Category Archives: Building a team

I’ve been on Holiday!!!!! My oh my…

Time out of the office

I am on an airplane, and next to me is a man in a suit. He just hung up the phone as we were pushing back, mid argument with what I am assuming was his partner. Apparently he works too much, isn’t focusing on the kids enough and hasn’t been with them on holiday for the last 5 years. I didn’t meant to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to hear – they were sort of agitated.

On my other side is my nine year old daughter. She is building something in Minecraft, her hair is tousled and her freckles are sparkling like stardust on her golden cheeks. She is in a grumpy mood, but I know it is just because she has absolutely loved our holiday, and doesn’t want it to be over, so I forgive her.

We have just spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and I haven’t worked a single minute. For the first time since I started company 1 (I have 3), I have taken a whole week off, and I have absolutely loved it …..once I figured it out, which took me about 24h. Turns out I forgot how to relax.

Interestingly enough, I always go on about work-life balance, and I am very good at it at home, I think. I spend a lot of time with my family, and I manage my work so that it doesn’t impact our daily lives too much. But…this whole holiday thing I have completely overlooked in the last 4 years.

So I have learnt two things this last week:
– Nothing fell apart while I was gone.
– I like holidays.

I think I will have to book another one. Who knew. (And how silly is it that I am actually slightly surprised by that?!)

(And You, Guy in suit next to me:
Hi. I am hoping you are reading this over my shoulder. (Or that youre already following my blog — then you’ll see it anyway)

I just wanted to remind you to make sure you are happy with your choices. I get that it is not always easy, and I don’t know your story. But I DO know that family and love ALWAYS comes first.
Happy to chat about it if you want to. Just ask about my vacation, and we can get started. ‘
key?)

 

Nobody* likes to feel naked in public

The professor in the back of the room is leaning back in her chair, arms crossed. She is tilting her head, eyes narrowing. I know I am in for a challenge, I can see it. The tension in the room is palpable.

I am 26 years old, and have been in the job for a couple of months. I represent a medical device company, and my customers and doctors, highly educated, are experts in their field. Decisions are made on facts, statistics and clinical data.

The professor asks me if I think the product I am talking about has better clinical trial results that the leading product on the market. 6 months ago I had never read a clinical trial. She is the lead author for over 250 publications in major journal across the world. There is only one thing to do: openly say that I don’t know.

This is a frequent occasion in my business, and rightly so. Medical device reps is on high turnover, often young, inexperienced, polished and smart, in for the career opportunities. In the good cases, there to make a difference, in the bad cases they are there to make a quick sale and move on.

Two things are imperative to do a good job in one of my companies;

Technical skills, and a humble approach to the knowledge of our customers. There is no way we can catch up with the 8 years of medical school. But we CAN be experts on one thing: our product.

I tell my team 2 things: don’t EVER try to diagnose and treat a patient. You will be asked to, and sometimes even pushed to. Stay away, and do not be flattered and dragged in, no matter how good your relationship with the doctor is. You are NOT trained and equipped to make such judgement.

Know everything there is to know about the product. Features, benefits, technical specs, clinical data, user experience, manufacturing process, origin, improvement history. Watch it being used. Listen, learn. Ask questions  of the users. My favourite one: Ask the user why she/he is using it. They will tell you better reasons than your marketing department can, with a lot more credibility. Know how it is used, in what applications. For us, anatomy is key, and I send my team on the same anatomy trainings that doctors attend. They need ton be extremely knowledgeable, so they can add value to the customer.

After all, it boils down to this: you need to earn the trust of your customer, and they will appreciate your dedicated. Few things can replace passion and dedication, no matter what field you’re in. And trust me…you can’t fake that.

And of my professor? I asked her to mentor me. We spent a couple of years with me tagging along every chance I got. Her patience and support benefits me yet to this day, and I thank her by paying it forward.

*Well, MOST people don’t like it.

 

Lie to me. But do it with some EFFORT.

