Our Founder and CEO, Gaylene, recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of life science CHRO’s.  She shared market trends and best practices from 33 years of assessing, guiding, and developing scientific leaders from the bench to the boardroom as follows. 

Trends in the Industry

You founded The Leadership Edge 33 years ago, what has changed, in terms of skills and competencies that are needed by today’s leaders that weren’t needed back then?

    1. Capital markets – there have always been fluctuations, but many first -time CEOs have not lived through them and are ill-prepared for how to deal with the uncertainty of this closed market.
    2. The stage of the various companies’ development is much more advanced than when we began in the industry. We initially worked with research organizations that were moving into discovery.  Today, most of our clients and the industry are discovery through development, with more and more moving into commercialization.  This requires different skill sets.
    3. Virtual and remote work structures like never before.
    4. The need to really commit to DE&I.

 Advice across small to large companies from well-financed to a shoestring budget

  1. Meet your organization where it is. I believe the key to being a successful senior HR leader is understanding your company’s current stage of development, the needs that are present at that stage and then thinking about what is coming next.  A model for the 7 areas that most Boards and Executives should have on their dashboards was presented along with a heat map for where the priorities might lie in companies at different stages (contact us to request a copy).  This isn’t prescriptive, but rather, so that you can have a conversation around these areas with your Board, your CEO, and other executives in your organization.  When you understand really where you are and what the priorities are you can advance the right objectives.
  2. Put together a plan. Leverage every dollar you spend.  Leverage your partner in learning and development.  They have tons of experience and can help you to spend your dollars wisely if they truly are a partner.
  3. Growing manager capabilities in early-stage biotech – A program like From the Laboratory to Leadership is a cost-effective way to build skills, build community and leverage your training dollars. The public program format was designed for small companies. Additionally, share best practices, initiate learning circles and book clubs, and offer low-cost seminars with a requirement to come back and teach what you have learned.

Board Leadership and Credibility

  1. How do you meet the hopes and dreams of your board? Start with what are your desired outcomes. What does it look like, sound like when we are there?  (this helps to make it tangible) What are one or two things that you believe would have the greatest impact on our ability to successfully execute our strategy, goals, and ultimately our vision?  (Leads to prioritization)
  2. To continue to gain credibility and influence with your board – first, you need the support of your CEO, who needs to trust that you are credible enough to put in front of the board. If you are demonstrating an understanding of the stage of development and priorities, you will build a lot of credibility. Interact with board members one on one.  Assess their skill sets.  Be thoughtful about the language you use and how you set the stage. Sit with the big boys and girls.  If everyone else is at the table, don’t relegate yourself to a side chair. Don’t have others do your talking for you. 
  3. How much do boards want to know? Every board is different.  Understand your board’s personality and needs.  Generally: Don’t repeat what they have already read in the board book.  When they enter the room, get them grounded.  Your first slide should hit the high notes.  State your intentions.  Ideally in the board book agenda.  Informing, seeking input, getting a decision.  Have the supporting data at your fingertips in case you need it.  Board meetings should be for discussion and decision-making for the most part and should not get too much in the weeds.  Keep them strategic, not operational. Ask after the meeting, “Did you get what you needed?” “Was the information too much, too little, or about right?”

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