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Leading a Multi-national, Multi-disciplinary, Multi-methodological, Multi-epistemological, Multi-interest Research Team

Updated: Feb 14

by Prof Thomas Bryer, Lead Principle Investigator and USA Team


In 2014, I published an article focused on collaborative governance arrangements to support low-income youth in their educational journeys. (See https://digitalscholarship.tsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=jpmsp).


In the article, I described the collaborative arrangements as like a multi-flavoured wedding cake: diverse interests coming together, as if in a marriage of both purpose and convenience and maybe a little love, and somehow managing to unite and achieve results for the children.

 

I formed the research team for this grant based on existing bilateral relationships I had with colleagues in Canada and the United Kingdom (Poland joined through a referral). Until we started to craft the grant proposal, the full team had never been in a physical or virtual room together.


We were speed dating with the hope that our emerging relationships would be seen as credible and trustworthy by reviewers. After the grant was awarded, we were effectively married and have been tasting various recipes for our multi-flavoured wedding cake since.



Team discussions in New Orleans, January 2024

 

Here I offer six practices that guided me as the formal team leader in writing the preparing the grant proposal, and seven practices for leading and managing the team once it is in full swing.


These are not recipes for success, necessarily. Indeed, I suggest every marriage needs to discover its own preferred blend of ingredients that appeal to the unique tastes and preferences of the partners, but these are some points you might want to consider.

 

Leadership Practices to Prepare a Strong Grant Proposal

 

1.     You are the matchmaker. Others accepted your invitation to explore or join the grant proposal. You need to be the most informed person about the grant.

2.     Present the grant in a simple and compelling manner.

3.     Establish a timeline, be prepared to assign tasks but also be prepared to be the primary writer.

4.     Spend time with each team member separately to address questions, particularly if they don’t have any prior relationship with other team members. They might not feel comfortable speaking or asking questions within a larger group when the trust relationship is with you.

5.     Operate transparently. Keep all grant documents and emerging drafts in a shared drive.

6.     Remember, you are leading and facilitating, not controlling. Your team members are just that; they are not your subordinates.

 

Leadership Practices to Successfully Implement the Project

 

1.     You are the formal leader. Let informal leaders emerge according to their strength.

2.     Invite team members to take lead on critical aspects of the project and appreciate them for their efforts. (Example: cross-training team members across methods and ways of knowing)

3.     Establish timelines and benchmarks for performance but be flexible when deadlines are missed while also holding strict accountability for promises made.

4.     Have alternative implementation strategies ready to propose to the group in the event a team member falters in the plan they are implementing. In other words, expect the wheels to come off the wagon (but do not openly discuss the possibility lest team members disengage or lose confidence in each other).

5.     Try to maintain regular one-on-one contact with each team member (or team subgroups) to be aware of stresses, challenges, and other factors that might hinder or help the performance of the team.

6.     Lead horizontally, not vertically. Your team members are your peers and colleagues, not your subordinates.

7.     Appreciate every team member for every contribution (no matter how “small”) and let each team member shine. The team succeeds only if each member can clearly state to their bosses how the multinational, multidisciplinary, multi-methodological team would not be successful if not for their efforts.



Team meeting in New Orleans 2024, supported by the KiND Institute

 

Hopefully there is something for everyone to take away from this list! And I can report that we are now a highly functioning – and sometimes dysfunctional – but happy team!

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