morale

Seahawks

My son loves the Seattle Seahawks, and so in my house we notice when something about the Seahawks is in the news. My wife Jenny - a health care professional herself - just came across this story the other day on ESPN about the relaxed atmosphere instilled in their practice camp, including meditation and yoga as part of their weekly or even daily routine.

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Almost on the same day, I had come across a series of TED talks about productivity in the workplace and how to best foster it. This is both for my own growth as a professional, trying not to get too caught up in the administrative tangle of a university while maintaining my trajectory as a biologist, as well as figuring out how best to work with students and colleagues.

One of the talks in particular was about
leadership and productivity, and how engendering pleasant work environments - positive attitude, happy workers - leads to higher productivity, rather than the other way around. It triggered a lot of thoughts about how we use these ideas in graduate training, something that to me is a combination of medieval apprenticeship and modern-day productivity. We are training people how to do what we do, but we are also trying to get things done with them and through them. So how do we make this training experience best for students and mentors alike?

I try but I’m sure it could improve. I
think I have happy students - at least, as happy as a grad student can be with all of the stresses of finishing a thesis and juggling the real life outside of these walls! But I know that as a department, we haven’t given much thought to how to work on the morale of the troops, how to calmly handle the fears and insecurities of generating ideas and backing those ideas up with data. This might be a good thing to think about before our next departmental retreat.