7 smart questions any MSL manager should ask oneself

servant-leadership-mountain2-e1278812858393-280x300MSL management may be tough due to lack of tangible metrics to do good planning and acknowledgement. Besides widespred absence of KPIs in Medical Affairs may lead to diffculty in distinguishing MSL contribution from business activties. At the same time directive management will obviously reduce MSL motivation and engagement and lead to customer dissatisfaction. Probably right management is the clue? Despite 7 questions below might look quite generic, they seem to capture most relevent attributes of good MSL management.

1. What can I do to lead with asking better questions?
MSLs are usually not those who expect detailed guidelines what to do, instead they often have their own vision on what work has to be done. Right questions will encourage MSL attentiveness and shared perspectives. Leading with questions makes you a better listener. The act of questioning reinforces the idea that everyone is important and that we create success by serving one another. When you’re making genuine inquiries into a conflict, it fosters a spirit of neutrality. Asking allows others to engage in independent and creative thought. It promotes accountability when your team members are held responsible for their decisions. And your team members will be more engaged in the outcome if they have a hand in decision-making.
2. How can I encourage constructive conflicts in my team?
Encouraging constructive conflict in an environment where people are free to raise tough issues, to provide raw feedback to their leaders and team members is essential. Without open and constructive conflict scientific innovation fails, decision making stumbles and creative solutions become rare. Fear of losing control on MSLs may prevent manager from letting go the group dynamics which in fact is quite natural for high educated experts who are autonomous in decision making. You need to embrace opinion diversity in the team that leads to new challenging perspectives with the goal of finding innovative solutions.
3. What do I need to start leading outside of my responsibility area?
Collaborative leadership is about building trust based cross-functional relationships between Medical Affairs, Marketing, Sales, Compliance, Pharmacovigilance, etc. This requires a shift in thinking about who’s your team. Instead of seeing your team as consisting only of your direct reporting MSLs or Medical Advisors you must learn to embrace the horizontal team consisting of your peers. Your peers, those leading and working in other organizations, is your team. Leading a horizontal team requires influence and strong relationships.
4. What do I need to do to become showing leader rather than telling manager?
Regardless of how managers tell employees to behave, they’ll actually do whatever management shows them is the most advantageous way to behave. Make sure that you can serve the best example for your team in KOL management, crossfunctional collaboration and compliant decision making. Try not to stuck in pure management, otherwise you risk to loose any opportunity to lead with your own example and will inevitably end up with a team of MSLs willing to sacrifice real achievement in order to look good.
5. What can I do to to support my employees to stay open to learning and to keep getting better all the time?
As a leader you are committed to ensure conditions for the team members to learn and develop. Obviously we learn substantially more from failure than success. So embrace failure of your team. Besides MSLs will take more chances when they are unafraid to fail. Most of MSL practices as elaboration of customer congruent sientific projects or Investigator Initiated Trials requre many attempts to get tailored for the true needs and finally be percieved as successful. Thus try focus MSL team on a future that they can impact, not a past that they cannot change anyway.
6. What can I do to make sure my employees are consistently acknowledged and appreciated for what they do?
The top motivating factor of employees is appreciation for a job well done. Often managers are too busy to motivate their employees and give appreciation for a good job. It doesn’t cost you anything to sit down with an MSL team member who is doing a great job and communicate face to face how much you appreciate his or her efforts. Or send consistent e-mails to MSLs who have done an exceptional job on certain projects, ensuring that you copy other team members who should know about these efforts. Try to be specific, timely and public if possible.
7. Based on my experience what is the best way to improve MSL team performance and motivation without additional expenses?
Effective and timely feedback is a critical component of a successful performance management program and should be used in conjunction with setting performance goals. If effective feedback is given to MSLs on their progress towards their goals, their performance will improve. People need to know in a timely manner how they’re doing, what’s working, and what’s not. In case of motivation improvement see question 6 where I mention appreciation for good job as a main motivation factor. And yet of course this is not the ready answer to the question 7, only my thoughts.

Written by Dr. Alexander Tolmachev

Originally published in MSL Society Blog

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