mariI have to say that being involved with this UKRI FLF Development Network is a real privilege.

As a Research Development Officer at Cardiff University, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of working directly with some of the very talented early career researchers that have submitted their fellowship applications to the UKRI FLF scheme in order to make that all important ‘jump’ to independence. I’ve provided support to applicants right through the various stages and I’ve realised that this scheme is very special, just like those (you!) who have been successful.

I know first-hand how mind-boggling this early stage of your fellowship can be, having been in your shoes over 14 years ago! At the time I had just given birth to my baby daughter and went immediately onto maternity leave – I only wish that I had had the support that you will all have access to via this UKRI FLF Development Network.

My role in the Network is to support the development of peer-review mock panels and the mentoring programme. Excitingly, we have recently appointed the UKRI FLF Dev Net’s Partnership Manager who will be providing the day-to-day support to this aspect of the Network – Watch this blog space for an introduction to them in the very near future.

So, many congratulations on your successful UKRI FLF awards and I’m very much looking forward to working with and meeting you at some of the encounters, workshops and events that are planned over the coming years.

Insights, ideas and resources from Tracey Stead and participants on the FLF Development Network’s Bridging Course on Being Strategic

Every day I find myself saying ‘Yes’ to something that just doesn’t support my goals.”

“I’m overwhelmed with current commitments and suspect I should have said ‘No’ to many of them.”

Sounds familiar?

Research is ever-expanding in nature and there will always be opportunities coming your way and people knocking at your door, particularly as you are an FLF and people in your department want your involvement. There will always be new, interesting, exciting (or the dreaded ‘mandatory’!) opportunities popping up over and above your day job and the things you’d planned to do.

So, when faced with these commitments and opportunities, how do you keep your mid- to long-term goals in mind and consciously make choices that support them. This is a vital skill for leaders and one we explored in the second Bridging Session on ‘Being Strategic’.

The Triage Test

Setting triage criteria for your work and research opportunities can help you focus on the urgent and important, much like a doctor in the emergency department.

You can use your triage criteria to:

  • choose opportunities to spend quality time on – ones that will lead you towards your goals
  • identify tasks that might distract or delay you from your goals – so you can decline or minimise your commitment

Set Your Criteria

A triage test is best applied to medium or long-term goals – what do you want to have achieved by this time next year?

Devise three questions to help you evaluate whether engaging in a new opportunity get you to where you want to go (or let you lead the life you want to lead)? Be clear how your choice will enable your future vision and the desired outcomes you want to achieve.

Here’s a triage test I’d been using to decide what projects to take on:

  1. Will it enable me to build my networks?
  2. Will it mean I can spend more time working from home?
  3. Will I still be happy doing this in a year’s time?

Use your test for a year or so then (when you ‘hit’ your next horizon and refocus towards future plans) adapt your triage criteria and start again. Back when I created this test I was travelling the country delivering workshops, but post-COVID my needs have shifted and these criteria are due a rethink – guess which one will be changing first! (post edit: I am now using a new criterion: Can I share the load with someone else?).

What would your triage criteria be?

What three YES/NO questions would you choose?
Some great examples were suggested by you in the Bridging Session:

  • Will it mean I can develop leadership skills?
  • Will it lead to some funding?
  • Will it raise my profile or enhance my reputation?
  • Will it involve working with people that inspire me or I have fun with?
  • Is it within or outside my ‘6 hours per week maximum on non-FLF tasks’?
  • If I had to start tomorrow, would I make time for it?
  • Is it REF-able?
  • Have I already committed to other things of a similar nature?
  • Will this give me positive energy?
  • Am I doing this because I hate saying no?
  • Is this aligned to my personal values?
  • Will this impact on stakeholders I want to have impact on?
  • Will I be working with people who won’t get in my way?
  • Would I still be happy to be doing this in a year’s time?
  • Will this disproportionately occupy my headspace?


Ask for specific details

Don’t accept or decline offers immediately – ask for details so you can fully assess the opportunity against your triage criteria.

Always explain

In the interests of being strategic, telling people why you are accepting (or declining!) and explaining how it connects to your vision/where you want to go is a great way to influence and train other people into knowing what you want to be doing. If they are enlightened about what you want to in your future they might think twice about asking you or might tailor their request the next time.

