The Halfway Point of My 30 Day Writing Challenge

Today marks the halfway point of my 30 day writing challenge.  One thing I’ve learned over the past 2 weeks is that “challenge” is definitely the appropriate term.  It hasn’t always been easy, but I have learned a lot.

Today will mark 14 out of 15 days that I have written and posted something.  Working on developing the discipline of writing has definitely been good for me.  I do have to write every day as part of my job.  I write (too many) e-mails, updates, reports and the like.  Writing here has been very different though.  Here I have complete freedom to choose my subjects and topics, which I’ve found to be much harder.  I’ve found that this kind of writing requires much more thought and planning than I expected.

It’s helped me to have a plan but I’ve learned that I can’t be a slave to that plan.  Part of my goal in writing here is to share my journey in working out loud as a means to accomplish a goal.  With any journey, you may have a specific route in mind but there are always unexpected detours.  Sometimes that curious roadside attraction is just the thing you need to break up a long trip.

Yes, I did miss one day.  Yesterday in fact.  I didn’t write yesterday because I decided to give priority to other activities.  At one point I did think, about just taking 15-20 minutes to dash something off so I could say I met my goal, but as I thought about it I realized that for me quality is more important than quantity.  If I wasn’t willing to take the time to write something I would feel good about , I didn’t want to do it.

It actually felt really good to give myself a break.  When I was working out with a trainer, she would always remind me of the importance of having a recovery day.  To build and strengthen muscles, you have to allow a recovery day to give them time to rebuild.  I think my writing muscles needed a recovery day.  It actually felt good to allow myself a day off. I think the break helped me to take a step back and reflect on why I set this challenge for myself in the first place.  Plus knowing that I had skipped an day made me more motivated to write today.

So, the key things I have learned over the past 15 days are this:  this challenge was what I needed to develop the discipline to write, having a plan helps but I also need to give myself the freedom to take detours, quality is more important than quantity, and I need to know when to give myself a break.  So far, this has been a great experience and I’m glad I challenged myself.

I’m sure that the next 15 days will have other lessons in store for me.  I just need to keep an open mind and continue to learn along the way.


Optional Activities to Prepare for Week 3 WOL Circle

Here are some additional resources I thought would reinforce the themes & exercises we will cover in our week 3 WOL circle.

  • At our last meeting we had a great discussion about different social media tools.  Our circle members had varying levels of experience and comfort levels in using different social media platforms.  Participants also expressed reservations about how these tools can be used for business purposes.  I read an article over the summer that really changed my perspective on the business value of different platforms. The focus of the article is on use of social media for the compliance practitioner but I think you could substitute any other field (IT, project management, research, etc.) and the concepts would be equally valid.
  • Since one of the topics we will be discussing this week is the universal gift of gratitude, this TED talk seemed appropriate: Remember to say thank you (TED talk – 3:29)
  • Now that we’re venturing out and thinking about contributions we can make to those on our relationship lists, I thought this would be a helpful article: The ultimate guide to leaving comments on blogs
  • One key point I took away from reading Working Out Loud is that one key to building relationships is to focus on making a contribution to the person with whom you want to build a relationship.  The generosity test provides a nice method for examining motives.
  • To go along with this week’s exercise about “paying yourself first”, here’s a helpful short video How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work

Week 2 – Deepening Our WOL Circle Relationships

I’m happy to report that our week 2 WOL circle meeting was even better than the first.  I can see the relationships between all of us continuing to grow and deepen.  I am so very impressed with the level of openness and honesty as people share their goals, challenges and reservations.  For many of us the only thing we knew about the other circle participants before our first meeting was their names.  It’s been wonderfully gratifying to experience the evolution from strangers to people invested in one another’s success.

Despite the early hour there was wonderful energy and engagement from everyone involved.  People truly listened to one another and everyone was able to offer helpful suggestions and help connect others in the circle with people in their network who could help them achieve their goal.

We have agreed as a team that we will complete all of the independent assignments outside of our circle meetings and spend our time together talking through the various exercises.  We have found that we get more value from input from others in the circle than using the time to complete individual assignments.  This approach works very well for us and it’s amazing how quickly the hour flies by.

