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Leading in pandemic times

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I don’t say this enough.  

Thank you!

Thank you for taking a couple minutes to read this blog. I am so encouraged to connect with other pharmacists and pharmacy team members interested in improving. I can tell you that not everyone has your wisdom. Far too many do not. Far too many are exceptionally near-sighted.

Leadership is a big topic in most situations, but then throw in some uncertain times, like a pandemic, and there are a couple lessons to learn.

First, I believe we will come to a fast agreement that navigating a pandemic has not been easy. Our worlds have been turned upside-down. While I hope everything has gone smoothly for you, the reality for the overwhelming majority is things have not been close to easy. 

Uncertainty is not comfortable, but it doesn’t have to be bad. 

Something that should be considered is that uncertainty does not reflect bad leadership. The best leaders in the world have dealt with all sorts of uncertainty. Something that uncertainty does do is point to the need for good leadership. Everyone deserves to be led well.

As you go through uncertainty, there are some benefits that present themselves. One that has been most helpful for me is around risk tolerance. Have you ever found yourself over-analyzing a situation? You could go with option A or option B, and you are really torn up making this decision. Uncertainty strikes and it becomes much easier to make a decision. 

Uncertainty has this ability to help us cut away that which is not important to see what is most important. 

Let me share a bit of an absurd example to illustrate this. My wife informs me that it is imperative that we go out for dinner. I like to eat, so that is an easy sell to me. So, I ask, “Where do you want to go to dinner?” You see where this is going already, don’t you? My wife says, “I don’t care, you pick.” Let me speak to the men reading this. Men, whether it is true or not, we believe this to be a loaded question. Loaded in that there is a correct answer and neither you nor I know what it is.

Enter uncertainty. My wife can want to go out (rather than order takeout) for dinner. And the options are much clearer. We will support the local mom and pop restaurant down the road. 

The risk I have in answering this beartrap of a question is dramatically reduced!

So how can this apply to life in the pharmacy? Risk tolerance allows us to do some things that we may have otherwise held off on doing for who knows how long. And the beauty of it is that the uncertainty also impacts things on the other side of the counter! Our patients and customers are more willing to accept change during times of uncertainty. I have spoken to many pharmacies that have experienced exponential growth in business through their drive-thrus. I have spoken to some pharmacies that have seen their front store sales evaporate. I have seen others that have taken this time of uncertainty to expand their front store sales with personal shoppers, curbside pickup and home delivery. 

There are most definitely opportunities presented during times of uncertainty. 

Before I wrap up this edition, let me provide some perspective to consider. Many times as leaders, we face uncertainty and we do this dance with how we will handle the risk.  We spend a lot of time and resources considering all of the things that could go wrong.  We may even get to the point where we will fear that the Earth will spin off its axis if we make the wrong decision. I have gone through several “remember where you were when something happened” scenarios in my life, and I would suggest that nothing has been even close from a global perspective to a pandemic. If anything would spin the Earth off its axis, this is it. And you know what? We are still here. Be encouraged!

Perhaps, when we evaluate risk, we overvalue the risk? This is another benefit of uncertainty. It helps us gain perspective. And when we gain perspective, it helps us lock onto the most important factors in making a decision.

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

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