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Do your leadership skills lead you uphill to a higher level?

Pharmacy consultant Jesse McCullough

Over the last few weeks, I've submitted the idea of leadership for your consideration.  Leadership is important. Leadership can be learned. Everyone deserves to be led well.  That was where we started. 

Today, we will begin the journey of defining what exactly it is that leaders do.

To start off, consider this idea: Leaders help people go from where they are to where they want to be.

This is a pretty basic way of looking at things, yet it is so true. A leader has a group of people who are not happy where they currently find themselves. In the pharmacy, this can look like the patients with conditions having a major impact on their lives. In a scenario like this, the pharmacist leads the patients to better health through the appropriate use of medications.

To the pharmacy team, this may look like identifying and implementing a new service to provide and improve care in the community. The pharmacist is leading her team to understand the new service and where it is used most appropriately in this scenario.

Of course, there are other scenarios, but you are catching on quickly. The leader leads the group from where they are at present and helps them get to a better place.  Sounds simple and fun, right? While it presents as simple, it often is not “fun” and may very much depend on your definition of the word!

The better place that leaders take us to is ALWAYS uphill. It is always difficult. The purpose of telling you this is by no means to scare you, but to prepare you. Leaders understand there is tremendous risk in staying where you currently find yourself. You must keep moving. If you want to move to a better place, simply recognize that place will be uphill from where you are now and will take some effort.

We all want to get to better places, don’t we? What those better places look will differ from one person to the next. Everyone has uphill dreams. Sadly, many have downhill habits. This is where good leadership becomes so valuable. The leader must define where the team is going and then help them get to that place. It will not be easy but it will be worth it.

Several years ago, I walked into a pharmacy and after being there for about 15 seconds, I wanted to leave. It was a mess! The phone was ringing off the hook.  Baskets were piled everywhere. An order had arrived, but was not put away. Angry customers were plentiful, and pharmacy staff members were clearly disenchanted. This is where this pharmacy team found themselves. 

I was in that pharmacy to implement a refill synchronization program. Over the preceding several weeks, I had implemented this program in several other pharmacies.  It was not sophisticated at all. Paper, pencil, and an accordion file is what we used. If I am being totally honest with you, I probably didn’t expect a whole lot would come from that day of training. But that store had a young leader who wanted to get to a better destination. She recognized that things could be better and this exercise could be just the thing to help them get to a better place. Things certainly couldn’t get much worse.  This leader got to work.

Several months passed and I came back to visit the store. To my amazement, it was a completely different pharmacy. Everything was calm and orderly. Hundreds of patients synchronized. The staff happy. One even baked cookies in anticipation of the visit! This pharmacy was doing the hard, uphill work to get to a better place.

Sadly, there are many who would like their practice to be in a better place, but are unwilling or unable to get rid of the downhill habits holding them back.

But not you, right?

Where do you want to see your pharmacy practice go? What does your uphill destination look like? What habits will you have to change to get to this destination?

It will not be easy. But it sure will be worth it. You can do this because you are a leader, and this is what you do. You lead people to a better place.

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD


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