The intimacy level  exercise provided a lot of insights.  It provided a unique way to evaluate the relationships with people in your network.  One of our participants shared that as she started working through this exercise for the relationship list she had created for her goal, she started thinking about her other networks.  She noticed that she felt the most successful in areas where she had deeper intimacy levels (4s & 5s) with at least a few people in her network.  On the contrary, in areas where she felt like she struggled or didn’t feel as successful, she was lacking that deeper intimacy with the people in her network.

As we began talking about making our first contributions it became clear that we all had different level s of participation/engagement with the various social platforms available (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).  This led to a good discussion about what we share and with whom.  Being in a highly regulated industry, there is always some fear about what you can and can’t should and shouldn’t share.  The key point here is that we all need to keep in mind that it’s not about the tools it’s about the relationships.  We should each find ways to contribute and connect with people that feel right for us.  It doesn’t mean that we should try to experiment or give new tools a try.  We can all benefit from stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new.  We’ll never know if it will work for us unless we try.

Last week I summed up my experience with one word – awesome.  For week 2 I’ll use two words – deepening relationships.  I saw a lot of growth in how everyone worked on their relationship lists and began working on those relationships.  However what I think was even more important was to see the deepening relationships between the members of our circle.  I can’t wait to see what unfolds over the coming weeks.

Week 1 WOL Circle Metrics

Last week I tracked my starting/baseline metrics before our first WOL circle group meeting.  My purpose in tracking metrics is to have a quantitative way of measuring changes in my behaviors as a result of participating in a circle.  I’ve shared the actual numbers at the end of the post.

To be clear, the point of this is about making meaningful changes that will help me accomplish my goal, not just about chasing numbers.  I could go in and just click “like” on everything I see on Twitter but for me that’s not going to get me any closer to accomplishing my goal.  What follows is the story last week’s numbers tell me, but I fully recognize that it’s my interpretation and that others can look at the same data and come to very different conclusions.  (Please feel free to share any different interpretations you may have.)

Contributions to Internal Company Sites:

While my total number of posts to our internal company enterprise social network increased over the past week, the responses (views, likes, and comments) to those posts actually decreased pretty significantly.  I attribute this to the fact that the majority of the new content I created was related to our working out loud circle.  So the intended audience for this content was much more limited.

I was very pleased to see that there were quite a few people outside of our WOL circle that were actually reading what I had posted.  So that tells me that there is interest in what’s happening in our circles beyond our participants.  I’m hopeful, that by sharing and allowing others to follow our progress, we will have enough interest to launch a second round of circles once our first groups have finished.

Despite the fact that there may have been limited views, much of the content I created is reusable, so that if I or anyone else wants to launch a new circle, they can start with what is already available.  Another benefit for me is that by documenting what I did, how I did it, what worked, what concerns were shared, what didn’t turn out the way I hoped, and other observations is that I have resources to learn from and build on for next time.  I like to think I have a great memory, but things fade over time.  At the end of 12 weeks, I’m less likely to remember the things that happened during week 1.  So while the initial views may be limited, I anticipate that the views over time will only increase.

My Public Contributions

This is the area where I saw the most improvement personally, not just in terms of numbers but in actual changes in my behaviors.  Clicking “like” on a tweet or blog post is very easy.  It takes almost no effort, and is a simple way to show appreciation.  I know it makes me feel good when someone “likes” something I’ve shared.

However, I’m a bit more reluctant to leave a comment.  So I thought about why that is.  For me it boils down to three different issues: it takes more time, it requires putting some thought into what you want to say, and I worry about whether what I have to say is really meaningful.  What helped me to get over my reluctance to comment on other people’s content was having someone leave a comment on my blog.  I truly appreciated that someone not only took the time to read my blog but also took some extra time to leave some comments for me.  So, I left three different comments on others blog in the past week.  All were warmly received, and I want to make a point to do it more often in the week to come.

I will have to confess that the comments I left were not on any blogs related to compliance or my goal.  I was merely dipping my toe in the water or as John would say “touching the treadmill”.  So in the coming week I’m setting a goal to leave a comment on at least one blog related to ethics & compliance.

I am also making strides toward increasing my external network.  I’ve added both new Twitter followers as well as new LinkedIn contacts.  As a result, people have provided me with their contacts in other pharmaceutical companies which can help me to get that much closer to my goal.  Plus, I’m learning some amazing things I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise.  I’m definitely stretching and growing as a result.

