Want to Lead the Profession of Pharmacy? Embrace Change

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers November 2015

Here are 8 ways to promote and embrace change in pharmacy.

In the summer of 2015, I was lucky to be a part of Seth Godin’s inaugural altMBA class. Godin is a well-known author in the change management, marketing, and publishing spaces. Many follow his blog, and he has published several books on his own and marketed them in interesting, creative ways. I have also recommended several of his books to pharmacy students. (Yes, he is the author who wrote about purple cows!)

The altMBA is all about change: how to make solid decisions, how to harness change, and how to act on that change. What I most wanted to learn about was the decision-making objective, and thankfully, I did through the program.

The program itself is not what I wanted to discuss in this article, however; it is that going through the program made me aware of how slowly the profession of pharmacy evolves. Candidly, it moves at a glacial pace. We are slow, if not staunchly opposed, to change in pharmacy in many ways. I believe this resistance to change could be a detriment to the profession if we let it.

When tackling change, we must start with ourselves. Within this article, I want to share with you some ways you can manage and even promote positive change within the profession of pharmacy, and hopefully turn our professional Titanic around into the 21st century.

We desperately need more change agents in our profession, and the old techniques are not going to work moving forward. The world is just changing too quickly, and pharmacy as a profession must keep up with the pace of change.

Here are a few ways to promote and embrace change:

1. Dare to be the first. Try new things in your life. That can be as easy as going to lunch with a different colleague every day or reading new books, or as challenging as developing a business plan for the pharmacy to provide a brand new service or product line. While it is scary to go first, there are rewards to making the effort, such as the ability to shape the future. Also, try to change by using your strengths. For example, I am a futurist, so positive change for me means that I want a stake in what my future looks like. Therefore, I am going to try and create my future, rather than merely sit back and wait for it to show up. How can you leverage your strengths to make positive change in your life and at work or in your community?

2. Stop waiting for permission. Write that plan and present it. Put that idea down on paper and own it. Your boss wants you to add value to the organization and the business; that was part of the reason you were hired. You already have permission! You just need a solid business case to back up whatever resources, time, energy, and people you will need for this new idea, and show the return on investment.

3. Choose yourself. Your ideas have value. Show that value to your managers and your business by promoting new ideas, early and often. Develop the reputation for being the go-to idea gal or guy in your organization. Be the agent of change!

4. Realize that not all ideas will stick. The average adult needs to hear or see something 9 times before it sticks. In addition, timing can play a huge role in whether or not change happens in an organization. You have to realize in advance that not all your ideas will be sticky enough for rapid change. Care less about whether or not all the ideas stick; care more about being the person who puts ideas out there.

5. Realize a “no” today does not mean a “no” tomorrow. Timing, again, is crucial. A no today from your manager is just a no today. Tomorrow is a whole new ballgame. Keep asking yourself if you are passionate about it, and back up that passion with data and a strong business case. Persistence trumps talent (as stated by another favorite author of mine, Daniel Pink).

6. Be a change champion. Don King was probably the most famous boxing promoter ever. However, he once said, “I don’t promote boxing. I promote people. Boxing is a catalyst to bring people together.” All of us in pharmacy need to be change promoters and champions, as it is a way to bring people and ideas together. Be open and ask everyone to contribute ideas. A culture of trying new ideas can go a long way with employee satisfaction and strong customer service too.

7. Celebrate failure. Of all the steps, this is probably the idea that pharmacists struggle with the most, myself included. As pharmacists, we pride ourselves on not making mistakes, protecting our patients, and being accurate in everything we do. We must get over this, however, if we want to try new ideas and grow as a profession. Throw a failure party and burn all the failures, if need be, to celebrate failure. Get a cake and party favors. Do whatever it takes to make failure fun, because we do not grow unless we fail. Even bones need stress to get stronger. Through our stress and failures, we grow.

8. Just ship it. Getting work done in Godin’s world is “shipping it.” Just do it. Start somewhere. Even if it is a tiny step, even if it is going to take extra work and time, ship it. Stop talking about it and just start doing the work, and next thing you know, you will be changing your life and changing the environment around you!

Pharmacists must drive the positive change within the profession. If we wait for others to tell us what we can and cannot do outside of our profession, we could be waiting a long time, and worse yet, be handed something that we do not want to do. Or, we could be limited by someone else on what we can and cannot do! We have a choice: either be the change, or wait for the change to happen to us via outside forces. Own it, or it will own you. I would rather own it. How about you?

Erin L. Albert, MBA, PharmD, JD, is an associate professor of pharmacy practice and the director of continuing education at Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She is also a health outcomes pharmacist with Myers and Stauffer LC. Her books and blog can be found here.

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