The way health care is delivered has changed overnight for millions of people, but the health needs have remained the same. The possibilities for telemedicine and virtual visits have multiplied at lightning speed to continue to meet these needs.
In a context where offices and clinics are no longer used regularly, and with a drastic reduction in face-to-face visits, MSL leaders have adapted their interactions with their customers. Everything had or will need to change, from the handshakes to the advisory boards, all the while reminding themselves that patients still need to remain at the center of decisions.
Medical Affairs will be challenged to develop new ways to interact virtually with healthcare providers and for patients; questioning and revising their conceptions of the patient journey as we all adjust to the new normal, while monitoring the side effects. What kind of leaders will you be in this new normality?
Can You Lead ( and Learn) Outside Your Comfort Zone?
As an MSL, you are confronted with both prescribers and healthcare providers requiring faster access to clear medical and scientific data to drive evidence-based decision-making, and patients wanting empowerment in their healthcare while demanding participation in decision-making and choice of their treatment options. 1
In order to navigate the changes ahead, you want to have a positive vision, a confidence that you can tackle problems, yet enough courage to confront uncomfortable truths and admit what you do not know. You can prepare yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally to respond to your new normal.
Self awareness, of both your outer world and your inner world, is what will set you apart.
This self-awareness, what we also call self care, will help you recognize stress responses as opportunities to pause and reflect instead of overreacting or jumping to conclusions just to stop feeling uncomfortable. It will give you tools to lead with deliberate calm and bounded optimism. Your instinctive biological reactions will then start working for you and not against you. Not only will this practice lead to increased effectiveness, but it is also essential to managing your personal self-care and your energy over a longer period of time.
Optimism and Self Care
Negative emotions are every bit as contagious as COVID-19— and they’re also toxic. Fatigue, uncertainties, fear, panic over the unknown undermine our ability to think clearly and creatively and manage our relationships effectively at work and at home.
For several months now, we have been granted a little more solitude. Some of you even have considered this a gift: time to be alone with those closest to you.
Now, as our lives begin again, is the time to practice self compassion, whatever that may represent for you. You can only change what is in your power. For everything else, you need to have faith that everything will work out if you do your part to make your inner and outer worlds the best they can be. And that’s where the concept of serenity and optimism really becomes a factor.
Dr Martin E. Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has devoted decades to studying optimistic people and reports three traits that they have in common: They view adversity in their lives as temporary, specific and external, that is, not entirely their fault, as opposed to pessimists who view adversity as unchangeable, pervasive, and more personal. In the face of setbacks, challenges or difficult jobs, pessimists are more likely to do worse than predicted and even give up, while optimists will persevere.
If you’ve ever been on a plane, you’ve heard the following from flight attendants: In the event of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first. We have heard this safety line thousands of times but, more than ever, it should resonate with you. After all, if we don’t first help ourselves, how can we help others?
To recharge yourself, you need to recognize the costs of energy-depleting behaviors (and people!) and then take responsibility for changing them (reducing time with some energy depleting people,) regardless of the circumstances you are facing.
- Self awareness. This is the key. Being self aware is knowing who we are and how we show up, what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are, it’s the core of authenticity — and authenticity leads to trust.
- Self reflection. The most successful leaders build self reflection into their lives. According to Harvard Business Review, people who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23 percent better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. The pandemic for many of us gave us more time to reflect: time to reflect on how we show up..
Strangely enough we lose productivity by not reflecting. You’re not just reflecting on what you’ve done, but also how you’re thinking and feeling. You’re a mirror for your team, regardless of your level or where you are at this time.
- A growth Mindset. Embrace the person you are, but also be on the lookout for ways to grow, to evolve. Practice positive reframing: all situations that happen to you in life have no inherent meaning. You are the one who signs a meaning, seeing a situation through a certain frame. Knowing and experimenting with cognitive reframing, you can change the way you look at something and consequently change how you experience it. This kind of an approach enables you to implement the ancient wisdom that you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can certainly control how you react to different situations – no matter how tough your position might be.
The leader you are today is not necessarily the leader you need to be in the next month, the next year. Ask yourself, ‘What are a few things I need to work on? Inquire about having an accountability partner who can help you stay the course. This can be a colleague, a partner, a friend, or even a career coach.
- Manage your energy, not your time. Our lives have been put on pause in this unprecedented time, but it will come running soon. We will reinstate the “I am too busy” and it can be tempting to let new habits fall to the wayside. You can learn a million skills, but if you’re not able to manage your energy, you won’t be able to put them to good use. Work smarter, not harder —manage your mindset.
Let’s get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Look in the mirror, ask yourself the tough questions, and be honest with your answers. Ask yourself, “Am I the best that I can be?” Once you get used to doing it, you’ll probably even start to enjoy the rituals.
Norman Farb et al., “Interoception, contemplative practice, and health,” Frontiers in Psychology, June 9, 2015, Volume 6, Article 763, frontiersin.org.
Danielle Imbeault, RN, Senior Director Strategic Capability Solutions, has more than 15 years of experience in capability and leadership building in the pharmaceutical industry. She is a creative, results-driven, international pediatric nurse, with 25 years of global pharmaceutical experience, project management, and scientific learning capability and leadership building. She has extensive qualifications in all facets of drug development, scientific learning and onboarding programs within matrix organizations. Danielle possesses strong strategic planning skills, from performing need analysis through implementation and evaluation of impact on business.