5 Lessons Pharmacists Can Learn From March Madness


Next week brings our nation's greatest teambuilding event: March Madness.

Next week brings our nation’s greatest teambuilding event: March Madness.

I love to watch college basketball teams compete in the annual NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament. Better yet, I like how March Madness serves as a common denominator for a diverse group of coworkers regardless of age, gender, and job title.

The level of friendly rivalry increases as everyone selects their bracket for the pharmacy's annual competition to predict the winning teams. Much to the chagrin of my co-workers, I make my picks based on the team mascot, the school's academic ranking, and a quick glance at my husband's selections, rather than team statistics.

As the tournament progresses, my coworkers start to constantly check the scores of their Cinderella teams while our employer chalks up the pharmacy's lost hours of productivity to this annual ritual. In reality, though, March Madness serves to boost morale, foster healthy competition, and strengthen relationships that extend beyond sports.

While your boss may be wrestling with a temporary loss of productivity, the rest of us may want to focus on the following lessons to be learned from the Big Dance.

1. There’s No “I” in Team

Teamwork is the core element for a win during March Madness. Even though there’s a top scorer on every team, he would be nothing without the steals, blocks, rebounds, and assists of his teammates.

In the pharmacy, the entire staff needs to work together. Pharmacists, supervisors, technicians, and support staff come from varied backgrounds and have different work styles and habits. Understanding how to build upon each other’s skills (and personalities) makes for an effective working environment where coworkers can build confidence and trust in one another.

When you put your trust in a coworker, you can work more effectively as a team.

2. Bring in Substitutes and Make Adjustments

A twisted ankle of a key player can force a team to completely rework its game strategy and make adjustments accordingly.

Pharmacy teams are also dynamic and ever-changing. Work load, time urgency, or lack of personnel can be game changers.

Staff needs to be adaptable to quickly change direction and priorities should the need arise. This can lead to fresh ideas and newfound enthusiasm among pharmacy team members.

3. Avoid a Foul

Bickering, backstabbing, and blame are toxic for coworkers just as they are for basketball teams. When conflict arises in work situations, recognize and resolve the differences among team members. Learning conflict resolution firsthand can become a life-long asset.

4. Take a Time Out

Time outs in tournament games are key for helping players and coaches reorganize, take a deep breath, and plan the next strategy for victory. In a very short period of time, teams can analyze what they are doing well and what areas of play need improvement.

It’s also important for the pharmacy team to take a time out during the workday. Step outside for some fresh air, grab a bottle of water or a cup of coffee, take a few minutes to chat with a coworker, or check your favorite Twitter feed. Stepping away from your computer screen will not only give your eyes a rest, but also give your mind a break to refocus.

5. Play Until the End of the Buzzer

One of the most exciting aspects of March Madness are the buzzer-beater wins.

In basketball, a buzzer beater is a shot taken before the game clock of a quarter expires. The ball doesn’t go into the basket until after the buzzer sounds, but it still counts toward the score. This last-second win often takes teamwork, calculation, and maximized potential.

Playing until the end of the buzzer in pharmacy means making a regular day an outstanding one by taking an extra shot at doing your job better than your coworkers. By setting small, manageable goals, you'll be on a positive path for both yourself and your team.

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