  • “I am accepting this because this is what I want to achieve in the next year and this helps me to do it.”
  • “I would like to say yes to this but in the next year/6 months this is what I am focussing on – feel free to ask me after that time and I may well be able to say yes.”
  • “At the moment I can only focus on some things and here’s what I’m focussing on, so I’m declining your opportunity.”

Can’t say no?

One question raised in the Bridging Session was, “But what if I can’t say no?” How do you respond to those offers or ‘mandatory’ events or projects that it’s not possible or politic to decline?

First, think of a way you can ask for the opportunity to be adapted so it gives you more of what you are looking for.

“I want to contribute to the Department and realise we all need to pull together so I’m happy to accept this opportunity. But what would really make me happier is if…

  • I could have another colleague working with me
  • it could involve me taking the lead in something so I develop a leadership skill
  • it would involve me taking this to another research institute/writing something so it builds my reputation
  • or something else in line with your triage criteria”

Then, if you have to say yes to something that can’t be adapted to better support your goals, be absolutely clear about the level commitment you can offer and your main priorities.

“I am saying yes because I want to be a helpful person but I can only give it X amount of time ( this amount of attention, this level of quality) because I am focussing on these three things (related to my criteria/goals) at the moment.”

The Triage Test… I find it a great tool to help me evaluate opportunities, stay focused on my goals, avoid overwhelm, and, really importantly, to feel in control and be more assertive, positive and strategic no matter whether my involvement is going to be a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’!


Download a PDF of Tracey Stead’s presentation from the Being Strategic Bridging Session

Download a PDF copy of the Triage Test diagram

Download a PDF text-only version of the Triage Test diagram

Access the recording of the Being Strategic Bridging Session #2 (accessible for members of the FLF Development Network)

I am delighted to introduce myself to you in my freshly minted capacity as Deputy Director of the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network. I will have responsibility for the themes of enterprise and self-leadership, and I am working with several of our consortium partners to bring these plans to fruition in the coming months. You’ll find out more about these themes, plus the leadership model which underpins them, at the first Research Encounters event next month, and I’m looking forward to meeting some of you in person through the programme of bite-sized ‘bridging’ workshops, which is already well underway. Before all of that, I am working intensively with our external consultant, Tracey Stead, to finalise the development of a 360° feedback tool, specially designed for this FLF community. In other words, you probably don’t know my name just yet, but we are on the cusp of getting to know one another.

This Network is my first formal engagement with the FLF scheme, but I have been supporting research fellows for twelve years. I have worked as an Adviser in the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre at Imperial College London and, for six years, in the Postdoc Careers Service at the University of Cambridge, where I specialised in academic careers in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. I wrote a series of pieces on these topics for The Guardian, and I have contributed to several books on writing successful job applications. My current job is Head of Researcher Development at Cambridge, where I support a number of leadership programmes for research and academic staff.

In amongst these legitimate undertakings, I also took a fairly eccentric career break, in 2014-15, to run a luxury ski chalet in the French Alps for a winter because – whisper it softly – after fifteen years’ studying, researching, and working in universities, I felt that I needed some time away from higher education. A change is as good as a rest, they say – which is lucky, because running a chalet six days per week is definitely not restful. I mention my career break mostly for the sheer novelty that I am probably the only member of the team who can discourse at some length on the many ways that sponge cakes don’t bake properly at altitude; and because I thought that this post would look more elegant if it had three paragraphs.

I am really pleased to introduce myself as the Research Culture Lead for the FLF Development Network. I will be supporting training, development and opportunities that focus on how we support and sustain honest, transparent, inclusive and creative research cultures in our teams and working practices.

I come to such a role as a Dean of Research Culture and Environment at Cardiff University where I have led on our working to support researchers and early career academics and our commitment to responsible research assessment. I have developed leadership training for new colleagues to Cardiff, allowing us to consider what makes for a positive research culture, and I have worked closely with the Wellcome Trust on their inspiring work on ‘reimagining research culture’. They are leading the way on honest conversations about what works well and less well for researchers in the UK and how we can improve the situation.

