Staying positive in stressful situations can help keep your team on track for a successful launch.
I once worked on a launch with a colleague who was the epitome of a Debbie Downer. She complained about everything and everyone, criticized team members during meetings, and shut down ideas without giving them a try. Before long, she became notorious for being difficult to work with, making the launch process uncomfortable and extremely frustrating. The most regrettable part is that her behavior was never addressed by her supervisor, so it continued to escalate and affect the morale of the team.
We all have bad days at work, but part of the job is to stay focused on the positive, to help your team remain calm, and to press on through even the most stressful steps of the process. The best way to accomplish this? Be a positive force of energy.
Accept the reality of a launch.
If you can be certain about anything, be certain about this: launches are stressful. There's a lot on the line and that means a lot of intense emotions will be on display. Adjusting your expectations now will help prepare you for what's to come. The truth is, your life will probably look like this: You will go through a box of red pens in a week, marking up endless drafts of detail aids. You will memorize your drug's prescribing information, to save time on debates with your medical reviewer, and you will get to know the late-night custodian on a first-name, how's-your-wife's-bunion-feeling basis. Will you be home for dinner every night? Probably not. Probably not even half the time. Will you have to turn down many lunch hour and happy hour invitations? Yes. Will you need to lash out at your team as a result, or allow others on your team to do the same? No.
Believe in your bottom line.
No, not just the financial bottom line, but the all-encompassing bottom line. During a launch, stakeholders (who have agendas of their own) often pull us in many directions. “This launch must be perfect! Imagine what it will do for [insert one: our profits! the industry! the poor, sick patients! our pipeline!]” Think about what your bottom line is, and use that as a motivation to get you through the tough times. I put up pictures in my office of the patients we've met and interviewed, so when I'm feeling especially frustrated, I can look at their faces and remember, “Oh, yeah, that's who I'm killing myself for today.”
This has become a cliché, but until you've been in a meeting with someone who is not solution-oriented, it's impossible to appreciate how important a notion this is. If you see a problem, come to the table with a way to resolve it. If you don't have a way to resolve it, try to engage your team in working together to find a solution that works for everyone.
Stay focused on the issue at hand.
One of the hallmarks of any stressful situation is to allow a minor complication to escalate into an armageddon-type catastrophe. (Just ask my husband—I am well known for turning laundry room banter on folding techniques into a knock-down drag-out on how we're going to go about sending our pre-schoolers to college one day.) Often, this kind of escalation occurs because we are so set on being right. It's our way or the highway, and we will detour into personal and unnecessary territory, such as the mentioning of past infractions, in order to take down our opponent. Here's my advice: If a debate seems to be spiraling out of control, call a recess to re-focus the team. Don't be so caught up in your emotions that you can't take a step back to recognize when a conversation might no longer be productive.
Keep it professional.
Working in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly during a launch, means that you will probably be spending a lot of time with your colleagues—but that doesn't always mean you'll be friends. In fact, coming across someone you may consider annoying, frustrating, condescending, repetitious, or completely and utterly ridiculous is almost a guarantee. But complaining about such people to other teammates, or calling them out in a meeting, will just embarrass them, or worse: it might make them stop trying altogether. Acknowledging the positive things they bring to the table may encourage more productive behavior. If you have serious concerns about a colleague's pulling his or her weight on a project, speak to the person about it privately, or bring your concerns—with specific examples—to a supervisor.
Change the fishbowl.
This was the best piece of parenting advice my dad ever gave me, and I share it with everyone: If your baby is screaming and is completely inconsolable, change his fishbowl. Take him outside and give him some fresh air. Walk into the kitchen and show him what's inside the refrigerator. This trick has worked wonders in my house, and the best part is that it can be applied to people of all ages. If tensions are running high on your team, consider shaking up the environment. Hold your lunch meeting at a nearby café instead of ordering in. Ask your colleague to continue this important discussion while you are both taking a quick walk around the building together. It's amazing how a change of scenery can distract people long enough for them to forget why they were upset in the first place.
Take a time-out.
We all need a break once in a while, even if it's just for 5 minutes. If you find yourself feeling more and more overwhelmed, don't be afraid to remove yourself from the situation until you calm down. Close your office door and turn up the music, or pull out your inflatable punching bag. Better yet, schedule breaks into your day. Once during the holidays, when I was participating on the marketing review board of a major pharmaceutical company, the atmosphere in the room kept heating up. In an attempt to lighten the mood, we brought in festive snacks and held a dance party, grooving to Mariah Carey's “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Did we look silly? Yes. Did we feel better afterwards? You better believe it.
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