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A Guide to Being a Successful QA Leader

A Guide to Being a Successful QA Leader

Organizations today are increasingly recognizing the significance of leadership. Leadership can make or break an organization. If leaders lack the necessary skills, training, and guidance it can lead to their downfall. At some point in our progressive careers, we will have to take up more responsibilities, we will eventually take up the roles of leads and managers 💼

Employees who excel as individual contributors are often promoted to leadership roles. In most cases, technical skills become the basis of promotion but not leadership skills. The majority of the new leaders do not receive any formal training or guidance on how to lead a team. Whether you are a new QA leader or an experienced one, you and your team will fail to deliver results without the necessary training and guidance.

  • Are you an experienced QA leader and were not trained on leading a team?
  • Have you been just promoted as QA Lead or a Manager? And want to know how to succeed in your new role? 
  • Are you a Sr. QA engineer aspiring to be a QA leader?
  • Are you the informal lead of your team?

If yes, you have come to the right place. This article will deep dive into what leadership truly means and how QA leaders can be successful in their roles while creating a deep impact in their workspace.

WHAT IS LEADERSHIP?

QA leader's guide_TestProject

Everyone knows what leadership is to some extent, but very few of us can put it into words. There is no universal definition for leadership. Leadership means different things to different people.  My favorite definition is – 

LEADERSHIP IS A POWERFUL FORM OF INFLUENCE.

Leaders influence or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations to succeed 🏆 Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. Leadership is the ability to inspire a team, guide and direct them to achieve a common goal. Leadership is not about you, It’s about your team!

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP IS A SKILL AND NOT A TALENT.

Many people use the terms talent and skill interchangeably. Talent is inborn or inherited. Talent cannot be taught or learned. A skill can be taught or acquired. Leadership is a powerful skill that can be mastered by studying about it or with experience over time. Nobody is born a leader, but everyone can learn to be an effective leader.

LEADERSHIP DOES NOT COME BY DESIGNATION, BUT BY VISION.

Someone becomes a leader or is chosen as a leader when he/she can see something or do something that others are not able to. It may be because of their experience, knowledge, or skills. The ability to picture an organization’s/team future is what separates a leader from the rest. Vision is the core of leadership. A leader without a vision is like a bird without wings. Leadership is not about being at the top of the hierarchy or claiming a designation of respect 🚩 A designation does not make you a leader but rather a vision does. Good leaders clearly communicate their vision and use it as a tool to inspire and motivate their team,

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Warren Bennis

WHAT ARE THE TRAITS OF A GOOD QA LEADER?

The question of what makes a good leader is highly debated. Below is a word cloud that depicts the traits of a good leader. This is not complete in any way but captures the main themes of leadership.

Traits of a good leaderEmpathy is one of the most important leadership competencies that can make a big difference 😃

1. DEMONSTRATE EMPATHY

Empathy_TestProject_Blog

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings, thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others. It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of another person. People tend to stay in your team/organization when they feel heard and genuinely cared about. Empathy creates bonds, builds trust, and leads to a deeper understanding between you and your team 🤗

Empathy can be learned by truly listening to your team and their concerns. Here is a good way to start – 

  • 📅 Schedule 1-o-1 meetings with all your team members 
    • As a QA leader, provide honest and valuable feedback. Let your testers know how they are performing and what is expected from them.
    • Empathetic leaders adopt a coaching approach.  Instead of an authoritative approach of managing/directing, they facilitate and work on the long-term improvement of their team members. Unlike the traditional authoritative style of leadership, coach your team to get the job done 🎯 Enable your team to identify solutions, rather than following orders, and trust them to act independently.
    • Talk less and spend more time listening to your team. Listening attentively gives you insights into what your team needs to succeed.
    • Being a leader is not about having all the answers.  Avoid the urge to provide advice or solutions for the problem instantly. Ask good questions that will help your team to identify root causes of issues and identify solutions themselves or even consider new possibilities that they never thought of.
    • Empathic leaders bring better productivity and motivation. To succeed as a leader know your team well and genuinely care about them and their success. Go one level deep and be compassionate and take a step to help your team members to relieve them from their problems or sufferings. 

