Listen to Lead

Kristin Turner is a design leader fascinated by the complexities of “how people make decisions”. She shares perspective on how leaders can influence and motivate their creative teams.

Kristin Turner’s professional background is rich and illustrious, with notable milestones marking her exceptional ability to listen and lead diverse teams effectively. Her insatiable curiosity and drive to design the best customer journey has endowed her with a wealth of wisdoms.

What makes someone a great leader? She reminds us, all exceptional leaders understand the importance of listening closely. Often an overlooked skill, the ability to listen well is the key to understanding the team and the organization. But it is no effortless task - it demands patience, empathy and generosity - a kindness.

Kristin leads Design for the Delivery Experience (DEX) team to elevate our customer’s journey from shopping to delivery. In this interview, she imparts her insights and common pitfalls we often find ourselves in when striving to become a leader.

The Art of Saying "No"

Saying yes to everything can signal a lack of prioritization. There’s notable movement among leaders today the importance of politely saying “no". Kristin said it best, when you say yes to everything “ you’re allowing other people to set priorities for you”. She adds, the role of the leader is to create an environment where people feel comfortable saying “no”. When leaders help people with prioritization, it enables others to lean into their excellence and deliver on what’s most important.

The Pitfall of Mirroring

We often mimic leadership styles of people we admire, but Kristin cautions that mirroring someone else’s approach could deprive the opportunity to understand and explore one’s unique self. Instead, she advises future leaders to seek “trusted people who can give you the confidence and candid feedback”. Leaders who understand their own unique strengths ultimately empower their teams to do this as well.

Seek Mentorship

In the same way that company executives push designers to uplift their product, they should intentionally uplift their employees as well. Kristin explains that it’s important to establish how teams will onboard new employees, support their growth, and find learning or mentorship opportunities for them. When leaders intentionally seek mentorship for themselves, their team will reflect those efforts.

When Kristin isn’t leading her team, she’s finding other ways to help others create their own paths to success. One way she does that is by contributing to the BEN Design community, which she helped establish in her early days at Amazon. BEN stands for Amazon’s Black Employee Network and the group helps with connecting members with mentors, provides career and personal development workshops and helps empower Black employees.

Create Life Outside of Work

Kristin knows that having a fulfilling life outside of work is important for leaders to not just develop personally, but also for building connections and relationships with your team. However, isolating time for personal growth can be challenging when work gets busy. To address this, Kristin deliberately chooses activities that require her to commit specific time and effort to a larger cause.

An example she gave was when she joined a rowing team. In joining, she became accountable for being punctual and bringing her best self. Otherwise, it impacted the performance of her entire team. At a minimum, this meant leaving the office on time in order to show up for her teammates.

The Litmus Test for Future Leaders

Kristin explains that if you have a “little green monster” that's pinging jealousy from within you when you see others doing great work, you may not be the best fit for a leadership position. In Kristin’s experience, when natural leaders see incredible design, they’re inclined to think, “wow, this is incredible, I have to tell everyone how great of a job this person did”.

Kristin found herself genuinely excited about amplifying other people’s work, so she gravitated toward managing others. However, leading others is only one growth path, and it is fine if that isn't the path you take in creating impact.