Purpose Driving Performance

Written by Jill Donahue

“In pharma you have your big P baked in. What you need to work on is your little p,” says Dan Pink in our interview about how his lessons on motivation apply to us in pharma.

You’ve likely heard of Daniel Pink. He is one of the top 15business thinkers in the world (according to Thinkers 50), and the author of five provocative books that have been translated into 34 languages and have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. Perhaps you saw his very popular TED talk (one of the most popular 10) or RSA feeds on The Surprising Trust about What Motivates Us.

In one of his best-selling books, Drive, Daniel summarizes 50 years of research on what motivates us in the workplace. He identifies purpose as one of three keys to exceptional performance. The other two being autonomy and mastery. Watch this short clip of our interview with him in which we ask him how important it is for us in pharma to be connected to our purpose.

POP Core Lesson 9 Deep Dive - Dan Pink - Excellerate


The little ‘p’ he talks about is each person’s connection to the organization’s purpose, the big ‘P’. In our case, in pharma, this purpose is clearly the patient. The little ‘p’ is really what patient centricity means to each person in our organization. Helping them connect their role to the impact on patients is the key to helping them be purpose driven. It may also be the holy grail to creating a patient-focused culture.

Having run hundreds of Power of Purpose workshops designed to help people make this connection, it is crystal clear that people are transformed when they connect to their purpose. Things change, not just in how they see themselves and how others see them but in their impact and the number of patients they can serve. They become more committed, more passionate, more innovative, more engaged and engaging.

But clearly, most companies are struggling with how to do this. One of the great challenges of implementing patient centricity in pharma, is creating the culture which supports it. A key insight from The Aurora Project’s 2nd Annual Global Patient-centric Benchmarks Survey 2018 is, once again, the significant gap between how important patient centricity is for respondents versus how confident they are that they can deliver on their patient-centric visions. The research suggests this is related to a lack of knowledge of how to be patient centered.

So how do we work on that little p and help each person in our organizations connect with their purpose? We interviewed pharma leaders to hear what they are doing. Here are some examples from three leaders who will be sharing more ideas at the upcoming eyeforpharma Philly conference in the panel discussion entitled “Purpose Driving Performance”.

Jennifer Muszik, US Commercial Learning Lead at Biogen, loves making a difference in people’s lives helping people get medicines when they need it. It’s why she gets up in the morning. She brings her own personal experience as a cancer survivor and caregiver to her husband’s critical illness to fuel her passion to serve patients. She’s passionate about bringing the patient into everything they do. Traditionally training has been very product focused on the features and benefits. Jennifer starts rather with the patient and what they look like and how this medicine will make a difference to them. Sharing personal patient stories is one way she helps her people see why they do what they do. She starts and ends with the patient.

Not everyone however has such personal experience to draw upon. How do others help create that empathy? Bryan Selby, VP of Sales and Marketing at Retrophin says patient centricity is in their culture. Culture of course doesn’t just happen. In The Excellence Dividend Tom Peters quotes Lou Gerstner as saying “Yet I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game-it is the game.”

We asked Bryan how they did it. He said “We talk about our purpose/our why constantly, from the CEO to the receptionist who sits next to a wall of patient photos and videos. We have these conversations every day. It’s very present, and it's intentional because we believe it creates better outcomes for all; patients, HCPs, our people, and our organization.” He references their exceptionally high positivity rate in their employee engagement survey as suggesting it creates a very engaged employee population.

David Fortanbary, Head of US Commercial Performance Training, UCB and President of LTEN, knows it’s not easy to understand the world of the patient, and all the daily hurdles they face. He wants to help employees feel what diagnosis and treatment are like. He has involved patients and caregivers in discussions with professionals, even surprising employees in the middle of a meeting to conduct a FaceTime call with a patient. He says that the gratitude expressed by these patients injects new energy into meetings and reinforces employees’ dedication.

David has also challenged colleagues to examine key questions about their own beliefs and actions. Who most profoundly influenced your decision to be a life-sciences professional? When did you know you had truly made a difference in someone’s life? What do you want your legacy to be?

For more ideas, join us as at eyeforpharma Philly where the panel above will dive deeper and discuss capability development for your sales force including answering questions like “What are the top performing reps doing differently and how to you drive winning behaviours, recruit top talent and train for success?” and “How do top performers engage customers and achieve better outcomes through the power of their purpose?”. You can see details of this session here.

This article was written by:

Jill Donahue
Principal, Excellerate,
Author, Engage Rx: The 3 Keys to Patient-focused Growth
Co–founder, The Aurora Project

Jill, HBa, MAdEd, is a keynote speaker, author and thought leader who has authored two books on Influencing in patient-focused ways and co-founded The Aurora Project, a global patient centricity group. She is on a mission to lift our industry, inspiring our people to achieve greater impact through purpose-driven/patient-focused engagement.


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