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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

In their model, the four

In their model, the four styles of situationalleadership are:n Directing. This style puts a high focus on gettingtasks done and a lower focus on relationship. Whenthe person you are supervising is not yet qualifiedor is not sufficiently motivated to carry out a taskindependently, then you need to tell him or herprecisely what to do at each step. For example,you may take this approach with a technician whohas just started working in your lab and needs tolearn an important technique that he or she will bedoing routinely.n Coaching. This style puts a high focus on bothtask and relationship. You would continue to directthe actions of the person you are supervising,but would also take the time to explain decisions,solicit suggestions, and support the individual’sprofessional development. This leadership style isthe most demanding. It requires a lot of time andemotional investment on the part of the leader.For example, soon after a graduate student joinsthe lab, you may have to show him or her differenttechniques and help the student decide whichexperiments to do, but you would explain why andhow they fit in with the lab’s mission, so that overtime the student will be able to work creatively,confidently, and independently.n Supporting. This style puts a low focus on taskand a higher one on relationship. In a lab, the supervisoris likely to adopt this leadership style withmost trained scientists and experienced graduatestudents. For example, you would give a trainedscientist working in your lab the responsibility tochoose what experiments to do, but continue todiscuss what they are. You would also facilitateprogress by, for example, helping this person findsomeone to collaborate with so that he or she canget the next step of a project accomplished.n Delegating. This style puts a low focus on bothtask and relationship. You would turn over responsibilityfor decision-making and problem-solvingto an individual who has become more independent.For example, you might allow a fully trainedscientist who is doing very well in your lab totake responsibility for the day-to-day progress ofone of the lab’s projects, and to function withinthe context of that project as a fully independentresearcher.Delegating Tasks and AuthorityMany heads of laboratories are reluctant to delegatebecause they fear losing control or power.Delegation is important, because it will relieve youof some of the lab’s day-to-day responsibilities.Assigning responsibility does not lessen yourrole in the lab. It merely gives you time to handlemore tasks that suit your position than you couldif you had not passed along some of the work thatcan be done by another person. Also, delegationserves to empower and motivate the people whowork for you, and helps prepare them for theresponsibilities that will someday fall to them.In deciding whether there is something you coulddelegate, ask yourself the following questions:What am I doing now that I would like to seesomeone else do? Is there a person in the labwho is capable of handling some of what I do andwilling to take on a new responsibility? What couldI do if I had more free time? One of the tasksyou may want to consider delegating is orderingsupplies. Although you may want to continue toinvolve yourself in approving purchases, someoneelse can look up catalog numbers and fill in orderforms. If you make all of the reagents in thelab, you may be able to delegate that work to atrusted, careful worker. Other activities, such aswashing dishes or feeding research animals, couldbe passed along to less-trained individuals if youare doing these tasks yourself.Once you have decided to delegate theresponsibility for a given task, you need to:n Be sure you delegate the necessary authority withthe responsibility. You may have to explicitly tellothers, “This person is acting in my stead and mustbe given the priority and access to resources thatyou would give me if I was carrying out this workmyself.”n Give clear directions and make sure they areunderstood; keep two-way communication channelsopen.n Clearly define the responsibilities assigned to eachlab member, and make this information known toeveryone in the lab.n Once you have delegated, follow up to make surethe job is being done, without interfering with it.52 excellence everywhere

n When you delegate authority to someone, be sureto back that person up when his or her authority iscalled into question.n Distribute responsibilities fairly among members ofthe lab.Keep in mind that the people to whom youdelegate may view problems that arise as personalfailures or as letting you down. They may thereforeput off telling you about problems. Taking thetime beforehand to communicate what shouldhappen, and anticipating any potential problems,may save you headaches later. You do not want toadd to your own burden by having to micromanageyour delegations, but sometimes putting sometime into seeing to it that the work starts off wellis all it takes to ensure a successful transition toyour delegates’ ability to work independently.Building and Sustainingan Effective TeamToday, more than at any other time in history,science is a team sport—and the teams keepgetting bigger. Your job as a leader includesmaintaining good working conditions so that yourgroup can be productive. Recognizing and dealingwith low morale or bad feeling arising among yourworkers (or between your workers and yourself)requires most people to pay more attention tohuman relationships than they did before takingon a leadership role. For many kinds of work, youneed to integrate people who have different kindsof technical expertise and backgrounds. Regardlessof the size of your lab or your group, thereare some general guidelines for keeping the teammembers motivated and working effectively, fromcommunicating and giving feedback to settingspecific rules of behavior. They are discussed inthe sections below.Communicating Within the LabYou should communicate with laboratory memberson a daily basis if possible. If you are still doingexperiments at the bench yourself, you will beaccessible to your lab members. But if you spendmost of your time in your office writing papersand grants or handling other responsibilities, it willmake a big difference to your group’s researchproductivity if you make an effort to walk aroundthe lab frequently (on the scale of at least once aday, if you can) and informally chat with people.Keeping your office door open when you do notneed privacy or quiet sends the message that youare approachable and available for scientific andpractical questions about the work in the lab. Ifyou would like to be approachable but your manyobligations prevent you from having an “opendoor policy,” try establishing a regular scheduleof hours during which people from your lab groupcan reliably get a moment of your time withoutthe formality of setting up an official meeting.In addition to these informal interactions, formalmeetings are an organized way to ensure thateveryone is kept informed of the group’s activitiesand results and for you to reiterate your expectationsand values. If you have time, it can bevaluable to hold regular goal-setting and evaluationsessions—an annual lab retreat for discussingbig picture issues, regular lab meetings involvingthe full staff, and scheduled one-on-one advisorymeetings and performance evaluations for yourtrainees and employees. Group activities such aslab dinners or outings, held periodically, can also beimportant for building morale and encouraging labmembers to think of themselves as part of a team.I would add that it is important that the boss,except when out of the lab for meetings orother academic commitments, spend most ofhis time in the lab, arriving early in the morningand staying late. Not to give the impressionthat being the boss one has the privilege towork less, no matter the nature of your work(desk or bench).”Alberto Kornblihtt, Argentinamanaging your many roles53

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