Immense power comes with leaning on your core and extended teams, especially during times of crisis.


When to ask for help

Empowering leadership and calling on your A Team

October 04, 2020     
By Ester Banque, senior vice president, Intercontinental

Many believe, especially early in their careers, that leaders should be self-sufficient at all times. However, as my career progressed, I gradually came to appreciate the immense power that comes from leaning on your teams.

Ester Banque, senior vice president, Intercontinental

Ester Banque, senior vice president, Intercontinental

The concept of “team” can be wide. It includes those who are part of your core and extended teams, business partners and peer leaders who support your goals and want to see you succeed. In my case, I am fortunate to count on coaches, mentors and other insightful individuals who have guided me along the way.  

For most of us, our personal journey informs our professional journey. Although there is sometimes an imaginary line between professional and personal, my wife, my daughters and my friends are all key members of my A Team. Before my healthcare career, I was a professional soccer player and was always inspired by our ability as team members to lean on each other to achieve success. This was formative in my belief that a strong support system creates balance and makes long, work-intense days more rewarding at the end.

To put it mildly, 2020 has been a challenging year. As the senior vice president of Intercontinental, Commercial, at Bristol Myers Squibb, I cover more than 70 markets spanning five continents. While it is true that COVID-19 took center stage, crisis-wise, we started the year with devastating bushfires in Australia. As COVID-19 continued to make its way through the world, we witnessed unparalleled moments of racial injustice, ravaging tropical storms and an explosion in Lebanon that made us think this year couldn’t get any worse.

Working from home for many months now has given me the opportunity to reflect on leading through crisis. I was not connecting in person with my teams, and realized it was critical to evaluate how we could build closer connections in a virtual world. Sometimes, even when we practice social distancing and are only six feet apart, we can still feel worlds away, and my team could not even get that close.

When going through crises, kindness and humanity are the glue that brings people together.

As a leader, I’m inspired to form deeper connections with each and every colleague with the goal of creating a more inclusive community. I believe that with frequent check-ins and a true understanding of unique personal situations, we are probably closer than ever. We have found that when going through crises, kindness and humanity are the glue that brings people together. 

Throughout these months of connecting only remotely, my Intercontinental colleagues showed their resilience, passion and energy, which motivated us to maintain our focus on serving the patients who rely on us. I have heard so many stories of challenges, but also of achievements. We have discussed pain points, but also innovative ideas, which will likely remain even after this crisis is over. I have been in awe of the diversified approach each country took to address their needs, culture, governance and unique visualization of a brighter tomorrow. 

There were common elements in most of the stories I heard: the courage to ask for help, the willingness to answer a call for help and the strength of authentic connections. This is how you build on the strength of your A Team.

Ester Banque, senior vice president and head of Intercontinental, Commercial, was recently inducted into Medical Marketing & Media’s Hall of Femme and served as a panelist on MM&M’s “Inspiring Action Panel” where she shared her leadership journey and career advice. She has a broad range of accomplishments spanning multiple healthcare disciplines and geographies and currently oversees a diverse range of markets located on five continents. Banque is a recognized role model, mentor and leader at BMS and throughout the industry.

Empower your leadership by activating your a team

  • Have the fortitude and courage to ask for help: When it comes to reaching business objectives, it is natural and expected that people will work in a team environment. When people see their business leader lean on others, they often find the courage to advocate for their needs, too. 
  • Everyone steps up in a crisis, If you allow them: Building authentic connections is only possible when you are approachable and willing to approach others. Reach beyond your immediate team and practice cultivating a spirit of community. In being personal and intentional, your community will grow from strength-to-strength.  
  • The power is in your people: The energy you bring to individual conversations and group interactions will accelerate and elevate our collective power, reinforcing the resilience needed to take on a crisis.


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