EDC-microMngrWe’ve all seen it.  A PI or manager walks through the lab bays. He/She’s trying see who’s working and who’s absent. I’m pretty sure it can be annoying to most of us.

We see some lab mates staying late hours in hopes that the PI will catch them. Then praise him/her for the commitment to the lab. Then there are those who seem to never be there, but manage to be productive. But yet, they’re reprimanded for their lack of presence.

Managing people or teams can be very stressful.  You can sometimes become reactive. You start to use unsound metrics for determining productivity, like keeping tabs on who’s chained to their bench or who takes the most vacation.

These strategies are built off of psychological triggers in our minds. We’re uncertain as to where the lack of productivity lies. So we make up abstract metrics to measure our teams productivity.

Here’s some healthy strategies to measure actual lab member productivity.  These are pretty common in most project management practices, but sometimes I feel it needs to be reiterated from time to time.

  1. Don’t measure time spent. Measure product output. People’s time becomes irrelevant when the tasks are not routine nor perfunctory. When dealing with scientific experiments, the tasks are ever changing and there’s constant problem solving.
  2. Don’t hover over your people. Have regularly scheduled meeting. These meetings should be once a week, with a minimum of 30 minutes. Agenda should include what was completed and what needs to be completed.
  3. Don’t assume your people know what to prioritize. Help prioritize their projects with them. This is your responsibility as a leader and manager. It’s your lab and your vision. Piling more and more objectives without giving priority to each adds extra stress which can lead to costly mistakes and lost time.
  4. Don’t do yearly reviews. Give positive and negative feedback during weekly one on one meetings. Yearly reviews are a thing of the past.  Yes. I know this may is still be part of some ancient HR policies. But, giving weekly consistent feedback, will help to alleviate delivering difficult yearly feedbacks and your people won’t be surprised.
  5. Don’t accuse your people of not working hard enough. Build trust in their commitment by following the above prescribed practices. Time and consistency will build that trust. Remember, trust goes both ways. If you have a team member that trusts you as a leader, they will be more than willing to work hard for your lab’s vision.

Did you hate the way an old boss (or PI) managed you or your team? What were some strategies that you didn’t like? What were some that you did like? Tell us.