Merry christmas, the “one thing” and why to go beyond the annual review

Merry Christmas to you, may you and your family experience the peace and joy of the season.

Today’s topics:

  • Speaking a common language
  • My year in review and the case for a five-year review period
  • What is your one thing?
  • Leadership; Why to invest in self-knowledge

Speaking a common language

To be native to a place we must learn to speak its language,” this chapter title from the book Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, caught my attention because it is also true for individuals in teams and in companies.

This is important when trying to solve a business problem and it is often at the foundation of issues that are obstacles when teams want to solve problems.

As a team leader, when you are trying to solve a challenge with a team, for example when you are trying to implement one process, one content, one approach, one way of working, reflect on whether you are imposing your language on your team, or whether you are open to developing an approach with your team. The latter takes longer, but is, I believe, the only way to be successful.

When transformation efforts fail, it is often because the message was not universally clear and understandable. This makes the change feel forced, almost foreign, increasing the risk of eventual rejection.

Key takeaway: often the inability to achieve a collective understanding in a company derives from a lack of awareness of the different languages spoken in the organisation and lead to failed transformation efforts. 

My year in review and the case for a five-year review period

Many of us set ourselves annual goals and, at year-end,  focus on what was not achieved rather than on what was. I propose that assessing where we were a few years ago, compared to today, is a more meaningful measure of change. Reflecting on 2023 and prior years, I see patterns emerging. My speaking engagements have increased both online and in person, the breadth of the work I do has increased, how I work has changed and my network has expanded also. While my passions remain constant how they emerge in the work I do is undergoing an evolution.

In previous years, I have spoken in person on medical information and medical affairs meetings and at online events on topics “Driving Digital Excellence in Medical Affairs: Delivering Seamless and Personalized Customer-Centric Experiences” with Transperfect, “Why Biotech startups fail” with Nanobotmedical, and on education, careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and career strategies for young women at the invitation of the HBA and Transperfect.

In 2023, while my pet topics, equal access to opportunities, education, health equity, data husbandry, and data analytics remained, I spent more time on stage than online.

I led a panel discussion at the Connect in Pharma event, in Geneva, with the title “Marooned on a digital island in a sea of data?” We will rerun this topic as a Q and A session online in January 2024. I also took part in a panel discussion on “Inclusion, equity, and women in pharma” at the same event. My interest in both topics stems from the same driver: the tendency of companies to not make the best use of available resource and talent. In the case of data, because nobody knows that it exists, where to find it, if they suspect it exists, or how to access it depending on location and format. In the case of human resources, because change is uncomfortable, and the fact that ability, talent, and leadership skills are not determined by genotype or phenotype is still making its way into people’s heads around the world. I also spoke at the EU DIA medical information meeting in Brussels on “Designing your Medical Information Set-Up – Considerations for Medical Information Teams” focusing more on how to transform your business and how to collaborate with others in your company, than on subject matter expertise, and ran a workshop on “medical information set-up and strategic considerations”.

As a physician who cares about health equity, and as a trustee for telemedicine charity the Virtual Doctors, I was thrilled to participate in a panel discussion on “Tech for Good in Healthcare and Wellness” together with charity representatives from the British red cross, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and mental health app Stigma. I also took part in a podcast on global healthcare equity in the Igniting Change series (Link).

Beyond speaking at events and engaging with peers, I also invested time listening and learning, taking classes in constellations and systemic coaching, psychotherapy, and psychology as well as in artificial intelligence. All of which benefit my work as coach and consultant.

In my work, I have supported the design of a telemedicine application, helped teams to structure their global medical information set-up, and to ensure that the information flow in the company benefits the business, worked with coachees, and engaged with a software company on their product development.

And finally, I am co-authoring a publication on social dreaming during the pandemic. Contact me if you want to know more about this, it is fascinating. 

Beyond learning, sharing, and working I have also improved dramatically at living in the past five years. This is perhaps the biggest change I see. I make sure I see friends and family regularly. I prioritise the people in my life because events in the past year reminded me that you never know how much time you have with the people you love, or to do the things you wish to do, and that you cannot get that time back.

I realised that I did more in the past year, and over the years, than I was aware of, and I see that I am doing more of the things I love.

Key takeaway: In order to chart your progress it is worth going  beyond the annual review. 

What is your “one thing”?

I recently had a wonderful lunch with a consultant. There was  scintillating conversation, laughter, common ground, and insights. The following statement stayed with me: “The teams I work with know their daily business better than I do, of course, but there is one thing I excel at: Transformation.”

My lunch partner continued “Why am I better at it? Simply because I have years of experience across companies, teams, and industries. I know what works; and I know what does not.” The energy,joy and obvious truth, in this phrase were infectious, extremely relatable and they still make me smile.

The conversation also made me realise I know the one thing I excel at. Do you know what your “one thing” is?

Key takeaways: There is power in knowing your “one thing” and power in knowing when to complement it with additional expertise.

Leadership: Why to invest in self-knowledge

Today I came across an excellent publication by Simon Western. It is called “An overview of the leadership discourses.” The article speaks about how the vision of the ideal leader has changed since the beginning of the twentieth century from leader as controller, to leader as therapist, to the current leader as messiah, where the desire for a charismatic leader/messiah is widespread in the face of uncertainty.

Simon Western states in his article “Individual leaders, leadership teams and organizations rarely consciously choose their preferred leadership discourse as these are hidden within normative behaviours and expectations. However, they are drawn to discourses for various reasons.” If you do not read the article, then remember this quote.

While you can read about leadership styles, you can reflect, and you can try to model yourself on a current ideal, yet the type of leader you are and become, is profoundly influenced by your history, your experience, your culture, your background and your self-awareness etc. Therefore, to shape yourself as a leader, it is important to know what influences you.

A musician practices their instrument, an athlete their sport. As a leader, or manager or any other professional, you are your asset. You are your instrument, and knowing who you are, who you are not, and what the conditions are within which you will thrive, will allow you to consciously choose how you lead, your life, your team and yourself and ultimately to live a life that is in congruent with who you are.  

Key takeawayKnowing where you want to go is excellent, but in order to chart your path, you need to know yourself, your tools, your resources and how to adapt them to the path ahead. 

Thank you for reading, wishing you a wonderful festive Christmas season and a great end of the year, and start to 2024. I look forward to catching up with you in the new year and discussing how I can help you reach your strategic, operational or personal personal goals.

My best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Photo credit: Fabian Mardi @unsplash