In PhD/Postdoc Blog, professional development

PhD/Postdoc blog series features scientists at different stages of career development as they explore and plan for their next steps. Over the course of six months, Zakiya Qualls, Annina DeLeo, Rwik Sen, and Erica Akhter will give monthly updates on their progress. Check back every Wednesday for new blog posts!

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in Craniofacial Biology

Program Start Date: January 2016

Institution: University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

Hello Readers,

My name is Rwik Sen and I will be blogging monthly just for you. I will share how the BEST Program’s professional and career development workshops at our University benefit me as I continue my second year of postdoctoral research. Hopefully, my blog will help in your career planning and preparations.

Team building and leadership development are integral to training Ph.D.s and postdoctoral scholars for careers both inside and outside of academia. Research-intensive and research-related STEM fields are a major driver of the economy and today’s trainee scientists are the future leaders of STEM-related organizations, for example Universities, industries, healthcare, etc. These individuals will eventually regulate the impact of STEM fields on national and global economies. As these organizations rely on human capital, it is crucial that our future STEM leaders receive all-round training to undertake such serious responsibilities. Team building and leadership development are parts of this training. For a team’s success, it is important to know each member’s personal strength, and when or how it can be utilized. However, such knowledge is not intuitive and can be gained only through specialized training.

Traditionally, STEM training has focused on scientific discoveries, publications, and bench skills. This training paradigm is now being revisited as multiple organizations realize the need for a broader approach towards preparing scientists for various careers. An important part of this training is taking a personality assessment test to determine how you can best interact with other members on your team. The scientific community thrives on collaboration and depending on the organization, scientists may work in different teams comprised of various personalities. Hence, personality may have a large impact on team building and leadership development.

An important but often ignored fact is that our colleagues have unique personalities and different styles of working and communicating. Despite such differences, we start working together without any training on how to understand and deal with potential personality issues that may arise in a team. Frequently, ineffective communication leads to conflict, which can negatively impact progress and eventually costs time, money, and energy. Conflict resolution becomes an additional burden for overworked team leaders. Conflict can become a chronic recurrence unless long-term preventive solutions are implemented. To begin addressing issues, the BEST program at the University of Colorado Denver|Anschutz Medical Campus organized a six-day workshop called “Team Building and Leadership Development”.

The workshop focused on leadership and personality styles; and we explored new ways to leverage these qualities in building our online personas, resumes, communication skills, and peer-coaching qualities. The workshop introduced different leadership styles and covered their strengths, weaknesses, and optimum working conditions. We completed assessments to identify our leadership styles, which for some of us provided surprising results. Through group discussions we realized our compatibilities, expectations, and perceptions of ourselves, and how these qualities related to others. We became quite comfortable understanding our colleagues and ourselves. This allowed us to build an optimal team and assign each member the most appropriate role for maximum productivity.

The workshop was very interesting and something I looked forward to each week. The results of the online assessments revealed the type of our unique personalities and matched it with options of prospective careers. The results listed four broad working styles and revealed the extent to which our personalities conformed to each. We were also informed about our overall leadership style by a detailed analysis of our working behavior, stress behavior, leadership aims, and needs. It was exciting to see how my results revealed my interests and tendencies, which I had never before discussed with anyone. The results gave me insight into how my personality manifested into my individualized leadership style, interpersonal communications, and even in my behavior at workplace meetings! After the initial surprise, the results became quite comforting as if my inner voice was telling me about all my subconscious actions.

We eventually focused on how we lead others using spoken language and non-verbal communication, which significantly shape how others perceive us. People seldom realize the importance of these two factors in professional settings. Our class practiced all the newfound leadership skills in small groups by engaging in peer-coaching. This exercise involved actively listening to each other’s problems and engaging in reflective conversations to identify a possible solution without directly advising.

In sum, the BEST Program workshop on Teambuilding and Leadership Development at the University of Colorado Denver|Asnchutz Medical Campus was very helpful and important for STEM training. It taught us a great deal about ourselves and improved our views of others. This kind of knowledge can also be obtained from online personality and strength assessments, in the absence of a BEST program. No personality category is better or worse, rather it is about finding your “best fit” and how to eventually utilize it in career development. Until I return next month I hope you enjoy discovering your personality and improving your team.

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  • Amitava Bhattacharyya

    Wounderful related leadership skills. A different angle mentioned about the specialized skills.

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