Radical collaboration and trust; breaking down silos and building products at scale – Kim Williams

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Radical collaboration and trust; breaking down silos and building products at scale – Kim Williams

(slow jazzy music) (audience applauds) – Hi everybody I am so excited to be here with you today I’m super stoked I was thinking so much about what radical collaboration means and I was mulling over it and realized it really comes back to how we communicate That is the lynchpin for whether or not we’re able to communicate and connect really, really effectively with others So today, I’ve anchored my time with you all around how we communicate and connect Thank you so much for being here Thank you so much to Ben for the invitation I’m excited A quick hello My name is Kim Williams and I spent the first part of my career focused on PR, advertising and basically brand narrative and how do you help brands cultivate that narrative Then now, more recently, focused on product design, specifically focused on brand systems How do the systems work, how do we think about creating cohesive end-to-end product portfolios, which is a pretty gnarly thing to do and I’ve learned a lot of tough lessons about communication along the way that I’ll be sharing On a more personal note about who I am, I was born and raised in Jamaica I came to this country when I was about seven years old with my family My mom was one of 14, my dad one of seven, so massive families, both in Jamaica Within my little unit, I’m the youngest of three and my brother was always a rebel, breaking out, doing different things, getting in trouble, taking the heat My sister, middle child, was always the peacemaker and I was always the instigator I was always about stirring the pot, causing some trouble, and I feel like that is the best characterization of my work life I’m always the pot-stirrer and not afraid to be the change agent So much about communication and connecting with other people starts first with knowing yourself and as it comes to work, knowing why you work Why is it that you do exactly what it is that you do Specifically, a finer point on it, why do you get out of bed in the morning? What’s the reason? For me, I’ve been thinking about work for a really long time, actually I was that go-to person within my community if somebody needed a resume, if somebody wanted to think through their negotiation process I was the go-to person I still am I have a template for resumes and I change the color based on the person that’s talking to me I change the font choice Just little things to personalize it But when folks come to me, it’s Kim, help me tell my story and Kim, help me figure out what are all the opportunities before me So when I think about why I jump out of bed every morning, I think about helping people all over the world tell their best stories through their resumes and find opportunities that they didn’t know was possible for them Then, of course, we all have the laundry list of previous jobs that we did This is my laundry list There’s probably so many more gigs that I’ve done to get to where I am I love that transformation, the journey of what it takes to get to where you are Full disclosure, that security guard gig, I promise you I wasn’t guarding anything I was at the bottom of a hotel doing the late night shift and all I had was a flashlight, so if anything happened in that Paramus, New Jersey hotel, I would not have been any help (audience laughs) But the more important thing is to choose work with a purpose that aligns with your being So I’m choosing to work to help people get jobs because that’s actually a passion area for me and I love it It also works with who I am as a leader

I focus on unlocking potential, so it works on all of these levels It’s a big cliche but I firmly believe, do what you love So when you wanna connect with other people, you have to first be grounded in what it is you love, what is it that you believe, what are your core values and that is the foundation A part of it is also knowing how you work We all have different approaches to work Some of us love Google Docs, some of us love email I hate email, p.s I’m the worst at email My whole team knows that I am email-challenged, which means I may not reply sometimes, which I’m just horrible We all have different ways of working so it’s about how do you tailor your day around what you need to do your best work so that you can adjust for any challenges that you have or meet any specific needs Are you a night owl? Do you need to adjust your days so that you come in a little bit later? Are you an early bird? Do you need to take off a little bit earlier? What’s your family dynamic? I have a three-year-old, so I do wanna get home for dinner or I do wanna do the prep in the morning and I might rotate prep in the morning or dinner, but think through how is it that you best work Know your super powers and your achilles’ heels Sometimes, those are actually the same thing For me, my super power is that I am such an empathetic person and it’s very rare to have an executive that has a high E.Q. level I do and it’s the best thing about me and there are challenges with having all the feels You have to know how to filter that, how to categorize it, how to be effective with that, so knowing what your super powers are, being able to identify them and knowing how you can leverage your strengths There’s some great tools out there that can help