a woman working in a lab

Five Key Traits Of Highly Effective Laboratory Managers

Back in 2011, a piece of research was produced by an HR firm that examined the highest performing labs around the world and identified five commonalities between them, all of which were driven by highly effective Laboratory Managers. 

The world has changed a lot in ten years, but these traits of effective Lab Managers remain as relevant today as they were back then.

‘To understand what characterizes the best labs, we then studied 4,500 researchers in 260 laboratories in academia and research-based industries, including automotive, basic materials, high tech, and pharmaceuticals.’

(McKinsey & Company, 2011)

The purpose of the article is to emphasise the need for effective HR management and recruitment, but the insights were valuable.

an effective laboratory manager at work

The Five Traits Of A Highly Effective Laboratory Manager

According to the article, the most successful laboratories excel in these areas:

  1. They have a talented team
  2. They have clear strategies and roles
  3. The environment is collaborative
  4. Efficient management of portfolios and projects
  5. Effective problem solving

So, when we look at what each of those areas involves, it would be reasonable to deduce that Laboratory Managers in those successful labs possess skills in the following areas:

  1. Recruitment and management
  2. Strategising
  3. Collaboration
  4. Organisation
  5. Problem solving

Let’s have a look at each one in turn.

1) Recruitment And Management

Naturally not every lab can employ the greatest technicians, researchers and scientists available. Budgets, geographical constraints and the talent pool available at the time all impact recruitment.

A great Lab Manager understands that and recruits on potential and fit. Recruiting someone who will fit the team, be hungry to learn and progress, is competent, and has the qualities you are looking for will be more beneficial than recruiting someone who has plenty of experience but won’t suit the culture.

Nurturing the team members comes next. It should go without saying that the best labs didn’t start as the best labs but got there gradually. Invest in your staff and their knowledge and skills will benefit the lab.

a male laboratory manager

What’s more, celebrate the successes of your team. Motivate them to achieve. You might do this with financial rewards, or it might be a voucher for a meal out, or even just public recognition and praise.

A highly effective Laboratory Manager pulls the team together, invests in the skills of their people and recruits strategically.

2) Strategic Skills

We work with a lot of Lab Managers. Some are great managers. Others are great scientists who have excelled in their field and are now thrown into management.

It doesn’t matter how great you were in your last job if you can’t think strategically about the future of the lab and its staff.

Being strategic requires being able to think with foresight. Identify a goal and work backwards to plan how to achieve that goal.

Make sure everyone has a role in achieving the goals and, crucially, that they know about it, understand it, and own it.

3) Can Collaborate

Every teacher’s favourite saying; ‘there is no I in team’. It is true.

Highly successful labs have a collaborative approach. Everyone working toward the same goal. Harnessing the knowledge and resources of external stakeholders and even competitors.

It is through collaboration that truly unique discoveries are made.

Consider the Coronavirus vaccine. It was developed within one year of the appearance of Covid 19. This is, in part, due to the collaborative efforts of scientists sharing data and insights worldwide. Compare this to the vaccine created for Mumps. Before Covid-19, this was the fastest developed vaccine. It took four years.

Fostering collaborative working is a trait of very effective Laboratory Managers.

a woman working in a lab

4) Organisation

The McKinsey and Company article states that successful labs are run by managers who are effectively managing their portfolios and projects.

Keeping an eye on margins, resources, equipment, and outcomes is essential. An effective Laboratory Manager will be able to manage all the projects being undertaken, whilst effectively closing ones coming to a conclusion and keeping the pipeline flowing.

That takes skilful organisation.

We can help with that! We work very closely with our clients to understand and anticipate their needs. That means we keep the stains, equipment, and kits fully stocked for when you need them. Getting your lab equipment in time is one less thing to worry about.

5) Problem Solving

Microbiologists love to find answers so it is likely that you are already a great problem solver.

Being a great problem solver means you can examine a question from all angles, identify a solution, and try it.

A problem solver is tenacious in pursuit of their solution

Being a good Lab Manager means you are likely solving not just scientific queries, but also business ones. Maintaining or increasing profits, organising resources, growing the sales pipeline and nurturing client relationships are all areas that can be fraught with problems. Use your industry skills and experience to tackle them head on.

6) Great Lab Equipment (Bonus!)

Not technically a trait, more of a resource. An effective laboratory manager has equipment and consumables that do the job, that are on hand when needed, and that facilitate faster, safer, more reliable results.

Polyvalent Rapid Salmonella Antisera Diagnostics Sera (RSD)

We are one of the world’s leading suppliers of microbiology lab equipment and consumables, from staining solutions and Antisera to the original Microbank™ and lab equipment from the leading manufacturers.  

Our customers enjoy our friendly, efficient service. We keep in regular contact with our them to anticipate their needs, identify better equipment and consumables, and ensure their supplies are always available.

If you would like to speak to our team, please get in touch on +44 (0)151 353 1613 or email uksupport@pro-lab.com. Alternatively, you can fill in our contact form here.

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