Designers, be generous.
Many of us are consultants, work for agencies, or are freelancers which means that we get to meet a lot of different clients and work on a wide range of different projects. All of these projects come with their share of opportunities, challenges, laughs and lows. Some teams you'll get on with better than with others, and some will naturally gel straight away, whilst others will take effort and time. There will be projects that don't go your way, and some that allow you to over-deliver and out-do yourself. There's no telling what combination of circumstances you are going to face on your new project, so come with an open mind and an open heart. It's not about you
Some clients aren't going to understand why you are pushing for a particular outcome, or why you are unhappy about a change in direction, heck, some won't even understand why you're even on the team. Who needs an experience/service/product designer anyway? Isn't your job just to make things pretty? Why are you talking about information architecture and on-boarding processes? You won't always agree with the decisions they make, despite all your efforts to explain and your polished presentations. You might want to wring your head in your hands sometimes, or cry out in pain as your design is pulled apart and demolished irrationally, pixel by pixel. Your best efforts at delivering the perfect experience and the most compelling design is thwarted before it even has a chance to be explained. But this isn't about you or what you want.
Give them what they need
Don't become so demoralised by these experiences that you stop doing your best work. Be accustomed to change. Give them what they need to progress on to the next level of understanding, to the next experience that drives them towards a direction or a goal, to the next rung of the ladder for them. It isn't all about you and your desire to create a flawless, beautiful and meaningful piece of work. It's about educating, explaining tirelessly, trying a new tack, finding the sweet spot where the client, the users, your team and you can work well. It's about doing what's right, right now, and sometimes, shock horror, they are afraid of their users, afraid of showing their product, or so convinced that they know what their users want, that you will largely be ignored. We have an interesting job, which requires us to play a game of balances. Balancing what the client is ready for,what the users need and what your team can deliver. Sometimes these things are completely at odds with each other.
Be kind, be open-hearted, be cool, be patient, be friendly and be generous. Be generous with your ideas, with your time, with your knowledge, with your smiles. Tell them what they're doing right and not always what they're doing wrong. What's wrong is always available, so ask yourself what's right and start from there. Tell them how much you appreciate working with them and having the opportunity to be part of their work. Remember that they may be under a lot of stress, and your support will earn you a reputation for being willing to listen and help, for being constructive. In return, you will be listened to and you will earn their trust.
Still do your work with energy and vigor. Challenge the status quo and the people on your team. Push for change and improvement. Don't be afraid to suggest something wild that you think might work, and be honest when you they ask you if you're sure. Say "of course not, but here's why we should try". Look for ways to make things happen. Keep it fresh. There's no better project or client than the one you're with right now. Find what stirs them and be a part of it. Initiate. Pick up the slack. Turn things around. Keep trying and have the wisdom and compassion to stop pushing when it becomes unproductive for them, your team and yourself. In that situation stop moving and listen.
This is their dream, their baby, their investment. Respect their capabilities, their desires, their weaknesses and discover their untapped genius. Be the generous designer. It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.