you plug into more specifically what your super powers are and how you work This one is the StrengthsFinder What I like about it is, it’s helpful for mapping who you are at work, as well as who you are at home I’m gonna try this pointer here Oh, it’s working This is who I am at work, and you can see that I lead with this human tone with the yellows and the greens, but I’m also a Director and I can be analytical Who I am at home, that’s when I’m at work At home, I’m the exact same person I just get a little bit more amplified at work But tools like this are just so helpful to connect between yourself and your team members There’s knowing yourself, knowing how you work Now it’s knowing how your team works How do you plug into the team that you have I always talk about leadership This is from a leadership perspective because I have built teams and I have been working in that space, but this also relevant for individual contributors as well How do you plug into your team? As a leader, I myself am a campaigner Using 16Personalities is a free test I use it with all of my team members It’s just a great way to get a good, quick snapshot on who you are I’m a campaigner, which means I’m the ultimate advocate for my team members Then it’s about who I am and knowing my team members, who they are in the office and outside of the office Dave Nguyen is a phenomenal Creative Director that’s on my team He just had a baby So what’s his optimum work schedule like, operating with practically no sleep right now Eddie Lou, who is completely logical, knows the most, more than me, significantly more than I would ever know about front-end engineering capabilities, prototyping, all of this He’s getting ready for his wedding, so how does he plan and navigate that while he’s at work Mica loves her niece She’s traveling the world with her niece and is just incredible She’s the protagonist Any time I come to Mica with a problem, she looks at me and says, “Kim, how do you feel about this?” She’s just so sweet and empathetic What I want to highlight is that we’re all different We all bring different things to the table We all balance each other out No two are alike To make it even more fun, we like to plot ourselves on the Star Wars personality chart as well

You know yourself and you know your team The next part is knowing your partners Knowing your partners is so important, deeply understanding them A great pitch reference point that I got in my days in PR and advertising was always share what it is, why it’s important and then why is it specifically important to your specific audience It starts by really, really understanding what’s important Within the context of my specific team, we work horizontally, so we have many different verticals Those verticals focus on the job-seeker audience or small to medium businesses or enterprises There are hosts of different GM structures that are focused on different parts of the business Our role is to partner with each different GM, understand what their goals are, what their needs are and, more importantly, communicate at their varying altitudes Communicate to the executive level, working with our CEO, our SVP of Marketing, the GMs and their directors and also team contributors So all of these different levels of communication across the entire organization to align and say how do we come together in a way in which we produce products that work for what you’re trying to achieve within your vertical But then, still keep a connective tissue across the board Working with each partnership, what are your goals? What are you trying to achieve Q3, Q4? What are your biggest pain points? How do they measure success? What does success look like for the partnership team that you’re trying to connect with? What are the incentives and inspirations behind that team? It’s almost like taking that team’s goals and mapping back Where do they want to see themselves at the end of Q3? How do you help? How does partnering with you help them? More than anything, it’s this opportunity to map out the win-win Know that it’s not a zero sum game; that you can deeply understand what you want, deeply understand what they want and communicate at the varying altitudes, executive level or at the team level, what is that sweet spot for how you connect with your partners? A part of it is also getting to clarity Making sure that things are absolutely clear with how you connect with your partners That really starts with roles and responsibilities You might have within your team roles and responsibilities defined and you might not You might have just gone through a reorg and you’re figuring that out That’s hard too But let’s say you established that within your team, then you have to think through, how does a partner team plug and play into the rhythm that your team has already created with roles and responsibilities The reason this is important is that clear roles and responsibilities when we communicate equal empowerment It’s very difficult if you approach a partner to say, hey let’s work together on this thing and if they don’t know what you expect from them, if they don’t know how you want them to engage, if they don’t know what all of these different interaction points are gonna be like, they’re not gonna feel empowered and it’s also like a morale, it’s demoralizing It’s hard to engage when you don’t know how and expectations aren’t clear There are whole hosts of folks that step into what it takes to ship anything What it takes to get anything out the door In your team, you might be wearing many different hats You might be the designer, illustrator, researcher, product manager You might have a multitude of different roles and those roles and responsibilities vary depending on the project So it’s so important to be really, really crisp on what the expectations are for that project, for that role, for that engagement for the altitude that you need to communicate at A great tool for this is just a RACI Chart I don’t know if you have heard of this, but it’s essentially, walking through the acronym RACI, you’ve got Who’s Responsible? Who’s actually gonna be doing the thing? Who’s actually going to be working on the project? Who’s accountable? Who’s the person that’s going to delegate, set the parameters

