The pharma director’s large company was soon to be acquired, but he didn’t speak of his personal long-term career goals and plans. In fact, he didn’t appear to be worried too much at all. Instead, his focus was on the here and now, and he only wanted to do the best possible job within the organization he was leading.
This successful executive told me he was amused by a previous article I had penned in which I suggested that most people put more time and energy into organizing their holidays than planning their careers. He laughed because he paid more attention to what was in front of him today, rather than the uncertainties of tomorrow.
We all need to have dreams, goals, and a clear vision about our futures, but most importantly, we need to focus on the task at hand. My new friend eloquently said that our success should be measured by what we are doing today because all we really ever have is just now.
Former president of Ritz-Carlton Hotel company, Horst Schulze, gave the International Herald Tribune a great quote: “Success is being excellent every day, and out of that comes success, reward, and promotion.”
Uncertainty and fear abound in the economy at large, and the pharma industry is undergoing major changes. Pfizer has just acquired Wyeth, Merck and Schering-Plough have a merger proposal on the go, and more acquisitions are in the air. We can do little to change the big picture, but we always can change our current situations. We can focus on what we are doing right now, and do it well.
Today’s uncertainty makes me think of a simple story of a father and his curious son. Dad was busily working at his desk but was constantly being interrupted by his young boy. The father, looking for something to occupy the youngster’s attention, reached for a magazine and found a map of the world, which he tore into a dozen or so pieces. He then asked his son to put the world back together again, thinking it would take a good while. But within a few minutes, the boy was again tugging on his father’s leg, saying that he was finished. The father, thinking his son was a genius for finishing the puzzle so quickly, asked how he did it.
“Easy Dad,” he said. “On the other side of the paper was a picture of a man. Once I put the man together, the world came together too.”
When I heard the news that Wyeth was being acquired by Pfizer, my selfish heart sank because we had several candidates on offer to Wyeth, which had been a key client. I later looked at our database and found candidates who had worked for Pharmacia when Pfizer acquired the company back in 2002. Many of the Pharmacia candidates went on to other companies, but many progressed within Pfizer and enjoyed successful careers.
Whether employees chose to stay or go, successful people have one thing in common in times of abundance or crisis—they focus on the task at hand.