Today, more and more organizations rely on homegrown leaders to shape their future, and companies that effectively handle the transition can expect long-term success 📈 Becoming a testing leader is an exciting opportunity for every tester to make an impact. However, stepping into it brings challenges and can be daunting.
Many young leaders don’t know how to handle this change. This article will discuss the most common challenges they face and how to overcome them, to shape a successful career.
Self doubt – imposter syndrome
“Do I have what it takes to be a leader”?
“Am I good enough”?
Are these questions haunting you? Let’s be honest, most of us struggle with self doubt when transitioning to a leadership role. Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon where individuals doubt their own skills, abilities, and accomplishments. Below are some tips to combat it:
Awareness is the first step: Acknowledge your feelings of self-doubt and try to separate feelings from facts. Introspect and find out the root cause of your doubts- what is that specific thing that is causing this feeling? 🤔
As a leader, you don’t have to know everything or be an expert at everything: I have mentored several aspiring testing leaders, and heard from many of them that they haven’t worked in test automation before, and they feel like impostors.
It’s ok not to know everything. You don’t need to have answers to all the problems. Accept help from your team and look for an automation expertise. Good leaders are continuous learners, they focus on developing themselves and their teams.
Being a leader is all about getting out of your comfort zone and trying out new things that you have not done before. Today, codeless automation solutions like TestProject can enable you to get started with automation with a minimal learning curve.
Do not compare yourself with others: Stop seeking external validations for your accomplishments.
Don’t worry about what others think about you: In reality, no one is thinking about you beyond themselves.
Do not focus too much on your shortcomings: Think of your strengths and how you add value to your organization. Remember that you got promoted for a reason. Remind yourself of the past successes you enjoyed.
Being vulnerable can help you: Sharing your feelings with a trusted co-worker or a mentor can help you overcome self-doubt.
Knowing the difference between leading and micromanaging
While new leaders have the best intentions, their leadership style can become a cause of concern to their team members. Several new testing leaders misunderstand and think that their role is to control and monitor every detail of their team’s work. They unintentionally start micromanaging their team.
The difference between a micro-manager and a leader may seem subtle for many. Let’s first understand what the traits of a micromanager are:
- A micromanager does excessive supervision and tries to obtain immediate results through over-involvement.
- A micromanager watches his team member’s actions closely and scrutinizes every tiny detail of the delegated task.
- Micromanagers tend to control their reporters by finding flaws in their day-to-day work.
- Micromanagers do not trust their team and need to approve everything they do.
Micromanagement is toxic for your organizational culture. It limits your team’s creativity and freedom. Furthermore, it reduces your team’s morale and performance, eventually leading to higher attrition rates.
How to avoid being a micromanager?
Trust your team members – empower them by giving them more authority
- Get them involved in creating test strategies, sketch out the big picture and trust your team to fill in the details.
- Learn to delegate tasks and trust your team to complete them without supervision.
- Trust your team members to act independently and coach them to make their own decisions.
- Stop acting as a manager; start working as a mentor, a guide, or a consultant to your team.
Communicate your expectations upfront- set clear roles and responsibilities
- Set up a transparent and proactive reporting mechanism to get updates from your team members, rather than asking them for frequent updates.
- Micromanagement is a result of trust issues. Hire or assign the right person with the right skills to complete a task instead of assigning it to a team member who is not fit for the job.
- Define SMART goals to measure your team’s success.
Leadership is a form of influence, not authority- stay humble. Some new leaders forget it once they transition to a new role. Periodically perform a self-assessment, get feedback about your leadership style, and retrospect if you are transforming into a micromanager 🔎
Letting go of previous responsibilities and delegating
With the promotion, many new leaders are under pressure to succeed and demonstrate their worth immediately. Sometimes new leaders continue to do what they have always done, while trying to handle their new responsibilities, which creates overwhelming stress.
Usually, the high-performing individual get promoted. These new leaders hesitate to delegate as they feel they are passing on their work to their former peers.
To be a good leader, you need to learn how to delegate well
Delegation empowers your team members by giving them greater autonomy. Furthermore, it lets you focus on high-impact strategic activities. Delegation gives you the time you need to invest in your new role.
The new leaders need to look at the bigger picture and focus on strategic tasks of greater importance to the business. For instance, your organizational goal is to elevate customer satisfaction or improve the Net Promoter Score (NPS).
You need to align your team’s goals with your organization’s goals. You need to think of testing strategies to improve your software products’ reliability, security, and usability.
Furthermore, device strategies to reduce defect leakage. You may enjoy rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in automating tests. However, leadership requires you to let go of some things you did in the past.
I am not suggesting that we stop working on technical tasks. But instead, striking the right balance between technical and strategic tasks is the key to your success as a leader.
Most new testing leaders fail to understand the expectations from their new role, which sets them up to fail. Understand what is expected from you in your new role. Define what success looks like so that you can move in the right direction ✅
Some more helpful tips
✔ Build trust
Building trust is vital for new leaders to influence and motivate their teams 🙏 As a new leader, genuinely try to understand your team members, their goals, and interests. Be approachable, keep dedicated time in your busy schedule to listen to your people.
Good leaders listen. Listening is one of the most powerful yet overlooked traits of a successful leader. Empathetic listening is a powerful tool that helps you connect with your team members and build a bond. Building trust takes time and will grow as you sincerely support their needs.
✔ Be a Courageous leader
Good Leaders do not fear conflicts or having difficult conversations as they know they are doing what is best for their team. Stand behind them even when they missed a bug or an important deadline.
From being more vocal in daily standups to advocating for testability, from suggesting improvements in processes to communicating your testing blockers, be fearless in voicing your ideas and concerns 📢
✔ Managing former peers
Leading your former peers might feel awkward for everyone at the start. But with time, things will settle down.
Try to have one-on-ones with your peers. Understand what is going on in their minds by asking them how they feel about the change. Acknowledge that leadership is new to you, and you will need their support to transition smoothly.
In addition, find ways to establish your authority gradually – don’t make your team feel that the promotion has gone to your head. Be careful about your words and actions during this phase.
Do not mix professional and personal life. It’s alright to be friends outside of work with your former peers. However, it is essential to set well-defined boundaries to ensure it does not impact how you perform your work together. Ensure you don’t show special treatment to them at work and avoid sharing confidential information.
Leadership transitions are frequent and important, yet most new leaders get little support from their organizations.
Preparation is the key to success in your new role 🔑 Understand what leadership truly means and how to create a profound impact in your organization. If you’d like to read more on the subject, whether you are a new QA leader or an experienced one, check out my previous QA leader’s guide to success.
But you cannot learn to lead by reading alone. Practice is the best way to discover leadership. So go ahead and put your learnings to practice!