Pharmacy schools didn’t teach you what you need to effectively lead a team.
Remember that class in pharmacy school about being an effective manager? No? Neither do I. Typically, pharmacists have very little (if any) real training for the demands of managing a pharmacy. While pharmacy school does a great job preparing you for clinical questions related to drug therapy, there’s typically no course on the basic skills and habits needed to be a real-life manager.
I have been in pharmacy management and leadership roles for 20 years. While it is impossible to condense down all I have learned into a brief article, the following tips are 10 practical pieces of advice I would recommend every new pharmacy manager think about.
1. Learn new skills. In your new role as manager you will learn a lot of your responsibilities on the fly. These may include reporting, scheduling, conference calls, annual reviews, inventories, audits, corrective actions, and much more. My advice is that you take each of these responsibilities as they come and begin to work them into a management routine.
2. Learn delegation. If I failed in one area early on in my pharmacy management career, it was this. I wanted to do it all myself. But delegation shows you trust your team, allows others to contribute, and is a useful way to determine who your star performers are. Be clear when you delegate, and follow up.
3. One on ones. Meet with your team. This can be very hard in certain pharmacy settings, like retail. Scheduling doesn’t typically provide much room for sit-down conversations. But I assure you that even brief, well-planned, regular one on ones with your team will prevent and solve more problems-and will also position you as a great leader.
4. Plan your week. Think about your work-week ahead of time and plan for the things that must get done. Once you step into the pharmacy, it will seem like work is flying at you out of control. You must plan your priorities in order to stay focused and get them done.
5. Measure your team’s success. The only way to determine the success of the team under your management is by measuring results. Some things, like employee or patient satisfaction, are less tangible than others. But most of the metrics that constitute a well-run pharmacy can be measured in some way. How many prescriptions were transferred out versus in this month? What was our average Rx volume? Determine the most critical performance indicators for your business and start to track them.
6. Compliance matters. Hopefully, you are managing in a location where compliance with Board of Pharmacy regulations, DEA rules, and store policy is expected. However, some pharmacy managers have found themselves in settings where pharmacy laws were looked at more like “suggestions.” Your job as manager is to keep your pharmacy running in a safe, lawful, and ethical manner. Don’t cut corners here. Sometimes you must be the enforcer.
7. Build great relationships. Management is about much more than getting certain things done. You are a leader. And leaders build great relationships both internally and externally. To be a truly great pharmacy manager, you should get to know the community you serve in, get to know key stakeholders within your company and in the area you work, visit local doctors and develop great opportunities for collaboration with them.
8. Inspire others to excel. Pharmacy can be a draining, exhausting, and sometimes frustrating profession. As a manager, people will look to you as the one who sets the emotional tone for the pharmacy. Are you constantly complaining, grumpy and angry? Expect the staff to be the same. But if you focus on the positive, give praise, aim high, and remind everyone that we are involved in an important work, then the mood of the pharmacy will improve. Positive attitudes tend to be more productive as well.
9. Read books. I’m a big fan of reading. And since pharmacy school typically does little to prepare you for real management issues (decision making, people management, setting goals, hiring and interviewing, etc.), you may find books to be a great resource to help you grow as a manager. Book recommendations are hard, because what has helped me may not help you. I like Peter Drucker’s The Practice of Management as well as Belker and Topchik’s The First Time Manager.
10. Find a Mentor. Finally, and maybe most importantly, get a mentor. Find someone, ideally within the organization, who has been a model manager and leader. Ask them to serve as a mentor and bounce questions and scenarios off of them on a regular basis. Be respectful of their time, but don’t be too shy either. Learn from them and your pharmacy management career will develop rapidly.
These tips come from my reflections on over two decades of management. Many more could be added, and each of these could be expanded. However, I think these make a pretty good starting place. Happy managing!