Effective IT leadership

The role of IT leaders has changed significantly due to rapid tech advancements and ever-changing users’ expectations. Despite any of this, they should still continuously facilitate business growth, drive digital transformation, and foster innovation.

As part of the a1qa tech voice series, today, we discuss true IT leadership with Alina Karachun, Account director at a1qa, possessing 10+ years in quality assurance and software testing. At a1qa, Alina is responsible for providing exceptional experiences for clients, increasing their satisfaction, as well as building and nurturing long-term relationships with customers from the Fortune 1000 list and Deloitte Fast 500 winners.

So, let’s jump in!

These days, creativity is essential for both executives and their teams. Alina, please share your effective way to maintain and nurture your team’s creativity.

I would say brainstorming sessions are one of my favorite ways to empower my team’s creativity. You bring together people with different backgrounds and expertise and receive fresh viewpoints.

The thing is that good preparations make these meetings effective. To avoid unbalanced conversations, make sure all members contribute to the talk and no one dominates the session, everyone has time to express their thoughts. To prevent awkward silence, announce brainstorming in advance so that employees can prepare for it.

Do you agree that ethical leadership can help executives thrive? How does it manifest?

Oh, definitely. When leaders are guided by ethical principles, demonstrate integrity, and make decisions considering the well-being of all stakeholders including teams, they reinforce their reputation among employees, customers, and investors. We all know that credibility is key for establishing long-term relationships.

I honestly believe when they create a positive environment where everyone feels valued and heard, it helps attract and retain talents.

I suppose for ethical leadership, developing your emotional intelligence is really important to treat each member fairly. Sometimes, it requires setting up new — more transparent — processes, allowing top managers to control the progress of tasks, praise those who deserve it, and ethically motivate people who didn’t show good results.

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According to the American Institute of Stress, 83% of US employees experience work-related stress. The same is true for IT teams dealing with tight deadlines, urgent tasks, and long to-do lists. What’s one way a technical leader can help them “ecologically” handle stress and pressure?

I’m a firm believer in the power of happiness so my advice is to look towards your team’s happiness. Happy, cohesive IT teams are better than anything for a project’s success. When the project is finished, put the stress behind you, meet each other, support each other, go hiking together, for example.

And work-life balance of course is critical. Your team will become more productive and better engaged in the workflows if they feel they have a good equilibrium.

This also helps the company reduce turnover and gain a competitive differentiator in attracting better people and retaining the best talents.

But make sure you set realistic daily goals and the workloads are feasible.

Fair and just-in-time feedback may help a lot in such situations. How to make it a team habit?

I believe that clear and constructive feedback can move mountains even in super critical and hopeless, as they may seem, situations. Many times, it helped me improve team performance, enhance collaboration between all members, and reduce stress levels. And the result? It impacted positively the business outcomes.

To encourage your employees to share feedback regularly, I think it’s necessary to explain and show its value for personal and professional growth, for a particular project, and for the entire organization in the long run.

People will be open to expressing their thoughts on processes, tasks, and challenges. However, this requires really well-established communication channels, such as one-on-one sessions, team syncs, or anonymous feedback surveys.

Critically, make sure all team members feel psychologically safe and comfortable when exchanging their feedback without worrying about negative consequences and judgment.

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Alina, the last quick question — what one soft skill is essential for IT executives?

Hmm, great question. Oprah Winfrey once said, “Leadership is about empathy,” and I couldn’t agree more.

First, it helps me better understand end-user needs and ensure positive experiences. If we put ourselves in their shoes, we better recognize their needs, figure out the defects they face and their root causes.

Secondly, it allows effectively managing your technical team, foster an inclusive work environment, boost productivity and job satisfaction.

And of course, since IT leaders interact with customers, product owners, stakeholders, etc., empathy facilitates prioritizing their pain points.

So essentially, empathy allows you to make more informed and effective decisions, build a more cohesive team, and establish strong, trust-based relationships.

Alina, thank you so much for providing actionable insights into IT leadership! We are looking forward to more interviews with you!

Stay tuned for the next a1qa tech voice installment with a1qa’s top executives.

To optimize your QA costs, accelerate software releases, and increase ROI with QA, reach out to a1qa’s team.

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