How to work better with your DM

July 1, 1999
Kristen Scott

Kristen Scott is a professional hospital/specialty rep and regional training rep in Philadelphia for Janssen Pharmaceutica.

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Kati Chupa

Kati Chupa is the Philadelphia district manager for Janssen Pharmaceutica.

Pharmaceutical Representative

Make your working relationship a two-way street.

Whether you are motivated by money, recognition, increased responsibility or visibility, your professional and personal relationship with your district manager will be crucial to your success. You must understand one another's needs, wants and goals and communicate openly in order to maximize this important partnership.

Become partners

You and your DM need to share motivations, expectations, feedback, obstacles, leadership and trust in order to work successfully together.

Motivations. Has your DM ever asked you what motivates you to succeed? If not, have you ever taken the initiative to share this information? This is the most important first step toward getting what you want and need from your DM. The second step is finding out what motivates him or her. In order for you to get what you want, you must be able to give your DM what he or she wants.

Expectations. Do you know what your DM expects from you? You should. You will then be able to benchmark your successes in your current position and determine what still needs to be done. You might be surprised to learn that your DM expects you to direct your own development plans. For example, if you want to be promoted, you must first tell your DM your goal and ask him or her where you stand now before determining what you need to do to advance. When the time comes to fill such an opening, your DM can be your champion by being able to illustrate specifically to others what you've accomplished.

Feedback. Feedback is not a one-way street, and it is not always easy to give or receive. You must elicit feedback from your DM on a regular basis. For example, if you think your career would progress quicker if you had better group presentation skills, ask him or her to critique you the next time you are up in front of your customers or district members. Your DM will look forward to this exercise and will see you in a new light for taking the initiative to enhance your skills on your own

Remember that your DM probably receives little feedback on how he or she is performing on a daily basis. If your DM really turned another rep's skills around, tell your DM that you noticed and that he or she did a great job. If, on the other hand, you feel that your DM could have coached the same rep in a different way, respectfully offer your perspective.

Obstacles. There will always be obstacles in the way of your success. You must share information about these obstacles with your DM for two reasons: First, you'll have an additional perspective on how to deal with these issues; and second, you'll have a supporter if or when your performance is questioned by upper management.

Your relationship with your DM might actually be your greatest obstacle right now. To have a successful partnership, you do not need to be best friends. The best way for you to maximize your relationship even with personal obstacles is to look for the strengths that your DM possesses.

Leadership. Your DM needs leaders within the district to improve the performance and morale of the team as a whole. Your DM is measured on the performance of the team, and he or she can only be as good as the team's weakest performer.

You can demonstrate leadership by always being a positive, optimistic voice in group discussions. If you see a problem, point it out. But when you point out a problem, make sure you offer a solution as well. Lead by example. Get up in front of your peers and role play how to sell your products. It's okay to make mistakes, as long as you can laugh at yourself and try again. Also, always publicly support your manager and your manager's manager. When you are asked how you like working for your DM, say something you like about him or her or do not say anything at all.

Trust. Believing that all 10 or 20 reps in the division are getting up in the morning and making calls is just the surface of the trust that must exist between a rep and a DM. You must trust your DM to be honest with you on how you are doing.

Also, obey the chain of command and allow your DM the first attempt at helping you with a problem. If your DM cannot help you, he or she probably knows who else in the organization can. If you go above your DM, it will hurt your reputation for judgment, and could make your DM look incompetent.

Build a good relationship

You work hard, and your DM works hard. Joke around a little when your DM rides with you. Stop for lunch. Get to know your DM personally. When you advance to that next position, or the one after that, you will be judged by every person with whom you had contact. You will always need your DM's respect and admiration - no matter what position either of you holds in the company. PR