2. BUILD A QUALITY CULTURE

 

team-success_TestProject_Blog

The majority of leaders spend a lot of time implementing processes, practices, and tools when it’s the culture that matters the most. Processes and practices are easier to implement, but culture is hard to build. 

  • Cultivate a blameless culture – Tester’s are an easy scapegoat if something goes wrong in production. As a leader, adopt a solution-based mindset to solving problems. Stop blaming a person for a failure, dig deeper into what caused the problem. Conduct a root cause analysis (RCA) to improve your process so that the issue does not occur again. Treat failures as learning experiences. Leaders should create a safe environment where team members are not scared of failures. Psychological safety is essential for teams to experiment, innovate, improve and succeed.
  • Promote Diversity in hiringOur biases make us want to surround ourselves with people we feel are similar to us. But you get better ideas and make better decisions when people with different backgrounds and perspectives work together. Appreciate and be open to hiring candidates who think differently from you and do not share similar interests 🤔
  • Encourage continuous learning – invest in the development of your team members. Encourage your testers to learn and upskill continuously by – 
  • Appreciation and Recognition is the biggest motivator for the team members. Testers are often unsung heroes and are not recognized for their work, making them feel they are not valued. Showing your team that you appreciate them can greatly improve engagement and productivity 🦸‍♂️
    • Don’t miss the chance to publicly praise your testers on their accomplishments (Eg -on a successful release or on implementing valuable test automation). 
    • Work on establishing an employee recognition program to formally recognize and reward your team members throughout the year (Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly). 
  • Be data-drivenmake critical decisions backed by data rather than on intuitions. Define KPIs and Metrics to reflect on how well our team is achieving its stated goals and objectives 📊

3. UNDERSTAND YOUR ROLE AS A QA LEADER AND ADD MORE VALUE TO THE ORGANIZATION

QA leader's role_TestProject_blog

  • Understand your new role and the expectations. If you do not know what you are supposed to do then you will never meet expectations 🤷‍♂️
  • Delegate tasks to free yourself to focus on the bigger picture. Identifying top time wasters for testers and focus on resolving them. Apply the 80/20 rule and spend time on things that give you greater rewards 🥇
  • Understand the needs of the business. Align your team’s goals to meet the organizational goals. Cultivate a customer-first approach to delight your users.
  • A leader’s behavior influences how his/her teams behave – be a role model and lead by example.
  • Work on building a quality mindset in the organization. Even today, in most organizations testers, are considered as sole owners of quality. Educate your stakeholders and developers that “Quality everyone’s responsibility” and testers are not “gate-keepers” of quality.

Common Pitfalls To Avoid

Avoid these pitfalls which will prevent you from being a good leader.

Leadership pifalls - TestProjectBlog

QA leadership plays a critical role in the success of any organization. Great leadership is crucial to build high-performing teams and drive change. Stepping into a role of a leader is challenging. It requires conscious effort to transition from individual contributor to effective manager.

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What do you think it takes to become a great QA leader? 💯

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About the author

Prashant Hegde

Prashant Hegde is a passionate Tester. He has ably led test teams to success in many organizations and helped them improve their application quality process. Prashant currently heads the QA Team at MoEngage. MoEngage is the leader in the mobile engagement market, with presence across Asia, Europe, and the US.

Prashant is an Agile enthusiast and enjoys sharing his experiences by blogging and participating in agile communities around the world. Prashant is a Certified Scrum Master and a frequent speaker at industry conferences. Prashant has helped thousands of ISTQB aspirants to clear their certifications with his free app ISTQB test mentor.

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/prazhegde/

Website – https://www.prashanthegde.biz

Blog – https://guide2mobiletesting.blogspot.com/

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