Brent Palmer - From Questions to Success: How Socratic Superheroes Lead Teams


Is it time for you to level up your design team management skills? Brent Palmer shares how he has grown into the Product Design Manager he is today at Mixpanel. Learn how he got into product design, grew into leadership, and how he approaches management in a way that allows his team to bring their best each and every day! Read the article below to learn how to become a Socratic superhero, and listen to more of Brent's fantastic advice in the full episode!

💪 Empower your team by asking the right questions.

Adopt a Socratic management approach to empower your team by asking the right questions, providing resources, breaking down barriers, and amplifying strengths. This fosters creativity and innovation while building trust with your team.

💡 Being a manager isn't for everyone.

Not all high-achieving individual contributors make great managers. Transitioning to management takes real-life experience and support. Dual tracks allow team members to choose between management or development, keeping everyone happy and motivated while retaining valuable talent.

From Questions to Success: How Socratic Superheroes Lead Teams

In episode 48 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Brent Palmer, Product Design Manager at Mixpanel, a leading product analytics software company.

During our chat, Brent shares how his career path led him into product design leadership  and how he knew that was the right path for him. He advises where he has found success in managing a large design team and nurturing culture at scale while helping his team do their best work and flourish in their career paths. This episode is packed with advice for product designers at any stage of their career path, whether you are a junior looking to grow into a manager or a senior leader looking to improve your management style.

Brent Palmer and Seth Coelen on The Product Design Podcast

How to become a Socratic superhero

Brent has been leading design teams for many years and has developed his unique and evolving management style along the way. He learned most of his management advice during the highs and lows of his career so far, and his humble approach to management is an inspiration. Brent recognizes that he always has room to develop further but continuously learns and adapts his Socratic method of management as he grows in leadership. In this episode, he shares his advice on leading a team that can help themselves grow in the direction that will make them happy and fulfilled in the long run!

🦸 Ask the right questions.

Adopt a Socratic management approach that values curiosity, questioning, and guidance over telling and directing. By taking on this approach, managers can empower their team members to find solutions independently and grow in their roles. It involves asking the right questions, and sometimes tough questions, providing resources, breaking down barriers, and amplifying the strengths of each team member. This style of management not only fosters creativity and innovation but it also builds trust between managers and their teams. By being a Socratic superhero, managers can create an environment where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their best work.

🌱 Support growth that suits your team members.

Transitioning a rockstar IC into management isn't always the best answer. Being a manager isn't something they can learn from a book or by simply getting five people to manage. It takes real-life experience and support from you as their manager and an interest on their part to go from an excellent IC to an even better boss. As a manager, don't assume that everyone on your team also wants to be a manager. Not all high-achieving ICs will make great people leaders, and they may find more joy in growing deeper into their craft as individual contributors.

"We need to normalize individual contributors, like Principal ICs, Senior Principals, and Staff Designers, and make that okay. Leadership looks a lot different for them than it does through teams and people."

🔥 Dual tracks are like having your cake and eating it too.

Organizations should allow employees to dive deep into their craft without drowning in people management. Dual tracks enable team members to choose between management or development in their craft, depending on their strengths and interests. This approach keeps everyone happy, satisfied, and motivated in their roles. Plus, companies can retain valuable product design talent while filling critical positions with experienced professionals who may not have the desire or aptitude for management roles. It's a win-win situation that benefits both employees and employers.

Brent Palmer
"It comes from a place of humility when you say: I don't have all the answers. In fact, there's probably multiple solutions here, and no one can say for certain which direction or design solution is best, so let's make some progress here, not be perfect."

Thank you so much, Brent!

Thanks so much to Brent for all of the valuable leadership insight! Collecting so many practical tips and tricks will help managers better support their teams. Listening to Brent's take on getting the best out of your team while allowing them to flourish in their roles and career paths was incredibly inspiring. We know that you all will gain so many new ideas to either help you level up to management or get stronger in your management role you are already in.

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes discussions on how to know if a team member is not going to be able to give the larger team what they need to succeed and what Brent looks for in potential team members to grow his team. Don't forget to follow Brent on LinkedIn and Twitter, and check out his website and blogto see what he is up to!

Where to find Brent

Other mentioned links:

📨 Get each podcast delivered to your inbox. No spam, we promise!

📬 Newsletter

Subscribe and get info about
our new episodes

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Share the Podcast