By Payal Ray, PhD
Research experience in the laboratory may not offer many opportunities to garner leadership and management skills. However, a number of young scientists today will go on to hold a managerial position—be it as a PI in academia, project manager in industry, or leader in another science-based sector. Recognizing the need for NIH fellows to acquire managerial skills, the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) developed the Workplace Dynamics series.
The series consists of five experiential and hands-on workshops, comprised of several active learning strategies, including activity worksheets, think-pair-share, and group discussions. Participants in all five workshops earn a certificate of completion and are eligible for the two-day Management Bootcamp. Because the bootcamp builds upon concepts discussed in each workshop, participation in all five workshops is required to attend the bootcamp course.
OITE recommends that the Leadership series workshops (listed below) be taken in the order they are offered, but each can be a stand-alone workshop as well. The workshops include:
- Communication, Learning, & Influencing Others
- Conflict & Feedback
- Team Skills
- Diversity in a Multicultural Society
What to expect during the series
The first workshop requires attendees to take a personality assessment known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) before meeting. The MBTI places individuals into one of 16 different types of personalities (or working styles), each of which has a distinct profile. During the workshop, the moderators discuss the implications of these various personality traits in the workplace.
It is important for a leader or manager to be cognizant of different personality types and to be aware of steps he or she can take to ensure an effective work environment. The most helpful activity during the first workshop, in my opinion, is the examination of how people with opposing personalities may interact. For example, a person with an introverted personality may not feel the need to think aloud, while an extroverted person in the same working group may be quite vocal. These differences may lead to a perceived lack of interaction from some in the group or make conflict resolution difficult if the manager fails to recognize these differences.
The rest of the workshops in the series build upon this theme (being aware of different personality types) and, as the names above suggest, cover various dimensions of interpersonal interactions.
How the series can help you
I have attended all five workshops and found them to be extremely helpful in identifying my own personality/working style preferences as well as revealing certain biases that may create an impediment to being an effective manager. Participation in the workshops has enabled me to better handle conflicts and difficult conversations by giving me perspective on why conflicts arise and tools to approach a negative situation involving a colleague. I believe the workshop series is a great aid for improving one’s interpersonal skills to be successful in the workplace.
For more information, check out the Workplace Dynamics series details on the OITE website at https://www.training.nih.gov/leadership_training.