Apple Award Winning Podcast
This is the life-changing work that is the focus of B-Corp-certified life sciences recruitment and search consultancy – RBW Consulting spanning Boston, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, North Carolina, and San Diego.
Their work covers everything from computational biology, product development, engineering, regulatory affairs, and everything in between, across pharmaceutical and life sciences industries.
Continuing with our behind-the-scenes season of speaking to people who are using Deep Listening, we listen to Emma and Michelle about their focus on Human Intelligence.
First, a little backstory and a shout-out to Stuart from Stirred Health, who reached out to me in September of 2021 with this message.
“Hi, Oscar. I’m interested in discussing a collaboration/partnership on behalf of our client. We are keen to hear more about how Deep Listening could help us out and our client. I’m based in the UK.”
I was then introduced to their chief commercial officer, Emma, and their learning and development director, Michelle.
What I love about working with RBW is the ripple effect of doing one thing consistently well.
We discussed this very thoroughly in the co-design process, which was ultimately foundational to integrating Deep Listening into their Human Intelligence strategy.
What you’ll hear next is a discussion between Emma, Michelle, and myself about the impact of listening in the life sciences.
Listen out for the story about
- how to consistently shorten meetings and build rapport
- how to listen beyond the CV
- the importance of the productive question rather than any question
- the question every candidate should be asking during an interview
Listen for free
Oscar Trimboli (00:02):
Beyond the CVs, how to listen for the breakthroughs in bioscience. Imagine the cost of not listening in your workplace is someone’s life, improving the quality of their life, extending their life.
This is the life-changing work that is the focus of B Corp certified life sciences recruitment and search consultancy. RBW consulting spanning Boston, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, North Carolina, and San Diego. Their work covers everything from computational biology, product development, engineering, regulatory affairs, and everything in between, across pharmaceutical and life sciences industries.
(00:50): What is the impact of Deep Listening around the world? Continuing with our behind the scenes season of speaking to people who are using Deep Listening, we listen to Emma and Michelle about how listening matters in the DNA of RBW and their focus on Human Intelligence.
First, a little backstory and a shout-out to Stuart from Stirred Health who reached out to me in September of 2021 with this message. “Hi, Oscar. I’m interested in discussing a collaboration/partnership on behalf of our client. We are keen to hear more about how Deep Listening could help us out and our client. I’m based in the UK.”
Thanks Stuart for the email. From that email, I was then introduced to their chief commercial officer, Emma and their learning and development director Michelle.
What I love about working with RBW is the ripple effect of doing one thing consistently well.
(02:03): We discussed this very thoroughly in the co-design process, which was ultimately foundational into integrating Deep Listening into their Human Intelligence strategy.
What you’ll hear next is a discussion between Emma, Michelle, and myself about the impact of listening in the life sciences.
Emma, what’s the cost of not listening for you?
Emma (02:32): We work with pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, life science tech companies, and essentially the thing that ties all of those people together is they are producing therapeutics or services that help patients. They’re either life-changing drugs or apps.
The really interesting thing about these high science organizations is yes, there’s a high failure rate because the science isn’t always good enough and it’s our job to make sure that those people are good enough. The cost of not listening for us is we could have the wrong people in the room and that could stop an innovation reaching a patient. The cost of not listening in our role is people’s lives.
We’ve been lucky enough to work with an amazing woman called Stacey Hurt. Stacy’s a patient advocate, and she told us about how she actually got to meet the R & D scientists that worked on the cancer drug that saved her life.
(03:29): She’d gone to speak at the company that had produced a drug to speak about the importance of remembering patients in what they did, and at the end of the piece, she got to meet the scientist who had worked on this drug and they told her how when they were working on the drug, they knew how important it was and knew the impact that it would have on patients and they were taking their job so seriously, they were sleeping on the lab floor at night because they didn’t want to delay the experiments that they were working on getting to patients. And just by having those people, it was so committed and so connected to the end journey for this piece of work that they were doing for this drug getting into patients that meant Stacey was around 10 years later to meet them, and I just think that’s incredible and it shows that it doesn’t matter. You can look at the CV, you could have really talented scientists. If they don’t care enough to sleep on the lab floor, are they going to be the right person for the job?
Oscar Trimboli (04:30): Michelle, what’s the cost of an art listing from your perspective?