Who’s gonna define whether or not you’ve completed what you wanna complete Some folks probably already know this, but I think it’s worth reviewing Who’s consulted? Who just contributes to the work and provides inputs that grounds whether or not you have context for the work Then, who is informed? Who’s just gonna be kept in the loop? This finer point on roles and responsibilities, not only for your specific team, but then how do you plug your partners into that RACI model so that they know how to engage with you Ideally, there’s always only one person for each RACI, whether they’re responsible, accountable, consulted and informed Another part of this connection point is, who even knows what these words mean? We use acronyms all the time JS for job-seeker ICL, Indeed Component Library ICLC, Indeed Component Library Comments We use them for shorthand and they’re everywhere But shorthand gets really confusing when you don’t understand what they mean Patterns, what does that mean? Components, themes, atoms, templates We use these languages and these words even within the context of our own team and I can tell we get mixed up all the time So how can we expect folks outside of our team to understand the messages that we’re trying to communicate to affect change when we, even within our own team, are still wrangling with it and still putting a finer note on it To make matters worse, I remember when I first started talking about design systems at Indeed I introduced design system as a foundation and then talked about the design language as almost a layer on top of the system and thoroughly confused everybody I had engineers saying, “Are you talking about software? “When you say language, what do you really mean?” So, I say all of this to say, it’s so important that we speak the same language Shared glossaries really help and again consider the altitude of the message, who needs to hear what and at what point As a leader, I sometimes do this a lot I interface with our executive level and I’m at a really high altitude, then I swoop into a working session and I’m talking and I can just tell the team is like, what is Kim talking about? I think she might legit be crazy It’s because I didn’t adjust the altitude, say oh, this is a working team How do I adjust the context that I’m trying to give them so that it’s appropriate for where they are within their working session Be data informed Think about qualitative, quantitative and marketing All these different data points, depending on your audience, they might care about one more than the other It’s on us to weave the information together for them so that they understand the value of it and that it meets their needs If it’s a voice-of-the-customer moment where we’ve heard something from the customer, can we map that back to some metrics that we found that are resonating with our business partners Sometimes, like learning, I was trying to introduce design thinking and sometimes, we’re really precious about the word design, but sometimes that word doesn’t resonate Designer, what does that mean? Fashion designer? UX designer? Architectural designer? It’s such a loaded term and it can also be exclusive Using that term can also exclude, so I’m saying, don’t be precious with the words that you use Rather, use words that are inclusive for your audience at the altitude with which you’re communicating Use words that resonate with your audience at the altitude that you’re communicating Adjust your presentation and delivery for your audience, whether it’s executive, director, team level, just always be that flexible and fluid with your message to reach as many people Know how to be inclusive and respectful It’s so easy to come in at the tail end of something and have feedback about it or try to think through how you can contribute and partner with someone else It’s just so important to understand the why

Why were choices made? Specifically, understanding the full context of how that team got to the choice that they did, in fact, make Then, also thinking through collaboration For us, we’re a global team that’s distributed all over Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Tokyo, Singapore We’ve just got all of these different team members everywhere and how do you say lock in step For us, sometimes we co-locate, sometimes we are distributed We have team members that are 100% remote Be thoughtful about how we include everyone, whether it’s something as simple as including a room for another location, not just your own room Wherever possible, just think about these little things Then, inclusive collaboration Some folks need agendas and emails, agendas and calendars to know how they can best prepare for the