It has been super to work with FLFs and colleagues supporting the FLF Network already – Sara and the team at Edinburgh are amazing. From Cardiff, we will be leading on extending and enriching the mentoring programme which will be such an important dimension and experience for your personal and professional development. I look forward to e-meeting many of you soon in research encounters and workshops.

As a passionate linguist, I cannot help ending with a multilingual sign off – tous mes meilleurs voeux pour 2021! Diolch!

udeniI am very excited to join the FLF network in a dual capacity: firstly as board member with a shared responsibility for oversight and governance, and secondly as lead for EDI where I can share my EDI expertise, maintain an EDI focus when project planning and connect the project with EDI experts and social justice networks.

Race and gender within organisations is the current focus of my research. My work has has moved some way since my mixed methods PhD, awarded in 2017 and which examined innovation in family firms. My subsequent research interests apply race and gender theory to issues of social justice, including modern slavery in family firms and precarious labour during the COVID-19 crisis. I am currently working on an EPSRC-funded project investigating barriers to inclusion in STEM research careers at the University of Lincoln. I was a member of the feminist anti-racist collective Building the Anti-Racist Classroom from 2017-2019, which proved to be a crucible for my work and views on activism in academia. I continue to be actively involved in feminist, anti-racist organising.

As a post-doctoral academic, I have worked collaboratively to develop inclusive teaching and learning techniques for UG, PG and Executive Education programmes. Working together with colleagues, students and the wider community, I have contributed to justice initiatives at many academic institutions through initiatives such as the Race Equality Charter, student-led decolonisation work and organising with minoritised staff and students.

Prior to my academic career, I was a senior manager at large, global organisations such as IBM, Deloitte Consulting and Leonard Cheshire Disability. My mixture of public, private, and voluntary sector experience, in addition to my academic career, gives me a unique perspective. On a good day, I relish the a wealth of experience I can bring to the sector. On a bad day, I get imposter syndrome!

I hope to bring issues of justice, equality and accountability to the forefront of FLF planning. As future research leaders, you have the power to change research for the better: to create jobs for those who have been systematically excluded from academia, to destabilise racist, gendered, homophobic and anti-disabled knowledge production, to listen and learn from Black, indigenous and minoritised scholars who have long been critiquing existing power structures. I look forward to a shared journey together in which we will generate a cross-generational shift in thinking and working in the field of academic research. In a time of pandemic, mental health crises, the mainstreaming of far-right thought, and a closing down of borders, your research and actions can be a force for good in the world. I look forward to getting to know you.

I’ve spoken and written about resilience a fair bit over the last few years, always with the proviso that I’m not enabling the poor behaviours or accepting structures that diminish resilience. I’m very aware of the backlash against “resilience training” as an alternative to addressing institutional problems. Having said that, I recognise two things – that some of our resilience challenges ARE about personal choices and habits and are possible to change, and that improvements to our research culture are happening slowly, so we have some responsibility to supporting people whilst this is happening. I rather hope that by helping people to be more resilient, they are actually more likely to engage in the process of change, but that may be naivety.

So, I’ve run a workshop on resilience, but with an added flavour of avoiding self-sabotage. If you weren’t able to join the workshop you’ll shortly find a full recording of the session posted on the FLF Development Network website.

Slides: Bridging 4 – Resilience and Self Sabotage

I referred to a number of resources that feature in all my resilience sessions:

A significant part of the session looked at resilience more generally, but in this blog I’ll focus on the new aspect of self-sabotage. This echoes an approach I’d taken in the Time Management session which I’ve recently run for FLF Dev Net. In this I talked about the process for forming new habits and making better decisions. A lot of self-sabotage-avoidance advice takes the same approach:

Recognising that self-sabotage is a result of fighting against a goal you had set yourself. Is there something about the goal that is wrong? Is there something about the way you’ve decided to achieve it that’s wrong?

Then you characterise the things you’ve done which have derailed the goal. I liked a term from the “Greater Good Magazine” blog on self sabotage which described these as ” seemingly irrelevant decisions”. My life is full of these and I usually don’t notice them, but starting to notice where my bad habits are rooted has helped me spot these “SIDs”.

