- Supervisors & managers
- Leadership development for principal investigators
- Managing people
- Managing different individuals
Managing different individuals
Everyone you engage with in your role as a principal investigator will be an individual, but alongside this it can be worthwhile thinking about some of the factors that may go alongside membership of a particular group. In this section are a few comments about:
- university managers
- support staff
- research staff and postgraduate research students.
These are busy people with many demands on their time and severe limits, even at the most senior levels, on their freedom of action. And, like the rest of us, they don't want problems, they want solutions. Here are some tips for working successfully alongside them:
- align your requests with their drivers - take account of what their bosses are asking them for
- make your papers or your presentations as short and to-the-point as possible
- pick your time when asking for something
- if you get an answer that you don't want, don't respond in such a way as to make them less likely to say 'yes' next time
- if you take a problem to them, also take a reasoned recommendation for action
- don't burden them with trivia.
These staff are really important for you. Good relations with your support staff, including technical staff, will make your life so much easier. So be pleasant to them and keep them as informed as you can. Certainly give them as much notice as possible of any requests that you may be about to make to them and recognise that what drives them may be very different from what drives you. Many administrators like there to be clear procedures; many academics see procedures as things to be ignored.
It is worth remembering too, that the world of the member of support staff can be much smaller than yours. You operate globally, they sometimes have little contact outside their own department or even team. So things that may not bother you at all may bother them a lot. And travel for you might be a chore, but they might love to have the chance. It's almost certainly the case that their chances of promotion will be much more limited than yours. Be sensitive to these things.
Research staff and postgraduate researchers
These people come in all flavours; a big danger with these groups is believing that you know what motivates them, perhaps because you were one of them once. For instance, not all research staff can become academics and not all want to. So try to get to know them as individuals.
Recognise also that some of them will be much more dependent on you than they should be. You don't have the time to ‘molly-coddle' them and doing so will not help them. If they are to have successful careers in the future, in whatever role, they will need to be able to 'swim' by themselves. This doesn't mean that you should throw them in at the deep end, but you should do your best to help them to become autonomous and independent researchers in their own right.
For information and guidance on supervising postgraduate students, visit the site 'supervising a doctorate'.
Thinking about your support staff, research staff and postgraduate researchers - it can be helpful to all sit down together, ideally with the help of a facilitator from your graduate school or staff development unit, to discuss how you can all work together as effectively as possible.
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