Putting the "I" in "Team" - Pharmaceutical Executive


Putting the "I" in "Team"

Pharmaceutical Executive

2. Know Thyself

Self-knowledge is indeed the beginning of wisdom, but it is difficult to put that wisdom to work. It's not enough to understand how the organization or the external environment works, or even to understand the people you're dealing with. You must also know authentically who you are—your values, motives, personality—and be able to manage the dynamics of a wide range of interpersonal encounters based on that self-knowledge.

When you know who you are, you can bring your authenticity to bear in whatever way is called for by the context. This ability is emphatically not a chameleon-like talent for pleasing people. Rather, it is an ability to flex your personal style according to the situation. An encounter with a fellow team member, a regulator, a payer, or the CEO is not just about that other person—it's about that person and you. Salespeople, for example, certainly understand that to be effective, they must take into account the personality of the person they're dealing with as well as the circumstances of the encounter. The best salespeople, however, also understand themselves and draw on that understanding to genuinely engage other people.

As a member of a cross-functional team, with its hitherto unfamiliar internal as well as external relationships, you may need to be direct, inquiring, reflective, facilitative, accepting, or confrontational, as the circumstances require. But whatever style you use must be based on an inner core of self-knowledge. Many organizations provide executive coaches for their leaders, but how many really provide those leaders with the freedom to understand who they really are? This may seem like the soft stuff, but it offers solid payback.

3. Know Your Team

No one knows better than you what you bring to the team in the way of skills and knowledge—and what you lack. But you should also analyze what competencies the team as a whole possesses. Given the team's charter, such as speeding time to market, does this particular group of individuals collectively have all of the disciplinary bases covered? Does each member have the necessary interpersonal and organizational skills? If there are gaps in the team's competencies, can those competencies be developed by current team members or should additional members be sought?

Consider, for example, a cross-functional team charged with educating payers and providers about the efficacy and superiority of a drug currently in development. The goal, of course, is to promote a favorable reimbursement environment and solid market acceptance well in advance of the drug's approval, although it is only after approval that reimbursement can begin. By preparing the way for the broadest possible launch, the team is aiming not just at speed to market but also speed to profit.

To successfully educate payers and providers, the team will need competencies in the product's science, its regulatory prospects, competitive intelligence, marketing, and more. Just as importantly, the individual team members who can provide those competencies must also possess the interpersonal skills that enable the team to seamlessly integrate those competencies into a unified, persuasive message and communicate it.

Toward the I-Team

Numerous techniques exist for making sure individuals and teams have the right competencies and interpersonal skills—360-degree reviews, individual assessments, self-assessments, and competency models. Coaching, feedback, and team-building exercises can also be used to deepen and broaden interpersonal and group skills that will facilitate better teamwork and more productive encounters with external constituencies. And for those individuals with the courage to embrace it—and organizations with the courage to let them—authentic self-knowledge, along with its demonstrable return on investment, is readily attainable through proven techniques of self-discovery.

These skills—the ability to look internally and externally, to manage the dynamics of a wide range of interpersonal encounters based on deep self-knowledge, and to understand and acquire the full range of requisite competencies for your team—mark the difference between a technically competent executive and a high-potential leader in tomorrow's team-driven pharmaceutical organization.

Margaret-Ann Cole is US practice leader, organization development at YSC. She can be reached at


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