Being a Good Designer is Only 1/4 of My Job

Jan 12

My role is increasingly about identifying, recruiting, and interviewing talented designers and developers. I help try to get the right people on the team, and then attempt to create an environment that assists them in staying healthy, happy and productive.

But whether those designers and developers are a good fit in the first place is about more than just their talent. In fact, being talented is more like 25% of what makes designers successful at NewSpring. When we’re hiring (and evaluating the existing team) it’s been helpful to look at four categories as a good basic framework:

Competence

Can they do the job as defined? Do they possess the skills, good taste and judgment, curiosity and passion to excel at it? Without a baseline of competence, it’s impossible to benefit the mission.

Early on in my tenure, finding talented folks who wanted to move to South Carolina was exceptionally difficult. The majority of applicants to church roles think they’re much more skilled than their work shows. As we’ve grown, it’s become less of an issue. But on the flipside, talent can be a smokescreen as well, because good team members need more than just talent to contribute to the mission.

Don’t settle for mediocrity, but don’t get blinded by talent alone.

Chemistry

Do they fit in with the team? Are these the people I want to be on mission with, and do they want to work with me? Do we sync up well? Does the competence that got them noticed harmonize with the skills of the existing team? Do we want to hang out with them?

All big work is team work, so chemistry counts. If you sacrifice chemistry, you sacrifice momentum and derail the progress your team was making without them. It’s better to go a painful season without enough people on the team than to willfully hire people you know are a poor fit.

Trust your gut, trust your team. Never hire people you don’t like.

Character

Do they do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it? What is their reputation? Can they be counted on to use their talent alongside the team to accomplish our goals?

Some folks interview well, but interviews are typically sales pitches. What is the sum of their traits and actions up to this point? I have to fight to take my time on this one, but rushing in to hiring without careful consideration of character is disastrous longterm.

Vet early and often.

Calling

Are they supposed to be here? When a difficult decision is rolled out or a sacrifice needs to be made, can they see the mission or can they only see the decision/sacrifice? Is this just a gig? A paycheck? If so, all your investment in them won’t return exponentially.

Don’t hire people who aren’t called to be on mission with you. It’s never worth the investment.

Using the 4-Cs for Self-Inventory

I use these four categories to assess the fitness/readiness of potential hires, but I use them to evaluate myself even more. I do enough self-inventory to know I excel at competence and chemistry, and I feel called to what I do.

Unfortunately, my character is often inconsistent and lacking. I have to be vigilant in listening, receiving feedback and making strides to change. Knowing we’re holding potential hires to these standards is a constant reminder to take responsibility for my lack so that it doesn’t put my team in debt and doesn’t delay or harm the mission. I have not done a good job in this area. I have to be better so we can be better.

Being a successful designer—at least at NewSpring—is about more than a killer portfolio. Talent can only take you so far. Talent doesn’t exist in a vacuum and by itself it can’t make up for a lack of chemistry, character or calling.

P.S. We’re hiring.

3 Comments

  1. “Happy people never count hours as they pass.” – lil’ ole’ chinese proverb

  2. Thanks for tips!! A good team is the alpha / omega of a good result. The four C’s is important!.

  3. No man is an island. Having a team with you really helps and makes everything easier.

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