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Three community pharmacy professionals share their top tips on what makes pharmacists successful managers.
Management is one of the least glamorous parts of pharmacy. We decided to become pharmacists because we had a knack for science, a passion for healthcare, type A personalities, and a keen attention to detail, not because we had a burning desire to be in charge of a group of people.
Most members of our profession are afraid of the idea of being a manager. Everyone has worked under a “bad” manager; the stories are endless. It is more than likely, however, that someday we will all take a turn in a management role.
Instead of focusing on the bad, we’d like to suggest some good habits that go into making a great pharmacy manager. Here are our different perspectives on Life Pro Tips.
In his book EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey discusses the importance to his company of having the right “team members.” To join Dave’s team, applicants must go through a minimum of four interviews with at least three different current team members, as well as an extensive 90-day training period. This keeps the turnover rate at less than a third of the national average, minimizing the waste of hiring and training a team member only to discover that the new hire is not a great fit. You may not always have that kind of time to make a selection, but think about the ideal qualities and skills you want for the position you are filling before you interview. Taking the time to hire and train the right people will always be a good investment.
You are only one person. And even though you may not believe it, you can’t do it all. Once you have the right personnel in place, you can move forward with confidence. Having employees you can trust and empower will allow you to focus on those tasks that only you as a manager and leader can do. Also, don’t micromanage. If you have well-trained, motivated staff members, then let them fly! You may even find that someone else has a better or more efficient way of performing a task. If your employees make a mistake, correct them. If they make too many mistakes, help them find other employment. The bottom line: A team is synergistic and can accomplish much more than you can do by yourself.
Zig Ziglar frequently says, “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing - that’s why we recommend it daily.” Your employees may not be as excited as you are about what your business is doing every day, but your enthusiasm (or lack of) is contagious. Frequent, positive communication is one key to having a well-oiled staff. Your communication should be intentional and specific. It is necessary to set goals and keep team members accountable, in order to keep the business moving in the right direction. As Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit every time.”
Mistakes will happen. Patients will get angry and will yell at you. People will be downright mean. It will hurt your feelings and make you feel like you are a failure, but guess what? You are not! Handle each situation with grace, and remember to stay calm. Do your best, but remember to show kindness and compassion. Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself and your staff, but be sure to do so respectfully. Assess learning opportunities, update any policy/procedure changes, and then leave it there! Don’t stress or linger over individual situations; it will only distract you from providing optimal overall service and care to your patients.
Don’t get me wrong; loyalty is to be valued highly. But what is best for you, your business, or your team may not be what is best for your employee. Do not allow employees to make themselves irreplaceable. Always cross-train your staff and have a contingency plan, so that when that employee you’ve had for 15 years decides to move along to what they feel is a greener pasture, your business won’t suffer.
Chances are, at one time or another, you are going to be managing staff members or colleagues who are older, more experienced, the other sex, or just convinced they know better than you. Don’t fear having to be the boss. You were hired to do the job, so don’t let anything stand in the way of what you feel is best. Work friendships are wonderful and can improve quality of life, but don’t let them cripple your abilities to manage. If the relationships are as good as you think, your authority will be respected. Be mindful of what is best for the patients and the pharmacy, not for the individual - even when that individual is you.
A good leader knows not just his or her strengths, but also the strengths of the team. To discover how each member can contribute to the company, I encourage colleagues to complete Tim Rath’s online assessment “StrengthFinders 2.0.” It will equip individuals with the ability to shine by optimizing and showcasing their top skills, which helps with morale and job satisfaction. I used to manage a technician who constantly questioned what was happening. This would frustrate other members of the team. Through StrengthFinders, we discovered her strength of context, or knowing the situation around her. We learned from that strength and employed it to function more efficiently.
Remember the TV show Parks and Rec? “Treat yo’self!” Our technicians are the reason we get anything completed. In addition, as we gain provider status, they will become only more valuable members of the healthcare team. Treat employees like the stars they are, and show them your appreciation. Maybe bring in breakfast one day, buy lunch, or grab some cookies and surprise everyone. Little acts of kindness will help let them know you value them and will set a positive tone for the day.
Anyone can read books about leadership, but part of becoming an effective manager involves actual experiences. Get involved with pharmacy organizations, find mentors, and stay in touch with past faculty. As students, we work with pharmacists we want to be like, yet after school we never stay in touch with them. Don’t do that! As you attempt to overcome the difficulties of management, the life advice of your predecessors is invaluable. You’ll probably find that there are many pharmacist managers out there who would enjoy the camaraderie of sharing experiences. And you may find that you will gain more wisdom and knowledge than you ever imagined.
Mike Sigmonis a PGY1 community resident at Chad's Payless Pharmacy Inc., in Florence, Ala., and a former independent pharmacy owner and entrepreneur. Frances Cohenouris an owner, clinical pharmacist, and PGY1 community residency preceptor at Chad's Payless Pharmacy Inc., in Florence, Ala., where she also co-owns a medical clinic, Singing River Healthcare LLC.Jake Galdo is an assistant professor and the PGY1 community practice residency director with the Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy in Birmingham, Ala.