Whether you have recently been promoted to lab manager or the position is one you are considering, there is a good chance that the role will require skills that you haven’t thought about. A big part of the job is facilitating new discoveries and undertaking research, but the work doesn’t stop there. Take a look at these skills that make a successful lab manager.
Being in a position of responsibility for your whole team can be daunting when you’re first promoted to the role of a lab leader, but when you break it down into consistent parts, it doesn’t need to be.
Aim to make choices for the good of the whole team. A position of power means that the final decision sits with you so make sure your choices are made for the team and not the individual.
Make confident choices. A lab manager needs to be willing and able to make critical decisions and inspire the team with logical judgments.
Maintain enthusiasm and motivation in your team. Listen to your staff, make sure everyone is aware of goals and targets, and make sure employees are working together for the good of the lab.
Formal and informal communication are both important for ensuring good team morale and a successful working atmosphere. Make sure you schedule in regular one-to-ones with your team so they can discuss any issues with you before they turn into problems. An approachable and understanding manager is often listed as one of the key factors in employee morale. If you’re looking for other ways to be a good boss, arrange informal meet-ups to allow colleagues to have fun together away from an often intense working environment.
A lab manager role has a lot of crossover with the role of a project manager. The completion of a project is a group effort, and often wouldn’t be possible without the rest of your team, but bringing together the many elements of a complex project will fall on the shoulders of the lab manager unless you use a management organization like MRIGlobal. Whether you’re setting timeframes, communicating goals to the rest of the project team or ensuring delivery, project coordination is the key to success.
Government funding can be scarce and applying for grants and funding from different sources is important for a thriving lab. The future of the lab could be on the line without funding, so this is one of the most vital tasks a lab manager undertakes. There are lots of courses that can help you to improve your bid writing, or you could seek advice from senior staff who have more experience doing this. Don’t panic if you’re not good with words. There are agencies that specialize in grant writing or you could hire a bid writer. Spending in this area often has a great return on investment so consider delegating the task if you need to.
Making sure your meetings are worthwhile and productive can take a lot of work. Whether you are putting together agendas before the meeting, keeping the conversation on track during the meeting, or debriefing the team afterward, organizing meetings will take a lot of skill. Watch how others conduct meetings and work on the skills that you find the 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 prioritize research alone. An important skill for lab managers to have is the ability to juggle these conflicts, ensuring the best quality research while maximizing profit and keeping investors happy. Science is about discovery and innovation, but an effective manager needs to deliver these on time and within budget.
Creative Problem Solving
As a lab manager, you will be required to think outside the box. By the time an issue comes to you, it is likely that all of the more obvious solutions have already been tried by the rest of your team. Whether it is solving a budget issue through imaginative workaround solutions or offering a fresh perspective on a project that has run out of steam, thinking outside the box is one of many skills you will need to use. Become a better creative problem solver by staying on top of industry news and advances in your field. With one eye on the bigger picture, you are more likely to spot innovative solutions and be in a position to put them into action.