How Important are Soft Skills for a C-Suite Exec?

Team of executives discussing business strategies at briefing

The ability to communicate is arguably one of the most important attributes of any successful person — being able to get your point across clearly, concisely, and more to the point — persuasively.

In life sciences, as in many other highly skilled industries, we often look first at technical ability, experience, and education first, but it’s the soft skills that elevate some above the rest.

Effective leadership, in fact, depends on soft skills.

Soft skills provide a basis from which executives are able to lead through others–in essence, being able to motivate and persuade those they lead to carry out their vision for the betterment of the organization. You might say that it’s an exercise in storytelling as much as it is in leadership. Your teams need to be engaged with the plot line in order to move that story along to its ultimate conclusion.

Soft skills analysis

Let’s look at some of the essential soft skills a c-suite exec should have in his or her arsenal:

Communication: speaking the language

In any life sciences organization, there are many departments whose jobs are so technical that they actually have their own language, their own terminology. It’s the way they communicate among themselves, but another department may have little understanding of their jargon, relying instead on their own inter-disciplinary lingo to communicate to their own team and peers.

As a leader in the c-suite, a working knowledge of the jargon used by each department is necessary, but even more important is the ability to translate that information into plain English that anybody can understand.

Why is this important? As a leader, a c-suite exec is in a position where they need to be able to take what is happening in any given department at any given time and relay concerns and issues in a way that is understandable to the rest of the executive team — and also to be able to speak directly to the stakeholders who are at the heart of the issue.

Empathize, listen, understand, visualize

Beyond the ability to understand and communicate between teams, a c-suite exec needs to be able to empathize. This is a key attribute in the process that will ultimately lead to a successful resolution of the issue at hand. Without the ability to truly empathize, there is no impetus to find a solution beyond the obvious.

Our top talent in the c-suite does not get there by being unapproachable, rigid, or closed-minded. The leaders we look to for the guidance and vision we need are not only easily understood, they are good listeners. They are intuitive, they encourage open dialogue, and are pivotal in encouraging collaboration and productivity. They are as transparent as they are personable.

While these are qualities we aspire to at the management level as well, they are traits that most c-suite executives have mastered. They possess a combination of practical and theoretical knowledge and can put an analytical slant on a situation while also applying best practices, employing a combination of these things to arrive at an equitable solution.

As opposed to a manager who may be operating on a reactive or gut-level basis, c-suite executives must function at a higher level, a place where opportunity springs from adversity and solutions are not just of the break-fix variety, they are sustainable and far-reaching.

Rather than being dependent on their technical know-how, their ability to hear what’s being said and to envision a path through to the other side is what sets a true leader apart. What gets them there is their ability to listen, to empathize, to analyze, and to persuasively communicate what needs to be done

Diversity of experience

All organizations have a very specific culture. If the culture is high-performing, it’s important to be able to maintain its functionality clear to the c-suite. This means that their leaders need to be able to recognize that culture and provide a habitat where it can thrive and grow.

Even if an executive is coming from a completely different niche, a different industry or a different country altogether, their ability to articulate and embody the values and the culture of an organization are what is going to support it best. Knowing what motivates employees is the key here, and having the insight to recognize what needs to be said or done to continue to motivate them brings value that resonates throughout every department.

Adaptability: the final frontier

Having mastery over these soft skills is a common thread we see in the c-suite. These are skills that will rise to the fore in times of change–and if anything is a constant in today’s world, it’s change. The ability to foresee the change that’s coming and then to gently steer the organization and its people towards that future demonstrate true leadership.

While some changes are subtle, others can be life-altering. This could be due to sweeping regulatory restructuring at the government level, internal or external financial trends, or technological transformation.

Any of these things could cause widespread disruption and fear that the mission is not sustainable. This is a situation that illustrates just how important soft skills truly are in the c-suite, as an effective leader can help brace for the change and gradually steer their organization in a positive direction, using persuasion, empathy, and their innate ability to tell the story of how all will be overcome.

How Pact and Partners can help

While soft skills may be viewed by some as being intangible, your executive recruiter can play a significant role in helping to identify these qualities in potential executives. Call or request a quote today.

How to Choose the Best Candidate from Your Short List

4 job candidates waiting for an interview

You’ve interviewed, you’ve called back, you’ve shortlisted. When you are closing your search for an ideal candidate, you should count yourself lucky if you have two or more to choose from on your shortlist. Since you already know that candidates on your shortlist are well-qualified, your approach needs to shift somewhat.

How do You Recruit Top Talent?

Attracting and retaining top talent is a strategy unto itself. In today’s competitive job market, many skilled workers are opting for freelance and contract work over permanent full-time positions simply because it gives them more options in the long-term.

To win them over, you would need to provide a compelling argument as to why a candidate should choose your company over, say, a start-up who might appear more progressive in the Life Sciences sector.

Technology Changes the HR Focus

The constantly changing digital landscape doesn’t make your task any easier, either. Many traditional roles are changing. Regulatory compliance, reporting standards, and data privacy issues are top concerns. You may well need temporary employees to get you through your digital transformation, and in the end, you may still be left with gaps to fill.

