Guideline Four | Individual differences

4. Appreciate individual differences amongst your young researchers and provide projects, ideas and direction suitable for their strengths and skills.

"A mentor needs the ability to create a unique relationship with each member of the lab. Francis possesses this attribute and sees the strengths and skills of each individual and then designs projects to suit these strengths. Her ability to understand that not everyone works in the same way or wants the same things from their lives enables her to produce the best results from people."

"Not everybody wants to be a leading researcher and some have skills that better suit them to other occupations.  There is little point in encouraging young people to take on a career to which they may be unsuited or which they will find stressful or uninteresting.  So I believe it is necessary sometimes to encourage them into other directions ." 

We are all different. Different in the way we learn. Different in the way we think, become interested and lead our lives. We come from many varied and different cultures. A good supervisor/mentor appreciates these differences and does not try and fit square pegs in round holes. They know when to back off and let people make their own decisions and when to come in and offer support and sympathy. Not everyone wants to be a leading researcher and some are better suited to other occupations. We should acknowledge this and help them along that pathway.
Sit down with a cup of tea or glass of red and write down the strengths and weaknesses of each of your current team, the personal issues that confront them and their special circumstances. Now reflect on how you work with them. Do you feel you treat them differently taking account of these individual differences? There is more to life that what they do in the lab. They need freedom to "smell the roses' as one mentee put it. If things change and appear to be going wrong we need to try and understand why. If personal life is becoming tough, then give them time and space. Good mentors make themselves aware of this. Again we are often so busy we don't notice.

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