Working Toward My Goal:

I need to keep reminding myself, that what really matters is the progress I make toward achieving my goal.  I can create hundreds of posts, collect scores of “likes”, and add countless new connections but if it doesn’t lead me toward accomplishing my goal, it really doesn’t matter.

I have tried to do something every day related to my goal.  Some days I can spend more time than others but even just 15 minutes is enough to keep my goal in the forefront of my mind.  Most of my effort has been spent researching and creating my relationship list.  For me this has definitely been time well spent.  It’s been enlightening to find others in my field and learn more about the paths they took in their career.  I learned a lot by comparing job responsibilities and skill sets.  I began to see where I can offer a unique perspective based on my background.  I think all of this will help me to be better prepared when I’m ready to begin offering contributions.

If you are interested in the actual numbers, they follow.  I collected them and I am sharing them to keep myself honest.  As I’ve said, for me what is really important is not the numbers but what I can learn from them so I can achieve my goal.

My Contribution Metrics (In the past 7 days):

  • # of Posts to Internal Site – increased by 6 from 15 to 21
  • External blog posts – 7: same as previous week (kept my commitment to my 30 day challenge)
  • Comments on others blogs – 3 (this was a first for me)
  • Tweets – increased by 31 from 8 to 39
  • Retweets – increased by 2 from 14 to 16
  • Likes – decreased by 9 from 64 to 55
  • Following on Twitter (current #) – increased by 39 from 198 to 237


Measures of Responses to My Contributions:

  • Internal posts views – decreased by 204 from 330 to 126
  • Internal post likes – decreased by 16 from 21 to 4
  • Internal post comments – decreased by 33 from 41 to 8
  • External blog views – increased by 27 from 92 to 119
  • External blog likes – increased by 3 from 3 to 6
  • External blog comments – increased from 0 to 2
  • Tweet/Retweet likes – no change, 17 total each week
  • Retweets – increased by 1 from 8 to 9
  • New followers – 32

Goal Metrics:

  • # of relationship Names – 17
  • # of contacts/contributions – 1
  • # of intimacy level changes – 0
  • # of days worked on goal – 7
  • # of hours worked on goal – 10

Beginning to Reap the Benefits of WOL

It’s been just over a week since I both decided on the goal I want to accomplish as part of a WOL circle and then broadly shared that goal in the spirit of working out loud.  I’m happy to report that I’m already starting to reap the benefits.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t have many contacts in the ethics & compliance arena outside of my own company.  However, thanks to my circle and sharing my experiences publicly, that’s starting to change.

In the past two days, I have received two viable leads.  One came from a member of my WOL circle who put me in touch with someone she knows at another pharmaceutical company who is willing to help me with my networking efforts.  The other came from out of the blue.  Someone who read my public blog proactively contacted me and put me in touch with his wife who works at a pharmaceutical company.

While being part of a WOL circle has required commitment, putting in some extra effort, and giving up some of my free time activities, those efforts are already starting to pay off.  I can hardly wait to see what the coming weeks have in store.

Analysis of my WOL relationship list

Since I’m essentially starting from ground zero with all but 2 of the individuals I put on my current relationship list, I wanted to do some preliminary analysis to give me a better idea of their job responsibilities and backgrounds.  I hope to be able to use this information to help me figure out how I might be able to make some meaningful contributions.

Using data available on LinkedIn, I was able to gather the following information:

  • Educational background
  • Previous positions
  • Current job responsibilities
  • Top 5 skills based on endorsements
  • Previous industries prior to pharmaceuticals

I hope to use this information to learn how relevant my goal of understanding how to promote education and awareness of ethic & compliance in the pharmaceutical industry would be for this group of individuals.  I can also see how my responsibilities, background, and skills compare.  Where might I be able to provide perspective that these individuals don’t have?  Where do I have expertise that might be valuable?

My method:

All of the information was taken from LinkedIn profiles.  In reviewing current responsibilities I tried to come up with general categories.  I then created a Pareto plot to plot the distribution across each of the categories listed above.  Here’s what I learned:

Educational Background:

The most common degree was law degree (J.D.); 27% of the people on my list are attorneys.  The second most common type of degree was an undergraduate business degree (business, finance, accounting) comprising 23% of individuals.  Next came degrees in Biology at 15% followed by MBAs at 8%.   My background is in biology, so I can bring a perspective on science and research.  I’ve included the Pareto plot I generated for reference.


