This ‘Guest Blog’ Post has been contributed by Mr. Hasan Jamal, a longtime veteran of Pharma Industry. The Guest Blog Posts are also published on https://pharmaveterans.com . You are welcome to contribute. You may write your own story or about some memorable events of your career or about Pharma Industry. Please send your posts to asrar@asarqureshi.com

Feather-in-Hat

It was mid-eighties when I was assigned a special task (about which I briefly mentioned in my article published under blog # 3) by Mr. E. Heidkamp – Pharma Manager and was asked to relocate to Rawalpindi. In fact the successful completion of this task and a similar difficult and complicated situation that I faced at Faisalabad, were the achievements which gave me a great sense of satisfaction and were highly appreciated by high-ups in the company.

These two low-performing headquarters were a real problem, where the company had already made several unsuccessful attempts to rectify the situation, and to make these two areas viable. I was being tried as the last resort. The company, in fact, had decided to close down both these HQs and Rawalpindi was to be managed from Peshawar and Faisalabad from Lahore directly.

I took up the daunting task and within a period of less than a year these HQs not only became aligned with the company’s objectives but went further and became part of the top five high-performing HQs of the country. I always relish this accomplishment.

As the problems were identical at both the places, the strategy I applied to bring them in line with the company’s expectations was the same, which I wish to share with you here.

The Problem

  • Both teams were not performing up- to- the mark; the sales were declining very fast.
  • The teams were obstinate, not amenable to change their attitude.
  • Working in the field was casual and the knowledge of territories and customers was poor.
  • Product knowledge was inadequate and interest to learn was non-existent.
  • Teams were replete with personality clashes, differences and biases. Clashes with the supervisors were frequent.
  • Strong feeling of uncertainty about future prevailed.
  • Complaints about the company were commonplace.
  • Controversies with the distribution colleagues emerged often.
  • Motivation level was at the lowest ebb.
  • Regular attrition in team resulting in new faces every now and then – further delaying results.

Setting Priorities to Address the Problems

I mapped the situation for some time. Had number of formal and informal meetings with the team collectively and individually to find out:

  • What and where was the problem?
  • How extensive and intensive was the problem?
  • And to give them a chance to run out of steam. I knew that with fixed and angry minds and biases, no strategy would work.

I made the following primary diagnosis.

Diagnosis

  • Low morale and motivation
  • Talented but rudderless
  • immensely demoralized and demotivated.
  • Harbored skeptical and pessimistic views about the company and careers.
  • Lacked interest which obviated them to perform.
  • Lacked confidence due to inappropriate product knowledge, territory knowledge and work knowledge
  • Tainted reputation compounding the problems further

I designed a well-curated program and set priorities to address and resolve the problems. This would not have been possible without leading by example and from the front.

  • Motivation

The most disconcerting task for me was to prepare and motivate the teams to accept to work. And to work as a team.

Initially small, relatively easier tasks and objectives were assigned to the teams with no onus to necessarily achieve them, as the purpose was to get them into the habit of working in an organized manner. I did, however, maintain follow up as to how they were doing with their assignments and extended help in case of any difficulty.

The achievements were applauded openly coupled with some incentives. I made it a point to give credit of good work to the teams and accept the total responsibility of the failures myself, which were there in the beginning.

To avoid monotony and boredom and not to let the teams feel like every day is a slog, I had the table tennis table placed in one of the rooms in the office to make work fun. Such small gestures of fun in everyday activities and eating out together, gave amazing results in team motivation and in turn on working and meeting company’s objectives.

We used to have table tennis matches and competition on Saturday evenings within the team and quite often distribution colleagues were also involved. This greatly enhanced mutual understanding within promotion teams and with the distribution colleagues. Small souvenirs were given to the winners.  I declared that there will be no shop-talk during the game or any other social activity.

  • Reassurance and infusing confidence

I always radiated my adoration and sense of belongingness to the company, ‘the family’ and frequently talked to the teams on different occasions, in the office and while working in the field with them about the company’s culture, the growth plans and importance of measuring up to the company’s expectations. This greatly helped in convincing the teams that this is a great place to work with and make careers. This also amply helped in bringing team on board and getting them excited to contribute.

It was clear to me that the team was talented but it was only a matter of channelizing their energies in the right direction to get the desired results for the company and for their own career growth.

  • Creating a well-knit and integrated team

I never left even small issues un-attended and discussed closely with the team members, individually or collectively, depending on the nature of the issue. Sometimes even the personal and family matters came under discussion and solutions were found.

This attitude of solving problems, no matter how big or trifle it was so that the issues do not loom as large as they might, resulted very quickly in creating a well knitted team, infused understanding within the teams and I earned great respect as their mentor.

I, as a part of my personality make up and nature used to come to work with a positive attitude and tried to make the office environment a great place to be. Positive attitudes are contagious. People tend to take on the attitude of the environment, in this case of the work place.

To be Continued……

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