Another blog from Entrepreneur Europe suggested the strategy of making small changes and steps. In most of my sessions which relate to behaviour change I talk about 5% improvements, often inspired by the great Twain quote:

(not this Twain quote, if you were wondering…)

I find it useful to share challenges and how I’m trying to address them, but am aware that it can be difficult to show this vulnerability and I might think twice if I was at an earlier stage in my career. Watching the Brené Brown TED talk on vulnerability and the longer Call to Courage show on Netflix has helped me with this. As a manager I would rather know about these challenges early so I can work with my colleagues to help them get through them. (In looking up the links for the Brené Brown videos I also found some short animations from the RSA on empathy and blame which are only a few minutes long…)

Finally, in the chat at the end of the session we explored some common triggers of dropping resilience and I wasn’t surprised to hear that the challenges of orientation to a new organisation (exasperated by lockdown) were a problem for many. I am thinking about how to support the FLF community with this and there are a range of resources already available online, such as these from the University of Edinburgh:

  • A guide for new researchers which was a side product of a project to explore resilience a few years ago
  • The virtual version of Edinburgh’s Get Connected event for new research staff
  • Most organisations will have induction information for staff. If you’re struggling to find yours it might be referred to as “on-boarding

As always in a session on resilience a lot of the value came from the attendees being open and honest about their challenges. They aren’t alone in finding things hard at the moment and neither are you. I hope the resources here help you to see that, then to start to build your own resilience plan.

This blog post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0

samI have been a roving Panel Member from the outset of the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme, so there is a good chance that I have read your proposal and indeed, seen your interview from the back of the room. The roving Panel Member role isn’t actually about what you are doing, it is to ensure that the panels are consistent in their approach to your proposal, then your interview. I love being part of this scheme, the team are so professional and it is a carefully choregraphed process – I’ve learnt a lot about the behind-the-scenes challenges, I really don’t know how they do it! Being part of the FLF scheme has been very positive, through it I met someone who is now a mentor and, of course, it is great to be part of something that is life-changing for people involved research and innovation.

I have spent many years in Higher Education, working in the area of professional development for academics, research staff and PhD students. I have also sat on the BBSRC Talent and Skills Committee and regularly sit on panels for funding doctoral training and development. I am now the Head of Interdisciplinary Research Development, something I have had a passion for since working with Sara, our Director, on developing national Crucible Programmes. These are programmes where we bring people together from different disciplines over a period of time to give them real time and space to think about their own research in the context of working with others. I love hearing academics from very different disciplines bouncing ideas around and exploring novelty at the boundaries of apparently unrelated methods. It is the highlight of my role.

I made the closing remarks at the Future Leaders Fellowships Inaugural Cohort Event in September 2019, in the heady days when we were all in a hotel in London. I used this slide which is the opening slide I use on Crucible Programmes.

imaine what you could achieveIt struck me that, as Future Leader Fellows, you have an incredible combined power to develop exciting new approaches, ideas and even disciplines. And so I am really looking forward to working with you virtually and, when the time is right, in person on exciting interdisciplinary programmes and global citizenship initiatives.

If you have any thoughts or questions about those areas, please contact me via our Network email address

This post supports a time management workshop for the UKRI Future Leader Fellows Development Network. A full recording of the workshop will be available to members of the network on our website, and you can review the slides here: Bridging 3 – Priorities and Time

I suspect many of those attending the workshop and reading this now will have already been on many time management workshops. I spent many years going to workshops and hoping for a magic wand to “fix” things before realising that any time management solution has to be tailored for the specific problem experienced by the individual. I also realised that some of my time management problems were a consequence of the behaviours and choices that made me successful.

A better approach is to recognise that there are at least three stages to improving your time management.

Investing time in REALLY understanding what choices you are making about how to spend your time and reflecting on what you can change and are willing to, and then which aspects of your time management problems are about your environment and people around you.

Looking at the various time management tips and advice and working out which are the best solutions for your situation

Working to embed these new approaches in your work habits

Number 3 is the toughest for me – my good intentions evaporate and I find myself back in overload. The session looks at all three aspects and shares a lot of tips from other researchers.

Supporting the session are a number of resources and recommended links:

Mapping your time:

I’ve posted a number of versions of time mapping sheets in other blogs on the topic of time management, productivity etc, so here’s a few options:

Time Logs with Happy or Sad column
Time management – about me or about others
Shape of day

And if you are concerned about things drifting and what to prioritise/who to ask for help:

Risk Register

If you want to have some structure to the suggested daily review:

Review of day

I’ve previously put all these thoughts into a time management guide which is openly available and includes a completed version of the “about me or about others” grid.

