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Today’s Guest on the Winning Teams Podcast is Drew Otoo, VP, General Manager and Country Lead at Pfizer Vaccines, Japan. I think it fair to say that Drew would be viewed as an entrepreneurial and strategic marketer for vaccines and bio-pharmaceuticals.
Drew is the classic global corporate executive having started his career in Pfizer in the USA, then taking up a senior role in Pfizer’s Paris office, and in 2017 moved to Japan to take up his current role.
We talk about how Drew has successfully managed his career across those three continents and the lessons he can share with others who wish to take the same route.
In this interview we talk about;
- What drove him to move to France
- Why he left the USA after pursuing the American Dream
- What he learned from moving from the USA to France, and then from France to Japan
- The importance of looking at your career as a brand and how you can stand out from the crowd and think of your career as your own personal brand.
To be competitive you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone, so Drew deliberately caused disruption to his life to pursue opportunities in developed countries. He arrived in France in November 2014 with his family in tow to an unfamiliar business culture where the pace was much slower and decision making took a lot longer than he was used to in the USA.
He goes on to talk about how work life balance in France is very different and it took a while to get accustomed to the cultures and environment. The USA is a very market centric, fast paced moving economy, whereas France is more of a socialist perspective where board decisions take longer to make, changes to personnel and initiatives are way slower than in the USA. The general environment that he found myself is was structurally very different.
In the USA there would be an element of top down decision making, whereas in France there was less of a top down command structure and a more laid back attitude. To get results from people it’s important to take the time to learn and understand about the corporate culture, why and how things are done and to read about the reasons people are behaving in this way.
He went on to discuss from a leadership perspective, what it was like trying to fit in with this culture and how he had to first get people to learn about him so he in turn could learn about them. Some of his team leaders had never had coaching or career development focussed on them, and so by implementing coaching they were able to develop skills and attributes as well as an understanding of themselves and where they wanted to be in their lives. He had to get very creative when bringing in external partners and consultants to help bridge the gap. Working with a US company in a European culture, so expectations on both sides have to be managed accordingly.
Having made the decision to move to Japan, Drew faced more cultural challenges. Japan is a very self-contained country and society, so coming in as an international businessman you have to find a way to fit in and the way you do that is by watching, learning and understanding the history and culture.
He discusses the unique Japanese business culture and norms and how decision making in Japan involves a considerable amount of consensus building in discussion, how you will be expected as a leader to call the shot, give the direction and then be told when to execute. So understanding that people needed time to discuss this, he felt like a helicopter leader. However he would be ineffective if he just commanded so instead he had to articulate where he wanted the company to be, provide enough time to discuss the direction, then helicopter in making sure there are no questions or roadblocks and wait for the team to signal to that they are ready!
He highlights some key points to consider when you’re coming in as a leader to offer support to the country enterprise such as:
- Who are your customers?
- Are you the expert, or another colleague?
- Do you understand the individual or the team dynamic?
- Do you understand what they are trying to achieve
- People want to succeed, they want recognition, it’s important to be very clear about what’s in it for them as well as for you.
- If you’re going to provide support, be very clear what that is and then deliver it!
- Your ability to communicate is very important. Helping people tell a better story or articulate their plans, you give them the ability to express themselves, their challenges and to be understood!
One book that had major impact on Drew is “The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. This book reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The “Four Agreements” offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.
Daily rituals and habits:
Drew recommends personal energy management, a practice and technique he learned a few years ago and practices daily. He likes to get up early, sit by the window and reflect as the sun rises. He uses an app called “Headspace” for guided meditations and finds the to do list app “Wunderlist” helps him to manage his day.
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Thanks to Jodey Smith, my podcasting technical genius, who does all the bits I don’t
like –the editing, the uploading etc. He is a gem and can be contacted at JodeySmith.com.
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