All this considered, having more than one candidate on your shortlist can be seen as an incredible stroke of good fortune. In consideration of every little thing that could impede your progress, both known and unknown, you need to make sure you choose the right one.

A Different Approach is Required

You have navigated your way to the finish line in your recruiting process. You already know that the candidates on your shortlist are well-qualified to do the job, so you really need to go deeper in order to establish not only the candidate’s potential to grow into your plans for the future but also to see whether they will be a good cultural fit–in other words, how will they get along with the rest of the team? Often, once these elements are placed under the microscope, the right candidate will emerge.

Solving the Conundrum: Tips On Choosing Between Equally Qualified Candidates

Your shortlisted candidates probably have quite a lot in common. They all have the right qualifications, experience, certifications, track record, and attitude. But, what are the differences? What sets them apart from each other? And most importantly, is there anything in their personality or background that is going to negatively disrupt your established culture?

Tip #1: Soft Skills Assessment

When your decision-making is down to the wire, assessing soft skills is essential. Your candidate’s ability to communicate and work well in a team environment is what will pave the way to a successful onboarding. Other soft skills to consider include social intelligence and emotional intelligence–two crucial skills to have when working with others. Emotional intelligence can be described as one’s ability to empathize with others, while social intelligence is more of an awareness of one’s own self in relation to the larger group. It also refers to a person’s ability to adapt, cope with, and manage change, an essential quality in today’s mutable business environment. Craft lines of discussion around these topics to see how each candidate would respond to certain situations.

Tip #2: What’s in Your Future?

Where your company is right now may have little resemblance to where it will be 10 years from now. If you have a reasonably good idea of where your industry is headed and the direction you will be taking your organization, you should be able to separate the women from the boys in terms of your shortlisted candidates. Do they have the foundational skills to evolve along with your company’s mission? Do they have vision enough to add value to your operations as you evolve? Are they interested in learning new skills? Do they show leadership potential? Dive deep into each candidate’s goals to understand what really motivates them and where they see themselves in 5-10 years.

Tip #3: Is it a Good Cultural Fit?

The benefits of a strong company culture include an increase in productivity, collaboration, and innovation as well as a significant reduction in employee attrition. It also contributes to your brand identity as people, ultimately, are what drives the company forward. If your company has a strong and identifiable culture, it is important that your new hire blends well with the existing team. If the cultural fit is good, they will get up to speed faster, perform better, and stay on the job longer. At this point, you might think about bringing your team into the process. Allow your shortlisted candidates to spend some time with the team they will be working with, either as a shadow or on a more casual basis and see how they mesh.

Onboarding your next Life Sciences superstar doesn’t have to be a pain point. If you are interested in speaking to one of our medical headhunters about your recruiting needs, call Pact and Partners today.


Are You a Good Company to Work For?

I love my job written on a chalkboard at the office

The recruitment and hiring process is long and complicated. The higher up the ladder you are trying to recruit, the more complex the process and the shallower the gene pool you have to work with. When the talent is that narrow, competition is pretty stiff, and it’s simply not enough to be able to offer a position with a salary and sundry benefits attached to it–you’ve got to stand out from your competition or you’ll risk being passed up for greener pastures.

With a largely millennial workforce starting to hit its stride, you almost have to start thinking like one of them to see if you’re stacking up. Knowing how these thought processes work can help–not saying you need to give them free daycare, a fancy massage chair or offer them free haircuts and gourmet catering–but have you ever posed this question to yourself:

Are we a good company to work for? And what do we have to offer that is head and shoulders above the rest?

Money Isn’t Everything

Say what you will about millennials, they are slowly taking over the workforce. By 2020, half of the world’s workforce will be millennial and that’s a mere two years from now.

Millennials think differently than their parents or grandparents did. They care less about money than they do about their ideals and this is no different in healthcare than it is in the corporate world. Many would choose a position where they were confident they would be making a difference to the people they serve over a lofty title and a high salary.

Sure, the salary is important, but it’s no longer enough. They want to be involved. They want to feel like their work is meaningful, that their ideas are valued, and that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Above all, they don’t want to feel like they’re pushing water uphill.

In fact, most would take a fairly large pay cut in return for having a few key needs met. Some of these might include:

Better Work-Life Balance

This could be as simple as allowing for a more flexible schedule. If it’s possible for you to offer this, there are several key advantages for you as well:

  • They will be happier and will likely stay in the position longer
  • They will be more motivated to bring organizational solutions to the table
  • They will inspire those around them simply because they are happy

Corporate Social Responsibility

Millennials have been shaping global attitudes towards corporate responsibility for some time now and with $2.4 trillion in current spending power, it’s a trend that is only going to grow. If such a candidate had the choice between an organization that was known for its commitment to helping drug-addicted mothers get into recovery so they can keep their children, for example, or a program to stop elder abuse–philanthropy for any reason, in fact–they then become a part of that good. Authenticity is key. What is your company doing to give back to the community? Whatever it is, it could represent an opportunity you may have never thought of before.


