7 Habits of Highly Successful Pharmacists

NOVEMBER 23, 2017
Does this blog title sound familiar? Maybe like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Free Press, 2004) by Stephen R. Covey? Well, you caught me. This was inspired by that book. In what many consider to be the most influential self-development book of the 20th century, selling more than 25 million copies, this book teaches readers about their true “character ethic,” the only surefire way to achieve the level of success that they dream about.

Although this book is written for all people, I find it particularly useful for those who work in health care, especially pharmacists. Those who are looking to do more than just clock in and go through the motions and really make an impact for patients will find exceptional value in the following principles, as I have taken the concepts and applied them to the world of pharmacy. The No. 1 reason I hear why people have not read this book is that they do not have the time. Problem solved! I have read the book and have put together this cheat sheet for the main concepts that pharmacists can apply to their lives to become highly successful.

Paradigms and Principles
Let’s first look at the general concepts or groundwork that must be noted for the principles to be effective. These are what the author refers to as the guiding paradigms and principles, and they are as follows:
  • To become effective, improve character rather than personality. 
  • The way a person perceives a problem is the problem. 
  • People must have a paradigm shift in terms of the way they see the world if they want to be successful. To do this, they must change their habits.

Habit 1: Be Proactive.
The one thing we can count on with absolute certainty is that we cannot control anything. Unforeseeable events, both good and bad, are an inevitable part of life. However, the thing that we can control in every situation is how we react to our environment and the circumstances. That is, we must choose how to react to those events, rather than just reacting without conscious choice or a plan of action. That will make a difference in terms of the outcome.

To that end, playing the victim only hurts us. We may get sympathy from others, but aside from that, all that will be gained is to keep us stuck in the past, wallowing in our grief. The first step to overcome this mindset trap is to accept responsibility and recognize that we are not victims of our circumstances. Sure, whatever happened to us may have been unfortunate or even unlucky, but we must eliminate excuses and take action to move past this. Let’s call that our Rx for success.

In the pharmacy world, we cannot predict when a tech will call off or if a medication delivery order is delayed, but we can prepare for that should it happen. Have a backup plan in place.

Habit 2: Backwards Begin.
That is, start with the end in mind. Rather than starting out with a focus on the starting point, shift energy ahead to the end goal. The most successful people look at their endeavors with an opportunity mindset, in that everything happens twice: once in our minds and twice in reality. Use this tactic by having a very specific and definite goal so it can be planned for. One person who exemplifies this mindset is entrepreneurial guru Gary Vaynerchuk, who says that his No. 1 goal is having as many people attend his funeral as possible. He then backtracks and asks, “Who would want to come? What value would I need to give to the world?” He then acts and plans accordingly.

So the question we should ask ourselves, is what kind of legacy do we want to leave for the pharmacy profession? Do we want to be remembered as someone who just clocks in? Or do we want to leave behind something more profound? Pharmacists should ask themselves what actions they are taking now to make that legacy a reality.

Habit 3: First is first.
With all the pressures we have as pharmacists, at home, and in our personal lives, it can be easy to feel lost and suffocated by all that needs to get done. But focus on the priorities. The key to making this work effectively is doing the most important and urgent tasks first. After that, tackle the tasks that are important but not urgent. Third, go after what is not important but urgent. Finally, avoid spending time on things that are neither important nor urgent. There is no time to waste. This habit is essential to working in a pharmacy.

Habit 4: Think win-win.
Rather than focusing on ourselves, look for solution where everybody wins. This helps others but feel like members of the winning team and helps us succeed the next time we try to create change.
If there is no solution or decision that is beneficial to all people involved, eliminate that choice as a viable option. A choice may seem like an easy win in the short term, but never sacrifice a long-term victory for a short-term gain.
Apply this to the pharmacy world, where a pharmacist could dictate to technicians that they just need to suck it up. But a better option would be to listen to their points of view and concerns, meet them where they are, and above all else, ensure that they understand the reason behind a new policy or procedure. When we explain the why behind a change and show everyone will benefit from buying in, we get them on board, and that breeds success for everyone.

Habit 5: Understand others.
Put other people’s needs first. The primary goal in resolving conflicts should be to first understand and then to be understood. We should validate the concerns of others before entertaining our own. This is one of the primary traits that defines a good leader: Listen in order to be listened to. Leaders who genuinely care about and empathize with the people with whom they interact find there to be easier resolutions and more enthusiasm around ideas. This is because when people deeply understand each other, it paves the way for creative solutions.

If we were to ask pharmacy technicians and even pharmacists to list their top complaints about their superiors, it would be that they do not listen.

Habit 6: Synergize.
The phrase “2 heads are better than 1” may be a cliché, but it is also true. A person with tremendous skills and drive and another with exceptional talent and connections can work together toward the same goal, combining their strengths. 
Said another way, 1 + 1 does not simply equal 2 but rather, 1 + 1 = 3. The takeaway? Always seek to work in harmony with others, as collaboration is key to success. No one ever makes it without the help of mentors, partners, and even competitors. 
Sometimes working with others can be intimidating, because of other people’s strong skill sets. This may be humbling, but do not be intimidated by someone else's strengths. Instead, learn from their wisdom.

Habit 7: Sharpen your saw.
Saw is a metaphor for whatever tool or skillset we are seeking to master. If we do not fully commit to being lifelong learners, we will be left behind by those who do adopt this essential practice. We must constantly aim to improve our physical, spiritual, mental, and relational health. By fully committing to this endeavor, we will guarantee progress that leads to success.

There is a reason that continuing education is a legal requirement among pharmacists: We must stay up to date on the latest medications and health guidelines so that we can deliver the best possible care and consultations to patients. It is our duty and obligation to be as successful and well-versed as possible, so that we may deliver the benefits we reap from our hard work directly to our team members and patients. 

Although the road map to becoming successful may be daunting, these tips can help pave the way. The concepts may seem simple, but that does not mean they are easy. Now is the time to put these ideas into practice.

Those who are looking to create a lasting legacy as pharmacists should join the Fit Pharmacist. The core belief is, if we are functioning at 100%, our relationships improve, we become energized in our career, and live a fulfilled life!

Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT
Adam Martin, PharmD, ACSM-CPT
Dr. Martin is a licensed pharmacist, having earned his doctorate of pharmacy degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2012. He is the founder of TheFitPharmacist movement, which strives to empower pharmacists and pharmacy students to thrive in their careers by overcoming stress and unhealthy habits using science-based principles and unmatched support. His passion for helping those in pharmacy led to TheFitPharmacist Podcast on the PharmacyPodcast network, where he provides practical tips for staying healthy while working at the pharmacy, along with interviewing professionals in the top of their respective fields to bring their knowledge right to your earbuds. He merges his passion of pharmacy with the experts in nutrition through being the owner and nutrition consultant at The Diet Doc Pittsburgh North, with the company having over 25 years of success. Learn more and join TheFitPharmacist movement at www.thefitpharmacist.com.
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