I met a lot of people last week. Colleagues and customers. In the UK and in the US – in person, on phones, on airplanes, over breakfast and even in fitness centres. Allies and friends, CEOs and scientists. At various times on various days, I was tired and jetlagged, energised and elated…and occasionally all of the above at the same time!
In a week like this, I inevitably have highs and lows. Exactly what they will be is hard to predict…although when is more common. The lows are always travel related – 9:30pm at an East Coast airport when the airline tells us the last flight of the day is delayed by an unspecified amount of time for an unknown technical reason. 9:30am at Heathrow airport when we leave to drive home and immediately come to a complete standstill in traffic which evidently has no intention of moving any time soon.
The highs are totally predictable – the highs are always to do with people. The highs are never the same, and only ever amaze me when they happen. Sometimes they are major moments of immediate significance. Frequently they are fleeting flashes that only slowly manifest.
The highlight moments always come from individuals or from teams. They never try to have that impact on me. They just do. There is a passion and a commitment that is constant. A desire and a compulsion to make a difference. People never cease to amaze and delight me.
If there is one valuable skill I have honed over weeks like last week is to recognise those highlight moments, to savour them and to remember them. And maybe also, I have also gotten much better at instantly forgetting those low moments…or else just laughing at them.
Last week we had a problem with one of our studies on one of our sites. We seemed to be struggling to convince the potential customer that we were their ideal choice – the best team to help them seize the opportunity they believe they have with their project. It was an issue of price or value, or of experience or timing, or maybe of relationship or confidence. These are seldom simple situations…the only obvious aspect being that we are at risk of losing an important opportunity…any opportunity.
Our conviction is that we can do any experiment on which we make a proposal better than anyone else. We have to believe that otherwise we are lost. Better may be a major differentiation – a capability or capacity that we have uniquely. Or it may be uniquely personal – no-one else has our people. But that conviction drives us to want to be the partner of choice…for everyone…and for every opportunity.
That conviction compels us in those moments when we may lose that partnering opportunity. It is not business. It is personal. We want to help projects advance to help patients. We know what we can do and how well we can do. We don’t give in and we don’t give up.
I recognised the moment on Monday – the moment when it looked like we may lose this particular opportunity. And I decided to try to help.
Fast forward five days and there I was – jetlagged and stuck in London traffic on Friday morning – reading email traffic that confirmed we had won that opportunity. I smiled and felt pleased.
The highlight hit me though as it very quickly became obvious from the emails just how many other colleagues had seen that same moment…and had immediately stepped in to help us win that opportunity. With experience, insight, ideas, support…and with each other.
Individually and as a team. Unconditionally.