In a marked shift from previous generations, millennials consider themselves to be religiously ambiguous, politically moderate, and culturally curious. Companies that are known for their inclusion programs or diversity in any form are often more attractive as a result. In many clinical settings, this is not much of an issue, but it’s the resulting culture and how it works together that really sets the tone. How does your leadership interact with its diverse workforce? Is there strength in its diversity, or is it divisive?

Company Culture

Your culture says a lot about your company. It’s the lifeblood and the personality of your organization and is a mirror into the deepest machinations of what you do. In a healthcare setting, it’s also a basis for positive clinical outcomes and can be reflected in internal communications, operations, and ultimately, client satisfaction. Past generations cared far less about company culture than the current one does. If the culture doesn’t suit them, or if it is so poisoned by poor leadership that it is counter-intuitive to a well-aligned working process, they will move on, maybe sooner, maybe later. On the other hand, if it lines up with their idea of mission, purpose, work-life balance, and is a good fit for their higher sense of altruism, you likely won’t have to worry about them leaving for greener pastures.

A Sense of Purpose, a Sense of Place

Millennials prefer positions where they are fully engaged and feel that they can make a difference. No doubt, when you are looking to hire for executive or high-level medical positions, this is what you want, too. Nobody wants to walk into somebody else’s nightmare.

Organizational alignment is paramount to maintaining your edge as an employer to be reckoned with. How do you stack up? If you are interested in speaking to one of our medical headhunters about your recruiting needs, call Pact and Partners today.

How Do Medical Headhunters Find C-Suite Execs?

medical c-suite candidates waiting for interview

Finding C-Suite executives for medical and life sciences is a complex task–finding being the operative term, here, because this level of leadership is not simply out there looking for a position. Most, in fact, exist under-the-radar from a medical headhunter’s standpoint, making it even more difficult to identify and recruit top executive talent.

Placing the right leadership in these key roles is critical to the long-term success of the organization. Good organizational and cultural fit is directly linked to outcomes and retention, so this is the ideal. The very nature of the type of work and their inherent expectations mean these positions can’t be filled quickly.

Working with a medical headhunter who has a proven track record in the executive realm will shorten your time to hire and ensure that your onboarding process is as pain-free as possible.

The Challenges Medical Headhunters Face in Finding C-Suite Executives

In the medical C-Suite, technical expertise matters less than strong leadership skills and a firm grasp of operational fundamentals. Although functional and technical knowledge is important, they are not as important as the ability to lead, to visualize, inspire, and further the vision and mission of the facility.

Regardless of their underlying medical specialty, these leaders have more in common with other executives than they do with the people they oversee. It’s a delicate balance and an elusive one as well, as less experienced medical headhunters may mistake a high level of medical and management expertise with an ability to lead, and that’s not always the case.

Adding to the complexity of the situation, many medical facilities, including teaching institutions, have an extremely high recruitment load at any given time. This makes for a very competitive area in which very few candidates are well-qualified. As a result, there are many medical executives who may have the background and experience, but may lack a few key traits that would mitigate their attrition – meaning, people are getting hired that tick some of the boxes, but not all, and most will end up back in the candidacy pool sooner or later.

As medical headhunters, we are tasked with knowing who the players are and what their track record is. Along with fully vetting and benchmarking each of our candidates, we go deep into their background to identify red flags as well as any indications that they might be the next C-Suite superstar.

Our clients depend on us for this insider knowledge. It’s what sets us apart from other executive headhunters who might not have this specific focus. It’s about knowing where to find this top leadership talent, no matter where it is located, and being connected with successful leaders in the industry who can advise us on up-and-comers as well as any significant comings and goings. This allows us to deliver value back to our clients in ways that it’s difficult to put a price on. While there are never any absolute guarantees that our placements will last a lifetime, it has given us a solid track record that translates to success.

The ultimate goal of leadership placement in the medical field is to advance the mission and vision of the organization or institution. Whether the focus is on clinical outcomes, teaching excellence or innovation, strong outcomes require strong leadership. In such a highly regulated field, it is important to take into account a holistic view of the facility in order to determine a clear pathway to reaching these goals.

Just about every variable needs to be taken into account, from cultural fit to leadership style. In the end, we need to identify the best possible candidate for the position based on how we think they will be able to advance the core mission and reach our client’s goals.

Internal Promotion and Leadership Succession

Many medical headhunters tend to think that promoting from within is the fastest route to reaching these goals, but this is not often the case. Though we consider the available in-house talent first, we would be remiss in our task if we did not put them through the same vetting process as we would an outside candidate. While having foundational knowledge of the internal culture and operational mandates is a definite asset, we must assess the type of leader they would be and whether that is the leadership style that is most appropriate for the needs of the organization.

Leaders do emerge from within the ranks and every medical headhunter should be aware of a client’s leadership mentoring activities. However, many medical facilities play no role in executive search and recruitment, choosing instead to focus on placing core medical talent. While this methodology supports better clinical outcomes, true leadership will advance these goals in ways that advance the mission, vision, clinical outcomes, and overall customer satisfaction within the regulatory compliance framework.

If you are interested in speaking to one of our medical headhunters about your leadership recruiting needs, call Pact and Partners today.