Motivating people is a tough task. Doing so in a discipline that can be difficult and thankless at times, it is even harder. How can you keep people’s spirits up when they could always be under pressure? As someone in management, it is also painful to keep me motivated at times.
That is not to say that QA is the only discipline that is hard to stay upbeat and ready to go. Look at any job, role or subject out there; this is a problem everyone will experience. 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. There will always be improvements; it is a matter of sticking with it.
I have seen a lot of new people come to the discipline to be a change agent. Wait six months, and that enthusiasm will start to disappear. Then there are the people that have been in a role for a long time. They become complacent about how things are and are happy to 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 that 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 undue 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 upfront on what they 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 an understanding of what I wanted to do, and I just wanted to do something. There was a time where I wanted to go to a new group 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 more in-depth 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 with “why”; why do you want to move? Why do you think you would be right there? The more he asked, the more he found out where I was going. 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 assigned to me. I felt that it lacked a challenge. I still wanted to be in the team, and I did want a leadership role down the road. I just thought 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 more than when they come in. It is a bit of a 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 always 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.