I Speak With a Loud Voice Because I Have Testosterone

I hope 2022 started well for you. I feel content, the way that a greyhound chasing a rabbit round a track is content. The sun is shining. The world has tumbled down the rabbit hole of holiday stupor and out into the open. It’s a new year, new projects, new friends, new adventures and the same old pandemic. 

Today’s topics: 

– I speak with a loud voice because I have testosterone – or what do you want to be remembered for?

– How to work internationally – golden rules

– Documents without borders – tips on collaborative co-authoring

– Data, case studies, opinions and the pandemic

I Speak With a Loud Voice Because I Have Testosterone – Or What Do You Want to be Remembered For?

I once worked in an open space office. A senior leader also worked in this space. He was known for throwing pencils, slamming his fist on tables, and communicating with a powerful voice when upset. When a colleague asked him if he could lower his voice when speaking in the open space, he said “No, I am a man, I have testosterone, this is my voice.” This happened more than ten years ago. I am sure he has forgotten. But I have not, and his answer still fascinates me. While his career has gone from strength to strength, I am confident that for most people this type of behaviour is career limiting. The pharmasphere is a small pond. Your reputation will precede you. Don’t let anger guide your responses, it is never worth it. Before you act, ask yourself “What do I want to be remembered for?”

Golden Rules For Working Internationally – Do As You Would Be Done By

When working internationally respect people’s time and their time zones. Avoid scheduling recurring meetings in the evenings or late on Friday afternoon, especially, if the time you pick is in the morning for you.  Aim for either all virtual or all face-to-face meetings, unless you are supported by great technology. Implement ground rules on speaking to ensure everyone is heard. Remember not everyone speaks English all the time, so speak slowly and clearly. Be comfortable with silence. When requesting feedback on a conference call consider setting a sixty second timer, then waiting.  Sometimes people need to build the courage to speak.  Be patient. I once waited 45 seconds until the first person spoke in a conference call. Different cultures have a different tolerance for silence.

Be slow to anger. Remember communication styles vary widely by culture and language spoken. What may be polite in one language may seem offensive when expressed in another.  If you are upset by an interaction, start by assuming that it was a misunderstanding. When you have a conflict try to clear it up in person, ideally in a one-on-one call, Zoom, Teams, the phone. Avoid email.  Have I missed any golden rules? What are your golden rules for effective international working? Please share them with me!

Documents Without Borders – Tips on Collaborative Co-Authoring

Use a shared space, if you don’t have a document management system, at least put documents on SharePoint or similar so all edits are done in one location to facilitate version control.  Encourage everyone to edit the document in that location. Agree on any templates you will use before you start writing the document. Avoid sending documents back and forth in Outlook because consolidating comments and versions is terribly challenging if you do. When co-authoring a document, ensure that the proofing language is set to the language the document is being written in. Also, make sure that the language for the review section matches the proofing language. These two language changes are made in different locations in Word. Be clear on timelines and responsibilities when co-authoring. And finally, when you move to the review phase, be clear both on timelines, and on what you want each reviewer to focus on. Also provide guidelines on how reviewers should provide comments, for example, concise, actionable etc.

Data and the Pandemic

Medical Affairs teams are used to supporting customers who struggle to keep up with the tsunami of scientific data. COVID 19 lets us experience this ourselves. I wade through videos, news clips, newspaper articles and scientific articles in an attempt to reach an educated, balanced opinion on the current approach to the pandemic worldwide. I’d also like to understand the Swiss National Health Authorities recommendations. The data in mainstream media generally focuses on positive tests, patients in hospital, ICU status and deaths. However, the data I would like to read about, and hear discussed includes the following:

  • Why did people get tested. Did they have symptoms, exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID 19 or were there other reasons? 
  • Number of daily tests, evolution of tests numbers over the past two years. Evolution of positive test percentages over the past two years.  
  • Where individuals tested positive, I’d like to know:
    • How many were symptomatic upon presentation? How many of the initially asymptomatic subsequently developed symptoms? What were they and how were they treated?
    • How did the symptoms differ between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated?
    • Percentage of Omicron/Delta?
    • Vaccination status of all those tested to understand the percentage of break-through infections which could help guide the future approach
  • Herd immunity status for the unvaccinated population by performing free antibody tests for all unvaccinated individuals on a voluntary basis
  • Benefit risk of vaccination for children of different age groups

Some of this data is available on government websites, if you know where to look. However, it is just the “bare-bone data” without discussions of what it means. As a physician I don’t find test results interesting. What I do find interesting is what a positive test means. A positive test is not automatically a COVID 19 case, although newspapers tend to use the terms interchangeably. Instead of focusing on reducing the number of positive tests, we should be focusing on reducing the burden of disease. I believe systematically capturing the answers to some of the above questions and discussing them, and sharing those discussions broadly, could help to increase understanding and trust in society and help us to finetune the response to the pandemic. The data should be easy to gather. I struggle to understand why we are not gathering it more systematically. 

If you are facing a complex challenge and would like a sounding board or you’d like some help to implement a project globally, or you want to discuss executive coaching, or a career move, then please feel free to reach out for an informal and confidential chat. 

I look forward to hearing from you, all the best.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash