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  • Julie T. Kinn 5:58 pm on September 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: agenda, leadership, meetings   

    How to Run an Effective Meeting Without Being a Total Twerp 

    This week’s post is a departure from my usual snarky writing and publishing guidance. This time it’s snarky leadership guidance. In particular, I’d like to share tips on running a successful meeting.

    Given the amount of time I spend in meetings, I like to see them well-run. I’m lucky that the culture in my organization supports efficient use of time… one benefit to working for the military. However, prior to my current work, I attended my share of ill-managed meetings. The ones that really make me want to put a stick in my eye are those in which the leader spends 15 minutes vainly speaking about Dancing with the Stars while the underlings politely wait and try to look interested. Even worse are meetings in a series in which the leader covers the same ground each week without progressing.

    In both of the above situations, the leaders aren’t trying to be tools. In the first, the leader probably thinks that sharing personal information about something trivial helps the team feel more connected. However, wasting time of team members, especially the time of those who you supervise, is disrespectful. It communicates that your time is more valuable, even if you are spending your time discussing TV. Bear in mind that supervisees rarely complain (except behind your back).

    In the latter situation, the leader probably just doesn’t know how to transition from talk into action. It is also possible that he or she is nervous about pulling rank and directing the team. However, when we waste folks’ time in a regularly occurring meeting, they grow frustrated. Those who can choose whether or not to participate will stop showing up, and those who have no choice will spend the time doodling and whispering under their breath, “Please let this end. Please let this end…”

    Another reason to improve leadership skills is that you are a mentor to others. Even if you’re still in grad school, the students a year behind are learning from watching you. You help set the culture and standards for your organization.

    So let’s say you are leading a series of meetings about a new study. Here are my tips for success:

    1. Start on time. Unless there is a very important person who is needed before you can begin, start about 1 or 2 minutes after the set meeting time. If folks are still chit-chatting, politely redirect them with a statement such as, “in the interest of time, we’re going to get started now.” if folks show up late, don’t embarrass or scold them, but you also don’t need to stop what you’re doing to review everything that has already happened. They’ll come on time for the next meeting.

    2. Use an agenda. You don’t need to use roman numerals, etc. However, a written list of what you hope to accomplish does three things for you. It keeps you organized so you don’t forget anything, it communicates that you care enough about the mission the meeting to put thought into it, and it prevents folks from spending too much time on one topic.

    3. State the purpose of the meeting. Essentially, this is where you look over the agenda as a group and then ask, “anything I’m missing here? Does anyone want to add anything?” This is much better than a free-flowing stream of consciousness meeting, because those are often derailed by the loudest or longest-winded. Asking for agenda items allows the quiet folks a chance to make their voices heard. The key is to make sure you *do* get to those added items.

    4. Review the progress of the last meeting. If you take minutes, go ahead and review them here. This will help keep everyone on track, especially any participants who weren’t at the previous meeting. It’s also helpful for clearing up any confusion. Sometimes we walk away from a meeting with a different understanding than others.

    Why Agendas Rule

    Why Agendas Rule

    5. Discuss progress on due-outs. If Trina stated she was going to consult with the IRB, now is the time to ask how that went. Hold team members accountable.

    6. Move on to the new business. Yay! The fun part! As the group discusses each agenda item, find an action for each. Perhaps it’s “Mike will email everyone the article he mentioned.” If you don’t come to a resolution and no new ideas are coming up, stop the conversation by saying, “let’s all chew on this one for the week and keep it on the agenda for next time.”

    7. Review the action items. Make sure you are correctly documenting who is doing what. This is also a good time to make sure that work is distributed fairly.

    8. Thank everyone.

    9. Stand up, but don’t go anywhere. If you are not in a rush, I suggest you wait around after a meeting to allow the introverts to approach you. Some of our best thinkers don’t feel comfortable speaking up in a group setting and would prefer to speak with you one-on-one.