Michelle (04:33): In the industry that we work in, recruitment, often recruiters can get a bit of a bad rep for not listening. That makes it super important that actually we take time to really hear things that people might not realize they’re actually saying. When you talk about your training, they’re listening for the unsaid. That’s what’s really important for us.
(04:56): We are ultimately in the game of matching people with opportunities, and if we don’t listen from both sides, we could get that wrong. And to Emma’s point, we work in an industry where we are actually placing people into super important jobs. The cost of us making mistake and not getting that right is huge.
Oscar Trimboli (05:17): One of the things world-class recruiters like you and your organization do really well is not just listening for skills now and you’re not just listening for the next role, you’re looking at it in a much broader context.
(05:33): One of the things Emma, I know you’re very passionate about, is cultural fit. Take us through how you listen for a cultural fit.
Emma (05:41): It’s a badge of what makes us unique and a piece of that is people, and we talk about matching culture and capability. When I was working on a senior search for a biotech and we’d got down to final with a couple of candidates and this biotech, they had amazing science, but they were bootstrapped. They were going into the next funding round, no money at all.
(06:04): They had an office in the middle of nowhere in this industrial park in the Midwest. It was not like Silicone Valley glamour, as you can imagine, people sometimes thinking for a startup.
(06:17): And we had these candidates and there was one that was just absolutely incredible on paper, had the most illustrious career, and we got to going into final interview and they reached out to me in and we were like, “Can you get the chief executives officer to send me details of the parking?
I’m imagining there will be valet. I’m rushing from another meeting. And it’s important.” It was very “Divary”. Nobody wants to judge anybody, but it was “Divary”.
(06:48): And up until that point, that person had been the favorite for the role because that side of the them, the client had asked all the questions, we’d asked all the questions. “Are you ready for startup? Do you know there’s not going to be money? Do you know you’re not going to have an assistant?”
All of those things and, “Yes, yes, yes, I’m really excited to do it.” And actually that was when the actions in that moment told us all of the unheard that we needed to hear somebody actually with a much less impressive CV ended up getting the job and they were fabulous. They were a great fit.
That’s an alarm bell way of talking about culture, but actually something Michelle and I have been doing following the training is we’ve been looking at the way that we onboard clients.
(07:30): We’ve always historically asked a lot about culture, tell me about your culture question. And you ask most clients that question and you’ll probably get, “Oh, well, we are like a family and we all get on really well,” or there’ll be various different kind of things that people use to describe corporate culture, but actually what we’ve been doing is realizing how many questions you need to ask to get to that point and actually stopping asking the question, even with an open question, stopping asking it in a direct way, asking things like, : “Tell us about the person that most embodies your culture and describe them as a human being.”
(08:04): That really helps and asking those questions in a different way has been huge for us as an organization. It’s gone from getting to know a client’s culture and we’ve been working with them for a few months feeling like we know it inside out to actually getting that information down in a meeting. It’s amazing.
Oscar Trimboli (08:24): It’s a beautiful example of level three and listening for the backstory, listening for positive backs, stories in terms of the people who are embodying what the values of the organization is and the negative.
(08:36): Do you pick up on that in the training, how you’re helping the consultants that are in the organization? There’s a lot of work gone into layering questions. Take us through that process.
Michelle (08:47): We probably don’t recognize the weight that culture has when we are getting that piece right, and I think a lot of it is around being really open and honest and saying, “Actually it doesn’t matter what the culture is. The whole ream of different cultures is okay.” And being really comfortable that if someone’s culture is a bit more aggressive than someone else’s that’s still okay because there are people out there that will thrive in those sorts of environments, and so our job is just about really understanding the person, and that’s what I really put an emphasis on.
(09:20): One of the things that I really focus on is that when you are speaking to someone that is in the market and considering a new opportunity, we really focus on having a conversation about them and everything that’s important to them without thinking about a client.
(09:35): If you’re going into a conversation and you are already thinking about the clients that you want to talk to someone about, you’re going to get it wrong because you’re going to, without even knowing, consciously structure the questions that you ask and actually that will influence the decisions that you then make and that isn’t what we are about.
