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13 Human Qualities You Must Have to

Succeed in Work and Life


By Pabini Gabriel-Petit
Published: September 2, 2014

So much of success derives from mindset rather than skillsets.


Mindset is who you really are at your core. Its your habitual way of
thinking.
This article was inspired by a discussion at last weeks Silicon Valley IxDA meeting, where Daniel
Szuc and Josephine Wong spoke on the topic Sleepwalking + Designing for a Healthy Future,
which got me thinking about what qualities one must have to be an effective UX professional. So
much of success derives from mindset rather than skillsets, and mindset takes a lifetime to
developor, for those of us who believe in reincarnation, multiple lifetimes. Your mindset derives
from your life experiences and the way you respond to them, as well as what you learn from
those who influence you greatlysuch as your parents, mentors, and spiritual teachers.
In their book Put Your Mindset to Work: The One Asset You Really Need to Win and Keep the
Job You Love, James Reed and Paul G. Stoltz say:
Your mindset is about what you see, think, and believe. It is the internal lens through
which you see and navigate life. Mindset influences everything you see, as well as
everything you do.
Mindset is who you really are at your core. Its your habitual way of thinking. While its not
easy to change, the purpose of life is to evolve and become better a human being. So you should
think about these human qualities from time to time and always endeavor to do better. Your
mindset is what really differentiates you from your peers. If you work hard at developing what Jo
Wong likes to call your human qualities, youll set yourself up for success in work and in life.

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.Aristotle

Having the right mindset can be a competitive advantage when youre seeking employment or
advancement. According to Reed and Stoltz:
Given the choice between someone with the desired mindset who lacks the complete
skillset for the job and someone with the complete skillset who lacks the desired

mindset, a total of 96 percent of the employers surveyed picked mindset over skillset as
the key element in those that they seek and retain.
These employers also believe that its much more likely that a person with the right mindset
will be able to develop the required skillset than that a person with all the hard skills would
develop the right mindset. Plus, the tactical skills that jobs require change over time, while the
desired mindset is a constant. This is especially true of user experience jobs. The tactical skills
that it takes to be a UX professional are forever evolving.

Essential Qualities of UX Professionals


There are several qualities that it is especially important for UX professionals to have. These
qualities are at the core of what makes UX professionals successful: empathy, intuition,
creativity, passion, and the desire to learn throughout their career.

1. Be Empathetic
empathyThe ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Oxford Dictionaries

Empathy enables you to understand other peoples motivations, needs,


and emotions more deeply, and you can use that understanding to
create better products for them.
First and foremost, UX professionals must be empathetic. As a UX professional, the primary
focus of your work is on the wants and needs of the people who use the products that you
create. Empathy enables you to understand other peoples motivations, needs, and emotions
more deeply, and you can use that understanding to create better products for them. Having
empathy lets you accurately perceive peoples needswithout your own lens introducing any
distortions or occlusions. Whether youre a UX researcher, strategist, or designer, empathy is an
essential quality for you to develop. Being empathetic lets you look at things from different
peoples perspectives and internalize what you see.
Having empathywhether for colleagues, family, or friendscomes from focusing on
someone elses needs, struggles, and feelings. It requires that you open your heart to them and
put their needs before your own. That you be fully with them in the moment. That you look
deeply into their eyes and really see them for who they are. You need to be open to many
different types of people from many different cultures. But you cant connect with people when
youre feeling worried, defensive, angry, frightened, or ashamed.

Empathy is about standing in someone elses shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing
with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes
the world a better place.Daniel H. Pink
If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other persons point
of view and see things from that persons angle, as well as from your own.Henry Ford

2. Be Intuitive
intuitionThe ability to understand something immediately, without the need for
conscious reasoning.Oxford Dictionaries

