Effective pharmacy management is about learning to be a servant to others. All of the responsibilities of a pharmacy manager can be generally grouped under 4 focuses of service.
I have the privilege of teaching a management elective for pharmacy students through our local college of pharmacy. This is an on-site, 6-week, working elective in which students have the opportunity to look at the business of pharmacy from a different angle. In particular, they are introduced to the fundamentals of retail pharmacy management and leadership. I tell my students, however, that I am not actually ready to teach management yet. I am still a student of this discipline, and eager to keep learning.
While there are literally hundreds of great books on management in general, the unique circumstances of the typical pharmacy manager demand some specific instruction. There are certain aspects to the work of the pharmacy manager that are different than most other management positions. Notably, unlike other management jobs in which the leader manages from an office, the pharmacy manager is typically working shoulder to shoulder with his or her team. This one fact alone demands that an effective pharmacy manager learn the skills of leading by example in a way that other types of managers never need to acquire. Thus, in my opinion, effective pharmacy managers tend to be effective in a wide variety of management settings as well.
But fundamental to my own philosophy of pharmacy management is the conviction that the pharmacy manager is the servant leader of the team. The truly effective and skillful pharmacy manager sees herself or himself as serving the needs and purposes of others, on whose behalf they are managing. The pharmacy manager is not an aloof dictator that points out what others are doing wrong. They themselves are down on the front lines, leading by example, encouraging, coaching and doing the hardest jobs with passion and pride.
But who, exactly, does the effective pharmacy manager serve?
1. Effective pharmacy managers serves the Board of Pharmacy.
Pharmacy managers serve the Board of Pharmacy by maintaining familiarity with the various state and federal laws pertaining to the practice of pharmacy. The pharmacy manager seeks to uphold those regulations by helping the team be compliant in the interest of public safety. Contrary to the opinion of some pharmacists, most Boards of Pharmacy aren’t out to get you. My pharmacy management students conduct an audit of our own pharmacy utilizing the materials provided by our Board of Pharmacy in Massachusetts. I want them to see the pharmacy from the view of an inspector, and thus help us to serve our own Board by maintaining compliance with the law.
2. Effective pharmacy managers serve the business.
Most pharmacy managers are working for pharmacies that they do not personally own. As such, they have a responsibility to serve the company leadership by upholding and encouraging compliance with policies and practices expected by the corporation. Part of this is keeping an eye on the bottom line. Businesses need to be profitable to exist, and profitability is no easy task in pharmacy these days. We can argue about how much profit is reasonable, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article. Pharmacy managers also serve the business needs of the pharmacy by setting a great example of compliance with policy and helping others to do the same.
3. Effective pharmacy managers serve their team.
I truly believe that those who wish to excel as leaders and managers in the profession of pharmacy need to see themselves as the servants of their team. They serve their fellow-pharmacists by doing all they can to make this a great career and great place to work. They serve their technicians by training them, encouraging them and rewarding them. I have a rule that I have always tried to stick by as a pharmacy manager. Anytime I leave my crew behind, like at the end of my shift or even if I just stop by to visit, I try to ask each member of the team “Is there anything I can do for you?” To me, this is important. I’m there to serve my team. This also includes frequently acknowledging their hard work and sharing their success with all levels of upper management.
4. Effective pharmacy managers serve their patients.
Finally, but maybe most importantly, the pharmacy manager serves the patient. At the end of the day, the patient is why we are here. Pharmacy managers must lead the way in caring for patients. Specifically, I like to think of ways we can go beyond the “normal” expectations in patient service. Can we call that mom with the sick child and check in on them a couple days after filling that antibiotic? Can I attach a bow to a prescription bag near their birthday? Can I write a helpful article for a local newspaper? The number of ways to serve patients are endless, but pharmacy managers need to take the lead in going above and beyond in the area of patient care.
Peter Drucker, arguably one of the greatest thinkers about management and leadership once said “Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.” I agree. And my contention is that the chief responsibility of the pharmacy manager is to serve.