(09:52): We are about looking at them both in isolation and then coming together to make matches in the right way, and that’s how we do things slightly differently to make sure we are getting that culture piece nailed. We’ve always trained listening as part of all of our workshops and what we’ve really now done is lifted out and put some focus around areas where we can make it more of a thing that we’re actually saying, “Look guys, we really need you to listen.” But really, really simple technique, and it’s one that you use and what else is the technique that works well.
(10:25): When someone gives you an answer, follow it up with a, “Tell me more or what else is under there?” Super easy to use, but if you don’t ask it, you won’t get the information that you need.
Oscar Trimboli (10:39): G’day, it’s Oscar and I wanted to highlight something that’s quite crucial.
Listening is contextual, situational and relational, and what you’ve just heard from Michelle is she’s highlighted how to listen to the person rather than the candidate.
Michelle highlights that you’ll listen completely differently and ask very different questions if you have a predetermined role in mind rather than fully exploring what the person wants to achieve from their career, independent of their role, their employer, or even the available positions.
(11:22): I want to share a dirty little secret of my client’s. The people who are attracted to work with me are the best in their industry and they’re looking to go to world-class. The people who aren’t great at listening, they don’t even think they need any listening training and what I loved about working with your organization is the openness, and I’m curious how the Four Villains of Listening landed for you and your teams.
Michelle (11:49): It was a impactful exercise to do and just understanding what your type is creates a sense of awareness. By no means am I fixed, my villain definitely still appears in certain situations, but I think the thing that’s been really, really great is just, I recognize it.
(12:10): My primary villain is interrupting listener, and I recognize now, though it’s highly frustrating when you interrupt, it comes from a good place because you want to offer a solution to a situation that someone is in.
(12:24): The biggest takeaway from for me is that I think people just recognize what their style is and pause for a second, or if you don’t have the forefront to stop before you get there, what you can do is apologize afterwards. It makes conversations much better. Just from that standpoint.
Oscar Trimboli (12:43): Emma, what’s that one technique that’s made a big difference for you and possibly one that’s made a big difference for your team?
Emma (12:50): The thing that’s been quite magic for me, the thing that I’ve found so helpful and has saved me a ton of time is the upfront question, “What would make this a good meeting for you?” What I’ve realized is by book ending meetings, I have to organize myself to do two things. I have to ask that question and I have to make sure I’ve written down what would make it a good meeting, then I get down what would make it a good meeting for that person.
(13:16): By book ending it back at the end and just actually being really definite with myself of confirming actions and making sure that we’ve all heard the same things. That’s really huge, particularly when we’re working with clients and we’re taking briefs. I’ve heard that you’ve told me X, Y, and Z, I’ve heard that your culture is like this or I’ve heard that this is what’s most important to you.
(13:38): It saves a ton of time because our meetings are really focused, so we’re getting to the nub of what we’re all trying to achieve and you are getting everything done in that one meeting because there’s no shooting off with, “Okay, yeah, I’ve got it. I know that this is what they really want.” And then finding what you think they want and realizing it’s the wrong thing.
(13:57): That’s been massive and I think a lot of people in the organization have been using that. We certainly use it in internally, as well.
(14:05): Thank you. You’ve not only made me a better listener, but you’ve organized me.
Oscar Trimboli (14:10): Your client meetings are shorter and to the point and they’re feeling heard.
Emma (14:16): It’s interesting, with a shorter thing because you would think, “Oh, shorter, less time to build rapport.” That’s totally not true. Our rapport is better than ever and it’s the being heard thing. The thread that’s running through everything is actually when we play back that culture bit and we play back what we’ve heard from the stories that we’ve been told about individuals or things that have happened in the organization, the overwhelming feedback is, “Gosh, you’ve just encapsulated our culture better than we can say it ourselves. How have you got that from what I’ve told you?” Which is amazing.
Oscar Trimboli (14:53): In terms of growth in professional services firms, there’s two ways to grow. You get new clients or you build deeper relationships with the clients you’ve got. There is a third way where you do both simultaneously.
My speculation is that you’ve got deeper, richer relationships with clients that maybe they’re starting to offer you roles and opportunities that maybe they hadn’t before?
Emma (15:22): Yeah, absolutely. A big part of this year, along with the training that we’ve done, is looking at the client book that we have and rather than just asking for more, seeing what we can do more for them, which has been really huge and having more and more conversations about what exclusivity do you want, sign with us and the feedback we get is, it’s so easy because you’ve taken the time to get to know us upfront.