Having intuition is being open to the mysterious workings of your own


mindseeing what is or what might be clearly in your minds eye.
Having intuition is being open to the mysterious workings of your own mindseeing what is or
what might be clearly in your minds eye. Sometimes, through intuition, holistic solutions to
problems may arise fully formedor very nearly sofrom your subconscious mind. At other
times, your intuition may give you just the seed of a great idea. Intuition lets you draw
connections between diverse inputs without conscious thought. The effort lies in gathering the
relevant data for your subconscious mind to work on.
Intuition often plays a strong role in decision making. You rely on intuition when you must
make decisions and take action on them very quickly, the problem or the solution is ambiguous,
or there's no precedent to follow.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have
created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.Albert Einstein
You have to trust in somethingyour gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach
has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.Steve Jobs
Sometimes making a decision is hard, not because it is unpopular, but because it comes
from your gut and defies a technical rationale. Much has been written about the mystery
of gut, but its really just pattern recognition, isnt it? Youve seen something so many
times you just know whats going on this time. The facts may be incomplete or the data
limited, but the situation feels very, very familiar to you.Jack Welch

3. Be Creative
creativityThe use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of
an artistic work.Oxford Dictionaries

Being creative is allowing your intuition to reveal possibilities to you


and following them in the momentin other words, its being inflow.
Being creative is allowing your intuition to reveal possibilities to you and following them in the
momentin other words, its being in flow, which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines in his
book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,as follows:

The best moments usually occur when a persons body or mind is stretched to its limits
in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal
experience is thus something we make happen. [Flow is] a state in which people are so
involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable
that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
[Flow lets people] achieve a joyous, self-forgetful involvement through concentration,
which in turn is made possible by a discipline of the body.

What prompted Csikszentmihalyi to do research on the flow state? According to Wikipedia:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his fellow researchers began researching flow after
Csikszentmihalyi became fascinated by artists who would essentially get lost in their
work. Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would
disregard their need for food, water, and even sleep. Thus, the origin of research on the
theory of flow came about when Csikszentmihalyi tried to understand this phenomenon
experienced by these artists.

Being in flow is a sort of meditative bliss state, in which your mind is more fully concentrated
than at just about any other time. Great ideas come to you when you lose yourself in your work.
Some of the best creative experiences come from working in collaboration with others
especially when you can achieve a flow state together. Flow brings joyfulness to your work.
Flow is all about focus, which is the antithesis of the monkey-mind nature of most peoples
experience of the Webwith the mind jumping quickly from one thing to another. Just as with
meditation, you can get better at calming your mind and connecting with your creativity through
practice, practice, practice.

The source of creativity is your imagination. When creating, you synthesize all of the ideas
that youve taken in from myriad sources and, magically, all of those inputs fall into place,
forming a cohesive whole. This is your intuition at work.
All creativity involves improvisationwhether youre designing user experiences, acting on a
stage, jamming with a band, doing some form of creative writing, or making up a new recipe.

To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle
requires creative imagination.Albert Einstein
Creativity is just connecting things. Creative people [are] able to connect
experiences theyve had and synthesize new things.Steve Jobs
The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their
members to survive. Great Groups offer a new model in which the leader is an equal
among Titans. In a truly creative collaboration, work is pleasure, and the only rules and
procedures are those that advance the common cause.Warren Bennis

Creativity is contagious.Albert Einstein

4. Be Passionate
passionAn intense desire or enthusiasm for something.Oxford Dictionaries

With passion, your work ceases to feel like work.


Being an effective UX professional requires great drive, enthusiasm, and focus. To sustain the
level of effort and concentration that the work demands, you must have a passion for your work.
With passion, your work ceases to feel like work. Your passion keeps you focused on your goals,
enables you to get things done and take risks when necessary, and makes it possible for you to
realize your vision. Always strive to do great work! Dont settle for less. Dont compromise on
quality.
Love your work and youll have the motivation to continually hone your skills and expand your
areas of competency, as you must forever do in this field. When you work with passion, you can
reach your full potential.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is
to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what
you do.Steve Jobs
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.Aristotle

You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If
youre not passionate enough from the start, youll never stick it out.Steve Jobs

5. Be a Life-long Learner
learningThe acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being
taught.Oxford Dictionaries

