How do you go about convincing those scientists to take those actions? I can sort of see the ‘planting the flag’ analogy working on the scientist who has, as you put it, “a significant ego”, but how do you convince someone who’s afraid of the limelight to jump right into it?
Thanks for the question, Sonia–it’s a good one. I’ll talk about this at length another time but I think the secret to finding the path to success is to listen to what the scientist is really trying to tell you.
If they don’t want to do something, they have a reason for it. If it is fear, and it often is, try to find out what they are actually afraid of. It is usually an irrational fear, like most fears, and can be handled. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy! If, in the case you mention, you can work out why they fear the limelight, it could give you the solution. I’ve come across people who fear the limelight for a wide range of reasons.
One of the true advantages of getting to know the scientists in your institution is that when this kind of situation arises, they already have some trust in you. That goes a long way toward quelling fears. Otherwise, you have to really give them a chance to talk through whatever block they have in their mind so you can work out which way to go next.
I know this doesn’t tell you how to solve the problem yet. That is because you first need to diagnose the issue a little more, and then figure out the best steps. I’ll definitely talk about some of the options in an upcoming post though.
One of the things I have noticed in dealing with people in general, is that if they start to give you reasons for what they’re doing, then the battle is half won — now you can tackle solving those specific problems. (Actually this is the contrapositive of marital advice a character gave in The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell: If you’re sure you don’t want to do something then simply say no and never give a reason. The moment you start explaining your reasons, you’ve lost the battle.) So, I like the idea, you present here, David, that the first step is simply talking to the scientists extensively — if you can get the real story (at least in the kinds of situations which you present here) then usually a solution will present itself.
Very good points, Karen! And I’ll have to remember the approach of “just say no”! 🙂
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