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A Port in the Storm

Part 2: The Best-Practiced Advice from Top Leaders

Last week, we published Part 1 of our leadership insights series. This week, we continue to share a selection of the best leadership insights from executives with whom we were privileged to work:

1) Talk less, listen more

Kaye Foster-Cheek, a recognized business leader and board director, comments, "Build and maintain a culture of open transparency. Encourage your team to share their voice." Often, significant decisions come from open, cross-functional discussions where all are engaged and working to achieve the same objective.

You have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.

Active listening and open communication foster an environment that gives everyone opportunities to learn and find common ground between, what could be, competing departmental priorities. Measure employee participation; implement tools that even allow for anonymous, candid feedback; then embrace and learn from the feedback and make changes accordingly.

2) Reinforce the organization's core values

Foster-Cheek also advocates that leaders constantly need to assess whether their and their team's priorities align with the organization's core values and goals. "Leading with a ‘we’ approach will set a tone of humility and strength in the team." The company's mission statement should set the tone for everyday operations and reinforce the idea that success or failure is always a team effort; no individual or function is above the team.

3) Simplify; don't over-complicate

Eliminate as much bureaucracy as possible so the team can focus on performance and results and not the process.

4) Always make contingency plans

Expect things to not go as planned; encourage your team to think ahead and plan for the unexpected. When your team is prepared for multiple scenarios, there will be less wasted energy on the problem and more options available for them to quickly implement solutions. Establish clear priorities and give your team the perspective to realize that not every roadblock is an emergency. A Senior Vice President of a major biopharmaceutical company describes his approach as being a “port in the storm.”

"Leadership is the ability to stay cool at the worst of times precisely when your team is looking to you for guidance. Whether it's an FDA letter, not hitting your endpoints in a Phase III trial, or having to pivot on a moments' notice, they will remember your leadership and not the crisis."

5) Stand up for your team

Never throw anyone under the bus, and do your best to pull someone out of the bus's path before they enter that danger zone. You may even need to take the hit for the team or an individual because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

6) Don't lead from behind closed doors

Be accessible, build strong internal relationships and foster an atmosphere of open communication so that each team member has the information they need to be effective in their role. Don't just interact with your internal team. Continue to nurture your external relationships as well; network and participate in industry events in order to stay current on the industry trends.

7) Don't forget to laugh

Don't take yourself too seriously! Be human, and don't be afraid to express passion and emotion; people will relate and respond more positively if you let down your guard and encourage others to join you on the ride and have fun along the way. Happy people are more productive, collaborative and will support each other, even in the face of adversity.

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Beth Ehrgott

Beth Ehrgott

Managing Director