The default setting for professional development for designers is to become, well, better designers. For all designers, but especially for in-house designers, there is another equally important developmental goal – interpersonal business skills.
If you’re an individual contributor, you should seek out opportunities for training, coaching and mentoring in this area – either from your direct manager or through company provided training programs. If you’re a manager, you should school-up your reports in this area in any way available and provide them with opportunities to use and exercise these skills by placing them in situations that require them to step up and utilize these aptitudes.
One of the managers with whom I work has mastered many interpersonal skills save the exception of presenting to larger groups. Knowing she’s up for the challenge, I’ve asked her to co-present with me at our next national Sales meeting. We’ll work on the presentation together where she’ll learn specific tactics on how to present and then she’ll actually do it and gain the confidence needed to begin to make solo presentations.
As we designers take on more strategic roles in our companies and work more frequently in multidisciplinary teams, the ability to powerfully collaborate with, and communicate to, others will become increasingly critical to our success. This will be nowhere more important than within the companies where we, as in-house designers, work.