8 Management Skills You Need to Be a Laboratory ManagerRyan White
When you dreamed of becoming a scientist, managing budgets, planning meetings and deescalating conflicts were probably the last skills you thought you’d need. As a lab manager, however, these are all essential for ensuring that your lab runs as smoothly and effectively as possible. Below we’ve rounded up some of the vital skills you never knew you’d need in your role as lab manager.
It might seem like an obvious point to make, but good leadership skills are important for a lab manager to develop and they often don’t come naturally. Being responsible for the entire lab can be daunting, and good leadership skills can make all the difference when it comes to leading in everyone’s best interests. Taking a holistic approach is the lab manager’s role in the team, ensuring that decisions are made for the good of the entire lab.
Critical decision-making skills are essential to leadership in lab, the manager the needs to be able to inspire the trust of the team by making well thought out, rational decision. From the conception of ideas to the final delivery of the research or product, the manager is responsible for taking care of the team, maintaining motivation and enthusiasm, and meeting targets. The quality of leadership has the ability to make or break a lab.
Communicating effectively with your team is really important for managing a lab with any degree of success. As well as contributing to a positive atmosphere in the lab and motivating your team, being approachable is essential for identifying issues before they become larger problems. Both formal and informal communication are important ways of identifying problems in the team, whether they be personal or professional, and working together to find solutions. Giving support and being available for help and advice will ensure that your staff feel able to work at their best.
In the lab, team members bring the technical skills required to complete a project, but managing the individual elements that make up the whole falls to the lab manger. From setting realistic time frames and outlining the goals of a project to analysing data and ensuring delivery, project coordination is largely taken care of by the lab manager and requires a great deal of skill. The more skills a lab manager develops in this area, the better the lab’s outcomes are likely to be.
Funding in the sciences is notoriously unreliable, so identifying financial priorities and managing a lab’s limited budget is an important skill to develop. Maintaining accurate financial records and keeping research projects on budget are critical to the ongoing success of a lab. Being able to take a creative approach to finding cost effective solutions for essential needs such as equipment upgrades and research supplies are similarly important. What’s more, many labs tend not to be focused on the financial viability of their product, but part of the lab manager’s job is to maximise profits, whilst ensuring that non-essential outgoings are kept to a minimum.
Making sure that your lab’s meetings are worthwhile and productive can take a lot of work. Whether you are putting together agendas prior to the meeting, keeping the conversation focused during, or debriefing the team afterwards, organising meetings will take a lot of skill. It is good to watch how others conduct meetings and work on the skills that you find most effective in making meetings productive and useful to the entire team.
Managing Conflicting Priorities
Financial constraints and other commitments often mean that it isn’t possible to prioritise the research alone. An important skill for lab managers is the ability to juggle these conflicting priorities, ensuring the best quality research while maximising profit and appeasing investors. Science is about discovery and innovation, but an effective manager has to deliver these things on time and within budget.
Creative problem Solving
As the centre of the team in any science lab, the manager will need to be able to approach problems creatively in order to find a solution. It is likely that other solutions have already been tried by the time they are approached for help, and being able to thing about things from a different angle is an essential skill. Whether you are looking for innovative ways to handle a tight budget or are giving a fresh perspective on a stalled project, learning to think outside the box should be a top priority for any lab manager.
Skills development is important in any workplace, and nowhere more so than the science lab. With technological and research changing all the time, keeping abreast of the most recent advancements requires the involvement of the whole team. Fostering skill development in your team is important if you are to make sure that your lab has the talent it needs. Helping staff to achieve their personal goals, as well as identifying and filling skills gaps, are both really important for the advancement of the individuals on the team and the lab as a whole.
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