How to Energize Your Test Team

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Summary:

You're waist deep in your third month of late nights, weekends, and shipping stress; you can see and feel your team's energy waning. The goal is in sight but still far off, and you need the very best from everyone to reach the goal. How are you going to motivate and energize your team to reach the finish line? This article explores the major issues test team leaders face: keeping a team motivated and knowing when it needs to be energized.

You're waist deep in your third month of late nights, weekends, and shipping stress; you can see and feel your team's energy waning. The goal is in sight but still far off, and you need the very best from everyone to reach the goal. How are you going to motivate and energize your team to reach the finish line?

I'm sure that every testing team leader can relate to this situation and has struggled with this problem. There are many reasons teams demoralize, so how can you energize your team on tight schedules, even tighter budgets, and in uncertain economic climates? I'd like to share several methods I've used over the years to get the best from the testers I lead.

Motivation
Leaders are expected to motivate, energize, react, and refocus colleagues when it seems that all hope is lost. This is your time to shine! Be the leader you always envisioned, not in an Orwellian "Big Brother" role, but in an inspirational, Nute Rockne, "Win One for the Gipper!" role.

"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."– Theodore M. Hesburgh

One of your major functions as a test leader is to energize your team, and to accomplish this you must be a Morale Observer. This means to proactively monitor the pulse of your team members' feelings, not only toward their daily tasks, but also on the project and objectives as a whole. Then you must react to their morale with differing levels of action.

What is motivation? This is subjective for every individual, and you must tailor your efforts for each individual. This means each of my team members has distinctive qualities and methodologies. I need to energize and motivate each of them in different ways.

"I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?"– Benjamin Disraeli

Motivation also comes from within, and there are times when outside forces cannot counteract an unmotivated employee. It is your responsibility as a leader to not let de-motivation get to this point. Your attitude can be a key contributor to the demoralization of your team. Your actions and reactions to situations will flow through it. If you are incessantly complaining about the long workweek or insisting that meeting the schedule is impossible, your team will reflect your attitude outward. Even if I believe the schedule is unreasonable, I assure team members I believe in their abilities, while behind the scenes I am fighting the schedule battle as well.

"A leader is a dealer in hope." – Napoleon

Lastly, monetary reinforcement, while effective at times, has its place. Rarely do I use money as an incentive to boost performance or to energize my team; instead, I use it to reward the actual results of the effort. I think we all agree that more money is great, but you can bet that no amount of money given will motivate you if you are not having fun and you're not in a challenging environment. None of my tactics are revolutionary or innovative, but they just might help you energize your team when it needs it the most.

In motivating the team, I target three strategic areas: teamwork, recognition, and randomizing responsibilities.

Teamwork
One of the most important morale issues begins with your team meetings. Set the tone of your meetings to be positive and informative as well as fun. Bring donuts, discuss items other than testing, develop your relationship with your team, and help team members bond with one another.

One of the first events I undertake to improve teamwork is what I

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