During my training with the Dale Carnegie Sales and Marketing Course, my instructor gave me one piece of advice that stayed with me and helped me with everything. "You need to have feedback and followup."
He told me a story about his first marriage and relationship with his daughter.
"I just did not listen. I heard her words, but I did not ask for feedback on how I was doing as a husband. I think if I knew at that time what I know now, we would not have divorced. Now, I ask for feedback from my teenager. Every month we sit together with a piece of paper that has two columns - what I appreciated from your actions and what I did not like so much. She had written in the first column 'Dad, I love that you attend my soccer games.' In the second column, she wrote 'But would you please not shout out my name?' I had not known she felt uncomfortable with this. Now I knew, and I stopped. My relationship with her has been great since I started these feedback forms. It is one thing to say it; but when it is on paper, it is taken a bit more seriously."
As a parent, I think I will also be applying to my children soon, as they have become more skilled at communicating. As a graduate student and postdoc, it is essential to have this exchange with your advisor. Perhaps a form with "Great job with......" and "I would like you to help me with..." for both sides. This could be done every quarter so that progress and development is made on paper and kept as a record. Graduate students are usually afraid to write comments for their supervisor for fear of the recommendation letter; so as Bioch Grad Student Union Member, I handed out a form for everyone to write what they appreciated and needed more from a supervisor. I then compiled all the comments and sent it out to faculty, so they at least had a general, anonymous feedback. Publications alone do not make a postdoctoral and graduate experience. I also started this type of feedback form during my fellowship for the postdocs coming in after me.
When I worked in Biotech Sales and Marketing, follow-up was essential in making the deals, and feedback was essential in maintaining the relationship with clients. In a career transition, follow-up is critical in making the contacts, and feedback is essential in finding that transition a reality. As a scientist, follow-up is critical when you find a potential collaborator or industry lead. Feedback maintains the strong collaboration. These concepts all apply to any relationship that want you want to maintain, as a parent, spouse, friend, colleague.
Communications. I heard the other day that inventions are made tinkering in the lab, but innovations that affect the world are born by the coffee machine.
This is a great segue into the next entry of the importance of networking.