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The Importance of Empathy and Individual Recognition Within Team Projects

Throughout the expansive duration of my career within various roles in the continuously developing pharmaceutical industry, I have garnered a myriad of experiences that were emboldening, humbling, educational, and deeply moving. Apart from mastering various technical skills and abilities through pertinent experience, I grew exponentially as a person, and my newfound insights about human nature, […]

Throughout the expansive duration of my career within various roles in the continuously developing pharmaceutical industry, I have garnered a myriad of experiences that were emboldening, humbling, educational, and deeply moving. Apart from mastering various technical skills and abilities through pertinent experience, I grew exponentially as a person, and my newfound insights about human nature, teamwork, and the importance of empathy within the workplace not only helped me to understand my peers through deeper connections, but actually helped foster team successes on a professional level. Within many industries, including science, the pursuit of tangible facts, results, and hard truths is always a driving force in the work that is done. However, the actual people doing the work, and the constant reminder that the work is being completed for the betterment of all people, is a priority equally as important.

            Respect Your Elders…and Your Juniors

            After earning my PhD in Molecular Biology from the Max Planck Institute For Biophysical Chemistry, I entered the workforce post-matriculation via my first assignment at the innovative biopharmaceutical company Hoffman la Roche. In order to start this endeavor, I turned down a post-doctoral research position at Harvard University, and dedicated the start of my career to a constantly evolving field based on innovative technologies and medical breakthroughs implemented for the betterment of peoples’ lives. Essentially, within this assignment, I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be, and was entirely dedicated to excelling within my fledgling career.

            Initially, I was introduced as a Communications and Product Manager, and before long, I was tasked with spearheading marketing and sales efforts for a brand new product in the weight-loss sector. In this assignment, I was a young man under 30 years of age, essentially in charge of the entire roll-out of a brand new product, working side by side with industry leaders, seasoned veterans in the pharmaceutical industry, and professionals with significant amounts of pertinent experience. Though I knew that some team members would not approve of my marketing strategy for rollout, which happened to be vastly unconventional, I recognized the need to respect everyone’s individual opinion, though it may have differed from my own. In doing so, and allowing individuals who I was technically responsible for to speak their minds openly, I allowed them to feel as though they were being heard, respected, and valued. In exchange, this open communication led to increased opportunities to collaborate on thoughts, ideas, and implementations of plans.

            As a young leader, especially in a new assignment or role, it is vastly beneficial to be respectful of everyone’s insights, and to allow a team dynamic to exist based on mutual respect, consideration, and common courtesy. After all, those are the benchmarks for a successful leader to parlay those actions into a desired result.

            Respect Individual Accomplishments

            Within the previously mentioned assignment, as the team essentially answered to me as a higher authority, I quickly recognized the ongoing benefits of recognizing individual accomplishments, and conversely, the detriments of forgetting that everyone is a key asset in their own right to the overall success of the project. While determining the best marketing strategy for the launch of the company’s new weight-loss product, I was in charge of the finalized decisions. However, an entire team of industry leaders were responsible for every aspect of bringing the product to life, from research teams, to Chemists. Thus, it became important for me, as a leader, to validate everyone’s individual accomplishments, as each member of the team not only played a crucial role in the success of the overall project, but was a leader within their own respective niche position.

            Understanding the vast accomplishments of each team member provided a sense of community amongst the team, and a mutual respect that transcended beyond a title, expertise, or position. For leaders within any industry, the same lesson can reign true. For example, a Real Estate Developer may seemingly be “in charge” of the new construction of upscale homes within a development, but each member that this Developer works with is a leading expert on the facets that directly impact their own niche industries. From Master Carpenters and Builders to Pest Control, each individual can provide immeasurable assets to the overall operation. Thus, recognizing the assets and accomplishments of each individual can foster the teamwork needed to effectively complete all components of any project, within any industry.

            We’re All Human

            Within the workplace, empathy is often overlooked, or worse yet, considered a weak trait. In many cutthroat industries that rely on swift competition, empathy can be seen as a signal of being unable to handle “tough” situations, work well under pressure, or engage in difficult decisions at the detriment of other involved personnel. However, utilizing empathy can be a vastly underrated tool for gaining trust, understanding, and success within the workplace. In addition to providing a deeper connection with other human beings, and developing a humanistic bond, the active practice of employing empathy in a professional setting can have positive results on the work at hand.

            In my attempt to gain insight regarding various roles within the biopharmaceutical industry, and to garner unprecedented knowledge straight from the source, I briefly accepted a position as a Sales Representative for a cardiovascular medication in England. Throughout the duration of roughly one year, I spent a majority of my time on the road, visiting potential prescribers’ offices, discussing the product with physicians, and speaking with support staff at length. In my desire to understand what would make certain physicians utilize my brand’s medication, I recognized the need to empathize with each physician’s unique perspective, role within the community, and other humanistic factors that played an integral role in the answer to this query. By opening up to the staff, sharing pleasantries, discussing real-world issues, and genuinely getting to know my potential clients on a deeper level, I was able to not only garner unparalleled insights that have been applied in future endeavors, but I was able to gain the trust needed to forge successful long-term partnerships with these medical professionals.

            It’s All For The People

            In the previously mentioned example, fostering meaningful relationships based on empathy and human connection allowed me to gain trust, and forge successful partnerships through a humanistic approach. This idea is further propelled by the simple notion that each job, each industry, is essentially comprised of human beings, completing work for human beings. Though it may sound like a straightforward statement, it often gets lost in the fast-paced workplace. With technological advancements, real-time workplace communications solutions, the implementation of technology for assistance with just about every task, and decreasing amounts of face-to-face communication, it can become easy to forget about this integral part about the vast majority of workplaces. Even in industries dealing solely with intangible ideas, physical products, or solitary work, there is a vastly human component at the center of the job, in some capacity. Recognizing that intrinsic thought brings new meaning to the job itself, to the spirit of teamwork, and to the recognition of a greater purpose.

            Within the biopharmaceutical industry, where scientific advancements create medical developments, the entire industry only exists, and thrives, out of the basic need to help real people lead meaningful lives, free of healthcare related issues. In any position within this field, at the core, it is our duty to implement our knowledge, insight, thought processes, and resources to not only succeed within our outlined roles, but for the betterment of individuals actively suffering from certain illnesses, symptoms, or other conditions. This logic can be applied to almost every industry, from restaurateurs who actively cook the meals that others enjoy on a much needed evening out, to car safety professionals who work with machines all day, deploying airbags in the name of research, which will one day save the lives of countless people.

            Throughout over twenty five years of pertinent experience within the pharmaceutical industry, I have found myself within various roles, constantly seeking success, and learning along the way. Though names, faces, and goals may have changed, several truths have remained consistent throughout the entirety of my professional experience. I have come to truly understand the vast benefits of recognizing the accomplishments of each individual for the betterment of the team, and that empathy can be a powerful tool. At the end of the day, across every industry, each role is filled by a complex human with emotions, insights, needs, and desires, all global ideas we can understand, empathize with, and learn from. By gaining these valuable insights, I was able to implement them within my career, leading to a multitude of meaningful experiences, successful endeavors, overall personal growth, and the forward-movement of the biopharmaceutical industry.

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