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Organisational success is driven by the achievements, resilience and capabilities of its people; empowered even further by the impact of high performance.

Yet we are increasingly hearing senior leaders share the struggles involved in not only leading but, critically, retaining their high performing teams. Whilst everyone is clear on what great leadership looks like and are equipped with the ability to coach individuals effectively, retaining high performers is proving to be a real challenge.

In our 10th Women in Biopharma Leadership event, we were joined by Jo Briggs, Director, People Business Partner and Sarah Jones, a seasoned Leadership Coach. Together we explored what it takes to lead a high-performing team, leveraging real-life insights from across a variety of pharma organisations.

Here we share the core challenges to overcome and the strategies you can put in place to both empower and retain high performance:

Right people, wrong roles.

Often, one of the biggest challenges leaders face is not acknowledging that this is about retaining the right people. That is, people who are passionate, engaged and want to stay.

Supporting people to thrive sometimes means empowering them to thrive elsewhere – that could be a different role within your team, but it could also mean a position within a different function, or even in another organisation – and that’s ok.

Action: Spend time understanding what the difference is between job satisfaction and engagement for your team and remember to see your individuals as exactly that, individuals. Which means using flexible communication styles and encouraging open and honest conversations about development, performance and aspirations.

In it for the long haul.

The most common misconception, is the time it can take to develop a high performing team. In our session, Jo shared an example where a new leader had come in to head up a function where the existing team culture was not conducive to high performance – lack of trust, lack of alignment, lack of accountability,  lack of healthy debate, all of which were leading to under performance. This leader was open about the challenges within the team, clear about their expectations, never shied away from the difficult conversations and acknowledged that this was going to take time. In fact it took 2 years for this leader to turn things around, with their HR Director supporting them every step of the way. Cultivating high performance takes time, but in this case, the result was a high performing team with the best financial results in the history of that  team.

Action: Commit to a long-term strategy rather than focusing purely on short-term operational boosts and do not shy away from the challenging conversations. Be open. Dial up the strategic impact you want to have and actively show your team that you’re in it for the long haul.

Conscious connections.

Research has shown that 79% of employees cite lack of appreciation for leaving their job whilst 97% of team members believe that lack of alignment influences success.

During our event, Sarah shared that she’d supported a team who had uniformly highlighted they were unhappy with the lack of internal recognition and lack of clarity between roles. By re-drafting role profiles and creating an internal recognition programme, team motivation increased by over 60% in one year resulting in higher performance and a more engaged team.

As a leader, you need to make a conscious effort to build connections, not just with your team, but with the wider organisation and your leadership too. Whilst building trust and creating a culture within which your team are empowered to thrive is critical, without a clear connection into the wider business agenda and the opportunity for recognition, you will be climbing a much steeper hill.

Action: Make sure each team member understands the purpose behind what your team is delivering and the role they have in this. Better still, involve them in the creation of your team objectives and take the time to drive internal recognition. If you’ve already built those important connections within the wider business, this will be a much simpler task.

By focusing on we rather than me, you are more likely to develop an engaged team that drives sustained growth.

Safe space.

Last, but by no means least, is the need to create a safe space. A space that encourages learning rather than fear of failure, practices forgiveness vs resentment, fosters healthy debate rather than toxic conflict; a culture that nurtures and encourages trust.

In organisations where failure is feared and feedback is begrudged, performance can start to flounder as innovation is stifled and teams shy away from healthy conflict.

Action: Self-awareness is key. Help your team members get to know themselves and one another better and remember it is up to you to set the tone. Role-model the behaviours you want to see, publicly recognise or praise when you see them in others and encourage diversity of opinion.

And to make this truly stick, involve your people in the process. Co-create the culture with them. People are much more likely to deliver something they were involved in creating and feel accountable for.

One final parting note to set you on the road to high performance: if you do one thing today, make sure you sit back and reflect on what your team needs to engage voluntarily. Start your journey to creating the right conditions and culture for you all to thrive together – and involve your team in the conversation.

The Women in Biopharma Leadership network was founded in 2018 by Cormis and Links Life Sciences, with the specific purpose of bringing together the voices of like-minded senior women in the Pharma and BioTech industries.

To hear more about our future events or connect with the WBL network, please head to our LinkedIn group.

If you’d like to find out more about our speakers, you can connect with them here: Sarah Jones. Jo Briggs.

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