It takes more time out of our day if we had to brief someone else, when we work with you, we know you know us and that’s like the best feedback we could ever get.
Oscar Trimboli (15:55): Michelle, what have you noticed flowing through the organization beyond the start of the meeting and what would make this a good conversation?
Michelle (16:05): The massive thing is the ripple effect. When we do one thing right, that actually is making us think, “Ooh, where else could we implement this to make that thing better?” And it’s flowing through everything that we do right from how we recruit for our own team through to the services that we offer our clients, through to how we train and develop our people and how we have better conversations internally. There’s been a real big noticeable change for me around just the ripple effect of one thing, having a really strong impact on something else and then on something else, on something else, and that is just from actually asking better questions.
(16:45): Although a lot of what we do here is Deep Listening, actually your Deep Listening comes from asking much better questions in the first place because you’re not steering your questions and that’s been a really noticeable change for us. The questions are really nice and open and if you ask lovely open questions, people have the space to share more information with you, which is exactly what we need.
Oscar Trimboli (17:10): One of the stories I shared with the team was the story of Hedy Lamarr, who was one of the first people to document the patent for Bluetooth and wireless technology. She did this in the 1940s and if you looked at Hedy’s CV, her resume, you would’ve seen most beautiful actress in the world. She works for MGM Studio, but what we don’t know is that her and George Antheil, musical composer are working nights feverishly to try and solve frequency hopping systems to help the naval fleets across the Atlantic.
(17:49): When we talked about that story, I could see a lot of nodding from folks listening to that where people aren’t necessarily fitting people to a role that’s open, but really listening widely to what their capacity is.
Emma (18:05): When you told that story, Oscar, I think you could see me absolutely beaming from ear to ear. Certainly in my career, I used to work with a lot of advertising agencies and PR agencies that did comms for drugs and quite often I would come across people who maybe were quite junior in their career or they’d been doing something slightly different, but they just had a massive passion for this industry and you just knew that they were going to be good. And this shows how long I’ve been around, but I’d met somebody through LinkedIn who had zero experience, hadn’t done anything relevant in the industry at all, but they were just, and I think the closest link was their parents were doctors or something really obscure like that, but they just so badly wanted to be in the industry and they, were so smart and talented.
(19:01): There’s something about this kid, I’m going to ring round like 15 of my best clients. I don’t know if you’ve got any junior openings, but this person’s really special. And luckily I had some very open-minded clients at the time that didn’t mind meeting a Hedy Lamarr. They took my word for it and they interviewed this person anyway.
This person with no relevant experience and an absolutely dreadful CV ended up with three offers, one of which they took. They stayed in that company for the majority of their career.
(19:32): They’re now the managing director of that company, and I actually went to an industry awards and saw them the win a massive industry award really recently. It just shows like that person wouldn’t have got a job if we hadn’t have paid attention to what they were behind the CV and now they are running the agency and picking up industry awards.
Oscar Trimboli (19:59): If you’d like to listen to an extended interview about Hedy Lamarr from chapter three of the book, How to Listen, then visit www.oscartrimboli.com/hl as in Hedy Lamarr. The difference between hearing and listening is action, and thanks to the following Deep Listening Ambassadors from episode 110 and Jenny Field in the field model where I asked people to email me via firstname.lastname@example.org about their takeaways, their reflections from the episode.
(20:35): Thank you to Alice George, Ignacio, Jane, Jessica, Laurice, and Sammy for sharing their reflections about the Field Model™.
This one’s from Ignacio. “As of the CEO, I understand the power of communication to help me drive a more engaged organization. In this episode, there was a framework to inspire my organization for a better environment.
(21:02): My takeaway from the Field Model is that diagnosing and fixing it, well, first you need to start to understand and then you need to explore before you start fixing anything. Thanks for the podcast, Oscar. It’s been very helpful.”
(21:23): Thanks to Jane who took a moment to record her reflections.
Jane (21:28): My name is Jane and I’m from the United Kingdom. I have just listened to Jenny Field and I loved her talking about the staff survey and what happens to that and how much effort and weight is put into how many returns they have and not what was in them. This happens where I work. If we listen to the truth, we can do something with it if that is what is needed or just listen. I want to help it be better. Thanks. I will keep listening now that I have found you.
