skills and talent for the best project outcomes with the personalities and career goals of each individual.  A team is never “complete”; it’s always evolving and should always be a priority for management.

Why should firms invest in developing their designers’ business skills?

JM: The job of business development should not be relegated to one or two people—it is up to the entire team to attract new and retain existing clients. Investing in designers’ skills for presenting, networking and relationship building allows everyone to take part in the process of winning new work. This also allows designers to grow and feel valued, and will inevitably affect the bottom line positively.

PS: Any investment towards an employee’s development is an investment to the company itself—and also the design community. We are cultivating design leaders and business skills are needed to understand what it takes to run a project, complete a project and measure its success. Business skills also help create more project opportunities through networking and client engagements that will bring back value to the firm.

KS: Ultimately, I see the benefit around teaching designers business skills to help them be more well-rounded consultants. At Kolar, we find that what we create impacts the client’s business and their business results. Designers need to understand a client’s desired business impact and how design can affect that. We also—as designers—need to “sell” our work to clients. Having business skills to be able to create a business case for the work is key to success.

Are you ready to play a bigger role in your firm? Join Julie, Pia and Kristy at 2018 SEGD Management for Designers, April 27 in Chicago. Space is filling up quickly—so don’t wait to register!