Get ahead by learning to communicate

Whether you are a sole tester on a software project, part of a larger team. Or even a test manager or lead. We all have the ability to influence and connect with others, not only with through our voice or traditional written methods like emails. But also through listening to the thoughts of others and digesting their messages as well.

Testers normally gather a lot of information during the course of our day. Information and detail that, of course, is relevant to us and those that we are directly involved with. But a more senior person who only needs information to enable them to make a decision to fill their own objective. Probably doesn’t need to know about all the tiny details that we have collected.

For example, a senior manager likely doesn’t need to know about the status of your automation suite, the documentation you are writing. Or even the new awesome tool you are introducing when they ask about the testing of a particular project. The information that they receive should instead be targeted to help them fill their knowledge gap.

This is why it is critical to listen to others before speaking. Especially if you are in a leadership position. Or being sought out for advice.

Filter the noise

This sort of information overload can lead to communication issues between teams. Leaving people confused, unsure and be a contributing factor to wrong interpretations, mistakes being made. And leave overall software quality in jeopardy.

Senior managers are instead interested in your contributions to the betterment of the business. How you are making things easier, faster, reducing waste and improving things for the customer. Not only because their perspectives on the project are slightly different from yours. But they also have their own objectives and people to answer to.

Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.

Les Brown

Communication also has the power to get others to like us, and we can be judged on it. If we communicate information to others that helps them achieve their goals and objectives for instance. We are much more likely to get their cooperation when we need it in the future. As opposed to providing information that confuses, annoys and makes people less likely to be reactive to our future requests for collaboration.

How to structure effective communication

When we think of communication through speech as a whole and what goes into it. I generally think of two separate elements that contribute towards effective results.

If we take a look back at some of the greatest speakers in history. Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Will Smith and John F. Kennedy to name a few. The content of their communication could be broken down into these two distinct elements.

Content

Essentially, this is what you are saying. But you should also relate it to the context of the situation as well.

For example. In 2005, Steve Jobs gave (in my opinion) one of the best speeches he has ever given. In an address to thousands of graduate students at Stanford University. He spoke about his life, the lessons he had learnt along the way. And imparted some of the most moving life advice that those students may ever hear in their lifetime.

If you haven’t heard the address in full. Or just want to listen to it again, the link is here.

If he came out and gave a speech that was solely targetted on his business success. Was focussed on the details of his companies and industry. I would argue to say the speech wouldn’t have had almost 34-million views at the time of writing this blog post.

Instead, because the speech was welcomely received by so many people. Had valuable life advice and delivered so effectively. It has been remembered as one of the best examples of speech giving in modern history.

Style

This refers to how you communicate your message. Whether it is giving a speech, writing an email, speaking up in a meeting. Or even giving a presentation to others. The style that you use to communicate your message not only has a large impact on how people perceive the message you are sending out. But also reflects on you and whether you have the confidence and knowledge to even be talking about the subject you are communicating on.

Don’t be afraid to speak out

One of the biggest threats that I have seen as a barrier to effective communication is people being afraid to speak out. Whether it’s the fear of expressing your thoughts in a meeting. Giving a presentation in front of your peers, or just asking a question. It can be terrifying to some to be the person who stands out from the rest.

Speaking my own point of view. I used to (and still am to some degree) terrified of speaking up. Voicing my opinions over everyone else in the room can sometimes seem like the hardest thing to do. After all, it’ll be easier to keep quiet and leave it to someone else.

What I have learnt over time and come to terms with, however. Is that while it certainly doesn’t get easier the more times you give a speech, present in front of others or stand out from the crowd. It does give you the confidence to do it more and not be afraid the next time.

People will also respect you more because they will see that you are engaging with others to seek out information or share your perspectives. Not just taking a back seat and waiting for the information to come to you.

Effective communication not only benefits others in the sense that they will know they will be able to get the information that they need. It will also have a positive impact on workplace relationships. And it’ll also help you too.

You’ll be able to connect with others on a deeper level. Inspire them, teach them. And open up new opportunities that you never thought was possible before.

Posted by Kevin Tuck

Kevin Tuck is an ISTQB qualified software tester with nearly a decade of professional experience. Well versed in creating versatile and effective testing strategies. He offers a variety of collaborative software testing services. From managing your testing strategy, creating valuable automation assets, or serving as an additional resource.

Leave a Reply