Having the motivation and the ability to learn and grow throughout
your life is an essential quality in todays fast-changing world.
Being a life-long learner is a quality of successful people. Having the motivation and the ability to
learn and grow throughout your life is an essential quality in todays fast-changing world
especially for UX professionals. You can learn through reading and deep reflectionbut most of
all youll learn through life experience. You can learn by questioning thingsand asking the right
questions enables you to solve problems. Often, youll learn from your mistakes, so life-long
learning requires that you have the courage to keep taking risks.
In a field that is as broad and fast-changing as user experience, its important that you keep
learning throughout your career. Sustaining your commitment to continuous learning takes
curiosity about the world in which you live and a desire to improve your mind. The more you
learn, the more you can contribute in the workplace and the more likely youll advance in your
career.

Learning is a life-long process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task
is to teach people how to learn.Peter Drucker

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.Albert Einstein

Qualities of Effective Team Members

Qualities that make you more effective when working with other people or on teams include
being a good listener, being persuasive, being responsible, and being a leader.

6. Be a Good Listener
listening[Taking] notice of and [acting] on what someone says; [responding] to advice
or a request.Oxford Dictionaries

Listening well is the key to effective communication. Focusing on both


what people say and how they say it ensures that you accurately
receive the messages people communicate to you.
Listening well is the key to effective communication. Focusing on both what people say and how
they say it ensures that you accurately receive the messages people communicate to you. Paying
attention to their use of language, tone of voice, body language, gestures, and emotional affect
increases the probability that you will be able to correctly interpret their meaning and understand
what you hear. Listen for peoples ideas, not just to their words. When you listen well, youll
experience fewer misunderstandings and make fewer mistakes.
Effective listening is especially important when doing user research. Having empathy, being a
good listener, and using your intuition will together make you a superior researcher. Everyone
opens up when someone listens to them attentively and shows avid interest in what theyre
saying. When you really connect with research participants, youll learn more from them and
understand what theyre saying better. Once youve listened well, following up with good
questions demonstrates both that youve really heard someone and your interest in what theyve
said.
All too often, people are so eager to speak themselves that they dont really listen to what
others are saying. When people end up talking all at once, you cant hear what anyone is saying.
So being a good listener will set you apart from your peers.
When youre collaborating with a product team, you never know who will contribute the best
ideas. So you must draw out all of your teammates and pay careful attention to what everyone
says, listening with a laser-like focus to be sure that you take in everyones inputs.

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one
ear.Mark Twain

7. Be Persuasive

persuasiveGood at persuading someone to do or believe something through reasoning


or the use of temptation.Oxford Dictionaries

As a UX professional, you must persuade others to embrace your ideas


and follow your plans to get anything done.
As a UX professional, you must persuade others to embrace your ideas and follow your plans to
get anything done. You have to persuade stakeholders to adopt your strategies and fund your
projects, sell your design ideas to your design team and product team, and get developers to
faithfully execute your designs and, thus, bring all of your hard work to fruition.
Your confidence in yourself and your ideas will help you to persuade others, as will your ability
to make your case logically and use storytelling to provide supporting evidence. But always
remain open to the ideas of others, too, and support the best ideas whatever their source. It
doesnt really matter who has the best ideas. To achieve success, what matters most is
incorporating all of the best ideas into the design and, ultimately, the product.
Theres really only one way to get people to do what you want them to do, and thats to
persuade them that its what they want to do it. Its a lot easier to do this when your design
direction has grown out of others ideas, as well as your own; everyone on the team was part of
the creative process; and the entire team has a sense of ownership of what youve created
together.

If you wish to win a man over to your ideas, first make him your friend.Abraham
Lincoln
If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.Benjamin
Franklin
To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be
credible, we must be truthful.Edward R. Morrow

Questions are often more effective than statements in moving others. Since the
research shows that, when the facts are on your side, questions are more effective than
statements, dont you think you should be pitching more with questions?Daniel H. Pink

