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Home No. 87: Gauging your success as a mentor

Aug 22

No. 87: Gauging your success as a mentor

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Gauging your success as a mentor

Reader question: What are some basic indicators that I’m providing good mentoring insights for my lab staff?

Expert comments:

There are great benefits to mentoring your staff, including producing another generation of qualified PIs. Mentoring can include engaging employees in meetings and getting them involved in the decision-making processes. This will teach them how to track a task by timeline, stick to a budget, and develop appropriate staffing skills.

Consider these benchmarks of a good mentor:

Does your lab have high turnover? A positive working environment makes employees want to stick around. Keep them stimulated in their work, and give them opportunities to contribute as individuals within the team environment.

Is your lab seen as successful? You can create a results-driven, mentor-friendly environment where students and others compete to join. Ensure your research results are recognized as scientifically relevant, not research that fails to advance your field.

What happens to those you train? Where trainees go next reflects on you as the PI and mentor. The people working in your lab ultimately should be publishing, making presentations at national meetings, generating work that is cited by others, and securing grants or financial support.

Expert comments by Carla Roberts, MD, is an assistant professor for the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and residency program director for the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Emory University School of Medicine. She also serves as the associate chief of service for gynecology at Grady Memorial Hospital (Atlanta).

Heather Clawson, PhD, is a principal with ICF International (Fairfax, Va.), which works with public- and private-sector clients to develop and deliver services to stakeholders. She has conducted program evaluations, provided evaluation training and technical assistance, and applied state-of-the-art statistical techniques to analyze program data for federal and state agencies, foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Comments (2)
written by Phil Nairassoy, August 22, 2011
I would add: ask yourself how many of your students' and postdocs' emails do you blow off? Does it take 3-4 emails from someone in your lab for them to get a response, or do they never get a response from you? Do you meet with them not more often than every 3 months? Do you actually care about people being stuck and try to help? Ask yourself honestly, do you know what each paper that comes out of your lab is really about, and how much input did you provide? Or do you let your postdocs and students do all the hard work, and you have no clue what went into the paper, what analyses were run, etc.? I know many "successful" labs where postdocs and students publish, but the PI provides minimal, if any, input, and expects to of course be on the paper. I don't consider that a "good PI", even if your lab may be seen as "successful".
written by Ivy Asst Chair, August 31, 2011
If "successs at mentorship" were graded and recognized financially or in some other way, it might get more attention in the PI's 28-hour day.

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