Previous Positions:

When I looked at people’s previous positons, the most common were:

  • Attorney
  • Auditor
  • Consultant
  • Sales rep
  • Marketing
  • Training & Development

No one on my list has experience doing research, even though there were people with degrees in Biology.  One factor that I think makes me effective in my role is that I can relate to the needs and challenges of the scientific community I support.  This could definitely be a contribution I can offer.

Current Job Responsibilities:

While job responsibilities seemed to vary, there were some common themes that emerged.  I chose the first 5 responsibilities listed in each person’s profile

  • 8 people listed developing training and also auditing/monitoring as a key responsibility
  • 7 people listed communications strategy, drafting SOPs & policies, and investigations as their key responsibilities
  • 5 people also listed continuous improvement

This tells me that my topic of education and awareness of ethics & compliance would likely be of interest to a majority of people on my list.  Also, my background in Lean 6 Sigma could prove useful for those focused on continuous improvement.

Top 5 Skills based on Endorsements:

Next I looked at the top 5 Skills based on endorsements on everyone’s profile.  The most common were:

  • Pharmaceutical Industry (8 individuals)
  • Management (6)
  • FCPA (foreign corrupt practices act) (5)
  • Pharmaceutical sales (5)
  • Regulatory affairs (5)
  • Risk Management (5)

My top 5 skills on my profile are: Drug Discovery, Pharmaceutical Industry, R&D, Strategy, & Six Sigma.  I was somewhat surprised that more people didn’t have Pharmaceutical Industry as one of their top skills.  This reinforces for me additional areas where I can offer contributions.

Previous Industries Prior to Pharmaceuticals:

Here I looked at all of the previous jobs listed on everyone’s profile and looked for industries outside of t pharmaceuticals.  The most common were:

  • Law firm
  • Consulting firm
  • Insurance
  • Pharmacy benefits management
  • Telecommunications

What this tells me is that there are many different paths to a job in Ethics & Compliance and that someone doesn’t necessarily have to grow up working in the pharmaceutical industry like I did.

Now that I have a better understanding of the backgrounds, responsibilities, and skills of the people on my list, I can use that information to be a bit more strategic in thinking about how to make meaningful contributions and begin developing relationships.  I will provide updates as I think through and refine my approach.

Developing My WOL Relationship List

I spent a good chunk of time today working on my relationship list.  It’s amazing how quickly time can fly by when I get sucked into an internet search.  As a reminder, the goal I’m working on in my working out loud circle is to develop a network of ethics & compliance professionals at other pharmaceutical companies to learn more about how they promote education & awareness of compliance topics.  An added bonus would be to learn more about any use of social platforms in that context.

I don’t have a lot of contacts at other pharmaceutical companies who work in Ethics & Compliance.  Research, sure, tons of them.  So, I’m pretty much starting from scratch.

I started my search on LinkedIn by simply doing a search on “ethics and pharmaceuticals”.  This yielded a lot of names.  So next I tried entering the name of specific company and ethics.  This helped to narrow down the number of names a bit.  I scanned the resulting profiles to look for relevant backgrounds.  For each person, I noted how we were connected (2nd or 3rd degree), and anything we might have in common such as previous companies and groups.  I noticed that most people were members of the Pharmaceutical Compliance and/or Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

Next it was on to Google to look for other promising leads.  There I found an an annual pharmaceutical compliance conference.  I then read through the agendas for the past 3 years looking for topics related to my goal: training, communication, and/or social media.  I added anyone who gave presentations on those topics to my list.

Much to my chagrin, very few people on my list had much of an online presence beyond LinkedIn or speaking at conferences.  There were a couple of people who were interviewed for articles.  One bright spot was an article I found on someone who had hired Second City communications to produce training videos that incorporated humor into the topic of compliance.

Even though the WOL circle guide recommends having a relationship list of 10 people, I decided to increase that to 18, since all but 2 of the people on my list don’t even know that I exist.  I did send Invitations to connect on LinkedIn to the people I have met before.

I’m going to have to put some thought into what kind of contributions I can make to the other people on my list.  It’s not going to be as easy as clicking “like” on a Twitter or blog post (since most of them have pretty limited online presence).  Despite the challenges ahead, this was an incredibly useful exercise and I feel like I know a lot more about what people in this field are doing than before I started.