meeting Pre-reads for decks, if it’s appropriate Co-creation of documents How do people best work? Everyone works, learns and communicates differently, so that’s the point of leaning in and being so attuned to your partners, attuned to yourself, attuned to your team so that you’re adjusting to what people need so that you’re able to build those bridges Categorize your rhetoric so that you’re adjusting and modulating as necessary The way that you do this is by identifying, respecting and honoring the diversity of your teams and your partners Really respecting what everyone brings to the table, even if it’s a different point of view Even if it’s one that you don’t necessarily agree with, deeply understand so that you can make that connection Embrace diversity of methods, approaches, personalities Working in a large organization and even in a smaller organization, you’re gonna get different points of view, different personalities How do you make room for that in a way in which you can be effective with every team Embrace the challenges of being a change agent Like I was saying in the very beginning, I know how to stir the pot I know what it means to introduce something new and everybody in this room does Whether it was a new feature, a new product, a new portfolio, offering, we’ve all been in the place or in the position of being a change agent It’s so important to remember that change agents are almost never fan favorites Sometimes you have a target on your back for introducing something new, trying something different, so a part of this partnership is coming from a place of compassion, knowing that you can relate and understand If somebody’s coming at you with a lot of heat and fire, you think through why What are they going through? What did they go through or experience recently? What’s the full context of what they were navigating with the launch of their product? Lastly, coming together You know yourself, you know your partners Now it’s about bringing it all together, which starts with alignment and not just alignment Once you have a trusting engagement, that’s when you can have honest, candid conversations with each other and really push to up-level the work, push higher It’s not just alignment I think it really is about breaking through to more That starts with creating shared vision, values and principles, objectives, OKRs and the golden roadmap If you can get on somebody’s roadmap, that is amazing That’s when you know that you’re 100% aligned and the work will be shipping But you don’t get to a roadmap synergy, I hate that word, but you don’t get to align on a roadmap overnight The whole point is it takes relationship to get there It’s knowing yourself, deeply understanding your partner and what their needs are to get to that point Then you start by aligning the problem Not just the problem that you perceive there to be Rooted in research, rooted in qualitative and quantitative research Aligned on who we’re solving the problem for Aligned on what success looks like for that team,

for the partnership, for the company Aligned on what the specific outcomes should be For systems for us, 80% of systems are the same Toggle, a button, they all kind of look the same but about 20% is what’s unique to that brand and what’s unique to that product experience For us, we think about systems as beneficial from a value perspective as well as a performance perspective, operational efficiencies from using components and things like that Map out the cost What’s the investment? Time, team and money How does that adjust if you don’t get the investment that you’re looking for from a team or from your manager Metrics, how will we measure success? Are we all communicating in the same ways about what success looks like? Then, how are we prioritizing and if we’re prioritizing this one thing, what are the risks? What are we not prioritizing by pushing this forward? Lastly, decision-making Thinking about how those partners at those various altitudes fold back into the RACI Keeping up with momentum is so important with your partnerships to know that every step forward is moving the whole initiative forward That starts with transparency and trust By being consistent and always showing up But sometimes, you get to this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately point when you’re doing a multi-year initiative You can mitigate that by consistently demonstrating value The way you do that is by cataloging every win and every learning It’s not a failure, it’s a learning What did you learn that’s gonna propel you forward? Make it a team effort, so make it a team effort for that executive, director, team level to demonstrate the ROI Communicate consistently Know that every action keeps you moving forward And one more thing, we are one body That’s the way I think about it As you know yourselves, as you know your partners, everyone that you wanna connect with, think about it as one body Your immediate team, the discipline that you’re part of, whether design or PM, the partners that you need to connect with to be effective, to do your cross-functional work Lastly, the impact that you’re having for your company and the value there Thank you so much (audience applauds) – We have a lot of questions for you Okay, we’re gonna start at the beginning here Joseph asks, how do you handle a situation where management puts you in a role where you are not strong and expects a strong result – Mmmm, that’s so good End strength totally depends