July 1, 2014

6 traits that WON’T make you a good test leader

Working as a test leader isn’t an idyllic job. There’s plenty of responsibility to shoulder and the team depends upon your guidance, especially in difficult times.

You may know leaders who manage their role with an effortless grace that makes you wonder whether they have an innate talent to lead people. I tend to think that most people can learn to become good leaders if they develop the necessary skills.

However, there are certain personal traits that don’t go well with the role of leader. In this article I take a look at six characteristics that can seriously interfere with one’s ability to be an effective leader in an testing team.

1 – You’re easily stressed out

Test cases don’t simply sort themselves out the first time your team runs them. If something goes wrong in the process — and it will — you are the team’s point of reference. In those situations, a cool and level-headed approach will take you further than losing it.

People with type A personalities should better start working on those breathing exercises. A test leader who’s easily stressed out under an expanding workload will pass on any feeling of anxiety to his or her team members: bringing down productivity even further.

As any good leader knows, their role is to help team members carry out their tasks effectively; making themselves nearly invisible in the process. If you involve yourself too much in the nitty-gritty of your team members’ work, you’re making yourself vulnerable to more stress. Cut the cord and focus more on what’s on your plate instead.

2 – You find it hard to make a decision

As a leader, you’ll be called upon to make various decisions that will impact the output of your team members. It can get pretty uncomfortable when deadlines are tight and you’re the one calling the shots.

But pussy-footing isn’t a option for good team leaders. Someone who finds it hard to take a decision will inevitably slow down the entire team.

Difficulty in decision-making can be due to a lot of factors. Often it’s because of rigidity in perspectives, so feel free to ask for feedback from your team.

A leader also knows when to apply his testing skills to real-life. If you’re stuck, commit to try out any one of the options available simply for the sake of gaining new insight into the situation. If it works out that’s fine and if not, have the courage to pivot and explore a new option using your latest feedback.

3 – You’re vague when communicating tasks and ideas

A team leader knows that the buck stops with him or her. A leader who is vague when communicating to team members their objectives, risks creating an atmosphere of confusion in the workplace and significantly detract from the team’s productivity.

A person who isn’t a clear thinker, who finds it difficult to conceptualise a process in logical steps will be unable to motivate his or her team to pursue a set of objectives. Whilst taking care not to take on the responsibilities of individual team members, a leader has to provide directiveness so that a team’s efforts will be focussed on a common goal.

Every leader needs to be able to break down a bigger project into smaller tasks with concretely defined objectives. A test leader who assigns vague, poorly-defined tasks will find it hard to assess the quality of the work produced by the team and determine how effective the members truly are in their roles.

4 – You don’t listen very well to what your team has to say

Who’s ever had an idea that they knew could revolutionise the entire workplace? A brainwave that would cut costs, increase productivity and boost morale. If only the boss would listen!

Any good leader believes in involving team members in key decisions and listening carefully to their suggestions. Whilst a leader is often the most experienced person in a team, he or she needn’t assume that other members don’t have anything of value to contribute.

The leader who doesn’t pay attention to the team risks losing their respect and hence finding it more challenging to motivate members when facing a particularly big project.

5 – You find it difficult to get your ideas across to your team

A leader holds the team together not simply by his sheer presence or authority, but by the ability to focus everyone’s attention on a particular challenge to be met.

This ability requires a set of skills that include: being able to express one’s ideas clearly and concisely; the ability to link objectives to the common good of the team and also being able to make use of visuals and other media to complete one’s message.

The best leaders spend a great deal listening and getting an idea who their team members are, before formulating a message that communicates to them on an intellectual and emotional level.

6 – You find it hard to be around people all the time

Talking about emotions, the team’s morale is an important factor in its success at the work.

Although there may be moments when a leader has to be tough in order to move the team forwards, you can achieve much more in everyday situation by fostering a positive work environment.

A good leader uses boundaries to interact more effectively with members. By focussing on your member’s strengths you can help them to help you better. Getting along with team and maybe sharing some downtime together away from work is a great way to build a closer team.

In conclusion

It’s not easy to change a person’s character. When you’re thrust into a leadership role however, you want to be able to make your team function at its best. One quality that defines leaders is the determination to constantly improve themselves.

Did any of the ‘bad’ traits listed in this article resonate with your own experience of being a leader, or working with leaders? Reflecting about any trait you would like to work upon is the first step to improve your effectiveness as a test leader.

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