I recently had the pleasure of teaming up with CCC to offer a four-part webcast series designed to provide emerging R&D-intensive organizations best practices for optimizing culture, diversity & inclusion, information management, and data generation & management. The following are some key takeaways from the first in this series focused on management excellence.

People are an organization’s most important resource, but in the rush to get off the ground, nascent organizations rarely focus on honing this aspect of company culture. With a small amount of intentional work, organizations can dramatically increase chances of success by improving productivity and retaining talent. So, how do you launch a culture of management excellence and success from the very start of a company?

It begins with an understanding of what makes employees happy. Across most studies, the five things that make employees the happiest are:

  • A flexible work schedule – If you weren’t open to flexible work schedules before, the pandemic likely changed that. Employees like feeling trusted and empowered to set their schedules in a way that works best for them to accomplish their goals. 
  • A strong sense of engagement in the work – Whether entry level, junior or the very most senior level of the organization, employees must feel engaged in what they do. 
  • A feeling of being appreciated and valued  
  • Freedom and diversity in the work they do – employees like to do and learn new skills, so rotating different job roles, advancing professional development and having mentoring opportunities often drive levels of employee satisfaction. A culture where employees are learning from one another is a high-class culture for keeping employees happy. 
  • Good relationships with clients and colleagues – not only is it important to hire and develop employees who are respectful, collaborative and enjoyable to work with, but it is equally important to identify and manage out those who are not and may be negatively detracting from the team. 

Next, it’s understanding what good communication looks like for a manager. This can be viewed from three perspectives. 

  • The first is getting feedback – it can be difficult as a new manager to get employees to openly share feedback. To establish a culture where employees can be honest, their suggestions must be sought on many levels – in written form through surveys, talking individually with people, asking direct questions in a non-public setting, and communicating often and clearly in multiple formats. Then, it is essential to actively listen and act on the feedback so that people know they have been heard. 
  • The second is giving feedback, which should also be viewed as “opportunities for growth.” Many managers provide feedback on what went wrong, which is often viewed as negative feedback. Instead managers should remember to acknowledge the positives, provide solutions like training or additional opportunities for growth in a timely manner, and work to create a continuous culture of feedback. 
  • The final is delegating effectively – the role of a manager is not to do all the work, but rather to make sure all the work gets done. Delegation allows all to make the best use of time and skills, and it helps individuals to grow and develop to reach their full potential in the organization. To delegate effectively, clearly and regularly review goals and expected outcomes; identify and agree on responsibilities; agree on communication channels / status updates; include others in deciding on what is to be delegated; delegate to the lowest level of the organization; provide adequate support; and focus on results. 

Taking your management role to the next level means mentoring, not just managing. To manage like a leader, you must want to grow and promote your talent. The best way to act as a mentor is to empower your team members to make decisions and plans, while still feeling supported. You can do this by asking good questions so that employees can learn, leading by example, and with humanity recognizing employees as people with individual needs. 

It is essential to set aside time and rewards for acknowledging excellent management. It is equally important to not assume that any employee can be a good manager. The most effective leaders and senior managers reallocate those employees to other meaningful but more fitting roles within the organization where they can feel valued. Regularly providing and requiring training for managers is also critical to help ensure their success. 

Leaders must establish and broadly share their management philosophy across a growing organization. Managers are the conduit of communication in an organization. The desires, attitudes and philosophies of a company’s leaders will never permeate an organization unless all the managers are brought on board to similar ways of thinking. It’s imperative that leaders emphasize the importance of creating an inclusive and diverse environment that enables each employee to succeed. Leaders must ensure that their managers translate this priority into actions that are felt throughout the organization. 

Learn more by viewing the full webcast recording and others from my Optimizing Culture and Information Management webcast series for emerging R&D organizations here. 

Visit CCC’s solutions page for emerging life science organizations and also learn how to reduce the time-consuming article retrieval process, facilitate collaboration across teams, maximize the value of content investments and simplify copyright compliance. 


Author: Joanne Kamens

Dr. Kamens received her PhD from Harvard Medical School in Genetics. She is a Senior Consultant at The Impact Seat, a consulting firm that helps organizations develop and maintain equitable and inclusive cultures that are rich in diversity. Dr. Kamens has had a varied career in academia, pharma, biotech and nonprofit. For a decade she was Executive Director of the nonprofit biotech, Addgene and was Interim Executive Director of the Bentley University Center for Women and Business. She has been advancing diversity and inclusion for decades including as founder of the Boston chapter of the Association for Women in Science (MASS AWIS) and currently serves on the AWIS National Board of Directors. She consults and speaks widely on topics such as Science Careers, Culture Roadmaps for Start-ups, Implicit Bias, Management Excellence, and Making the most of Mentoring Relationships. You can find her @jkamens on Twitter or on LinkedIn.
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