You are not in the driver’s seat—you are the GPS. You are not flowering your own ideas—you are helping the PI flower their own ideas. Research Administrators (RAs) have the difficult job of helping others make their dreams come true. It’s an odd self-satisfaction when it all works out beautifully in the end, and I like to think we’ve all stayed in this profession because of the joy we get in seeing others achieve success.

Here are 12 Steps to Making the Dreams of PIs Come True (adapted from: https://briandoddonleadership.com/2016/02/08/12-steps-to-making-the-dreams-of-others-come-true/):

  1. RAs who make dreams come true, ask good clarifying questions. You cannot make a dream come true until you know what the dream is and make a good plan on how to get there.
  2. RAs who make dreams come true care a lot about people. You take the time to get to know your PIs and the patients they are trying to help.
  3. RAs who make dreams come true are great listeners. The single most important skill that every professional has is their ability to listen and understand. One of my most used catchphrases at work is that I don’t need to fully understand the science to understand your research goals. You don’t need to be a world-class physicist or neurosurgeon to understand the basic goals and needs of your PIs.
  4. RAs who make dreams come true will ask for a plan. Someone smarter than me said, “A dream without a plan is a hallucination.” Even the best dreams need a solid plan in order to reach success.
  5. RAs who make dreams come true respond to a compelling vision. The best laid plans don’t always mean the end-game is worth the effort. Sometimes, you have to make sure that the destination your PI has in mind is worth traveling toward.
  6. RAs who make dreams come true surround themselves with wise people. We all know that two heads are better than one, but one wise head is better than two foolish ones. All ideas can be made better. All plans can be made more secure.
  7. RAs who make dreams come true ask for deadlines. A goal without a deadline is just a dream–a dream without a plan is a hallucination. Make realistic deadlines for yourself and your PIs.
  8. RAs who make dreams come true resource the dream. Let the word get out! Let leadership know about your PIs dreams, let other PIs know about the plan and project–let others help and invest in the same dream. You’ll reach your goal sooner.
  9. RAs who make dreams come true loan their influence. Collaborate and share your resources with others behind you. Encourage your PIs to mentor early career researchers in, or out, of their home department. Remember, often the mentor gets just as much, if not more, from the relationship as the mentee.
  10. RAs who make dreams come true give others permission to pursue their dreams. Give your own personal stamp of approval to your PIs and their plans. Let them know that you support them, and their dreams.
  11. RAs who make dreams come true remove obstacles. Make the pathway clear for your investigators. For me, this most often looks like clearing the paperwork burden so they can focus on more important things.
  12. RAs who make dreams come true follow through. Make a commitment to help your PI through every stage of the project–everyone is “cradle to grave” no matter what your daily work includes. Support the entire continuum of their research career, not just this one project.