#GHC15 – CRA-W Leadership Workshop: Gaining Recognition

My notes from the session from Deb Agarwal (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and Mary Jane Irwin (Pennsylvania State University) at GHC.

"I Come In Peace, Take Me To Your Leader!"
Credit: Flickr / Andy Miccone
  • Submit “leadership style” proposals.
  • Submit “early career” LDRD and “Genius” grants.
  • Create tools/systems that other use to do their research
    • OSS
  • TED talks
    • Forces you to learn how to give a good talk, on time.

Research teamwork

  • Build your research network.
    • Be interested in other peoples work.
    • Find people who were interesting.
  • Actively contribute on teams.
    • Deliver on your component and team deliverables.
    • Contribute ideas to the overall team.
    • Respect and recognize others’ talents
    • Help others to succeed
    • Alternate lead author roles on papers and patents as well as presenter opportunities.
    • Work with leaders who recognize contributers.

Take the appraoch “it it my job to make the team successful”. Work with people who people who lead it share recogniton.

Your reputation rises higher when other people speak well of you than when you speak well of you.

Being successful as a PhD student. If part of a research group, hopefully have research meetings and team projects. You’ll be on a team – sometimes the lead, sometimes the member. Make sure you contribute in both of those. Other PhD students are part of your network.

Easy to have suggested an idea, ignored, then a guy says it. Couple of strategies:

  • Positive it’ll happen – go to the team lead before, float idea to them. Say will work in the meeting to get the idea to come out. Then the lead knows this was YOUR idea, regardless of who wins in the room. If they know, good chance you’ll be in charge. Otherwise it’ll be the loudest person in the room. Back channels are phenomenal.

How do you work the backchannels?

  • Have to know who is good.

Move up too soon? Cut off some of your options. Too soon: before you’ve made your research show, before you have made full professor. In labs that translates to a scientist level.

If you’re a lead people will ask “what did you do”, have to have something.

People are shocked at her work, at every job has refused twice, still considered to be one of the fastest moving managers. Doesn’t hurt to say no, but have to say no for a good reason. If there’s a job they are pressuring you to take, ask for stuff.

Professional recognition:

In the best of worlds you do great work and it is recognised, but in the real world you have to be proactive. So:

  • Be a good (but not an obnoxious) self promoter.
  • Beware of the load you are placing on your colleagues. Know the “rules”.
  • Develop research highlight slides for managers.
  • Have your elevator pitch always at the ready.

A lot of promotions and awards require a bunch of your colleagues to do things for you. Don’t wait for it to happen magically, be pro-active about it. Even if it happened out of the blue, someone spent a whole lot of time on it. Find out who it was and thank them.

Leading teams. A lot of the advice given about how to be in a team applies almost the opposite as the lead. Finding a good team, criteria: find the best team can of people who will work well in the team, who will be willing to be part of the greater good, aren’t purely out for themselves. If you want to lead the team, the best thing to do is let the team have separate roles and be responsible for the different pieces of that. If you can do that, over time everyone wants to start joining your teams. If they know they can make a difference, they’ll follow.

As the lead doesn’t matter if you have the coolest ideas, what matters is if you help the team execute to get to the end goal.

Women are much better at making everyone successful around them and letting them have the recognition for that.

Having a diverse team helps.

How do you push back and say no without having people think you’re incapable?

Being able to say no and give a reasonable explanation is one of the most important skills of a leader. If you’re always going to say yes, you are not a leader.

What is it that we have the resources and the time to do? The team is going to expect you to protect them. If the team fails, don’t blame them. “You do not throw your team under the bus. That will be the last team you lead.” If the team fails that is also your failure as a lead. And you own it.

Recognition in Volunteerism

Before agreeing to take on a role / assignment, know why you are doing it and what you (and your group / organization) are going to get out of it.

Make sure you have the knowledge / time to do the job. Saying no is better than being a “no show” participant / contributor.

Sometimes you can take on a much bigger role with more visibility as a volunteer than you can in your organization.

But the flip side is: don’t volunteer if you don’t have time. Know when to say no.

Advice for people who don’t want to self promote. What if you can’t get a word in edgeways? If your lead is not making sure everyone is staying on track, go talk to them. Find those times you’ve done something major, and take the floor and talk about it. Don’t do it often, but do it just often enough to prove that you can do it. Take the space unoccupied. Because if you don’t take the space unoccupied, they will.

If being a “fixer” ask for what you want: “I’ve done this, and now I want to run a team from the start.” “If you let them, they will use you, until they say no.”