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Do you have the momentum to win in your pharmacy?

I struggled for a long time with the idea of “winning.” A big part of the struggle came from my definition of winning. I confused dominating with winning.

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to a high school district championship volleyball match. In full transparency, it has been many years since I last attended one of these. As best I can remember, the last volleyball match I attended was likely in 2000 when my brother was playing. A lot can change in 20 years. The scoring has changed. Several rules have changed. But something hasn’t changed. You still have a team that wins while the other does not. Something else that was still the same was the momentum of the game. There is a definite feel to the game and how a team builds (or breaks) momentum. In this particular match, I felt it early on. It happened around the fifth point of the first game. I could just tell one team was not quite ready to be playing for the championship that day and the other was about to go on a championship run.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt that something just wasn’t right? Or have you ever felt that things were, in fact, firing on all cylinders?

One is a good feeling and the other is a terrible feeling, right?

There is an important leadership lesson we need to learn. We have said in this column several times that leaders help someone at some time go somewhere or do something.  Those destinations or activities are typically challenging. If you and I were in the same room, I would hold my arm up in the air and say that we are trying to lead people uphill. 

Going uphill is difficult. If you have some momentum, however, going uphill can be a bit easier. A volleyball team with some momentum can win the match and the championship.

What does that look like in a pharmacy? Are you winning in your pharmacy?

I struggled for a long time with the idea of “winning.” A big part of the struggle came from my definition of winning. I confused dominating with winning. I was defining winning as not having anything go against me.  It was only a win if the score was 25-0.  That is not true. The fact of the matter is that a win can also be achieved at 25-23. 

As leaders, we must help our teams and our patients see the wins. Even after rough days. And there will be rough days. 

While I hope you have never had a dispensing error, I can share with you that I have. It is not a good feeling. In fact, it is one of the worst. When it was brought to my attention, it felt like I had lost the championship. 

But had I?

If your experience is anything like mine, the truth is I was serving hundreds of patients well. If there was a scoreboard, it might have read 99 to 1. 

The fact of the matter is that even when we have setbacks, we still have an awful lot of wins that we are stacking up as well. When we do this, we have the basic elements of building momentum, though we might not be treating them as such. At the volleyball match, it is a tough serve, a stuff block at the net, a dig, winning an extended rally, a perfect pass with a quick hit – or some combination of those elements. 

In the pharmacy, it's a little different. Momentum builds in the pharmacy with the exceptional patient care you provide coupled with the operational excellence of your pharmacy. On top, you add the identification of small wins that encourage your team and your patients. If you capture these things, you can claim momentum.

Shane, a colleague of mine from early in my career, gave me a bit of advice early in my career which had to do with momentum. He told me that the first prescription he filled each day set the tone for the day. If everything went well, it was going to be a good day. If there were issues, it was going to be a challenging day.

I was curious about this idea, so I began to pay extra close attention to the first prescription I filled each shift.  As I took the time to look at it, I found this idea seemed to be true. I wasn’t quite sophisticated enough at the time to realize it, but what I began doing was setting my expectations for the day based on that first fill. We talked about this idea some time ago.

Then I got smart – or at least smarter than I was at the time.

I realized that I could pick the prescription I wanted to fill first each day. This allowed me to build momentum right off the bat to start the day. Then if I ran into an issue (and we all run into issues, don't we?), it wasn’t as bad. 

I recognized how important momentum was for me in those days. What I didn’t know was how important it is to help my team and the patients I serve to see and build their own momentum. There are many facets to good leadership. One of them is to bring the best out of the people they lead. When our team and patients are building momentum, we can do truly amazing things.

So, what about you?  How do you build momentum? What do you do to help your team and your patients build momentum?  What wins do you look for? 

Until next time –

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

Connect with Jesse on LinkedIn



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