For those that attended the 2022 MSL Society National Meeting in Las Vegas, you met Don Sandel, founder of GoPositiv and author of the new book Positive Mindshift. If you were there, you know. You know how Don has researched how positivity impacts our learning and development. During his keynote, he shared with us how a positive mindset enables the brain to be more effective and makes every relevant business metric go up! Don’s lecture at the meeting was impactful to many–if you were there, you remember. If you missed it, or even if you were there, we thought a bit of positivity from Don and me might be useful as we close out 2022 and look forward to 2023.
There is an antidote to the malaise that is out there—not your malaise necessarily, just the malaise existing in the ether. That same antidote is also the answer to the negative, ambiguous, and highly stressful environment we find ourselves in—according to a Willis Towers Watson 2022 global survey, almost 50% of employees are looking for new employment. Gallup continues the bad news that 57% report stress is high or overwhelming and that employee engagement is an abysmal 32%.
These are hard conditions for high performance or improved well-being.
Perhaps more personally, this same solution counters that persistent self-doubt that creeps into our psyche every now and then. This surrounding and pervasive negativity stands in the way of our best, affecting our work performance, relationships, and even our health.
What is this antidote, this wonder solution? Consider the solution may be our mindset, the set of beliefs that shape how you make sense of the world…and yourself. Just as important, this mindset drives our performance and our outcomes.
And when that mindset is positive, you are better in every domain of your life—you are more focused, disciplined, innovative, creative, smarter, and healthier! A perfect counter to the negativity and malaise that permeates our environment, daily news cycle, and even many of our relationships.
By shifting our mindset from a negative default to a positive one, we create a cascade of biological events all in the service of better outcomes. It’s more than a social virtue, more than just a nice thing to do. Though it’s those things too! With this positive mindset, we literally change our physiology—our brains, guts, neurons, chemicals, even our tissue changes; we optimize our brains, our health, and our all-important connections with others, creating the conditions where our best can emerge.
“It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive,” writes best-selling author and researcher Shawn Achor.
And if we are creating such upgrades in these critical components, imagine what this can do in the performance of our jobs as MSLs. Despite your deep understanding of the science, disease state, institutional knowledge, and the intensive molecule training MSLs undertake, the successful MSL must also be deft at developing authentic relationships, building trust, and skillfully communicating both within the world of science as well as the gray areas of the human condition. It’s almost impossible to execute these activities with any amount of proficiency or excellence when clouded with a negative mindset.
Why? Here’s why you are better with the right mindset.
When you are consumed by negativity, your limbic system is in charge. The limbic system is the emotional part of the brain and guides your fight, flight, or freeze response. As we activate this system, we also limit the power of the brain, minimizing many physical, cognitive, and socioemotional capabilities. The brain is literally and purposefully, saving energy and resources for survival. With these limitations, it’s hard to be a good listener, demonstrate empathy, and build authentic relationships–the very skills and capabilities that you were hired to leverage. As the brain sees it, those skills aren’t critical at the moment.
But when we have a positive mindset, we create predictable positive outcomes. No longer is the limbic system in charge but we are now guided by the newest part of the human brain, the prefrontal cortex. This is the executive and more rational part of the brain. With it in a leadership position, we can operate with maximum capacity, which means we can now leverage our full capabilities and skills; we actually open up the learning centers of our brains! Showing empathy, listening better, and building key relationships are free to occur more frequently, readily, and easily.
As Dr. Mark Hyman writes, “Once we are aware of our thoughts and learn to retrain our brains, using such techniques as meditation to break the conditioning process, we see substantial changes in health.”
In a session at the most recent MSL Society meeting, I (Paul) was asked to describe some of the critical skills that would be most needed for the “MSL of the Future”. Of course, deep science and clinical knowledge are paramount for present and future success, but surprising to many in the room, Flexibility, Emotional Intelligence, Hunger for Knowledge, Scientific Storytelling, connecting Strategy to Conversation, and lastly….Positivity. These are not the typical requirements seen in a job description but may have as much to do with MSL success as many of the other conventional predictors of individual success.
This vision of the impact of positivity is not unique.
A multi-industry study of 6 companies found on average that a thriving [happy, engaged] workplace increased performance by 16%. Nationwide Insurance focused on creating a positive culture to counter low engagement, cultural stagnation, and flagging sales. Following training and the integration of new positivity tactics, they increased engagement from 3.7 to 4.2, sales rose 36%, and saw attrition fall from 12% to 3%.
“When organizations develop positive, virtuous cultures,” writes Emma Seppala and Kim Cameron for Harvard Business Review, “they achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness – including financial performance, customer satisfaction, productivity, and employee engagement.”
The research is irrefutable.
Whether it’s to improve personal well-being, team performance, or bottom-line benefits, a positive culture creates positive outcomes. Positive cultures broaden employees’ resources, capabilities, and creativity. Moreover, during challenging times like these, they buffer against burnout, and negative environments and enable resilience in the face of difficulties. And finally, employees stay longer, experience esprit de corps, and have a deeper sense of loyalty. If we can create these conditions despite our surroundings, we all benefit, and this includes healthcare professionals and our patients.
Paul joined the industry in 1988 and has been working in Medical Affairs since 1996 as he joined Lilly Oncology as a Regional Research Manager in Oncology. He has since worked in various leadership roles in a Medical Affairs at Cell Pathways, AbbVie Oncology, Pharmacyclics, and Astellas, and National Liaison Leader for the Hematology and Oncology MSL teams at AstraZeneca. Paul is currently the Executive Director of Field Medical at BeiGene. He is passionate about bringing needed therapies to patients afflicted with Cancer, helping reshape medical practice, and aligning field and headquarters strategy in a way that brings forward the incredible value MSLs bring to the many healthcare providers and internal stakeholders we touch.
Don Sandel, MA
Mr. Sandel has a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Science from Western Michigan University. Since graduation, he has amassed a number of highly specialized certificates in Human Performance Improvement, Leadership Development, Coaching, and Applied Positive Psychology, including additional classwork at Yale and USC Berkeley. Don’s expertise is in the field of leadership development as well as the impact of shifting to a positive mindset. He is a sought-after speaker on the topic, often speaking at national and global conferences, and has been published nationally. He is currently the Founder of GoPositiv but has spent a quarter century leading talent development for such companies as Astellas Pharma, Allscripts, and United Airlines. He has recently consulted for such organizations as McCormick Spice, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and AstraZeneca and has thrilled thousands with his energetic keynotes on shifting to a positive mindset. Don has recently published Positive Mindshift by New Degree Press. Don is active in ATD, CCATD, and the Executive Learning Exchange. Don is also a volunteer with his church, community, and an avid reader, often found reading books about neuroscience, travel, and history.
To order a copy of Positive Mindshift: https://www.amazon.com/Positive-Mindshift-Making-Things-Happen/product-reviews/B0B2TW9FQ9