Authors: Geetesh Shrivastava, Associate Director of Clinical Monitoring; Jennifer Dennis-Wall, PhD, Lead Scientific Writer
Back in August, we published a blog addressing themes that are important for sponsor partners to follow so that we as a CRO can provide them with the best possible service. To complement those themes, we looked inward and did some digging on what makes our teams here so successful, especially when we are faced with surprises that inevitably pop up during the course of a clinical trial.
A team is only as successful as its leadership, and leading successfully and gracefully is both an art and a science; a title does not make a manager. Here are some of the qualities a strong manager will have:
- It is the easiest thing in the world to jump to a conclusion or form an assumption without finding out all of the facts. Really listen to your team members. Ask them questions, and be open-minded to taking their point of view. Listening is something all of us can do more often.
- Trust your team. If you don’t trust them when you hire them, then at what point will you surrender the control? More importantly, when a team member feels trusted, they will naturally feel more accountable and responsible for the job they are entrusted to do. Conversely, if they know that all of their work will be redundantly checked over, then why would they bother being careful? Give your team some flexibility to get the job done, and they will feel trusted.
- Treat each member of the team as an individual. Understand how each member of the team functions differently. Some people are fast and thorough but don’t like to be interrupted while some prefer to receive constant reminders and updates. Some like to talk about their emotions, and some don’t. As the manager or supervisor, you are the one who understands the big picture and can tweak operations to be more efficient based on individual needs and strengths.
- Understand the disconnect that leads to an escalation. This means seeking to understand all points of view. Look inward before assuming that the blame lies with someone else. Did the team member receive clear, complete instructions and expectations? Was the training for this team member adequate?
- Be a servant leader. This means working with the team, rather than trying to control them. While it’s important not to get into the trenches too much so that you can maintain your well-oiled machine, team members really respect someone who has done the job themselves and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
- Delegate unexpected tasks swiftly and with clear instructions and expectations. This is a skill that comes with practice. We all know what if feels like to be swamped with too much work, but when you are a manager also doing work that could be delegated, this is a waste of resources and a recipe for failure. Be acutely aware of when a task could be delegated, and don’t be afraid to let someone else do it a little differently than you would do it. The more important thing is that it gets done so that the whole project can move forward.
- Hold frequent team meetings. Keeping everyone in the loop makes them feel important and helps them to understand the big picture the team is working towards. Some team members are more open about sharing the status of their tasks with their supervisors, and some are not as open. It is perfectly fine to hold additional one-on-one meetings as well with individuals who are not as keen on sharing.
- Maintain an open, transparent dialogue with the team. Most often, when a team member knows about the uncomfortable stuff that you are dealing with as a manager, they will feel more empathetic towards you. In doing so, they may offer to take some things off your plate, and you may consider accepting those offers if it frees you up to manage and direct. Also, openness and transparency commands respect; people respect a leader who gives direct feedback (especially if it’s uncomfortable) and who admits their own weaknesses.
- Be gracious when deviations occur. The majority of workers put enough pressure on themselves to do a good job and punish themselves when they make a mistake (not that this is a behavior we endorse). If they receive harsh treatment from their supervisors as well when they make mistakes, they may either feel less secure in being able to complete their tasks, breeding more mistakes, or they may resort to hiding future mistakes, which can be disastrous for a clinical trial.
- Recognize the capability and availability of each of your team members. Learning your team members’ individual strengths and weaknesses should be a priority so that you can delegate tasks to match personalities and abilities. Team meetings and one-on-one meetings help tremendously in surveying how busy each member is at any point. You don’t want to overload your strongest team members. If someone offers to do a job that they haven’t done before, give them a chance; worst case, they don’t deliver, and you clean up a bit, but there is a good chance that they will deliver.
Most of these themes all boil down to good communication, which can be learned, fortunately. Listening and seeking to understand are important skills that require surrendering pride and control, which can be easier said than done. A good leader is respected when he or she sets a tone of respect with their team members. At Biorasi, we focus constant attention on making sure these themes are woven into our operations and culture, and this is one of the factors that allows us to attain some of our unlikeliest timelines.