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Interview
April 20, 2021

Kyle LeBlanc

Managing teams through all the storms of 2021

April 20, 2021

More and more people open up about mental health issues in the workplace and the importance of managing work-life balance to well-being. This week we want to share the interview with Kyle LeBlanc, an experienced design director who shared his ideas about what makes a manager or a director - a truly exceptional leader, and how to become one. Enjoy!

Kyle LeBlanc, Director Of Product Design at Coursera

As a Design and UX thought leader, Kyle empowers his teams to create user-centered and engaging experiences by focusing on how people interact with products and services. He specializes in Consumer and Enterprise Product Design and UX strategy for cross-functional and multi-discipline creative teams.

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HOW DO YOU MANAGE TEAMS IN 2021 (WITH ALL REMOTE AND WFH APPROACHES)?
 

I lead a team that’s distributed across several time zones, so for me it’s been business as usual. I think one thing that a lot of companies have learned is that working remotely hasn’t reduced productivity at all.

 

Some people initially struggled with the isolation, but keeping in constant contact and checking in on people helps them feel more comfortable with working this way. My origins in the design industry were those of a freelancer. So, when the pandemic started and many companies switched to a WFH model, I felt very much prepared for this shift.

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WHAT PROBLEMS DO YOU OFTEN SEE SURFACING AMONG THE TEAM MEMBERS YOU MANAGE?
 

The number-one problem that I see among my team members is that they often have a hard time setting up the boundaries for their working hours.

 

There seems to be a stigma that if you aren’t always available, even early in the morning or late at night, then you’re slacking off. And that simply isn’t the case.  I’ve seen a lot of designers burn themselves out from working extended hours.

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There seems to be a stigma that if you aren’t always available, even early in the morning or late at night, then you’re slacking off — and that simply isn’t the case
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WHAT STRATEGIES DO YOU USE TO HANDLE THESE PROBLEMS?

 

  1. Boundaries are important. I often advise my team to block off some time in their schedule for personal things, like working out, lunch, walking the dog, and any other activities that they need to maintain some sense of normalcy.
  2. My other recommendation to the team is to set up their working hours and availability. If we were in an office we’d be working 8 hours a day so it’s wise to try to keep the same rhythm at home.
  3. And, last but not least, communicate and share your working process with your partners so that everyone can be on the same page.
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WHAT SKILLS DOES A PERSON NEED TO BE AN EFFECTIVE TEAM LEADER?
 

I think a leader’s skills that are the most critical vary based on the needs of their organization, but overall I’d say that communication is the most important skill that a team leader must have.

 

On one side, an effective leader should be able to listen and and be empathetic to the needs of their organization. On the other hand, a leader should also be skilled at communicating information to their organization; anything, such as good news, bad news, updates, change management, feedback, etc.

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ANY TIPS FOR MANAGERS WHO ARE SEARCHING FOR THE PERFECT LEADERSHIP METHOD?
 

As for managers struggling to find their way, I’d advise them to remember the time when they were in the same position as their direct reports and the time when they had a bad manager. Then, they should try to connect with how they would have wanted someone to manage them and make them feel.

 

Having a point of view is also very valuable. Your direct reports will respect a manager who’s fair and clearly communicates what the goals and expectations of the team are.

Written by Serafima Aleksandrova