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Has leading others changed in your pharmacy?

When we met last, I ended by asking you a question. The question was, “Over the course of your career, do you find that leading others has become easier, more difficult or about the same?”

Did you take the time to think about this question?  I hope you did.  I ask this question because I was in a session with my mentor and he brought up that he had asked some leaders this same question and was somewhat surprised by the results.  The majority of leaders said that they feel it is more difficult to lead people today than ever before. 

If you think about it, the last several years have brought many new challenges to the workplace (and life in general, for that matter) which has added additional layers and demands on us as leaders.  We have seen many changes in the top leaders of some global companies along the way.  In the most general observation, could those changes at the top be a result of the increasingly challenging environment to lead people in?  While I know there are many different and valid reasons for the change, I will suggest that these increased challenges have indeed played a role.

What can we learn from this? And how can we use this information to our advantage and for the benefit of the people we lead?

If I go back to the earliest days of my career, I would tell you our biggest challenge was not having enough people to lead. We were down people that were needed to keep our stores open. 

In those days, I viewed this very much as a numbers game. We simply did not have enough pharmacists to completely staff our stores. The result was that a newly graduated pharmacist like me could work a lot of overtime to finance my lifestyle.  I didn’t see it then, but I do see it now. This was a leadership issue.

When I was offered the position of pharmacist scheduler, I thought my life couldn’t get better. I was now able to write my own schedule. But I was also working in an area that was many pharmacists short to staff our stores.  What I thought would turn into some cushy schedules and having weekends off quickly turned sour.  At the high-water mark, I worked part of all of 46 out of 52 weekends and even worked 27days in a row.  Now I have spoken with many pharmacists over the years, and we seem to like to exchange stories of our misery.  That somehow by having a story that is more miserable than the next that there may be some prize or honor bestowed upon us. If that is true, I haven’t found that prize.  What I know now is that my misery at scheduling pharmacists was directly related to my ability to lead people.

It took the better part of 18 years in pharmacy to realize there was a lesson that could be learned.  The lesson was to become a better leader.

Here was the unexpected consequence.  As I got better as a leader, the people I led also got better, and a lot of problems seemed to go away.  Now the problems didn’t go away.  We still had them.  The thing was we were able to work through these problems and resolve them more quickly. 

It is true.  Things get better when the leader gets better. 

Allow me to circle back to where we started today and answer my own question.  I do think it has become more difficult to lead people over the course of my career.  If for no other reason than the additional complexity found throughout the industry. 

We have more products.

We offer more services.

We have more programs.

We have more regulations.

We have more complex patients.






All of this points us in the direction that leading has become more difficult over time. 

I would suggest if we think about it, we should expect this trend to continue with us over the entirety of our careers.

Some who read this may find this idea to be discouraging.  I can see why you would feel that way.  But let me encourage you to consider a different perspective.  If we expect things are going to get more difficult, should this not be seen as an invitation to get better prepared?  If we expect things to become more difficult, should we not work on improving our leadership now to be able to meet the challenges that will come along? 

I see it something like the weather forecast.  If we know severe weather is on the way, would we not take some steps to be prepared?  Of course we would!

Allow me to encourage you, my friend and colleague, to prepare. 

Just how do you prepare?  We will begin to peel back the layers on that topic when we meet again.

Until next time

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

Connect with Jesse on LinkedIn

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