Leadership in Pharmaceuticals – How to Improve Leadership at Every Level

Even the most highly-educated people can struggle to develop effective leadership skills. Learn how Great Managers helped one client better understand leadership in pharmaceuticals.

Australia’s pharmaceutical industry brings in over $20 billion per year. According to data from research firm GlobalData, it’s also set to grow until 2020.

This means there are plenty of opportunities for businesses.

But pharmaceutical businesses face plenty of challenges too. Chief among these is a lack of the people skills needed for effective management. Many pharmaceutical managers are very intelligent people. They often have PhDs and they understand the science behind their industry.

Yet they’re not equipped with the skills they need to manage people.

That’s exactly the position that one Great Managers client found itself in. This is how we helped them to understand the key aspects of leadership in pharmaceuticals.

Leadership in Pharmaceuticals – A Case Study

Based in Australia, our client has a dual focus.

They aim to foster skills development in the pharmaceutical industry. By doing so, they hope to create employment opportunities for people in the industry.

They also have a focus on research and development. The business develops products for use both at home and overseas. Today, it supplies more than 65 medicines in a range of therapeutic areas.

Our client often works with hospitals to develop new treatments. These partnerships allow it to confront the critical issues that affect Australian patients. It also offers it the opportunity to licence treatments that it sells around the world.

As you can see, the business has a lot of technical goals. Therein lies the problem. This focus on the technical side of things led to a few issues that the business needed to resolve.

The Issues

It’s fair to say that pharmaceutical companies tend to have very educated workforces. At the management level, most of our client’s people had multiple university degrees.

They knew plenty about the scientific aspects of their jobs. But this technical focus hadn’t equipped them with effective leadership skills.

This led to a strange situation. On one hand, the workforce had a lot of experience in research and the products they produce. On the other, they found themselves very inexperienced when it came to leadership.

This inexperience led to several problems. The organisation’s mid and lower-level managers suffered from a lack of confidence. They knew they had leadership weaknesses, which led to them avoiding key issues. Instead of handling problems themselves, they’d escalate them to the general manager.

A backlog of unresolved was the consequence of this.

The company culture problems that this lack of confidence created had a direct effect on the bottom line. The organisation lost some of its key people due to ineffective leadership. Talented people disengaged and ended up taking opportunities elsewhere.

That meant the business had to spend time and money on replacing lost staff. This took focus even further away from the issue of leadership in pharmaceuticals.

The business needed a change and they turned to Great Managers to find it.

Leadership in Pharmaceuticals – The Great Managers Solution

Great Managers identified the issue immediately. Management staff at all levels of the business needed the same leadership skills as the general manager. It was their lack of effective leadership skills that led to them avoiding big decisions.

The organisation needed its people to lead at every level.

We held a series of cohorts with the client. These focused on helping all levels of management develop effective leadership skills. A key focus of these cohorts was the behavioural shift that we encouraged. The managers had to understand that they needed to offer more than technical skills. Their medical knowledge wasn’t enough to help them guide their teams. They had to adjust their behaviour and acknowledge their responsibilities within the business.

We also formed a partnership with the business. Before, the general manager had sent his staff away to one-day seminars and retreats. These cost the business thousands of dollars and produced no results. With no follow-up, the staff forgot the lessons and reverted back to their old ways.

With Great Managers as a partner, the organisation’s training methods changed. We focused on developing skills that people could actually apply in their work. Our cohorts aren’t about bombarding people with information for hours at a time. They focus on how to solve specific challenges. Plus, they equip people with skills that they can put into practice.

The End Result

Today, the business’ managers have overcome the leadership weaknesses that caused these problems.

There is no longer a culture of avoidance within the organisation. Our client has seen many behavioural shifts. These are thanks to the improved confidence of its people.

Our client has empowered leadership at all levels of the business. That means that the general manager can rely on his staff to make decisions.

Our client says that our training is the best thing to ever happen to the business. It’s now equipped to scale up to 100+ employees in the future.

This partnership continues today. We’ve worked with this client for over a decade and continue to deliver amazing results.

