A Laboratory Manager is a person who is responsible for the management of daily operations in the laboratory. A lot of responsibility hinges on the Laboratory manager in respect to leadership, problem-solving, skills development, communication, budget management, meetings, conflicting priorities, OHS and contracts management. In the below article we have outlined 9 management skills that will contribute to a valuable laboratory manager. We would love to see your ideas and feedback in the comments!
- Leadership: Leadership is defined as the competency or skills possessed by a leader who can plan the strategies and provide direction to the members as well as meeting organisational goals effectively. A lab manager should have a blend of right leadership style and skills so that he/she can make the right decisions that will directly affect outcomes and culture. A Lab Manager is accountable for maintaining the enthusiasm, motivation and culture of a laboratory. Good culture starts at the top, if the lab manager is living and breathing a good culture, it will catch on! A great lab manager will take good care of his/her team and meets the targets effectively.
- Creative Problem Solving: A lab manager should be creative enough to handle the problems faced in the Lab. The problems can be associated with the management of a tight budget, introducing a new methodology or simply keeping up with technology and automation. He/she should be able to find creative and innovative solutions to deal with such problems. Create a culture of creativity so staff members are challenged to find better solutions. Encourage team collaboration to look challenge existing practices and methods. Ask questions – is there a better way we can achieve a better outcome?
- Skill Development: With fast-evolving changes and advancement in technology, the skills of the whole team should be developed together. Encouraging and cultivating the development of skills in the team is essential to meet the demands of a great laboratory. A great lab manager will assist staff members in achieving their goals and identify and fill the skill gaps which will, in turn, will benefit the entire team.
- Effective Communication: Great communication with the team is key to a great culture and will assist in the achievement of fulfilling strategic goals effectively. A lab manager must create a positive atmosphere in the lab, encourage the staff members and be approachable when required to get better outcomes. Having plenty of positive communication with staff members either in a formal or informal manner will help in identifying the issues that the team may face and will make them feel valued and assist in the resolution of issues.
- Budget Management: Keep alert as to your current spend vs target spend. Always stay on the lookout for new grants and opportunities to provide more budget for your research projects and laboratory. Keep a handle on expenses. Set up a budget forecast comparing targets and actual spend and encourage staff to buy-in and assist with keeping within your overall budget. Have regular meetings on a budget to track spend and look at creative ways of saving money. This could include investigation and investment in automation and better methodologies to reduce the short term on long term overheads. Partner with a great supplier that can deliver quickly, this can assist with reduced inventory and more effective use of space.
- Effective meetings: Running an effective meeting requires planning in advance in order to get great outcomes. It is a great idea to define the objectives and expected outcomes clearly while planning for a meeting. Have an agenda. Make sure key actions are documented and distributed as soon as the meeting is finished. Assign each action to an individual and ensure there is a noted completion date for the action. Listen to all staff, have a timekeeper to ensure meetings go to plan. Plan another meeting to follow up the actions as this will directly assist with accountability.
- Management of Conflicting Priorities: A Lab Manager may face challenges in the effective management of the conflicting priorities whenever there is a scarcity of staff and financial resources. To handle this, a Laboratory Manager must have the skills to juggle and manage priorities in which he/she has to ensure that the quality of research is not compromised and the efficiency is increased simultaneously.
- Occupational Health and Safety awareness: Safety and Care of lab staff is the first priority for a laboratory manager. It is of utmost importance that the lab manager maintains and updates Safety Manuals and procedures so that all of the safety precautions are taken care of while using equipment and consumables. It is important that a laboratory manager is accustomed to all the legal requirements associated with laboratory management and ensures that all researchers and lab staff under his/her care conform to those standards.
- Management of External Research and Development Contracts: There has been an increase in industrial Research and development which can be achieved with the help of open innovation process where the Lab Manager has to play a significant role. He has to select the partners for open innovations carefully and define the terms and conditions under which outside organizations will be allowed to work in their laboratories under a well-defined contract.