Experienced Design & Product Executive
I BUILD DESIGN-DRIVEN ORGANIZATIONS.
My expertise is design-driven transformation; the practice of integrating, scaling & optimizing design thinking & human-centered design practices in corporations.
I’ve utilized design to transform 3 corporate divisions & 1 start-up. Along the way, I’ve learned what it takes to reap the benefits of design & create happy, productive, and successful design & product teams.
I’ve led 5 product design & 3 product management teams, having been accountable for a combined revenue of 250M in the healthcare and education industries.
My focus has been on the full customer journey, supporting multiple touch points that have included mobile, web, print, and f2f services. I've worked in all development environments - agile, lean, iterative & traditional waterfall.
“In my 30+ years of working, Matt is the best manager I've had. He is strong in all the technical aspects of management--also a great people manager and inspirational leader who makes everyone around him better. He built a strong, high-performing team here. I'm confident he could do the same anywhere.” - Brian Laing, Mayo Clinic
My 11 leadership principles
I've been leading teams for the majority of my life. Along that leadership journey, I've found the following 11 principles to be a great lighthouse for helping me navigate the product and design leadership sea..
Laugh at everything
This is at the top of my list because, by far, it's what I'm renown for the most! Let's face it - leadership has a ridiculous amount of perplexing or frustrating moments. In those moments, you have two choices; you can laugh or you can cry and I always choose to laugh. Laughter is the greatest weapon a leader has. It diffuses situations, it helps people realize how absurd everyone is being, it can make people happy in a down moment, and it can make something tedious and dull more bright and fun. Life is short, don't take it so damn seriously.
Sidewalks not fences
I believe that teams always need structure. They need a sense of direction and what they are being asked to do. Structure, however, should not become so constraining that it simply becomes a set of rules they must blindly follow. Good leaders provide just enough structure to provide their teams a general sense of direction, and no more. The space that is left over allows team members to be empowered to make decisions and pave a way forward that utilizes and maximizes their unique skills and abilities.
I believe in being myself and having team members that can be themselves. We are all humans. We all have emotions, opinions, strengths, and weaknesses that we should feel comfortable acknowledging. I believe that leaders should create a working environment that is safe and respectful of one another so we can truly be ourselves and be there for each other. The best bonds come through authenticity.
Leaders have a tendency to sit on information and wait until the moment is right. The reality is that the moment is never right so the right time is right then. Even things that seem trivial, unimportant, or "above their pay grade" should be shared. Information is power, and to have empowered teams, you need to share information. Obviously, some things you must legally hold back, but in those instances, I believe in sharing that the information can't be shared and why. Don't leave people in the dark and expect them to see.
The smallest of problems can quickly escalate into tomorrow's shit blizzard. The moment you hear rumblings of discontent is the moment to deal with it. Immediately get people together, understand the problem, and determine a path forward together. At times this needs to be done with the individuals individually, but, in general, I try to get people together and act as a mediator. It helps reinforce that we are all in this together, it's ok to have problems with one another, and we can fix things together, too. Don't sweep it under the rug... vacuum it up!
Ninja team problems
The number one job of a leader is to keep their team members happy and productive. Everything else a leader does such as process improvements, project negotiations, and crafting a strategy should involve empowering and perfecting the team. Great teams create great results. It really is that simple.
People come first
Inflexibility is what sets good leaders apart from great leaders. Every situation is different, as is every employee you will lead. You can't treat them all the same. Adjust your style, preferences, and needs to suit their skills, capabilities, and drives.
Adjust as you must
Accountability placed on individuals is not nearly as effective as placing accountability on all members of a team. Creating a team environment where everyone understands that their performance is based as much on their colleagues performance is extremely effective at removing a lot of the bad teamwork behaviors.
When you fail, I fail
Far too often, I see leaders simply give up on people. If someone doesn't perform well in a given job, they simply put them on a performance plan and watch them struggle out the door. I believe that every single person has potential and it's a leader's job to find that potential when it isn't currently being harnessed. If someone is struggling in their job, find out what they are good at and see if you can align them to something else. You'll be amazed at the turnaround you'll see.
All people have potential
It's easy to point out problems but how often do you point out success? Try to validate the good work one person is doing at least once a day. People work hard for us and they need to know how appreciated that is.
Point out success
Leading starts with vision and, unfortunately, vision is often not articulated or communicated in many workplaces. I have never ceased to be amazed how difficult it is for most people to tell you what it is they are doing and where they are heading and many of their leaders are equally confused. When you don't know where you are heading, you are simply leading people in circles. Instead, inspire them with clear goals and strategies for getting there that show them directly how they'll be contributing!