    10. Email minutes or a recap. I know this one might feel weird, and perhaps will get you teased for being OCD. However, I take that risk. Send out an email that lists what you discussed, the action items (who is responsible for what), and the next meeting time. Be brief but clear. This shows your commitment to the effort, reduces chances for misunderstanding, and also provides you a nice jumping off point for building the next week’s agenda. Also, it’s a good move to cc your supervisor.

    I hope this has been helpful! Let me know if you like this kind of post, and I’ll try to sprinkle them in here and there. I’ll send out the minutes shortly.

    P.S. Happy nuptials Mike and Trina! –JTK

     
  • Julie T. Kinn 4:34 pm on August 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Happy birthday blog: Revisiting the first post, “Start Your Own Writing Group” 

    In celebration of this blog’s one-year anniversary, I’m reposting the first item. Oh, how young we all were!

    –JTK

    Want some nerdy fun that can help advance your career? Start your own writing group! You have several options, including:

    • A group of random writers from a variety of disciplines. Check out Meetup to see if there are already any groups meeting regularly in a cafe near you. These are fun if your goal is to meet new folks or work on your personal goal setting. However, you may not get a lot of useful feedback on your paper about neural network architecture.
    • A group of peers at work. Good times if you actually like your co-workers (yes, I fall into that category). You can either start a formal group (invite everyone) or informal (just ask around and let it grow organically). The danger in a formal group is that if you are in a leadership position, your invitation can come off more like an expectation. No one likes feeling voluntold.
    • A virtual writing group. There’s no reason you need a group in vivo. There are scads of ways to meet online using a FaceBook page, google docs, virtual teleconferencing or even Second Life. This is especially useful if you are one of a handful of folks studying your particular fascinating fungus. If there seems to be a lot of response to this blog, maybe we can set up something in this forum.

    Okay, so you and a bunch of like-minded others have pens, paper and lattes. What’s next? Again, you’ve got some choices:

    • A real feedback group. Group members provide drafts and get constructive feedback. Not just “this is great!”. Good when you don’t have other sources of feedback.
    • A fake feedback group. Group members share drafts and are told “this is great!”. Pretty annoying if you are expecting constructive feedback, but everyone needs unconditional love once in a while.
    • A goal-setting group. This is my personal fave. Hold regularly-scheduled brief meetings (30 minute tops) to go around the group and state progress on goals and set new ones.

    Any other formats I’ve neglected? What works for you?

     
  • Julie T. Kinn 4:44 pm on July 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , doo doo, time management, writing   

    Sharing the Love: When to Hand Off a Manuscript to Another Researcher 

    I had a bittersweet experience: after finishing up a study, I handed off the writing to another psychologist. This was a cute little survey study with a convenience sample – nothing fancy, just good ‘ole fashioned social science. I still remember the day my study was conceived. My supervisor said something like, “Hey Julie. You’re not doing anything important, right?”

    Well, my little sweetie grew up as they tend to do. Went off to IRB. Came back several times for revisions. I even collected and coded most of the data myself for old times sake (and because I was understaffed). I finished up most of the analyses and was pleased with the results. Then I had to face a sad truth: I just don’t have the time to write the manuscript right now.Figure 1: Level of Doo Doo

    There are a few papers I have dreaded writing. This was not one of them. The study was clean and simple, with clear results that don’t require much squinting. Just a chart with standard error bars. It’s not that I needed to be first author… it’s more that I was excited to see it to conclusion. And, yeah, I wanted to be first author. A few key points helped ease the transition of my study to a new researcher:

    1. My colleagues have the time and ability to do an excellent job with this.
    2. Waiting to write the paper delays the dissemination of the knowledge to the larger scientific community.
    3. If I sat on this study any longer, I would be in deep doo doo (See Figure 1).

    Now my challenge will be supporting the effort without micromanaging and nagging. “You’re going with *that* measure of effect size?!”

