Niel McLean - Building a Design Team With Servant Leadership


Are you interested in becoming a more impactful leader? Niel McLean shares his insight into being a servant leader and nurturing his team. He provides advice for current and aspiring leaders that will help them learn how to build a strong and effective team. Learn more about how Niel became inspired to go into leadership and how his experience has shaped him as a leader from the full discussion on The Product Design Podcast.

👏 Recognize when it is time to grow your team.

Niel watches for signs of burnout, expands the team when necessary, and encourages a balanced workday for his team members to encourage creativity.

🔥 Nurture your team!

Niel monitors the team's workload, promotes open communication with his design team, and focuses on long-term sustainability to create a productive and fulfilling work environment.

In episode 56 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Niel McLean, Director of Product Design at Evolus. Niel brings his perspective of a servant leader, sharing what he has learned about leadership throughout his career.

During our chat, Niel shared how he got his start in design and how mentorship had been a key to his long-term success. He discusses how to gauge if your team is burning out and how to nurture your team to ensure their long-term success. This episode will help leaders to make a more significant impact on their organization and product designers looking to grow into leadership roles.

Niel McLean and Seth Coelen on The Product Design Podcast

This article will focus on Niel’s approach to nurturing his team through servant leadership.

How Niel Approaches Servant Leadership to Avoid Burning Out His Team

When building an effective UX team, leaders need to prioritize their team members' well-being and work-life balance. Burnout is a real concern in the fast-paced design world, and being vigilant and responsive to the signs is vital. Here are a few ways Niel nurtures his team through servant leadership.

🔥 Watch for Burnout in Your Team.

Niel believes that if a designer spends more than half their day fully engaged in the visual design process, they are tapped out, and it is time to consider expanding the team. Burnout can lead to losing strong team members, so watching for the signs and taking action to help your team member stay out of burnout is important for long-term success.

💡Encourage a Balance Workday.

Niel encourages his team members to balance their workday by allocating time for learning, exploring, and pushing their capabilities' boundaries. This may involve reading articles, engaging in creative processes, or stepping away from the office environment for inspiration.

💪 Monitor the Team’s Workload.

Niel constantly monitors his team's workload to ensure it remains manageable. He recognizes the need for occasional periods of increased capacity for big deliveries but aims to avoid overburdening their designers for extended periods.

“My job as a leader is to empower my team and to give them the tools that they need to be successful so that they can do their best work. I call it servant leadership, but really to me, there's no other way to lead a team successfully.”

👏 Promote Open Communication.

Niel promotes open communication within the team. Designers are encouraged to voice their concerns if they feel they are doing more than they are comfortable with. This allows for necessary adjustments, such as swapping team members or adding new members.

🎯 Focus on Long-Term Sustainability.

Niel believes in building productive teams and long-term sustainability within an organization. He emphasizes that overworking or burning out team members is not conducive to achieving these goals. Instead, he prioritizes setting a baseline for work-life balance and ensuring designers have a sustainable and fulfilling career in design.

Niel McLean
“When I'm giving you an opportunity, and this is your first job, I want to set a baseline for you. A career is a marathon, and I don't want folks on my team ever thinking that it's okay to be overworked by an organization or burn themselves out just because they have a passion for it.”

Thank you so much, Niel!

Thank you, Niel, for taking the time to join us on the show and share so much valuable insight into leadership. From your experience with mentorship and how it shaped your career to your approach to servant leadership, it was so interesting to hear your advice. Niel has gained a lot of wisdom as a leader, and we are happy to have the chance to talk.

Listen to the episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes Niel’s non-traditional journey into design and advice on helping team members level up! Don’t forget to follow Niel on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to see what he is doing!

Where to find Niel McLean

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