6 ways to impress me

There are a several people whom I have the utmost respect for, and then there are people who have impressed me. The difference is important. I have had the (debateable) pleasure of coming across people who have impressed me, but that I don’t respect at all. I still learned from them, and I wouldn’t want to be without the experience. Sometimes NOT learning from a situation is the best lesson of all. Here is how to impress me:

  1. Be true to who you are

Like the guy at Johnson & Johnson who didn’t give a rats about the fact that his spiky hair and colourful socks made him stand out from the rest of the ambitious crowd. Over 10 years ago, this was quite a talking point in corporate and conservative blue chip companies. He told me to never ever let work change what I liked about myself. Good advice that I wasn’t always strong enough to follow, but now something I won’t ever compromise on, and certainly never forget.

  1. Do good

If you can do good, you should. Simple as that. I don’t care in what format: give someone change for the supermarket trolley, compliment a stranger, build a children’s hospital, found a charity, give your time and knowledge. Pay it forward, and you’re my hero. Teach your children (or someone elses) the joy of giving.

  1. Work hard at what you have committed to

There are a LOT of things that will make you great at what you do, and talent is only one of them. Be on time, study your topics, be polite, be coachable, keep deadlines, look for solutions, help your colleagues. If you’re unhappy, get out.

  1. Be brave

Are you afraid? And still doing it? Then you rock. I am not saying that those who just do things without being worried about it aren’t brave – I am sure they have areas where they have to be courageous as well. I am just of the firm belief that true bravery is best proven by those who are terrified…and do it anyway. I met an inspiring woman called Marta on Thursday who told me her next meeting was to donate blood; her way of getting over her fear of needles!

5. Lie well
I can’t stand bad liars. I know this is a weird one…most people don’t being lied to, but I actually don’t mind. People lie for all sorts of reasons, and it would be arrogant of me to think that I deserve honesty that may be uncomfortable or painful for people to share. That’s fine. But I do have one request; if you’re going to lie to me, put some effort in. Half ass lies that are easy to spot, where the liar really has neither skill or finesse. See Point 3.
6. Find your element
When I see someone who is passionate, knowledgeable, engaged, excited and “in the flow”, I always need to take a deep breath. It is SO powerful to see someone who have found their place, their space in the universe. Nothing is as attractive as when you watch that magic happen, and the force coming from individuals like that is pure power. “Find something more important than you are,” philosopher Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness, “and dedicate your life to it.” How you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery. See Point 4. Last time I saw someone do it was when I watched a candidate in an interview with me last week. I think I may have to hire her.
Thanks for reading.
Angela
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler

Why I Sacked the Sales Rep

Medical Device world is filled with them. Two categories, with the same goal: sell stuff. Either the seasoned professional who has been around since “the good old days when we could all go drinking together” or the new, slick, shiny looking rep determined to prove themselves in their first job. Measured to 90% on their sales results, they are quick in, eager to make a deal…and will move on within 18 months.

A sale is impersonal and fleeting. It doesn’t on its own create a consumer. A loyal customer believes in you, not only your product. The days when we did a sale and moved on are long gone, and we need to let go and take a new shape.

Read more on communication here

Nobody likes being “sold to”!

I have never met anyone who likes the phone sales people who hang up as soon as they realise you’re not buying. Ever been in the position when you’ve bought something you didn’t really need or want, and walked away with a bad taste in your mouth? Well, in medical device world it is coupled with moral.

How on earth can someone with a Marketing or Economics diploma tell a doctor how to use a medical device? Makes absolutely no sense (unless we consider 7 years of medical school a complete waste of time…?).

Don’t chase a sale and make sure you know your facts.

In the medical device world, it is absolutely crucial that we remember where the responsibility lies for each role. Pharma and medical device should inform about the facts of a product…and be 100% accurate.

The customer has the responsibility for what product they buy, but also for how that product is being used and what the outcome is for the patient. Don’t aim for making a sale, and never EVER attempt to treat a patient. Aim to inform and educate. Once you shift your focus, the entire process will transition into thinking for the future, not just for today.

Changing the thinking and approach ultimately drives ROI because cultivating repeat customers is less time-consuming and less expensive than creating new ones. Focusing on your customer experience in EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION increases the likelihood that people will come back. If you want a good ROI, spend as much time and money on improving the customer experience as you would on conversion.

Related: 4 Vital Lessons Sales Teams Should Take from Customer Service

What keeps a consumer coming back for more?