Ten Tips for Time Management: (you can see another session on these here):

  1. Prioritise important stuff
  2. Minimise distractions
  3. Create deadlines
  4. Improve environment
  5. Know your energy rhythm
  6. Minimise other people’s work
  7. Use margins of time
  8. Notice set backs to plans
  9. Manage demands from others
  10. Do it well enough

Embedding Better Habits

The final part of the session was about strategies to change habits and decision making about time for the better.

We talked about saying no to more offers and opportunities and I fawned slightly over a series of great blogs written by one of my Edinburgh colleagues, Professor Sue Fletcher-Watson:

The Year of Radical No’s
Reflecting on the Radical No 9 months in
Reporting on the “Yes’s” possible because of the Radical No
– and general thoughts on time management

We also talked about the concept of “triaging” offers and decisions, building on earlier sessions from my FLF network colleague Tracey. A dig around my uni blog uncovered a couple of posts on this theme which may be interesting – one on how to scrutinise your own decisions and another on how to ask busy people for help. If one of your issues is that people ask you for help that eats up too much time, then there might be some suggestions in the second blog which you could develop in gentle suggestions to help them and (mostly) you:

Do I really want to do this?
Buy-in from the Busy

Finally we had a few suggestions about the value of various books and resources:
Designing Your Life
Digital Minimisation or Deep Work (or anything by Cal Newport)
Do More Great Work (my suggestion – resources from the books used to be available online, but now seem to have been replaced by an online programme)

Finally I mentioned one of my favourite online resources from Judy Ringer.

We Have to Talk: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations

Note that I’ve got this blog up quickly – it’s not perfect but hopefully more helpful that the alternative – it sitting on my to do list for a week and then falling off it…

saraFor the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of supporting the FLF network behind the scenes as a roving panel member. Some of you may recall odd people lurking in the corner of a room observing your interview, although I suspect many of you won’t have noticed in the white heat of the moment! My role was to ensure that the FLF selection process, so carefully and thoughtfully shaped, was followed to the highest standard. In doing this, I’ve become familiar with your plans and watched as you presented your visions and ambitions.

As a Head of Researcher Development, I had the opportunity to work with some of our Fellows as they crafted their applications and then put their plans into action through our training programmes for research students and staff. When the opportunity arose to support ALL of the first three cohorts of FLFs through this Development Network it was difficult to resist!

This Network is the result of years of connectivity. Many of us have worked together for a number of years, and have done our best work as collaborators. We inspire each other to be more creative and innovative and we have complementary skills and interests. Working in the sectors you are based in, we are committed to research and researchers, but also share a hope of improving research cultures and making our organisations more inclusive. We know we share this with many of you. We are designing support and development which will enable you to be more effective despite the challenges we’re navigating now and those that are ahead. You will play a part in influencing our programmes through your contact with Bridget, our Community Manager, and your representatives on our Advisory Board.

We know from our experiences on Crucible and sandpit programmes that researchers do some of their most exciting work when they are brought together, given time to think and resources to act. A cornerstone of our network is the “Plus Fund” which will resource small scale start up projects, events and workshops. We’re open-minded about what the funding can cover and looking forward to working with you to decide how best to use these resources.

I’m looking forward to meeting more of you over the next three years – both virtually and, in time, in person. Our four-nation partnership will eventually be running events across the whole of UK, and our theme leads will be creating activities around our core pillars of Engagement & Communication, Enterprise and Self-Leadership, Leading Teams, Transforming Research Culture, Contribution to UK society and Global Citizenship. We also look forward to seeing the communities and ideas that coalesce as your engagement with us grows.

Welcome to the Development Network and congratulations on your successes in being recognised as Future Leaders.

In the coming weeks we’ll be posting more about who we are and why we do what we do. We believe that building relationships between the FLFs and us, the team that works for you, is central to all of our success.

Once our Network is established, we will start publishing fortnightly newsletters here, and we would welcome contributions from you, our change-makers.

We can’t wait to get started!