Developing individual researchers

Leading and developing individuals

Throughout our working lives, we work with people, and every person we work with is different. They each react differently to us, and we react differently to each of them. This makes life interesting.

It is important that you recognise that different people do need to be treated differently and indeed that the same person needs to be treated differently in different situations.

Three things will help you to navigate through this complexity:

  • authenticity - people want to be led by a real person. Try to lead like someone else and you will fail. It is essential that you retain your authenticity, that you are yourself. This can be really hard when different people ask different things from you
  • strategic clarity - this is about knowing where you want to take your work or your team. If you have a clear sense of this it will be much easier for you to respond to individuals with the necessary decisions
  • emotional intelligence - this term is still the source of considerable debate, but for us it's about understanding your own feelings and the feelings of those around you, and using this understanding to promote the achievement of the task, the operation of the team, and the development of the individual.

Adair's leadership model makes some practical suggestions about leadership with regard to  individuals:

  • involve all team members in discussions and activity
  • seek out and use individuals' abilities
  • bring in the quieter members
  • control overactive members
  • establish previous experience
  • offer constructive feedback
  • praise, support and encourage
  • avoid taking sides in an argument.

Many of these suggestions are explored in more detail in the following pages on managing the performance of your researchers; appraisal: supporting development; mentoring and coaching.

Managing difference

As we said above, people are different and they are different in many different ways. But how does this affect the management of the individual?

There is a real tension for you as a manager between these facts and the need to treat people consistently and fairly. Sometimes this gets tangled up in people's minds with the concept of equal opportunity. Equal opportunity does not mean treating everyone the same; it means taking account of individual difference to provide people with appropriate opportunities. They will of course respond differently to these opportunities. Find out more about this topic, and your responsibilities in the UK, from the Equalities Challenge Unit.