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Manager Minute

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People who feel the tie of ownership are much more likely to engage with the work, improve the process, and have pride in the outcomes.
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Three Keys to Improve Accountability in the Lab

One effective way to improve accountability in the lab is to share ownership

The work most labs do is complex and time-consuming. To get all of the work done, and done properly, requires lab staff to share in the accountability of their work. Lab managers need ways to teach and develop accountability to lab staff. One effective way to improve accountability in the lab is to share ownership. People who feel the tie of ownership are much more likely to engage with the work, improve the process, and have pride in the outcomes. Enabling individuals to have ownership over some aspect of their role generates these benefits and improves employee engagement, which brings many more benefits, including higher retention. Ideally, every member of staff can have ownership over some aspect of their work. Ownership can be important at every level in the lab, from a junior technician to a senior scientist. Here are three tips to improve accountability through ownership in your lab. 

#1 – Provide autonomy

Keeping lab staff motivated can be a big challenge in many labs. Daniel Pink wrote in the book Drive that motivation is guided by three elements—autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is the ability to make the key decisions about the work, and to have a voice in the scheduling of the work. Every person can benefit from having some control over the work they are expected to complete. Try to find something for each person to own, whether it is a whole area of a lab, or a specific set of tests. Providing autonomy is a key step toward improving motivation.

#2 – Teach ownership

Owners care more for the performance, appearance, and outcomes than non-owners. This is the difference between how people treat hotel rooms or rental cars compared to their own homes or vehicles. This same caring can be obtained in the lab by providing ownership over functions or experiments. Owners will take more pride in their work, and apply more effort to executing and making improvements to the work. Teaching ownership involves developing staff, trusting them, and providing constructive feedback to build the skills necessary to be successful.

#3 – Develop more leaders

Successful leaders don’t generate more followers, they develop more leaders. With ownership over something in the lab, everyone can become a better leader. Owners will need to make good decisions within the sphere of their ownership. As they develop the skills to consistently make good decisions, they will both do things right, and do the right things, more often. These leaders will exhibit the accountability that is needed for the lab to reach its potential and be successful.


Thanks for reading. I hope you can use this information. I am very interested in hearing from you. If you have feedback or comments on this set of tips, or suggestions for future Manager Minutes, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at shanton@labmanager.com. I’m looking forward to our conversations. Thanks.