I was at a conference last week. I have been an invited speaker at the same conference for each of the last four years. For each of the last three years I have been a member of the pharmaceutical industry working in a pharmaceutical company. For the last year I have been a member of the pharmaceutical industry working in a Contract Research Organisation. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Actually I wasn’t sure what to say.
The conference was excellent. I like these conferences because of the networking opportunity. I enjoy these conferences because of the people I meet and the conversations I have. I return to these conferences because I leave more energised than when I arrive. If asked, I would return to this conference again next year,
My first slide is always the same. It’s a picture of the venue and the name of the event. I do the same for every presentation I give. I am a creature of habit and Google images is a reliable source of pictures of everywhere and everything. My second slide is normally a picture of me. A little ‘self serving’ I know, but it allows me to introduce myself and I always say something different.
Last week my presentation was first thing Wednesday morning. I used a different picture on slide two. It was a picture from a news web page. It was of a soccer player being shown a red card and sent off the previous day. He – Nani (his full name) – was stunned. The referee was expressionless. The other players were shocked. I was speechless. My team lost. Stuff happens.
When I showed the slide, I asked the conference who knew what was going on? Everyone. Who could explain it? No-one. I offered to network during the day if anyone wanted to grieve together.
At morning coffee I was approached. After some (very nice) comments and (insightful) questions about the other messages I had presented, our conversation moved onto the soccer events of the previous day. This scenario was repeated throughout the day. Each time we talked Pharmaceutical R&D. Big Pharma. CRO. Similarities. Differences. Opportunities. Learning. Transition. People. Partnerships. Sony. Silos. Apple. Nani’s red card…and what happened next.
What happens next is always the key. None of us can ever do anything about what has happened. We can only influence what happens next. We can always influence what happens next.
Emotion is the driver. When stuff happens. Big stuff. We get emotional. It’s in our nature. But responding emotionally to events is not often helpful. Natural yes. Influential no. Even more so if we are leaders and if our response is apparent to people around us.
On Tuesday the home team felt cheated by one of their players being dismissed from the game. I was watching and I was both mortified and incapable of action or response. But I was not playing and I was not the coach. Nothing the team did or said. Nothing the coach did or said. And no amount of the coach waving his hands about was going to make the referee change his mind. The only thing they could control or influence was what they did next.
And collectively they blew it. No-one concentrated. No-one adapted. No-one concentrated. Within the next five minutes the game was lost. Their (European) season was over. Finished.
It was not the dismissal – irrespective of whether it was right or wrong. It was how the team and the leaders responded. And they responded emotionally. Badly. They lost.
Stuff happens to us all – always. It’s how we handle it that makes a difference.