8. Be Responsible and Kind


responsibleCapable of being trusted.Oxford Dictionaries

kindnessThe quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.Oxford


Dictionaries

Its essential that you do your best to meet your obligations to your
colleagues. If you promise to do something, you should try very hard to
fulfill that promise.
Its essential that you do your best to meet your obligations to your colleagues. If you promise to
do something, you should try very hard to fulfill that promise. Yes, sometimes things changeso
its no longer desirable to move forward with somethingor circumstances may prevent your
doing something exactly when you said youd do it. But in either of these cases, its your
responsibility to discuss the problem with your colleagues and, together, determine the best way
forward. Theres nothing quite as disappointing as relying on someone to do something and
having them go incommunicado or disappear on you.
Dont overcommit yourself. If you have a hard time saying no to people, youre likely to set
yourself up for failure. To prevent your disappointing people, avoid over-promising and underdelivering. If anything, you should do the oppositethat is, under-promise and overdeliverbut
never deliberately under-promise in an attempt to make yourself look like a hero. That would
just be dishonest. Nor should you make yourself look like a slacker by committing to doing too
little work.
Its important to be respectful of the people with whom you work. Treat your colleagues as
you would like them to treat you. Being kind to one another makes the workplace a happy place
to be, smooths the teams interactions, and helps everyone to be highly productive. When your
teammates are struggling, show them compassion and help them to get through tough times.
Demonstrating generosity toward the people with whom you work will set you apart from
peers who are overly competitive or focused on self-advantage. Always share ideas and
information freely with your teammates to enable them to do the best job they can do.

Acting responsibly is not a matter of strengthening our reason, but of deepening our
feelings for the welfare of others.Jostein Gaarder

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the
labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the
same measure as I have received and am still receiving.Albert Einstein

9. Be a Leader

leadershipThe action of leading a group of people or an organization.


Oxford Dictionaries

If you have leadership qualities, you can function as a leader


whenever a situation requires that you take the lead, set the teams
direction, or make decisions.
You dont have to have any particular title to be a leader. Teammates typically share the
responsibility for leading a team, and whoever has the necessary information and know-how to
handle a particular situation takes the lead in handling it. If you have leadership qualities, you
can function as a leader whenever a situation arises that requires that you take the lead, set the
teams direction, or make decisions. Those who are actually working in leadership roles must
always take responsibility for leadership in their area of purview.
Great leaders set forth a vision and live up to it. They communicate their vision and goals
with clarity and inspire their teams to meet them. There is always alignment between what they
say and what they do. The best leaders are forward-looking, competent, intelligent, and broadminded. Effective leaders model good human qualities for the people who work for them,
including honesty, fairness, straightforwardness, dependability, cooperativeness, determination,
imagination, ambition, courage, caring, maturity, loyalty, self-control, and independence. They
care for the people who work for them, delegate responsibility to them, and support them in
what they do. They praise publicly and, when necessary, criticize or reprimand in private.

Its not the absence of leadership potential that inhibits the development of more
leaders; its the persistence of the myth that leadership cant be learned. This haunting
myth is a far more powerful deterrent to leadership development than is the nature of
the person or the basics of the leadership process.James Kouzes and Barry Posner
"Good leaders make people feel that theyre at the very heart of things, not at the
periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the
organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work
meaning.Warren G. Bennis
Leadership is lifting a persons vision to high sights, the raising of a persons
performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal
limitations.Peter F. Drucker

The leaders who work most effectively understand their job to be to make the team
function. They accept responsibility and dont sidestep it, but we gets the credit. This
is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.Peter F. Drucker
Leadership comes from integritythat you do whatever you ask others to do.Scott
Berkun
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
Peter F. Drucker

Foundational Human Qualities


Qualities that form the foundation of all other human qualities include honesty, integrity,
courage, self-awareness, and wholeheartedness. These qualities define who we are as human
beings.

10. Be Honest and Have Integrity


honestyThe quality of being honest, or free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.
Oxford Dictionaries
integrityThe quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral
uprightness.Oxford Dictionaries

People with personal integrity always try to do the right thing. It


takes courage to do the right thing whatever the consequences.
Being honest means telling the truth and being straightforward and open with people. A very
wise man once said, Tell the truth, but never a harsh truth. People with personal integrity
always try to do the right thing, regardless of whether anyone would ever know what theyve
done. They have a strong moral compass. It takes courage to do the right thing whatever the
consequences. Integrity is a valuable quality in everyone, but its vital in leaders. Your honesty
and integrity will engender trust in others.

