Blog by – Elizabeth Worrall with contribution from Shaun Coffey and Lynn O’Brien
Leadership; easy to say, harder to practice.
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head -- that's assault, not leadership.” - Dwight Eisenhower
As a PhD student I found it easy to get caught up in learning the technical skills but as I looked beyond my PhD, I realised that I lacked certain transferable skills. In science, leadership is often learnt on the fly and sadly, this is reflected in a lot of work environments. At a recent RAID-Crawford Leadership and Management Workshop, I discovered that everyone in the room had a story to tell about their experience under poor leadership.
RAID’s Agricultural Research Leadership and Management Workshop
Agricultural Research Leadership and Management Workshop
At the start of the workshop, a participant that supervised and led a research team introduced his management skills as “akin to setting a bunch of plates spinning and hope that he can keep them going”. I thought this metaphor was a perfect example of the poor professionals that assume formal leadership or management positions without being offered training, which is sadly a common occurrence. From the beginning, the discussion was alive as other people also shared their stories of past experiences. The group was diverse and interesting, everyone had different things they wanted to learn; from cross-culture communication to conflict resolution, to progressing their leadership career.
Workshop participants chatting and introducing themselves.
Armed with the participants’ improvement goals, the workshop co-ordinators Shaun and Lynn jumped into action. Over the next two and a half days, the 25 participants learnt about building self-awareness of styles and preferences, exploring different interactions, managing conflict, providing and receiving feedback, managing upwards and effective project management. The teaching was cleverly designed in a combination of seminar style presentations, class and group discussions and group exercises.
Lynn O’Brien (left) and Shaun Coffey (right), our fearless leaders.
Workshop Key Messages
Some key messages from the workshop that inspired me are:
- Everyone has a different style of working within a team environment. Remember that some people act that way because of differences, not because they are trying to make life difficult.
- Successful feedback should criticise or praise the act, not the person. Try to avoid “I/you” messages.
- Leading and managing people is your real job, not something you do as an add-on.
- A leader sets the vision and broad plan. A manager executes it, doing what is needed to achieve the plan.
- Poor management of scientists leads to poor science
A big thumbs-up from the workshop participants.
Leadership Networking Night
We took a leisurely ferry ride down the Brisbane River to the Leadership-themed Networking Night, which proved to be a perfect way to unwind from an intense day of learning. We arrived at South Bank to stimulating conversation and incredible food. Cute little conversation-starters kept the discussion flowing between mid/late career scientists and those eager to learn.
The Leadership-themed Networking Night worked perfectly in conjunction with the Workshop.
Leadership-themed Networking Night at The Charming Squire, South Bank, Brisbane.
Leadership-themed conversation starters and a table deep in discussion.
Reflections from the Workshop Facilitators - Shaun Coffey and Lynn O’Brien
The Brisbane workshop was a great reminder for Lynn and myself that when it comes to managing there is no one right way. It was both a pleasure and a challenge to work with such a diverse group of people – diverse both in cultural background and in breadth and depth of experience.
Whilst there is always room to tweak the program and further develop the activities, the general assessment of participants was very positive.. We will be looking to build in more interactive sessions, especially in the front half of the program. Also, participants enjoyed learning from real-life examples and discussion sessions. Overall the experience of the 2 ½ days has given us a better understanding of what will and will not work in these learning situations, and we appreciate the feedback that has been provided.
The enthusiasm and willingness of participants to contribute is acknowledged, and in future workshops more use of the diversity in the room will be used to lift participation rates to a higher and hopefully more meaningful level.
If there is one impression that the workshop clearly left with me, it is the corollary of it is never too late to learn – in relation to learning about managing and leading; it is never too early to start.
Where should RAID run its next workshop on Agricultural Leadership and Management… and for who?
In the next 12 months, RAID and the Crawford Fund hopes to deliver at least 3 more workshops and this is your chance to tell us where.
To have your voice heard, complete this short poll to give your city a fighting chance to be the home to one of these workshops. To make the workshop viable we need at least 20 people. Tell you friends and colleagues too, as this will only help.
Also, to help tailor your potential workshop let us know what career stage best describes you.
To see what you could be in store for check out the Brisbane event information and see if it is for you:
This poll will close on Friday, 10 August 2018
RAID is calling for applications to its Annual Capacity Builing Event on Mobile Acquired Data (MAD) Apps
Theme: Digital data collection apps for international agricultural research
Places available: 20 (competitive application process)
Length: Two Days (split over three days)
Date: Wednesday to Friday, 15-17 February 2017 (commences/concludes at lunch)
Venue: Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne
To build the awareness and capacity of RAID members in the use of digital data collections apps and their use in international agricultural research.
To develop a theoretical understanding of the use of digital data collections apps and their use in agricultural research in developing countries
Gain practical experience developing surveys in CommCare and troubleshooting
Develop an understanding of the possibilities and support options for implementation of CommCare at scale.
Outcomes of this workshop will be most useful to those currently working on or developing projects in international agriculture for development.
Event registration is free but is limited to 20 places through application process.
Applications can be made using this Google Form. Applications close Tuesday, 20 December 2016.
See attached document for further information.