For medical device and pharma it is obviously all about patient outcomes — this translates to managing expectations in the customer so they know what to expect. The medical device is only as good as the customer is, so education and information plays an enormous role in the end result.  And then, whether it’s convenience (making it easy and reliable) or company culture (donating products to charity), customers need a compelling reason to choose you time after time. Be clear, honest and objective. Never push a sale, but focus on observing needs and match it with your offering. And that is exactly why I made the decision to completely eradicate our sales team. I don’t hire sales people anymore.

Focus on what’s most important: create trusting relationships. It is more relevant, more cost-effective, much easier and a lot more fun!

How Lack Of Ego Drives Growth

It helps growth tremendously to not have to be right. I find it intersting that when new people join the team, it takes  a couple of months until they realise that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a different view than me.

It may be because I deliberately hire people who I think can do a better job than me. But if that is the case, I am either wrong about the individual (has happened, obviously) or they have worked for a long time without realising their full potential. So let’s for arguments sake say that everyone in the team has worked at 75% before they Image result for people growingcome here, and I employ 10 people. That is me theoretically adding 0.25 x 10 people to the team, just by making sure each person gets the space and support they need to spread their wings and fully contribute to the best of their abilities.

And the best thing? Those 2,5 extra people doesn’t cost me a thing — quite the opposite. Employees love not being told to swim in their lane, and the environment we have is tremendously encouraging. I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated team.

This is working really well for us, and I wonder what else I can do to further improve it? Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!

IKEA or ABBA — what’s Swedish leadership style?

Apparently Swedish leadership is a science in itself.

Is there anything called Swedish leadership? Methods and approaches differ between countries and cultures, but is there some traits that are more common?

The science project “Swedish leadership challenges from a global perspective” was started 2013, and the purpose is to try to define Swedish leadership.

According to some, Swedish leadership is democratic, with delegation and trust as central themes. Perhaps some of that comes from the Swedish employment legislation where for example one cannot get fired simply for stating different opinions or bring forward other ways of doing things. It is certainly not an option in all countries to openly question managers and leaders, and hierarchy plays a vital role in many cultures. The team approach in Sweden very much puts the boss at the same levels as everyone else, and leadership is adapted accordingly.

Personal traits in successful leaders

There is plenty of evidence for what personal traits makes up the successful leader: passion, self insight, drive, team spirit, clarity, involvement and courage are not in any way unique for the Swedish leadership — it unites leaders from all over the world.

Us swedes do seem good at (even known for?) heavily involving others in the decision making process. We like consensus, sometimes so much we delay making the decision. Involving everyone is great in theory, but it is a time insuring process. It also potentially brings an aura of uncertainty to the team if they’re not used to this consultative leadership style; “Doesn’t she know what to do?!”

It may also come across as less assertive, and sometimes this may be perceived as weakness. However, it usually doesn’t take long for people to realise that just because I want to know what you think, I don’t lack an opinion of my own.

Lack of ego?

Stefan Tengblad is a professor of Economy and does research on the topic “The Swedish leadership style”. According to Tengblad the Swedish leadership style has two corner stones: inclusiveness and lack of individual prestige. Research has shown that this increase companies competitiveness and creates better profitability as team members productivity, effectiveness and quality of work increase.

This makes for lively debate with a team that is more focused on finding a great solution that everyone can agree on, than having a “winner” of the debate. For me and my teams, this have sometimes been what takes the teams I’ve led from “Good” to “Outstanding”. The freedom of being open to share thoughts and ideas makes for a stimulating work environment, where people use their voices to start conversations, not finish them.

Many successful leaders from the small country in the north

Sweden has presented many successful leaders through the years. A couple of names who are usually mentioned are Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström who occupies a powerful position in the apparatus of the EU, Ingvar Kamprad, Swedish entrepreneur and founder of IKEA and more recently singer Zara Larsson who has turned millions of young girls into a united group of strong females who stand up for themselves.

I will ask my team how they would describe my leadership. I am curious to know if they will say any of these things.

To be continued.

Mr Cameron, don’t take your ball home

imageDear Mr PM,

as a leader you state your opinions, share your reasons and fight for what you believe in. As a leader of this country, this is the time to honour the decision the people have made, and despite that being different from what you wanted, it is still your country.
When playing in a team, no matter if the strategy is different than what you proposed, you play your part. Different viewpoints are great, and you don’t take your ball and go home if your strategy doesn’t win. You play your part as well as you can, with the team that you’ve got.