Lessons I Learned from Becoming a Manager: Why Personas Fail

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Jul 31, 2023

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Lessons I Learned from Becoming a Manager: Why Personas Fail

Becoming a manager is a significant transition in any career. Suddenly, your responsibilities shift from focusing solely on the product to taking care of the people on your team. This shift can be challenging, but it's essential for building a strong and successful team.

One of the first problems I encountered as a manager was figuring out how to give my team the freedom they needed to thrive. It's natural for both the team and the manager to feel uncomfortable with too much freedom. However, I learned that by giving my team slightly more freedom than they were used to, we were able to achieve better results. This allowed them to take ownership of their work and develop innovative solutions.

Another problem I faced was the change in the feedback loop. As an individual contributor, I received feedback on my work almost immediately. But as a manager, it can take months to see the results of anything I do, good or bad. This made it challenging to measure my own value. However, I realized that as a manager, my focus should be on building a culture that results in the best products. By shifting my mindset and understanding that my impact may not be immediately visible, I was able to embrace the long-term perspective.

Managing people can be a lonely experience. The relationships I had with my colleagues changed, and I felt isolated at times. To combat this, I made an effort to find my peers and celebrate wins together. Recognizing and celebrating achievements not only boosted morale but also fostered a sense of camaraderie among the team.

In a different domain, personas are often used as a tool to understand and empathize with users. However, they can also fail if not implemented correctly. One common reason for persona failure is that they are created but not used. It's crucial to ensure that personas are actively integrated into the design and development process. They should serve as an alignment tool rather than just a research deliverable.

Another reason personas fail is the lack of buy-in from leadership. To address this, it's important to pitch personas as a valuable tool for aligning the team and focusing on specific user types. By demonstrating the business value of personas, you can build buy-in and support from leadership.

Creating personas in isolation and imposing them on the team is another pitfall. The most successful personas are created with involvement from the end users. By including the people who will be directly impacted by the personas, you can ensure that they accurately represent the user base.

Communication failure is also a common problem when it comes to personas. If people don't understand what personas are or why they're useful, they are less likely to embrace them. It's important to educate colleagues on the purpose and benefits of personas. Refer to personas in meetings and show how they contribute to the success of projects. By solidifying their place in the workflow, personas become an integral part of the design and development process.

To overcome these challenges and ensure the success of personas, it's important to take action. Put together an action plan that outlines the steps needed to implement personas effectively. Pitch the idea to leadership, highlighting the benefits and addressing any prior failures. Analyze what went wrong in the past and come up with corresponding solutions.

Furthermore, it's crucial to communicate the business value of personas to build buy-in and support. Show how personas contribute to better user experiences, increased customer satisfaction, and ultimately, business success. By demonstrating tangible results, you can gain the necessary support and resources to make personas a valuable tool.

In conclusion, becoming a manager and implementing personas both come with their own set of challenges. By learning from the lessons I've shared, you can navigate these challenges more effectively. Remember to give your team the freedom they need, embrace the long-term perspective, and find ways to celebrate wins together. When it comes to personas, ensure that they are actively used, have buy-in from leadership, involve the end users, and are effectively communicated throughout the organization. By taking these actions, you can build a successful team and create user-centered products.

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