Focus on Current Thinking: Begin with the End in Mind

Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, FASHP, FAPhA
Published Online: Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Which personality traits will help pharmacists thrive in the profession as it goes through future changes?

The second of the habits featured in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the End in Mind.” The idea is to understand who you want to be and to immediately begin focusing your limited time on striving toward that goal. Covey urges his readers to write a personal mission statement based on who they want to be or what they want to accomplish and to use this as a basis for all their decisions.
 
Health care today is in a state of constant change. Among the factors impacting pharmacy in particular are changes in reimbursement (value-based purchasing), the move to decrease readmissions (transitions of care), and measures of patient satisfaction (HCAHPS).
 
If our profession were to use Covey’s idea of beginning with the end in mind, what type of pharmacists would we need in order to be successful in reaching our goals? Based on the changes that are already being discussed, it is apparent that pharmacists will need to be able to succeed in an environment characterized by limited information and frequent change. In addition, the ability to develop relationships with patients and other health care providers is important in order to minimize problems with transitions of care. There will also need to be constant communication and education about appropriate medication use.
 
Let’s review a few of the “personality tests” that are popular today and use them to reverse engineer the pharmacists of the future.
  1. StrengthsFinder: Each participant completes a survey by Gallup that is focused on identifying their talents. After taking the assessment, the tool will assist in identifying their top 5 talents from a pool of 34 themes. These are grouped into 4 quadrants: strategic thinking, executing, influencing, and relationship-building. Considering health-system pharmacy in the future, which types of talents will pharmacists need? While excellence in all the categories could be justified as important, it seems to me that strategic thinking (understanding where health care is going and being ready for that new state) and relationship-building (communicating with patients and other health care providers) are essential skills for success in the new environment. Some might suggest that executing (performing an action) is needed, but I would argue we have plenty of individuals with strength in that area already in the profession.
  1. DiSC: This analysis allows an individual to understand how they respond to conflict, what motivates them, what causes stress, and how to solve problems. It categorizes people into 4 domains: dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. I have administered this assessment to pharmacy students over the past decade and the vast majority have been classified as strong in steadiness and conscientiousness. While these skills have many positive attributes for the practice of pharmacy today, I believe we need people who score higher in the influence domain (patient engagement) and lower in steadiness, since the landscape is changing quickly, and what we do today might not be what we do tomorrow.
  1. Myers-Briggs: This is a psychometric questionnaire that evaluates how people perceive the world and make decisions in it. It categorizes individuals based upon attitudes (extroversion/introversion), perceiving functions (sensing/intuition), judging functions (thinking/feeling), and lifestyle (judging/perception). While I have been told that the majority of pharmacists are introverts, we definitely need a greater share of people with the attitude of extroversion (who become energized by talking to patients) and perceiving functions of intuition (recognizing that we might not always know all of the information needed to make a decision).
Even though I am discussing skill sets that are needed for the future development of the profession, there is nothing that suggests that people with different personality traits cannot be successful pharmacists. Part of the benefit of taking multiple assessments is that you get to know yourself better and come to understand tendencies you might have and how you approach various situations. If you realize this about yourself, you can increase your ability to react to a situation differently, or at least recognize particular jobs that might not be a good fit for you.
 
For example, if you are an introvert, you are not necessarily disqualified from doing a job that emphasizes patient engagement. You will just need to tell yourself not to follow your natural tendencies in some situations. Personally, I have had operational responsibilities that emphasize very different personality traits from the ones I have on paper. Based on my self-knowledge and my sense of the situation, I can act as the interaction or setting demands and not how I would naturally tend to react.
 
So, should we begin with the end in mind in hiring into pharmacy positions? I would appreciate learning from you whether you agree with this perspective. In addition, if you have taken any of these assessments, describe your traits in the comment section and how they have influenced your approach to the profession.

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