     
  • Julie T. Kinn 10:48 am on December 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: american journal of public health, , paper focus, peer, red pen, , smiley faces, tracking changes   

    Constructive Criticism Part I: Giving It 

    I often recommend that writers seek peer feedback. Having a few trusted folks to help edit and give other kinds of guidance is priceless. Also, editing peer work helps you sharpen your own writing skills and allows you to learn about research before the rest of us peons.

    So your friend/colleague/peer, Dr. Smartypants, has emailed you a draft. What next? Before you start tracking changes, follow this essential rule of providing constructive criticism: Ask what kind of feedback Smartypants wants. Don’t waste your time on editing granular word-choice issues it this is a first draft. It’s also extremely annoying to get comments like “incomplete without a section on mid-century slug-removal applications” on a final draft that’s almost out the door.

    Types of feedback:

    1) The 30,000-foot-view.

    If Smartypants has a first draft of a new paper, focus on the general direction of the paper. Think like an editor with limited space in upcoming journal issues. Will this paper contribute to the literature? If not, what can Smartypants add? Suggest additional sources to check out. 

    Also, give consideration to journal choice. As we point out in Practical Tips, picking a journal should be a first step, not last. If Smartypants hasn’t considered this yet, make suggestions. Writing for American Journal of Public Health requires a completely different 30,000-foot-view than does Military Medicine.

    2) Mid-draft revision.

    Smartypants has a draft that is pretty well fleshed out. Your job is to consider the general flow of the outline. Does this paper make a convincing argument or is there a different way to look at the issues? Is there an important section that it missing or perhaps superfluous literature review? This is a good time to suggest major edits regarding direction and content.

    3) Final revisions.

    Smartypants is almost ready to ship the paper to the editor. Now is your chance to grab the red pen and go to town. That’s right… work out all your aggression on poorly-worded syntax. Rip that passive voice a new one! Oh it feels so good to be so nerdy.

    4) Smiley faces.

    Always add a bit of positive feedback, even if the paper is a steaming pile (“nice choice of font!”). Sometimes folks don’t actually want constructive criticism. We all know a couple people like this. [Except me. I know no one like this. All my coworkers are amazing and without fault.] If one of these special academics has asked you for feedback, use gentle and hedging language. I suggest something like:

    “Wow! What a great start. Already seems strong, but perhaps you could add more literature from the last twenty years? Also, in my experience, editors like when authors use spell check prior to submitting. I can’t wait to see a later draft!”

    Helpful hint. If the paper is outside of your discipline or area of expertise, it is not your place to judge how interesting it is. Just assume that the topic is highly relevant and important. This may shock you, but all your friends and colleagues think your area of interest is a stupid waste of grant funding without a real-world application. There, there. Your next symposium at the regional association meeting will show them!

    Tune in next week for Constructive Criticism Part II: Receiving it.

     
  • Julie T. Kinn 5:00 pm on October 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , communication, , late, ping, supervisee, supervisor   

    Keep those Slackers on Track 

    Group work is just fine when everyone contributes fully. Today’s post is about how to knock heads when your co-workers are acting more like cow-orkers.

    Collaborations break down when participants aren’t invested to the same degree. Your beloved project about slug habitats may be at the bottom of your co-author’s priority list (shocking, I know). Here’s a few tips to get you started on the right track:

    1. Discuss authorship roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the project. Be clear about expectations, and be willing to revisit the authorship order as needed.
    2. Discuss priorities and potential roadblocks. For example, I have an annual report I produce each year from April to June. Not only does it suck up my time, but it becomes my highest priority.  I know this will likely get in the way of collaborations and I can warn my co-authors.
    3. Discuss the time frame and be flexible. Maybe you would like everyone to turn in a first draft of their sections within two weeks, but insisting on a short time frame may prohibit others from joining your paper.

    After the work has begun, be willing to give reminders and help problem solve. Of course, your tact will vary depending on the co-authors.

    Working with Peers: Start with clear deadlines, but make sure that everyone agrees on them. If your peer co-author is late, it’s okay to send a quick email asking for an update, but best to speak in person. Do not post your frustration on Facebook.

