taking care of people

One important feedback I’ve received in my career is “I need to take care of people, specifically people below me”. I still struggle to be self-aware of this important lesson because sometimes it is very difficult to know if I am unintentionally rubbing someone the wrong way.

Taking care of people is the single most important thing an organization can do. But what makes up an “organization”. It’s people like you and me. It is us who are responsible for taking care of people – our coworkers, our customers and our direct reports.

Maya Angelou rightfully said  “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In this post, I’d like to share my perspective on how an individual contributor such as a Clinical Research Associate, an indirect manager or leader such as a Clinical Project Manager and a manager such as a CRA supervisor, director and vice-president can take care of people and how you can make them feel positive and happy.

Individual Contributor

When I was an individual contributor, really the lowest ranking person in the organization, I did not understand what it meant to “take care of people”. I often doubted whether someone at my level had the ability to have a positive impact and influence on someone’s day or work.

What I have learned over the years is that your title and ranking in the organization has nothing to do with your ability to take care of people. Infact by taking care of people around you, increases your chances of securing that next promotion.

Let’s take a real life situation where you a clinical research associate (CRA) in a large organization. You interact regularly with the clinical research coordinator (CRC) at your assigned clinical center. As a CRA, you are responsible for monitoring clinical trial data. This means you are constantly asking the CRC for documents and putting together action items for him/her based on your monitoring visit.

But then there are days the CRC is reaching out to you for help – maybe the CRC needs the contact information of the new imaging corelab or has a question about the clinical trial payment she is been waiting for. How responsive are you to the CRC? Do you typically respond to their questions in 24-48 hours? Even if you don’t know the answers to their questions, a simple response stating that “I am working on it and will get back to you within 2 days” can go a long way in showing the CRC that you care about him/her.

What usually happens is that the CRA expects the CRC to work on those action items but does not necessarily want to go a step further to help the CRC. Or the CRC is just overworked and is unable to respond to the CRAs requests in a timely manner and now the CRA feels they can be unresponsive as well. In such situations, the CRA-CRC relationship is at stake. But the secret to a successful working relationship is to remember to do your part, and be resourceful at all times. If you are resourceful and providing value to other people, the world will reciprocate back to you in unimaginable ways.

Indirect Manager

One of the common organizational structures involves indirect reporting to a clinical project manager or a project lead. This can be a challenging role because you don’t necessarily have direct reports. However you need to influence people at all levels in the organization to move the project forward.

When put in such situations, there have been times I’ve felt helpless and frustrated because not everyone listens to what you have to say. Why? Simply because people have other priorities and your project may not be as important to them. So how do you make them feel good about working with you and your project? How do you show that you care about them?

Listening and talking about the issues are two effective ways for an indirect manager to show that you care about the people you work with.

  • Listening

Listening is immensely powerful. More often than not team members will share their challenges in meeting project timelines or completing a deliverable. By simply listening to this other person’s thoughts, ideas and challenges, you can win them over. Our world today is very noisy and people are constantly talking at each other. Listening makes collaborations with other people easy and makes them feel you care.

  • Talking about the issue

There is often management pressure to get a project completed on or before schedule or within budget. These constraints are necessary and push us to do our best work. However by articulating the issue at hand, usually in a one-on-one discussion with the other individual will result in creative solutions.

Also don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and talk about your fears and worries (for example, if I don’t get this clinical report signed on time, I will miss my goal and have a poor performance review). When you talk about your fears and worries, others will start to trust you and be able to relate to you. Most people will also go an extra mile to help you resolve the issue by talking to your manager about extending the project deadline or find alternate resources that can help you complete the deliverable on or before schedule.

Manager

For purposes of this post, a manager is someone who has direct reports such as a CRA supervisor, director or a vice president. The strategies that work for an indirect manager, also work for a direct manager. However a direct manager, in my opinion, has more ways to show that they care about their people.

In my experience celebrating all wins (small and large), acknowledging people for their efforts privately and publicly and empowering people to do their job can go a long way.

  • Celebrating All Wins

Did your direct report resolve all open queries before the scheduled database lock date or did the team pass a regulatory audit with zero findings? You can celebrate wins by taking your direct report(s) to lunch, publicing announcing their accomplishments or  giving a monetary bonus. You can get really creative here.

The key here is to be consistent and objective. You should not have your “favorite” employees  and should objectively evaluate everyone’s accomplishments based on their skills sets. Think about where they are in the career journey – where did they start and how far have them come. Not everyone will be super-star nor will everyone have an opportunity to work on top-notch projects. Before you start celebrating wins, you will need to think about what qualifies as a win for you and your team and find creative ways to fund these important celebrations.

  • Acknowledging People for Their Efforts

This is simpler said than done. By acknowledgement, I don’t mean that you should reply with a “thank you” every time someone on your team does what they are supposed to do. Instead you need to have a systematic way to acknowledge people for their work. If someone on your team accomplished an organizational goal or tried something new to move the organization forward, you should acknowledge them for their efforts. This is true even when someone tries to do something new and they fail. Failure teaches us something that we didn’t previously know. Failure leads to innovation and it makes us better over time.

  • Empowering People to Do Their Jobs

Delegating work can be challenging because you don’t know if your direct report will do the work as you had envisioned. If you assign someone a task, you need to train them first and then allow them to independently work on the task. You can build in opportunities to provide constructive feedback along the way. However don’t micromanage at every step. Instead empower them. Empowering people makes them feel happy about themselves and their work. Think about the worst that could happen if the assigned work was not completed as expected. You can always re-train or re-assign work. But first you need to be willing to give people an opportunity to try and to fail.

Thank you for reading and hope you find tremendous value from this post. If you have any feedback, let me know in the comments section below.

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