Leadership in Pharmaceuticals Businesses – What Can You Learn

With our help, our client recognised the true meaning of leadership. It’s not about the technical skills that you bring to the table.

It’s about the way that you handle your people.

These are the three most important lessons that you can take from this story…

leadership in pharmaceuticals

Leadership in Pharmaceuticals: Lesson #1 – Management Doesn’t End at the Top

Many high-level managers struggle with the concept of delegation. This is especially true if they’ve built the business from scratch. They have a vision and they develop the mistaken belief that they’re the only person who can see it through.

This can lead to the issue that our client experienced. A lack of effective training meant that lower-level managers didn’t have the skills they needed. They lacked confidence. Thus, they escalated every little issue to the top of the organisation.

The burden proved too much for the general manager. Company culture problems developed and the organisation lost some of its best people.

While great management starts at the top, it doesn’t end there. You need leadership at all levels to run a successful organisation.

This means that you have to communicate your vision to everyone in the organisation. Set the behavioural standards that you expect. Then, emphasise the importance of these standards.

Finally, recognise where professional development opportunities exist.

Our client knew that its people had the technical skills. The development opportunities lay in people skills. The managers needed these to complement their technical knowledge.

Once they focused on those, the business overcame its culture of avoidance.

Leadership in Pharmaceuticals:  Lesson #2 – Avoid the One-Off Sessions

Our client had already had some bad experiences with leadership training. The general manager spent thousands of dollars on sending people to management seminars. They came back with tons of information. But they struggled to apply it in a practical setting.

They needed a partner to help them apply what they learned.

There are several problems with these one-off training sessions. First, trainers try to pack as much as possible into the events. They know they’ll only see you once, so they try to provide as much information as possible. This overburdens your people. You’re asking them to take in too much in one go. Knowledge will slip through the cracks or get forgotten.

There’s also a lack of follow-up. You have nobody to turn to. You can’t get clarification on the information shared during the session. The only way to ask questions after the fact is to go to another event.

That’s a costly endeavour, as our client discovered.

You need to work with an active partner. This partner must take the time to confront the specific problems your organisation has. A single training session that tries to cover everything can’t do that.

leadership in pharmaceuticals

Leadership in Pharmaceuticals:  Lesson #3 – Confront Your Culture of Avoidance

A culture of avoidance leads to many problems.

When issues arise, the people who should deal with them don’t. Instead, they keep passing them up the line until they reach someone who can do something.

That’s not management.

In our client’s case, this culture developed due to a lack of confidence among the organisation’s people. They didn’t feel equipped to make the decisions and take the actions that the business needed.

They didn’t want to end up with the blame if something went wrong.

Instead, all issues went to the general manager. This created the backlog of challenges that led to frustration within the organisation. Its most talented people left because issues weren’t getting resolved.

You need to confront this toxic culture head-on. If you don’t, it’ll spread throughout the organisation. People won’t take responsibility for key tasks. They may even become defensive to the point where they fear criticism for doing their jobs.

Education is the best way to confront this negative culture. Equip your people with the skills they need and they’ll develop confidence.

Leadership in Pharmaceuticals – The Final Word

Our client struggled with issues that are common among many pharmaceutical businesses. Working in such a technical field meant that they had well-educated people in management roles. However, these people knew more about science and medicine than they did about management.

This led to them occupying their own little comfort zones within the business. When problems arose that they couldn’t solve with their technical expertise, they avoided them. These issues all landed in the lap of the general manager. As the challenges piled up, the culture worsened and the organisation lost many talented people.

Acknowledging the existence of a culture of avoidance is the first step to overcoming it. You need to confront the confidence issues that prevent your people from leading effectively.

Your Pharmaceuticals business needs leadership at all levels. Without it, you can’t delegate effectively and the business can’t scale.

Do you have managers who avoid challenges rather than solving them?

Have you struggled to find a training partner who understands your organisation’s issues?

Do you need to learn more about leadership in pharmaceuticals businesses?

Register for our webinar today to learn how you can tackle your culture of avoidance.