I will use what I learned from this Mini-Course to help make me a better manager in my current lab environment and when I eventually start my own lab.

Genevieve Housman

Postdoctoral Fellow

Strategies for Successful Team Management

Team leadership plays a key role in driving success in the lab and workplace. To thrive as team leaders in these settings—whether in academia, industry, policy, or other science-related careers—it is paramount for graduate students and postdocs to know how to manage and evaluate a team of people with diverse talents, skillsets, and personalities.

In this course, you will learn strategies for supervising employees on a team as well as students, interns, and other temporary workers who may be team members. You also will sharpen your understanding of how a team leader can function successfully within the larger organization of which her or his team is one part. Strategies and tactics for successfully managing a team working virtually (in whole or in part; all the time and sporadically; domestically and internationally) are interwoven throughout the six-part course.

The course consists of lectures, case studies, problem scenario discussions, and experiential activities delivered in virtual classroom format through six 2-hour live Zoom sessions. Asynchronous (pre-recorded) lectures will support each 2-hour session and will be made available approximately one week prior to the associated session.

Course Capacity: 30
Course Fee: $10

Dates & Times

SESSION 1: Tuesday, June 16th, 9 – 11 AM
Session 1 focuses on what supervisors usually consider an ideal employee: the individual who is both able (knows what to do and how to do it) and willing (is motivated). Supervisory skills addressed in this section include delegation, positive feedback, acknowledgement, and reward. We examine how a team leader can facilitate group development and dynamics during initial stages of team formation. We will also review best practices in supporting a high-performing team member in-person and virtually.

SESSION 2: Thursday, June 18th, 9 – 11 AM
The second session focuses on the employee supervisors usually experience as the second easiest to manage: the person who is willing but unable. This employee usually presents an attitude of openness to learning, enthusiasm, and motivation. However, he or she lacks the “know how” (skills and knowledge) to perform successfully. Supervisory skills covered include training, instruction, job aids, and subject matter feedback. We will review on-line training and learning options to assist team members acquire needed skills and knowledge. In terms of team development and dynamics, we focus on how team leaders can encourage task-related constructive controversy.

SESSION 3: Tuesday, June 23rd, 9 – 11 AM
Session 3 focuses a very challenging employee: the individual who has skills and knowledge to perform successfully but who (for a variety of reasons) lacks motivation (willingness). We review how team leaders can diagnose lack of motivation, which often manifests itself as “bad attitude.” The team portion will center on how team leaders can establish and reinforce commitment to combat sluggishness, lack of progress, and torpor. We will discuss the challenges in understanding and helping team members posed when leaders and team members lack physical co-location.

SESSION 4: Thursday, June 25th, 9 – 11 AM
In the fourth session, we look at the employee who is both unwilling and unable. This employee lacks the skills and knowledge to perform successfully and does not want to invest the effort to obtain that “know how.” Skill building centers on how conducting difficult conversations, establishing limits and nonnegotiable deadlines, and terminating an individual’s employment. We will review what team leaders can do when team members do not live up to what they have been assigned or asked to do, reinforcing accountability as the key driver to team success. We will examine the phenomenon of “social loafing,” in which more capable team members “take on” the work of non-performers to avoid team failure.

SESSION 5: Tuesday, June 30th, 9 – 11 AM
In session 5, we move away from the team itself to consider relationships outside the team. We focus on the team leader’s relationship to her or his direct supervisor or supervisors. Skill building centers on how to keep one’s supervisor informed about team progress (or lack thereof), the need for additional resources, obstacles for success, and one’s own need for professional development and mentoring. We review the importance of developing strong lateral relationships with other team leaders. We will examine the challenges of “managing up” and “managing across” virtually.

SESSION 6: Thursday, July 2nd, 9 – 11 AM
We conclude the course in session 6, looking at how the team relates to the broader organization, which, in many cases, has a matrix structure. In a matrix organization, reporting relationships are set up as a grid, or matrix, and team leaders have dual reporting relationships—generally to one or more principal investigators, faculty members, senior administrators, or some combination of these individuals. Matrix organizations pose particular challenges for team leaders, including prioritizing work and managing complicated signals and messages. We will review the impact of organizational flux and rapid change on the success of both new and ongoing teams. At the end of session 6, we review what students have learned throughout the course and discuss transfer of skill and knowledge from the course to the workplace.


Arnie Aronoff, PhD., Adjunct Faculty, The School of Social Services Administration, The University of Chicago

Dr. Aronoff is an organizational development consultant and educator with over 25 years of experience helping organizations improve performance. He has also taught management and team dynamics at the graduate student level for many years. Dr. Aronoff has expertise in health care, higher education, government, and social service sectors.  His specialties include team dynamics, especially at the executive and director levels. Additionally, Dr. Aronoff specializes in leadership development, organizational change, performance management, strategic planning, employee engagement, and diversity and inclusion.

This course is useful for almost all facets of day to day life, but is especially useful for mentoring in the workplace.

Juan Vazquez

PhD Student