Mia Blume

Mia Blume

Design Leadership Coach at Design Dept.

Design Executive Coach and CEO Design Dept, Founder of Within, previously leading teams at Pinterest, Square and IDEO.

18 action items

What to do after you burnout

    • Burnout can feel like a never-ending cycle. Most creatives run their energy reserves dry, hit a wall, and then suddenly go on vacation. After some mai tais and instagramming, they return with fresh energy and hit the ground running. The problem with that approach is that it’s not a sustainable one. After hitting burnout and finding a bit of recovery, the best thing you can do for yourself is take the time to establish new ways of working that will help you avoid it in the future.

    • Get to know your energy levels.

      We all have things that help “fill up our tank” and create more energy throughout our day. There’s also the things that we need to get done that can be a huge drain. What activities and tasks create energy for you? What depletes your energy? It’s important to track these over time and make sure you’re getting a mix of both so that you’re not draining your energy reserves too quickly. For instance, if one-on-ones are very energy depleting, can you reduce the number you complete in a single day and balance it out with more energizing activities? If you’re not sure about your energy creation and depletion,, take a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on how your day went. Mark each activity as a + or - to start to get a better sense of what works for you.... See more

    • Establish and commit to resilience practices.

      Some of us bounce back from adversity and stress far more quickly than others, but often it’s because of the resilience we’ve built up over time. Investing in activities like quality sleep, regular exercise and meditation are critical in long-term resilient individuals. A lot of creatives find solo making time to also be a really important activity to build resilience.... See more

    • Hire a coach or find an accountability partner.

      One of the biggest challenges with any change is sticking to it. Coaches are a great advocate and partner in establishing structures to help you move forward and achieve your goals. Or, find a buddy at work that can check in and help you stay aligned with the new boundaries you’ve set for yourself.... See more

    • Establish regular check-ins and communication with your manager.

      As you start to get a better hold on what works for you, start to establish a line of communication around what you’re learning. Together you should be able to find some solutions that will help you maintain your boundaries all while shipping awesome stuff.... See more

Find and recruit senior designers

    • Provide clear problems they can help solve.

      Experienced designers are seeking problems that are interesting to them, either building on deep experience/insight or allowing them to grow in some new way. Know what interesting problems they can help you solve. If you can match the right types of problems to the right designer at the right time, bingo!... See more

    • Know what it means to be a senior IC at your company.

      If a senior designer has no interest in becoming a manager, you better have a clear answer to the potential growth path for a maker/individual contributor. What does success look like? What skills are they expected to grow?

    • Craft your narrative.

      Most folks fail to tell a compelling narrative about their product and team that differentiates them from the next company (or the 100 recruiting emails in any senior designers' inbox). Like any important communication, know your audience and the key message. Ping pong tables, VC rounds, and the latest launches aren't going to cut it. Where are you headed? What change are you creating? What's the role of design in all of it? And, be sure the answer the next two sections:... See more

    • Invest in your relationships. Always.

      The most successful recruiting tactic (for senior talent) is building authentic relationships. It's about getting to know what works for them, letting them get to know you... and the big secret: being around when they're ready to take the next step. You'd be surprised how those relationships follow you throughout your career. It's a long-term investment for anyone on the management track.... See more

Maintain the quality of design work as your team grows

    • One of the most important roles a design leader plays is setting the vision and ensuring quality execution. As a team grows, it’s on leadership ensure that the team understands what “good design” looks like for the organization/product, and provide the tools, resources, and support to deliver effectively.

    • Create a common understanding (ideally, a language) around what “good design” looks like for your brand and/or product.

      Beyond following the basic guidelines of a platform (e.g. mobile), what will ensure that your product is successful? Often organizations fail to define what "good" looks like and rely too heavily on an individual or two to make quality decisions regularly. However, tools like design principles can be a good starting point as a way to capture the team’s perspective and provide high-level guidelines to make key decisions and tradeoffs in product design conversations. The key is developing a language around "quality" that everyone understands. To make them stick, make them short, simple and memorable.... See more

    • Develop a regular cadence of design critiques to evaluate and align the work around the principles.

      Create room for dialogue and healthy debate, so that the team can continue to elevate the work as a collective. These conversations will often provide the spark that will be used to iterate on your principles and beliefs.

    • Create systems that can help the team scale design’s efforts, including style guides, libraries, and common tools.

      Often teams avoid investing the time to create the tools that the team needs because they don’t know how to help people outside of design understand the impact of completing these projects. However, investing time in design systems and tools will ensure your team can scale, and ideally, grows more efficient and consistent over time.... See more

    • Share your systems outside of design.

      By sharing your values outside of the design team, you create alignment that is necessary in delivering quality consistently. And, if you do it well, you can help empower other teams to make high-quality design decisions (because they're already doing it, just without your guidance) more frequently. Sharing systems and guidelines outside of design extends the impact of the team without necessarily increasing the headcount.... See more

    • Explore making specialist hires that focus on delivering quality products and maintaining key design systems.

      If you have the opportunity, consider making key hires to help deliver on quality across design and engineering. Often hybrid roles like Production Design or UIEs (User Interface Engineers) help bridge design and engineering to deliver the highest quality product.... See more

Conduct a successful project debrief

    • The most important things you can do to ensure a successful post-mortem (or a more positive name for this type of meeting, a debrief) is frame the meeting as an opportunity to learn, and engage a facilitator.

    • Consider the timing.

      It’s helpful to wait a few days after the project, maybe a week or two, to provide people with some space and time to gather perspective. It shouldn’t be too long (no more than two weeks), or you’ll start to lose important information.

    • Share learnings.

      Summarize your key learnings into a single page or less, and share these with the larger organization. When you share your learnings, you model what a healthy debrief looks like, while also multiplying the value you’ve created.

    • Get a facilitator, preferably external to the team.

      By asking someone from the outside to run the process, the whole team can focus on the debriefing while the facilitator drives the structure, asks unbiased questions, and helps navigate tough conversations.

    • Set the tone.

      A debrief should be framed as an opportunity for learning. If the goal of the session is focused on finding areas for improvement, it shifts the conversation from finding problems and faults to identifying opportunities and successes. This does not mean ignoring things that went wrong along the way, but it does mean not blaming any single person for the outcome. To keep focus on the opportunities, you can structure the conversation into three parts: (1) identify what happened (fact), (2) consider areas for improvement and potential solutions, (3) extract key learnings and future actions.... See more

    • Consider regular check-ins.

      Beyond the debrief, consider scheduling more frequent check-ins throughout the duration of the project. This creates a moment for the team to make changes along the way, improving the chances of success. Furthermore, the debrief can shift from identifying faults that were long ignored to learnings from different approaches along the way.... See more