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The Hardest Soft Skill?

For scientists, meetings offer the opportunity to "share information, set goals, and both analyze problems and develop possible solutions." And that's why the ACS Careers blog's John Borchardt says that facilitating and managing meetings is an important non-science skill for researchers to cultivate. It's what he calls "an advanced soft skill," in that "facilitators need to be diplomatic individuals who remain quietly observing most of the time but insert themselves into the meeting to take action as needed." During a meeting, the facilitator faces the tough task of observing the discussion and directing — disruptive individuals in particular — as needed. "During the meeting they may need to invite comments from the meeting participants and encourage them to remain focused on meeting goals, and record and display key comments and conclusions," Brochardt says.

Overall, he adds, as scientists increasingly work in teams, lab managers and their staff "spend a considerable part of their working hours in meetings." Managing and facilitating productive meetings, then, is both a difficult but necessary skill for scientists.