In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and
energy. And if they dont have the first, the other two will kill you.Warren Buffet

11. Be Courageous

courageousNot deterred by danger or pain; brave.Oxford Dictionaries

You must have the courage of your convictions.


Having courage gives you the tenacity to work through issues and disagreements without
compromising your principles. Dont be afraid to speak out and make your opinions known
particularly if youre the lone voice representing user experience. Master your fears and
insecurities and take a stand. Live up to your values. Do the right thing. Often, youll derive
courage from the need to stand up for otherswhether users, colleagues, or the people who
work for you.
You must have the courage of your convictions. For example, if you truly believe that youve
made the right decision, dont be dissuaded from following through on itunless someone makes
salient arguments against that course of action that truly persuade you that you should change
your decision.
In their Sleepwalking presentation, Dan Szuc and Jo Wong included this wonderful
quotation on courage from Maya Angelou:

Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.


The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to
conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and
honestly.Albert Einstein

Dont let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most
important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.Steve Jobs

12. Be Self-Aware
self-aware[Having] conscious knowledge of ones own character, feelings, motives, and
desires.Oxford Dictionaries

Self-awareness requires mindfulness and deep reflection on your


thoughts, your emotions, your motives in your interactions with others,
and what is happening in your life.
Self-awarenessknowing what your strengths and weaknesses are and acknowledging what you
have yet to learnrequires mindfulness and deep reflection on your thoughts, your emotions,

your motives in your interactions with others, and what is happening in your life. It is a valuable
quality that everyone should cultivate, but its an especially valuable quality in leaders.
When you dont know the answer to a question or the right solution for a problem, or youve
made a mistake, dont be afraid to admit it. Other people are usually aware of your ignorance,
weakness, or mistake anyway, so trying to hide your deficiencies just shows a lack of integrity
and inevitably results in the loss of their trust and respect. In contrast, admitting your
weaknesses increases your credibility and engenders trust. Plus, by acknowledging that you need
help, youll receive the help that you need and achieve a successful outcome.
As Chris Musselwhite, CEO and Head Product Designer of Discovery Learning Inc. wrote in his
article Self-Awareness and the Effective Leader, for Inc.com:

When you acknowledge what you have yet to learn, youre modeling that, in your
organization, its okay to admit you dont have all the answers, to make mistakes, and
most importantly, to ask for help. These are all characteristics of an organization that is
constantly learning and springboards to innovation and agilitytwo hallmarks of highperforming organizations.

13. Be Wholehearted
wholeheartedShowing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment.
Oxford Dictionaries

Being wholehearted is the quality that allows you to embrace all of the
other virtuous human qualities.
Being wholehearted is the quality that allows you to embrace all of the other virtuous human
qualities that Ive described in this article.
In her book Daring Greatly, Bren Brown writes about having the courage to form deep
connections with other people and live a more wholehearted life. She says:

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. The
main concern of Wholehearted men and women is living a life defined by courage,
compassion, and connection. The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for
courage, compassion, and connection. Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center,
of meaningful human experiences.

Bren Brown has defined ten guideposts for Wholehearted living:


1.

Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

2.

Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

3.

Cultivating Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

4.

Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

5.

Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

6.

Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

7.

Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity
as Self-Worth

8.

Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

9.

Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and Supposed To

10.

Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and Always in Control
If youve never watched any of Bren Browns TED talks, check out The Power of
Vulnerability

on YouTube. Its truly inspiring stuff!

In Conclusion
In this article, Ive described some human qualities that all UX professionals should embrace if
they want to be effective in their jobs. By manifesting these qualities in your work, youll ensure
your success. Jo Wong is very right in saying that much of this foundation comes from our
parents, but we also learn these qualities from our mentors, spiritual teachers, and, ideally, from
the leaders for whom we work. Thats one reason why being a leader is such a huge
responsibility.

Topic: Professional Development | Teamwork | UX Strategy