A lot of the time, we’re just thrown into being a supervisor – we’re given the choice to have PhD students to help do research and we take them on.

Often, we don’t get much training for being a good supervisor. Most supervisors’ only experience with supervising is what their own supervisors were like. In some cases, they have great role models to follow. In other cases, they have terrible role models. And sometimes, you just don’t have much time to figure out how to be a good supervisor and you just supervise however you think you should at that point.

And that’s where being a bad supervisor becomes tempting – you usually don’t know you are because you don’t intend to be one, but because you have so many other things on your plate, you’re more focused on “putting out fires” and getting everything done that you don’t even think about how to improve how you supervise. Taking a rushed approach where you give the least amount of time you can is very tempting because you have so many other things to do.

Taking a rushed approach is tempting because it saves you time.

But, does it really?

Let’s say you have a car. You don’t have much time to get it tuned by a mechanic regularly because you got a lot of other stuff in your life going on. It saves you a lot more time by not routinely taking it to the mechanic. After all, it’s working, isn’t it? So, why spend more time on taking it there??

So, let’s say you notice there’s a little wear on the tires, but they’re still okay, so you don’t need to go to the mechanic – you save some time and money, maybe 350 bucks – great! Then, your brakes start to wear a little – big deal! They’re still working. Besides, you want to go, not stop. So, how important are brakes anyway?? Then, your oil becomes a little dirty – so what? It’s just the oil. The car runs great still!

Then, all of a sudden, your car breaks down. The tires are completely bald. The brakes are worn. The oil you didn’t change led to overheating, which blew a gasket and damaged the engine. The gearbox also suffered a little from the heat. Now, your car is out of action for weeks, even months. It costs $10,000 to replace everything. It seemed like a great idea to neglect all these little issues because each time you would’ve taken your car to the mechanic, it would’ve cost you a day plus a few hundred bucks.

So, by ignoring these issues, you initially saved maybe one week and $1,000, in total.

That’s pretty great, isn’t it?

Well, no. Because it ended up costing you many more weeks and thousands of dollars more in the long-run. What’s more, you risked an increased chance of having an accident while you were driving around with bad tires and brakes. Thankfully, this time it didn’t lead to a fatal accident, and it just cost you money and time…this time. But, who knows, maybe next time it will cost you more.

So, how does this relate to being a good supervisor?

Your students and their PhD projects are very much the same as cars. If you neglect them, because it’s “easier” and “quicker”, little problems start ballooning. As they become larger, the negative effects they have grow exponentially, until they’re unmanageable and they blow up in your face.

Saving time and energy now by being a bad supervisor results in MANY more problems later on and costs you more.

Hence, why it’s easier to be a good supervisor than a bad one. In the long-run, you save time being a good supervisor, and your projects are done better.

If you would like to improve your supervising skills, as we all should continually do to prevent those problems ballooning, we offer a great course to help you. And we’ve priced it so that it’s affordable for everyone. You can find it here. It’s called, “Becoming A Better PhD Supervisor – PhD Voice Training”.

We also have a free resource for supervisors to use to develop their supervising relationship with their students. You can find it here for free.

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