on the situation, right? I might be awesome at this one talent that I’m an expert in but if you put me in a new scenario, I might not be as strong, so if you’re put in that position, you can ask for resources You can say, here’s some tools I think will help You can put it back on the manager and say, hey, I’m struggling in these areas, can you help me navigate this – That’s excellent, I love that Yeah, absolutely How does feedback play into your process for building trust? Do you have a feedback process for your team and stakeholders? – Yeah, 100% So much of trust is the partner feeling heard If they gave you feedback and you come into the next round and that feedback hasn’t been implemented, they don’t feel heard and that immediately breaks trust So that’s at the executive level At the team level, it’s the same thing If you are providing and giving feedback within your team and that’s not being actioned, it’s demoralizing, so it’s 100% up there with trust – Perfect What are some methods that you’ve used to define roles and responsibilities? How have you communicated them? You mentioned RACI You can go more in-depth in that or are there other ones, but how have you communicated them? – Yeah, full transparency I stepped into a new role like three months ago and I’ve been figuring my own role out and I can feel some confusion within the team and feeling some angst That’s why I talk about things that are real for me right now There’s RACI is one part of it The other part of it is looking at your team and their capabilities

How do I tap into their skills to make sure that I’m pairing the right skill with the right opportunity, if that makes sense Communicating it out, first with the leadership team, first with that one-on-one with that person and then broader with the leadership team and then broader with an all-hands – Okay, perfect This goes right into that a little bit more How do you implement a RACI Chart within a feature delivery team instead of a project team, ’cause it sounds like you’re using RACI to figure out who would be best for this project to create the roles and responsibilities around a team How would you do that within a feature team versus a project team? I don’t know how that’s set up at Indeed, to be honest – Yeah, so within a feature team, I feel like we would use the format in the same way, honestly, whether it’s a feature or a large-scale project Defining who the key players are and how they engage and who’s gonna be responsible for what – [Interviewer] Pretty much the same – I would use the same approach What’s great about it, it is a framework that works for any scale problem – Okay, wonderful Can you talk about a specific situation that was challenging for you or your team, what you did and what changed after implementing some of the things you talked about – Yeah, so a specific challenge I think one of the big challenges up front we had was co-location I think that that really, really hurt us Half the designers were in one location The other was in another and I think the challenge was, that it would break down our communication lines and the way we mitigated that was we had an off-site, just to build up some team bonding around it and get to know each other on a more personal level Then what we did was, we improved our communications We increased like Slack, Google Docs, async and just had more regular touchpoints We saw that a big pain point was not enough communication touchpoints and we resolved that by off-site and then increased the touchpoints – So by applying those touchpoints, it helped increase the communication – Exactly – Dillon asks, how often are you meeting with your peers and direct reports? How do you keep consistent check-ins from being routine and underwhelming – That’s a really great question Direct reports every week, peers probably biweekly And then how do we keep it routine? If we can pre-fill in, we keep a running Google Doc, if we can come to the table with here’s what I heard, here’s what’s pressing for me, it makes it a more engaging conversation than coming to the table with just a blank document It’s almost like a blank canvas – Before you meet – Before we meet, have agenda items, kind of like, I’ve heard other folks do this as well, have all their docs up during the week and they’re populating them as they go That’s an intense way to do it, or block time out before your one-on-ones start, which is what I do, and populate agenda items beforehand to make sure that they’re engaging – Yeah, okay Do you ever do skip-level one-on-ones? – Absolutely, yeah, especially if I’m new to a team I just got a content strategy team, so starting there And I also have just a general open-door policy Anyone can come chat with me – Like your door’s not there, like you don’t have a door – I don’t have a door – Okay, last question I love the idea of shying away from the term design to empower more voices into the process What words have been effectively used instead? – Ooh, great question Focusing it back onto the user User sometimes feels like a cold word, but again, this is about what will land for your audience Will user work best for your company or consumer or customer or whatever that word is – Human – Human – Tying it back to those that we serve made it more effective than focusing on design It’s really about how do we best serve others? – Okay, perfect Well, that’s our time Let’s give Kim another round of applause Thank you so much (audience applauds) (slow jazzy music)