    Working with your Supervisor (or others higher on the food chain): If he or she is late with work, provide an option for other ways to contribute. E.g., “It sounds like this may not be the best time for you to contribute to this paper. Another option is for you to come in at a later date and provide feedback on the semi-final product. Please let me know what you prefer. If you want an authorship role, could you finish your section by the end of the week?” Definitely do not post your frustration on Facebook.

    Working with your Supervisees (or others lower on the food chain): This is a special case. Supervisees may be late with work out of writing anxiety. Instead of just providing reminders and asking about late work, make time to sit down and problem-solve. You might be able to help break down the assignment into small goals. And, yes, go ahead and post about it on Facebook. A little humiliation never hurt (just jokin’).

    Any horror stories you’d like to share?

     
  • Julie T. Kinn 1:00 am on September 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: collaboration, intellectual property, scooped   

    Sharing Ideas Promotes Productivity 

    Getting scooped stinks. With the quick flow in information in our high tech era, many of us protect our intellectual property as vigorously as we protect our children (after all, my writing never calls me “poopy head”). However, I believe there is a danger in limiting idea sharing.

    There is an additive property in putting heads together. Working together creates that wonderful dynamic conversation: “Ooh… another thing to look into is…” and “It’s possible you could tie it into….”

    These conversations are invigorating, and motivate me to get pen on paper. Also, it’s a good way to build collaboration. Bring a peer on to your paper, and he or she will return the favor. Everybody wins!

    The danger in writing like a lone wolf is that it ultimately can limit your productivity. More importantly, though, it limits the reach of the literature and progress in our disciplines. I love this effort to promote collaboration among cancer researchers. Come on writers, let’s play nice 🙂

    After all, even if two writers start with the same general idea, it’s nearly impossible that they would end up writing the same article.

    Any good or bad experiences you’d like to share when you’ve shared ideas?

     
  • Julie T. Kinn 12:43 pm on August 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Start Your Own Writing Group 

    Want some nerdy fun that can help advance your career? Start your own writing group! You have several options, including:

    • A group of random writers from a variety of disciplines. Check out Meetup to see if there are already any groups meeting regularly in a cafe near you. These are fun if your goal is to meet new folks or work on your personal goal setting. However, you may not get a lot of useful feedback on your paper about neural network architecture.
    • A group of peers at work. Good times if you actually like your co-workers (yes, I fall into that category). You can either start a formal group (invite everyone) or informal (just ask around and let it grow organically). The danger in a formal group is that if you are in a leadership position, your invitation can come off more like an expectation. No one likes feeling voluntold.
    • A virtual writing group. There’s no reason you need a group in vivo. There are scads of ways to meet online using a FaceBook page, google docs, virtual teleconferencing or even Second Life. This is especially useful if you are one of a handful of folks studying your particular fascinating fungus. If there seems to be a lot of response to this blog, maybe we can set up something in this forum.

    Okay, so you and a bunch of like-minded others have pens, paper and lattes. What’s next?  Again, you’ve got some choices:

    • A real feedback group. Group members provide drafts and get constructive feedback. Not just “this is great!”. Good when you don’t have other sources of feedback.
    • A fake feedback group. Group members share drafts and are told “this is great!”. Pretty annoying if you are expecting constructive feedback, but everyone needs unconditional love once in a while.
    • A goal-setting group. This is my personal fave. Hold regularly-scheduled brief meetings (30 minute tops) to go around the group and state progress on goals and set new ones.

    Any other formats I’ve neglected? What works for you?

     

     
    • Fiona 12:57 pm on September 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      It’s hard to do constructive criticism correctly. People’s feelings can get hurt so easily. But I still want to give good feedback,.

      • Julie T. Kinn 9:37 am on September 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Howdy Fiona,

        Good point! I’m currently working on a two-part series for the blog… Constructive Criticism: Giving it (Part I) and Taking it (Part II). Thanks for the good idea!

        Julie

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