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Building High-Performance Engineering Teams: A Leader’s Guide 

In the critical field of pharmaceutical manufacturing, where patient safety is paramount, the strength of our engineering teams is not just a matter of efficiency or productivity—it’s a matter of life and death. As leaders, our approach to building and nurturing these teams directly impacts the quality of our output and, ultimately, the safety of the patients we serve. Here’s a guide to cultivating high-performing engineering teams in this vital industry. 

Hire for Personality, Train for Skill 

The conventional wisdom in hiring often emphasizes technical expertise and experience. While these are undeniably important, in pharma manufacturing, the personality of the team members plays an equally crucial role. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that employees who fit well with their organization, coworkers, and supervisor had greater job satisfaction, were more likely to remain at their organization, and showed superior job performance. When hiring, look for candidates who not only have the technical skills but also embody traits like adaptability, eagerness to learn, and a collaborative spirit. Skills can be taught, but the right attitude is often innate. 

Compatibility: The Oil and Water Analogy

Integrating a new hire into a well-functioning team is a delicate balance. It’s essential to ensure that new members complement the existing team dynamics. Think of it as avoiding mixing oil with water; both are valuable, but they don’t blend well. Gallup’s research indicates that the quality of a workplace is determined to a large extent by the quality of the relationships between employees. Therefore, when building your team, consider how a potential candidate’s personality and work style will mesh with those of your current team members. 

Appreciating Your Team Members 

  1. Listen: In high-stakes environments like pharma manufacturing, listening to your team is not just about courtesy; it’s a safety issue. It ensures that concerns and ideas that could be crucial for patient safety are heard. Active listening fosters an environment where team members feel valued and understood. 
  1. Acknowledge Their Ideas: Encouraging innovation and acknowledging ideas is critical. A study by McKinsey & Company revealed that high-quality innovations have a significant correlation with actively soliciting employee ideas and cross-functional collaboration. When team members feel their ideas are valued, they are more engaged and invested in their work. 
  1. Allow Them to Try and Learn: Embrace a culture where trying and occasionally failing is seen as a path to learning and growth. Google’s research on effective teams found that psychological safety, where team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other, is key to team effectiveness. When failures occur, focus on the learning opportunities they present rather than on the failure itself. 


Building a high-performance engineering team in pharma manufacturing is about more than assembling a group of talented individuals. It’s about creating a cohesive unit that values patient safety above all, where members’ personalities complement each other, where their ideas are welcomed and nurtured, and where learning from failures is part of the journey. As leaders, our role is to foster this environment, guiding our teams not just to function but to excel in the critical task of ensuring the safety and efficacy of the products we produce. 

Scott Council is a seasoned leader in pharma manufacturing, committed to fostering team environments that prioritize innovation, collaboration, and, most importantly, patient safety. 

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