Oscar Trimboli (21:56): Thanks, Jane. Thanks to Jenny and her team for sharing the Field Model ™ and the book Influential Internal Communications. That’ll be shipping to the UK, Spain, and Australia.
(22:13): Emma, what I love about working with you and your team is a genuine curiosity, a real empathy for both a client and the candidate to ensure there’s a great match. What’s in the DNA of the organization that really sets it apart?
Emma (22:29): Integrity’s one of our values and we really live by that and the way that we boil that down is do the right thing, not the money thing. Essentially, whenever you are working with somebody in our business, they’re interested in the long range. They want the business to succeed and the candidate to succeed. That’s the ultimate number one driver and because of the way that we tee ourselves up, the way that Michelle has written our onboarding and the way that we conduct that with our clients, we know and we understand what the business is trying to achieve. And the same with our candidates when we’ve met them and interviewed them before we start working with them, we know what good looks like for them and we know what will not only be a good job for them, but what will enrich them as a person because we’ve taken the time to actually get to know them.
(23:19): What is different is we’re really interested in that matching process, truly interested in that matching process. The fact that our consultants work, as Michelle’s mentioned, and they understand the areas the candidates are going into, they can match better.
Oscar Trimboli (23:34): Michelle, in terms of building an organization that can create the environment where you are saving patient’s lives, how do you do that with people from such a wide range of backgrounds?
Michelle (23:50): We are a values led organization. It bleeds through everything that we do right the way down to decisions that we make in how we operate on a day-to-day basis. And the way that we onboard people, we put values at the forefront of that. So actually for us, recruitment is all about people. It’s a people based business.
We’re dealing with our own team, we’re dealing with our candidates, we’re dealing with clients, and that is all about how you communicate effectively with people. We really focus on hiring the right people inside our own business and for us that’s about attitude, it’s about skill, it’s about culture fit, and once they’re inside the organization, I will support and train those people on what makes a good recruiter, so it’s much more about getting the right people inside the business than what skills they have when they come to us.
So really plays beautifully into one of our Pillars inside of human intelligence where we are hiring for culture, and capability.
(24:51): What does make us quite different though is that when people are inside the organization, we would put them into one specialism. We are really making sure that the role that people go into, that is their area of specialism on a day-to-day basis.
(25:06): People are not wearing different hats on different days, and what that allows us to do is to get a real deep understanding of each of those niche areas and that will allow us to provide an excellent service to our clients and our candidates.
Oscar Trimboli (25:20): When clients come to you, you are well known for your values. What are they?
Michelle (25:26): We have three core values. Three that we hold at core are innovation, integrity, and insight. We think about the three I’s with all of the things that we do inside the organization. Innovation is massive for us. It makes us be in a position where we can be really adaptable, we can be open to being flexible for our clients and willing to grow and always be looking at how we can improve things, which led us to be in a position where we’re having the conversations that we’ve been having with you.
Oscar Trimboli (25:59): The three I’s, innovation, integrity, and insight, none of those can exist without the other. They all fit together like a nice neat jigsaw puzzle and the final bit I love about them is they’re all amplified by world-class listening. Emma, listening is a simultaneous equation. You listen and you speak at different times and people change roles. One of the big important artifacts in listening in your profession is the brief the client provides. What differentiates good from great when it comes to client briefs?
Emma (26:35): We were taking a brief from a client for a really important role. It was a C-suite position, and they were talking about all of the objectives that this person had. They needed to be scientific, they needed to be able to raise money, they needed to be able to, essentially the brief ended up sounding like this person needs to jump through hoops backwards while juggling and riding a unicycle. It was huge.
You could tell that they’d spent a lot of time putting together this spec. It was really important. It was quite a small leadership team and actually it was really difficult when the message from us,
(27:14): “Well, this isn’t somebody for your C-suite at all. This isn’t what you need. We actually think that you need a non-exec director who can give you as a board some guidance because I know you’re needing a different voice in there. This role that you’ve built, this is three different people at director level. This is not one person.”
