With all the talk about digital disruption and changing customer expectations, it’s easy to forget about some of the most fundamental building blocks of effective testing, most notably, good leadership. But as Adam Satterfield, Tech Program Director at Anthem, reminded us at Quality Jam 2018, leadership is absolutely critical to success.
Why Do We Need Effective Leadership?
According to a recent Herman Group Study, 75 percent of employees who voluntarily leave their jobs do so to escape bad managers and poor leadership. If that’s not a wake-up call about the need for effective leadership, then nothing is.
Leadership can make or break an employee’s experience and, by extension, a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent, because poor leadership can cause frustration and extra work. On the other hand, effective leadership can create a stellar experience that builds employee morale and makes testers feel like they have an impact.
A Five-Step Guide to Leading Testers Effectively
Given the importance of effective quality leadership, what does it take to succeed as a leader? Here are the highlights from Adam’s five-step, no-fail guide:
1) Get Rid of the Word Manager
The dictionary definition of “manager” includes the words “controlling” and “administering.” No one wants to work for someone like that.
Instead, try using the word “leader,” which alludes to someone who empowers and cares about their team, is part of the team rather than sitting outside of it and has earned credibility and respect.
2) Empower Your Team
Effective leaders empower their teams to think and act on their own. But it’s important to note that you cannot tell your team they’re empowered, you have to show them. And you show them by:
Setting boundariesso that individuals know what decisions and actions they can take without having to ask permission for everything
Actively listening by giving individuals the opportunity to share their ideas
Creating a feedback loop to avoid the blame game and help testers see themselves as part of the solution, not just as order-takers
3) Build Leadership Among Your Team
Always have a plan to replace yourself. It might sound scary, but one of the hallmarks of an effective leader is the ability to cultivate leadership from within.
As a leader, this cultivation will help you do your job better, as having a team of leaders will put you in a strong position for success. Creating a team of leaders requires setting boundaries and empowering your team to act on their own.
As a tester, if you want to become a leader, don’t wait for someone to tell you to take the next step. Rather, take the opportunity upon yourself to act and learn new skills.
4) Avoid the Leader as Best Friend Role
The “leader as best friend” never ends well. The best approach is to cultivate respect and credibility with your team.
Respect can be difficult to earn, but it typically comes from consistent application of leadership skills, including active listening, empowerment, setting boundaries and being compassionate.
Even with respect, if you don’t have credibility, you’ll fail. To establish credibility, you need to be part of the team (not on top of it) and take time to dig into the systems your team uses to understand what they do and how they do it.
5) Understand Your People, Not Just Your Employees
Finally, take the time to understand what makes your team tick both personally and professionally. That includes getting to know their motivations, beliefs and interests and then responding accordingly.
For instance, if you can tap into what makes people tick and use that knowledge to put them on projects that best suit their likes and strengths or reward them with gifts that match their interests, you can boost employee output and morale.
Do You Have What it Takes to be an Effective Quality Leader?
When you approach leadership by building credibility, striving to earn respect, understanding your team members and actively listening to and empowering your team, you’ll end up with a team that works more effectively and harmoniously.