As a product designer, you're positioned at the intersection of many stakeholders — from users and engineers to marketers and executives. Your success not only hinges on your ability to design compelling, intuitive products, but also on your capability to garner trust and consensus throughout your organisation. Here's a roadmap on how you can build this critical trust in both close circles and across broader organisational boundaries.
Trust at home: Building relationships with your immediate team
As a product designer, empathy should be your key tool. Understanding the motivations, needs, and challenges of your team members will help you appreciate their perspectives. This understanding can spark meaningful dialogue and encourage collaborative solutions, fostering a culture of mutual trust and respect.
Transparent and inclusive
Building trust necessitates being transparent and inclusive with your immediate team. Share the reasoning behind your design decisions, and invite feedback to show that you value other perspectives. By keeping the lines of communication open and actively encouraging participation, you foster an environment where trust thrives.
Invest time in nurturing relationships with your immediate team members. This could be through casual conversations, coffee breaks, or team-building activities. When you form strong relationships, it becomes easier to gain trust, support, and consensus for your design decisions.
Actions speak louder than words. Consistently delivering on your commitments and demonstrating your reliability through your work will help cement trust. Show through your actions that you're dependable and committed to the team's success.
Trust far and wide: Extending trust beyond your team
Empathy isn't just applicable to your immediate team; it's equally important when dealing with stakeholders from other parts of the organisation. By empathising with their needs and concerns, you'll be better equipped to address them effectively, helping you win their trust.
Transparent and inclusive
Transparency and inclusivity should extend beyond your immediate team. Ensure that other stakeholders understand your design decisions and that their input is welcome. This makes them feel valued and involved, laying the foundation for trust.
Building relationships with other stakeholders may take more effort, but it's a worthwhile investment. Seek opportunities to connect and collaborate with individuals from other departments. It's through these relationships that you can foster trust and consensus on a broader scale.
Deliver on your promises. When you consistently meet deadlines and uphold your commitments to stakeholders across the organisation, you strengthen your reputation as a reliable partner. This reliability builds trust, making it easier to gain consensus on future projects.
Trust earned: Maintaining and leveraging trust
Surface the conversation
In gaining trust, open dialogue is essential. Don't shy away from tough conversations. If there's disagreement about a design decision, address it head-on. Use these opportunities to clarify your perspective and understand others' viewpoints better.
Anchor in the "Why"
Always anchor your design decisions in the purpose they serve – the "why". When stakeholders understand the reason behind your decisions, they're more likely to trust your judgment and align with your vision.
Using data to support your design decisions lends credibility to your work. When you can demonstrate how your choices lead to positive outcomes, stakeholders across the organisation will trust your judgment and feel confident supporting your decisions.
Facilitate joint strategy
Foster a sense of shared ownership by involving stakeholders in strategy discussions. When stakeholders feel they have a voice in shaping the strategy, they're more likely to trust the process and support the final product.
In conclusion, gaining trust and consensus across the organisation is an ongoing process that requires empathy, transparency, relationship-building, and decisive action. As a product designer, you are uniquely positioned to foster this trust, using your role as a connector and facilitator to bring people together, align them around a shared vision, and drive the organisation forward.