And actually it was really interesting because we did end up executing the new plan in the end, and I know it sounds like, “Gosh, three people in the business and somebody on the board, that’s going to cost a fortune.” It actually saved them a fortune. The non-exec director that they hired helped steer the board to structure the business in a much more efficient way.
(27:53): They ended up with a number of people who were doing, because I think that’s the other thing as well, that sometimes there’s the misconception of what we say and what we mean when you think we want somebody. You’ll say, “We want somebody to do operations, lead operations.” And then actually sometimes what you are asking for is it might be somebody to do the strategy for operations, but there still isn’t anyone doing operations where it’s really picking through those words, and so we’re saying, “Do? What do we mean by do? Do we mean work out how to do or actually do? Do the do?
We find that there’s quite a lot of times like that where either what we think we need or how we articulate what we need is either, doesn’t exist isn’t the right thing. Sometimes just having somebody to bounce off and does this exist, is it going to fix the problem? Kind of really good questions to ask when you’re putting together all briefs.
A bit of time upfront saves you a lot of time in the future. The better brief we can have, the more accurate our matching process is. If there was one thing that I could change about brief giving and probably brief creating is start with explaining the thing that you are wanting to fix or have covered first, rather than going into the list of,
(29:10): “This person would’ve done 10 years doing that in five years doing that.” If you have an opportunity to have an interactive conversation with another person, when you’re giving that brief and we can all sense check that you are fixing the thing you want to fix, it’s instantly going to be a better brief coming in with less assumption and giving more context.
(29:32): A good example is we had a role a while ago where we were looking for a data scientist and it was actually a replacement role.
The person that they were taking over from had actually been writing a lot of the models that the company was going to be using, the first person that they’d brought. So we went into the brief and it was very much,
“You know this role. You knew so-and-so. We basically want someone just like that, right? Because they were great.”
(30:00): And we got into it and actually what we realized was when once we’d had the conversation and we got into a bit more context was what we wanted, it wasn’t actually somebody exactly like John, because John’s job, John had actually left because he’d done all the exciting stuff.
He’d written all the juicy algorithms and programs, so when it came down to it, the role had changed. Things had moved on, things had moved on with the business. Yes, they still needed a data scientist. They still needed somebody that could work with with the data. Was it as senior as John?
No, it wasn’t. It was a completely different role. Now, having that conversation meant that the person that we ultimately did end up hiring was very happy, stayed a long time, and it worked for the business and it saved them money.
Oscar Trimboli (30:50): For my clients in professional services, they consistently say after deploying the Deep Listening programs across their organization, one technique that makes the biggest difference inside and outside is asking that very short and simple question,
(31:05): “What will make this a great meeting?”
That question is helpful, and the power with that question is checking in every 25% of the meeting to ensure how you’re making progress against that initial response. It’s the short question and the check-in.
(31:28): The check-in signals you listen to the beginning of the meeting, increases rapport and signals to the other person that you’re listening, not just at the beginning of the meeting and all the way throughout. As a result, the second thing that’s consistent is meetings are shorter, yet the client feels more heard. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
Shorter and fewer meetings where clients and counterparts are being heard.
(32:00): Third, the impact of their Deep Listening increases rapport and relationship with clients who trust them with different and bigger problems. As a result, this brings in more work.
My big takeaway from Michelle is just focus on doing one thing consistently well. And from Emma how important the process of briefing with the client speaking out aloud about what they want to fix rather than how they might approach it with a candidate profile.
By the way, I couldn’t resist asking Emma for a bonus question on behalf of candidates who take an interview and that bonus question is at the end of this episode. It wasn’t what I was expecting.
(32:55): If you’d like to win one of five copies of How to Listen, Discover the Hidden Key to Better Communication, the most comprehensive book about listening in the workplace, then send me an email email@example.com with the Subject line RBW and the three things you took away from this discussion with Emma and Michelle.
I’m Oscar Trimboli, and along with the Deep Listening Ambassador community, we’re on a quest to create 100 million deep listeners in the workplace. You’ve given us the greatest gift of all.
You’ve listened to us. Thanks for listening.
(33:41): Finally, I’m sure there may be some candidates listening. I’d love to find out what’s the best question a candidate has asked you?
Emma (33:52): I love it when somebody closes an interview with, “Do you have any reservations about me?” It gives you an opportunity to basically answer everybody’s worries. It’s fantastic.