2013 is almost gone and it is a great time to think about your accomplishments and how you have grown in your career plus to start thinking about 2014. I believe that every tester can develop his/her leadership skills regardless of job title. Refer to my earlier postings on developing your leadership skills, click here, here, here, and here. As part of your 2014 development plan, consider how you can further your leadership skills. If you are not sure how to begin, I would recommend starting a journal club.
In Tea Time With Testers, February 2012 issue, I wrote an article on facilitating a journal club. Click here to read that article with tips on starting and managing a journal club.
To get started you need a few people who have an interest to read and discuss an article. As you progress you might select a book where each meeting you cover a chapter. But sometimes starting small with an article or video is a good way to begin.
At the basic level, you need to identify a location, time, and dates. The journal club might be held during a lunch break or after work. It might be a monthly or bi-weekly meeting. If possible, have a regular schedule to avoid confusion on when the group is meeting. I like to make the meetings casual and not business-like. If possible meet in a coffee shop or if you must meet at work find a location that is comfortable.
As the leader you will tap into a lot of different skills – for some of them you may need to prepare before the meeting. For example, knowing how you are going to open the meeting and encourage people to participate if the conversation stalls. For other areas you may need to improve your skills through reading books and blogs. For example, handling conflict within the group might not be an area you are comfortable. In that situation you will need to find a way to develop that skill. A book that might help you is Crucial Conversations. Read my review on this book by clicking here.
Below are just a few leadership areas of facilitating a journal club:
- Leading the meeting
- Open the meeting in a manner that others will participate in the discussion.
- Encourage the discussion to progress down different avenues or viewpoints.
- End the meeting by summarizing what was discussed and briefly discuss the next journal club.
- Encouraging quite people to participate
- Make sure everyone feels the journal club is a safe environment to express and discuss opinions.
- If necessary, ask people specific questions that might help them express their opinion and experiences.
- Manage those who tend to take over the meeting
- Monitor the meeting to ensure everyone has an opportunity to express opinions without allowing one person to dominate the meeting.
- Learn how to allow people with more dominant personalities to participate without it become his/her meeting.
- Balance conflicting opinions to allow for a meaningful conversation
- A difference of opinions is healthy and necessary – find a way to tap into the differences to further the discussion.
- Do not allow anyone’s opinion to be marginalized – people may not want to return if it is not a positive experience.
- Selecting articles that the group will find meaningful
- Keep the journal club fresh and interesting to encourage people to return.
- Encourage the journal club members to recommend articles and topics.
If you have any experiences with leading a journal club, please tell me you story. What worked? What did not work?
I will continue to share experiences and learning material to develop your leadership skills. Hopefully you will find a few of these articles helpful to your career. If there is any particular topic you would like covered, just let me know.