Motivating people is a tough task. Doing so in an discipline that can be difficult and thankless at times it is even harder. How can you keep people’s spirits up when they could be constantly under pressure? As someone in management it is even difficult to keep myself motivated at times.
That is not to say that QA is the only discipline that is hard to stay up beat and ready to go. Look at any job, role or discipline out there, this is a problem everyone has to deal with. There are books, seminars, websites, audio and videos all over the place on this and I will not get into all that. Here I will focus on what I have done to keep my team members motivated for QA.
I have said it before that QA is a little bit of odd duck compared to the other disciplines within SDLC. Last to get the changes , timelines don’t change and tend to give bad news. So part of the time QA is not seen in a good light. Being the messenger is not a good position to be in in this scenario. From a career perspective why would anyone want to stay and move on? I have had this question brought to me numerous times and here is my response: We have the opportunity to make things better.
Corny, I know. In the end that is the truth. Staying within the discipline, improve communication channels and it will get better. The biggest thing that needs to happen is that the support network needs to be there, first and foremost I am there for everyone under me and I have their best interests at heart. Everything can be improved it is a matter of sticking with it.
I have seen a lot of new people come to the discipline with the intentions of being a change agent. Wait 6 months and that enthusiasm will start to disappear. Then there are the people that have been in the role for a long time and are complacent to how things are and are happy to just go with the flow or looking for a way out.
Keeping that enthusiasm or even re-igniting it is a big task. The main reason is not everyone is the same and it is up to the leader to find the right triggers to get the juices flowing. The other part is there are people just happy doing what they are doing, how do you motivate them?
For the latter, for me, that is easy. “Keep’em happy”. As long as they are in good spirits and are not experiencing undo stress that is the perfect thing to do. Just remove any roadblocks and look for ways to make their lives easier. You can still have the odd career discussion on what could be available or different paths. Something may peak interests there is just no need to push hard in getting this individual to act on anything.
Now the career minded people there are plenty of motivational factors and it is up to a lead to understand where they stand. The tricky part is getting what the real motivation. Not everyone will be up front on what they really want, part of the reason could be they may not know what it is. I fell into that boat a long time ago. I didn’t have understanding of what I wanted to do, i just wanted to do something. There was a time where I wanted to go to a new group just to move thinking everything will work out. It didn’t, I was miserable and asked to go back to my original group.
The good thing is my manager at that time dug deeper on what I wanted and started to point me in the right direction. How did he get there? He asked a lot of questions where most of them started off with “why”,; why do you want to move? Why do you think you wold be good there? The more he asked the more he found out where I was coming from. It was also opening my eyes to what I wanted. In the end it was a casual conversation that started to drop my anxiety and get comfortable with the discussion. What happened? It was I was not happy with the work that I was given. I felt that I was not challenged. I still wanted to be in the team and I did want a leadership role down the road. I just felt with the level of work I was doing was not going to get me there. We worked together and found a side project that was about to start that kept me in the group and was a stretch assignment. From there it all worked out and got me moving in my career.
In the end it is all about getting to know the employee a little more than when they come in, what they do and when they leave. It is a bit of balancing act because not everyone will open up. With all the literature out there it all comes down to experience and the manager’s attitude when helping motivate someone. With all that it still may not work. The individual may no longer want to work in QA, which is fine. It is still up to the manager to find out what and where they want to do. Do it with the full intent of helping them get to where they want to be. It will let the employee know that you are helping them get there and will boost spirits with the current role.