The Power of People: What I Learned About My Team
The foundation of any great team is the strong connection among its members. I started my role as the GM of Pfizer CentreOne during the pandemic and was concerned about establishing relationships virtually. Two months later, I have yet to meet any of my team members face-to-face. However, the connections I’ve already made across the team are strong and they have made quite the impression.
Surprisingly, the new virtual reality has allowed me to get closer to people than under normal circumstances. It has offered the chance to really connect and listen without the distraction of a busy office environment or travel schedule. My perspective widened and allowed me to focus not just on the urgent items but on getting to know the team.
Through virtual 1:1s and coffee chats, I’ve spoken to more than 65 colleagues all over the globe. Each one enriched my understanding of the business as I listened, asked questions, and even met my team’s family members – all through the computer screen.
When I reflect on the conversations, it’s the quality of our people that stands out the most. Our teams have deep knowledge of what they do, stemming from training and extensive experience. They have navigated many development, manufacturing and regulatory complexities and learned how to implement winning drug strategies. I think of this expertise as the foundation of our success. On top of this foundation is “the big why” – the sense of calling and long-term commitment to delivering treatments to patients in need. It’s that combination of specialized expertise and a sense of purpose that makes me admire our organization.
The second thing I noticed is the collaborative can-do attitude. Our organization encourages teamwork and it flourishes at all levels, both internally and externally. Collaboration with our customers manifests itself through an open and frequent dialogue. I was impressed by the team’s sense of ownership of our customers’ projects and the idea that we are pursuing a common goal. We approach complex scenarios with “What if?” thinking and working through the whole range of alternatives. Our team is not afraid to challenge conventions and develop innovative, custom solutions.
My third and final impression of the team is the deep commitment to ethics. The values of equity, excellence, courage and joy are engrained in Pfizer’s culture and are the checkpoints that guide our behavior. Our team doesn’t overpromise or oversell. They take immense pride in having our customers’ trust and representing Pfizer. We speak up if we encounter problems, we bring our best selves to work, we value diversity of experience, and we celebrate our customers’ successes as our own.
Celebrating success – and even an occasional failure - is so important to empowering people and giving them the confidence to innovate.
There’s one experience in a previous leadership role with Pfizer Canada that I will never forget. The marketing programs were not driving sales, and I challenged the team to come up with new ideas. After lots of discussion, they developed a program that they thought was excellent and I shared that view. We launched it and quickly realized it wasn't working. So, I took the entire team out curling for the day. They asked, “Why are we celebrating?” and I replied, “Because we did something differently.” After that outing there was an abundance of ideas and within a week, we had 15 programs to review. At the end of the year, we went from a 2 percent decline to 12 percent sales growth, all due to the willingness to experiment.
Looking forward, I believe that we need to continue to evolve so that we can deliver the best value for our customers and patients. My job as leader is to focus on the opportunities that lie ahead, foster innovation and ask my team the questions that matter. I believe that the answers are already within us and by listening and providing support to the team, I can help uncover the solutions that will make us a stronger, more agile and an even more customer-focused organization.