I wanted to reach out to tell the Lab Manager team just how much I am enjoying the Lab Certification program so far and how helpful it has been for me already!
I wanted to advance but …
I have been the lab supervisor for the City Water Quality Lab for the last 11 years. My manager is planning to retire within the next few years so I want to do everything I can to ensure I’m the best choice for the position when the time comes. This certification program came along at just the right time for me.
One of the hardest parts of moving from a lab chemist to a supervisor was learning the skills I needed to oversee people. There isn’t a lot of training up front; it’s more of a learn as you go situation. I invested a lot of time and money on my own to develop my coaching and leadership skills because it was important for me to build solid, trusting relationships with my staff and teach others how to develop their skills as well.
My learner’s journey helped our hiring …
I took Scott Hanton’s Performance Planning and Reviews class and it’s been extremely helpful! This class saved me this year! I’m now doing hiring and onboarding and I flip back through my class materials and notes for his advice. I took the course right before I did all my performance reviews with my staff, and it gave me great ideas to improve my skills in this area. I especially like all the examples that are given for writing reviews for a high performer versus a low performer. They were lab-specific examples too, which was even better!
My favorite class from Track 1 was the Recruiting, Hiring, and Onboarding class. I loved all the tips on what to look for in a resume. Several tips were given in the class that I am going to use right away in our hiring process. I was especially impressed with the onboarding section and all the benefits that can come from a thoughtful and organized onboarding process.
When it comes to hiring, I’ve been referring directly to Scott’s examples, guidance, and dos/don’ts. The class and my real-world needs/tasks correlated well.
I shared the new hire onboarding steps learned from the class for the first day, week, month, and 90-day evaluation period. My boss was very impressed and agreed to let me implement these steps in the onboarding of our next new hire at the laboratory.
We advertised an open position. We had 40 applications and I had to narrow them down to just six. I kept reviewing my course materials, notes, and what Scott says in class, e.g., on inherent biases, blacking out the names, and having multiple people review the resumes. Without Scott’s guidance, my unconscious biases could have easily impacted my review process.
I then taught my supervisor and a coworker to not decide on a candidate based on “a good feeling or bad vibes.” Scott’s advice is to look for specific things and ways to go through resumes, e.g., long lists, gaps in time, and other signs/issues, specific reasons. We are putting it all into practice here and improving our operations from hiring and onboarding through to departures (voluntary or not) and offboarding.
We needed to be much more objective and have it be defensible if we are ever questioned on it.
… And with my leadership techniques
Another important course and work topic is leadership basics. There are different ways to connect and build rapport with our lab staff. I have eight direct reports and technicians and there’s not always a lot of extra time available to engage no matter how much I want to as there are 12 in the lab total.
Scott introduced me to “managing by walking around” (MBWA) in the workspace. I don’t just wait for staff to come to me anymore. Being in my office, it’s too easy to stay there and rely on them taking the first step. Instead, each week I walk around, do check-ins, chat, and ask about progress.
As Scott suggested, I can block out an hour as needed in my calendar. It’s been very well received with good feedback so far. I’m considered part of their lab now, not just when they need me.
I also wanted to say thank you for being so responsive to feedback for these classes. I asked for more information about a document from one of the classes and I got a response back with a thorough explanation of the document and several detailed examples. When I’d ask a question, Scott himself would respond in great detail. My reaction? “Wow! Thanks! It made me feel important.” I was super impressed!
Lab Manager Academy helped me get a new role!
Here’s the ending to our story. Our lab analyzes city drinking water and we do so much testing that we’re seeing growth based on service demand. Several months ago we created a new position, assistant manager / QA specialist—and it's open to internal candidates. Through the Lab Manager Academy, I’ve improved my skills, developed myself, and added to my resume. I wanted to be the most qualified for the role. This has been wonderful training and development to prepare me for advancement. Scott provided a good outline of steps to take to improve oneself as a manager and leader. And yes, I absolutely got the promotion just two weeks ago! I am now the assistant manager. Thanks Scott and Lab Manager Academy!
Laboratory Assistant Manager / Quality Assurance
Laboratory Services, Water Department, City of Arlington, Texas
My name is Johnny Farnen, and I am the laboratory manager at the College of Science & Technology–Bellevue University, Nebraska. We are very proud of our facilities here; they may be smaller than some of the other universities in the state, but they are top-notch!
My challenges had me ready to quit …
When I started working as a part-time lab technician at Bellevue University it was a huge learning curve for me, as I did not receive formal training.
I was also working beyond my scheduled hours to help improve outdated processes and procedures. I started getting to a point where I was burned out and ready to quit. I asked the department to hire a lab manager, and to my surprise they responded, “Okay, you’re our new lab manager!”
I had no experience and was learning on the fly and *BS’ing* my way where and when needed. I have leadership and management experience dating back 20 years, but no business education or experience in higher education. My previous certifications were all for industry—not in labs nor in academia. I was eager to find resources and training that could help me build confidence as a manager and develop the skills needed to run the lab well.
My learner’s journey helped save me …
This is when I saw that the Lab Manager Academy became available, and I knew I needed to complete the program! I asked the university for approval, and they gave me the go ahead.
There was a massive amount of information provided within the certification program. The main courses as points of interest for me were Collaborating with a Team, How to Deal with People, and most importantly, Personnel Management.
Personnel Management is very important as the labs I oversee have approximately 24 people and we are on a first name basis. I needed to learn the social aspect as it is quite different from my previous industrial and Navy background.
I really enjoyed the format; online training can be good or bad, and this was great! I could go as fast as I could read with high comprehension and the training adapted to my preferred learning styles. I finished the program within four days! While completing the program I kept wondering to myself, “Why didn’t I know this? Why didn’t anyone teach me this? Why didn’t I think of it?” And “Why on God’s green earth don’t others do training my way as a learner?”
There is content in the program for everyone and every skill level or position. I have decided to make this mandatory learning for our four student workers, too.
… What Lab Manager Academy taught me
The day after I completed the program, we had a personnel issue in which I had to include our administrators, advisors, and sports staff. I was able to use my new management skills from the Academy in a real-life situation and come up with an appropriate course of action.
Prior to completing the Lab Manager Academy Certification, I was worrying constantly as I take any injuries personally and it is my responsibility to prevent them. Now with this management training my worries can ease a bit!
The biggest danger is complacency—it’s vital to engage in continuous improvement and learning. Both the Lab Management and Lab Safety Management [once it’s available] certificates add to my CV. Thank you, Scott, and Lab Manager Academy!
College of Science & Technology
Bellevue University, Nebraska