Improve your well-being in professional relationships

Organization, self-reflection and skillful communication are competencies that take time and practice to develop. Samuel Krahl and Céline Carret from EMBO Solutions in Heidelberg offered HPC PhD students and postdocs some strategies for developing these skills to improve their well-being, professional relationships, and research.

During the two-day HPC Retreat, career and personal development were on the agenda to complement the research and strategy presentations. Samuel Krahl, senior trainer for EMBO Solutions, commented that: “It is wonderful to see leading scientific institutes like the HPC taking these skills so seriously. Scientists face significant challenges and pressure in their work; both from the research itself and from the wider research environment. To get great science done, it is important to equip researchers with the communication and management skills they need. We are always honoured to have the opportunity to work with such smart and empathetic young people.”

Appreciative and clear communication is an important hallmark of high-performing teams and can increase people’s well-being and effectiveness. As Simon Wengert, PhD Student in Na Cai´s lab, commented after the workshop: The career development training by EMBO Solutions was a great way to learn about the value of emotional competence, feedback culture, and proper communication to high perfoming teams doing academic research. Sam and Céline did a great job emphasizing the importance of recognising and appreciating one's emotions in different professional settings. The practical sessions are what I enjoyed the most: we could take home a toolbox to manage work relations more effectively and make our PhD endeavours more joyful for everyone involved.”

Throughout the session, participants sat in small discussion groups to share their experiences, resulting in lively discussions. The enthusiastic response that Sam and Céline received highlighted the value of the workshop for the participants. As Lucky Santino, PostDoc in Jian Cui's lab, commented: We were encouraged to discuss our experiences amongst ourselves, and then were able to share with the larger group. The resulting direct feedback and comments from the hosts and our peers were quite helpful. My most valuable take home message was to practice regularly giving positive feedback in order to make your more critical feedback less overwhelming.

In addition to the useful discussions, a particular highlight was meeting in-person again after a long period of Corona restrictions. Being able to exchange ideas face-to-face was a welcome experience that added value to the day. “The EMBO workshop, after so much time in a changed/pandemic social environment, gave a wonderful opportunity for peers to discuss and reflect on the soft skills that are essential to a happy, productive working environment,“ commented  Erin Aboelnour, PostDoc in Boyan Bonev's lab. “In a lab setting especially, where we frequently encounter the need to work together, Sam and Céline gave an insightful presentation that introduced the research behind effective communication, feedback, and motivation. This talk also went hand-in-hand with a few practical breakout sessions in small teams to apply these tools to our real-life experiences. I hope all HPC'ers have a productive time practicing these tools and reflecting on their ability to encourage positive relationships in the workplace!she concluded.

Thank you, Sam and Céline from EMBO Solutions, for the interesting, instructive and informative morning. All participants could take home new concepts from this workshop, and we are certain that the newly acquired skills will improve general communication within and beyond HPC’s scientific environment.