You chose a career in research because of the fascination you’ve had of the world around you and wanted to understand how life exists at a molecular level. Plus, you probably wanted to have the freedom to choose your own research field and concentrate on what interests you most.
Work in the research laboratory is usually a chance for people to direct experiments, analyze data and write papers. However, you find yourself busy carrying out other tasks like attending meetings, ordering reagents and the only thing you have time for is bench research. Managing the lab shouldn’t take you away from what you love doing as long as you apply these four tips.
With all the responsibilities a lab managerial post entails, you can ensure that everything works but still forget the bigger picture. One of the best strategies to employ is to put in place three to five-year plans. As the lab manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that experiments are geared towards a common goal.
Having a clear vision of your overall goal allows all the lab members to evaluate the project progression as well as determine future projects. The five-year strategy allows everyone to gauge the research progress while keeping it goal-oriented.
Planning also involves using the right tools to manage your lab workflow. For example, an experienced animal research software and lab management software.
In the lab environment, the organization takes several forms. You need to take into consideration the organization of people, time and your physical space to ensure everything runs smoothly. You’ll never get enough time in a day to complete all tasks you want to accomplish – sometimes it’s good to say no.
Lab meetings can help keep groups of people focused and organized on their tasks. Frequent meetings with your entire team allow all the members to stay informed of events in the lab. They are also great for troubleshooting and brainstorming forums.
Lead by Design
If you want to achieve your true leadership potential, the first thing you need to do is recognize your leadership style. Once you’ve identified your style, focus on the weaknesses and strengths and work on improving it.
Go a step further by comparing your leadership style to the kind of leader you hope to become. Identifying a successful mentor will also create a sounding board for issues you might not have dealt with before. However, the mentor should be equipped with experience beyond the lab, especially when dealing with key individuals and protocol outside the laboratory.
Maintain Control to Ensure Success
Often, you should expect things to go wrong sometimes in the lab, and you’ll be expected to fix them. One of the best ways to prevent having issues in the lab is by being clear about expectations and standards from the very beginning.
When people perform well, make sure you tell them, and when things are moving too slow for your liking, encourage as you offer advice. People tend to be more productive when they’re happy and working towards a common goal, rather than living in fear of punishment.
Finally, give lab members a sense of control over the work they do. This will motivate the employees while freeing you to spend more time on lab issues – such as research.
Funding in the sciences world is unreliable, so you need the skill to identify financial priorities and manage the lab’s limited resources. Having accurate financial records and keeping your research projects on a budget are critical components required to ensure the success of a lab.
Furthermore, you need to develop a creative approach towards finding cost-effective solutions for necessities like research supplies and equipment upgrades. Plus, most labs are notoriously known for not focusing on the financial viability of a product. Therefore, it’s the manager’s job to maximize profits while ensuring non-essential expenses are kept to a minimum.
Manage Conflicting Priorities
Other commitments and financial constraints often mean that you can’t prioritize research alone. As the lab manager, you need to develop the skill to juggle such conflicting priorities and ensure the best research while maximizing profit and appeasing your investors. While science is all about innovation and discovery, it’s the manager’s role to deliver results on time and within the budget.
Skills development is critical in any workplace environment, especially in the science lab. With research and technology changing all the time, it’s important you ensure that your entire team is at par.
Skill development in your team is important if you want to outfit your lab with the best talent required. Help your staff members achieve personal goals and identify possible skills gaps that ought to be filled. This way, you are fostering skill development of the individuals on your team as well as the lab as a whole.
Cultivate Grit Among Team Members
It may take years for any researcher to see tangible results of the work they do in the lab. To keep your team motivated and focused, you need grit. Grit is the ability to sustain an interest in projects without giving up despite the numerous obstacles that may be in your way.
Grit also means finding ways of improving how each team member works. Fortunately, you can cultivate grit through regular reviews of roadblocks, so you can all get in the habit of addressing issues early. After all, to get the most out of your lab, you need to know how to get the best from fellow researchers and teammates.
Another way of developing grit is by having transparent and clear policies and goals, so you make the most of your available resources. Plus, take time and initiative to develop strong leadership and project management skills.
The key to going back to working on what you love, science, is managing your laboratory through a plan, organizations, leading and control. While it might take some time, the reward is highly positive to you and your lab partners. After all, if you can learn science, lab management should be a breeze.
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