9 Ways to Lead as a QA Manager

But what about soft skills? How can you, as a QA manager, empower your test team with the tools they need to deliver quality?

Here’s how QA managers can uplevel those critical leadership skills.

Don’t require testers to wait for permission

What a QA engineer wishes he could change might be procedural, or something to do with how collaboration occurs with development. Within reason, he or she should feel able to simply make the change. It’s better to encourage testers to try new things and risk that they fail, rather than require that they come to you with every single new suggestion.

Understand the value of your role

Just because managers aren’t in charge of overseeing minute details, doesn’t mean they don’t have a valuable role. On the contrary, when you remove roadblocks and involve your team early in all relevant processes, work gets done faster and with higher quality. Thus in an agile environment, managers are less like directors and more like mentors in charge of nurturing, motivating, and guiding team members.

If you want traditional teams who follow your lead, then don’t change. You’ll get the same results you always have.

Bob Galen

Recognize that in agile, everyone is a leader

Unlike traditional waterfall approaches, in agile teams, roles and responsibilities are equally distributed.

This can and should occur outside of standups too. Testers should feel comfortable with reaching out to anyone else on the team for help. Similarly, they should also be able to provide clarity and assistance to anyone on the team.

When every stakeholder knows what is happening and is involved in removing obstacles, then everyone is a leader. Every day, anyone on the team has the opportunity to lead the way forward, so long as trust and collaboration are already in place.

Balance technical skill development with soft skill development

We’re not saying to give up on acquiring new technical skills for yourself or your team. Just don’t expect those skills to get anyone ahead without a deeper purpose in place.

I went to school for computer programming and mathematics. I did the certification training early on and I gained more technical skills. I took more classes to learn more things but it wasn’t helping me get a whole lot further ahead. I made smaller strides but in terms of my impact in the organization, it wasn’t as impactful as I wanted it to be.

I realized that I had to really work on the soft skills, the personal skills sides and also fostering within myself, my own ability to recognize my own value, my own worth to gain more confidence, clarity, and how to communicate that message, how to connect with people. That’s really led to a larger shift in my ability to influence and impact in any place.

Selena Delesie

Bring this mentality to your testing team by suggesting the hard skills and the soft skills they can work on during reviews, in informal office chats, or when they come to you for help.

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Free yourself up to tackle bigger problems

The best thing about not micromanaging testers (and instead, trusting their ability to make decisions) is that you free yourself to focus on the bigger picture and provide even more value to your organization.

Now you get to show up to tackle even bigger problems, all the organizational stuff that maybe you thought was always getting in the way.

Selena Delesie

Tackle any “us versus them” beliefs

An awesome company culture is invaluable. You can choose to contribute to an environment that’s igniting and inspiring or foster one that’s stale and pessimistic.

Take a situational approach to “stepping in”

High-performing teams don’t have anything blocking their way. Not people, not processes, not tools. These teams are self-directed and take initiative – and that means that managers have to step out of the way.

Stepping aside does not mean that you’re not leading. To the contrary, I’ve always felt that this style of leadership requires more of you. It’s situational and subtle.

Bob Galen

If you step in too much, you’ll send the message to testers that they need to come to you and ask permission more often. But if you don’t step in where needed, product quality will obviously suffer. Taking a situational approach requires that you use your intuition and judgment in the moment, rather than relying on existing rules and procedures.

Choose passion and purpose

It’s okay to get geeky. To get excited. To be visibly passionate.

Put simply: #lovetesting. For you and your team, this should come naturally. If not, figure out why.

Measure your success 

Ultimately, how do you know if your management style as a QAM or test lead is working?

Ask yourself if you are contributing to greater cross-departmental collaboration, helping testers to increase their hard and soft skills, removing barriers to development and deployment, innovating QA processes…? And most importantly, is your team improving and delivering quality app experiences? If yes, then you are successfully managing your test team.

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