If you’re new to pharmacy management, or even leading a pharmacy team for one day, you may doubt your capabilities.
We all face this dilemma at some point: being a dictator or being a pushover.
How do you decide what’s right when there are so many directives, metrics, and patients to take care of?
The Bystander During Poor Leadership
When I first started as a Pharmacy Manager, I had no experience leading a team.
All my previous jobs were entry-level positions.
I never oversaw teams of people.
I never had formal titles enabling me to direct or delegate others.
But I admired good leadership and I knew when something felt right or wrong.
For example, I witnessed Pharmacy Managers yelling at technicians because they made a mistake typing or filling a prescription.
Is this really necessary?
I totally understand when mistakes can harm patients and cost companies thousands of dollars.
But yelling and belittling a team didn’t make me proud to be there, nor did I feel inspired to follow that pharmacist.
There had to be another way of handling that kind of situation.
Even more commonly seen was the District Manager who visited the pharmacy only to reprimand others.
Micromanagement and instilling fear into her direct reports were her top strengths.
This type of leader pointed fingers and made others feel as small as insects.
During her visits, the pharmacy team constantly grimaced as they tried putting on their best faces.
But as soon as upper management departed, cynicism and negativity erupted.
So many pharmacy teams become proficient not at their jobs, but hiding their true feelings.
Ninety nine percent of the time, I witnessed work rebellions, corporate undermining, and constant disapproval of leadership from the subordinates.
I vowed that if I ever ascended to leadership that I would not cultivate such a toxic culture.
Lead Your Team Like They Are Just Volunteers
It took me years to finally get my act together as a leader.
I knew my end goal and I was passionate about it, but I did fail a lot as a new Pharmacy Manager.
There were times I snapped at my team in the heat of chaos.
Trust and credibility down the drain.
At the end of my tether, I chose to boss my technicians around for the sake of efficiency and crisis management.
There goes engagement and inspiration.
In those days, I was doing all right in my role as manager.
I met goals sometimes, patients were happy, and my team showed up for their shifts.
But something was still missing.
Not only were we producing mediocre results as a team, work just didn’t feel right.
I wasn’t excited to open the pharmacy gate in the morning, nor was my team excited to be there.
How do I get more than just results from my team?
How do I get engagement and commitment?
So, I took a litmus test by asking myself, “If I stopped paying my team, would they still follow me?”
The answer was, hell no.
Formal Authority Vs. Moral Authority
The reason why I knew my team was not fully engaged and invested in working for me: I only had formal authority.
The only power I had to influence came from my white coat and name badge.
When I had both of these, I could command others and get results.
The problem? I had to be there in order for results to be consistent.
Not only did this create dependence on me, but my team only did what was expected of them.
I knew this wasn’t sustainable, and I was tired of having to crack the whip just to achieve mediocrity.
This pharmacist hated micromanaging and barking orders.
I’m really too lazy for all that, but my responsibilities loomed over me.
I had to do something, and coercion was the easiest method in those moments.
Over time, I learned to anchor directives to something more effective than my title and formal authority.
What would persist in my absence? How could I create a legacy of high performance?
Even better, what would last until the end of time?
Fairness, integrity, principles.
The Basics Of Moral Authority
If you’re ever challenged by your direct reports with the question “why,” this is a great opportunity to demonstrate moral authority.
I used to fall into the trap of responding, “Because that’s what the company says.”
Something worse you can say is, “Because I said so.”
No one cares what the company says when upper management isn’t there.
No one cares what you have to say unless you’re threatening to fire them for insubordination.
What people care about are fairness, integrity, and principles.
Once I stopped anchoring directives to formal authority, it felt better delegating.
I became the leader that could tie attendance issues to impact on coworkers and patients.
I learned to coach by anchoring best practice with my techs’ career development and proficiency.
Corporate directives became more than just orders when I found ways to align them with The Pharmacist’s Oath.
It took a while, but removing “just because,” “those are the rules,” and “because I said so” from my leadership vocabulary enabled me to build more credibility for myself.
Only then, could I create the conditions for a culture of engaged healthcare professionals and high performers.
I had my work cut out for me, and I am still working on being a better leader every day.
It’s not over yet.
Business Tips For The Corporate PharmD
- Take stock of your tendencies and leadership style
- Treat and lead your team like volunteers
- Tie directives and teachings back to fairness, integrity, principles
- Build off a foundation of moral authority to create the culture that you want