Life seems to smile often on the work of the Starters. They pitch one idea after another and get to claim all the credit, whilst depending on others – namely the Finishers – to complete the job.

Starters: Of course you’re ready. Let’s go!

A Starter is the kind of person who jumps at the chance to conceive and begin new projects, lead others and push known boundaries just to see what is possible. At times it may look like they are setting themselves up for failure with a mountainous task made for a troop. To a Starter, for example, “failure” is not defeating, but a useful challenge to increase proficiency in a diverse set of skills, implement advanced technologies, and master entirely new ways of thinking about and doing things.

Enter Grant Season.

A pilot project needs to be run today. A new project demands the effort of everyone in the lab. Or that first project generates another interesting idea, causing the Starter to blast off on a tangent, leaving the original work unfinished and simmering out-of-sight, out-of-mind on the back burner. At least, maybe until a Finisher comes along.

Finishers: Awaiting orders

Back burners become crowded when a lab is filled with Starters. Finishers are the people you want to have around because they take projects perpetually in progress and close them out no matter what. Generally that means a project will be done forever, however in science it can also mean that the work is taken to the end of the next sample collection, data analysis or figure preparation so that it can be picked up again in the future, without having to start all over from square one.

It is of no consequence that the project didn’t begin with the Finisher. They willingly take ownership, looking to the final prize of crossing another item off the lab’s to-do list. That’s a huge help to keep data continuously flowing out – and hopefully grant funding flowing in!

Are you a starter, a finisher …or maybe a little of both?

A colleague of mine mused about being a “better follower than leader” because they felt more at ease in an environment (framed by Starters) where they could work at the heart of an assignment and complete it, rather than dream up new ideas all of the time. That’s what got me to thinking about this topic. I consider myself more of a Finisher as well.

This is not to say that Starters never finish and Finishers never start. They do. It’s uncommon to find someone who has equal footing in both camps, however. Even if you consider yourself primarily one or the other, it’s important to realize that you bring a unique set of skills that your lab depends on everyday!

As for other famous attributes,

Starters are also commonly:

  • Go-getters
  • Enthusiastic
  • Inspirational
  • Tend to operate in short, high-energy bursts
  • Think outside the box – even for the smallest problem to be solved
  • May burn out quickly, then quickly seek the next new thing

While Finishers are commonly:

  • Resilient, willing to take charge at any point, on task, even if the scientific application is outside their comfort zone
  • Excellent timekeepers
  • Comfortable juggling simultaneous projects
  • Breaking the complex into bite size, manageable parts

Call it teamwork or even collaboration, the crux of the matter is that Starters and Finishers need each other to thrive, making both equally valuable in the lab. The key to the successful, highly productive lab is that to employ a healthy mix of both!

When you partner with those who are great at what they do, that helps you be even better at what you do: Starting – and finishing – experimentation in record time.

What do you think? Are you a starter, finisher, a little of both, and do you think one is more valuable than the other? Chime in below!


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