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8 Ways to Motivate Your Struggling Team 

How to Empower Your Business by Inspiring Your Pharmacy Employees by Elements magazine |

July 6, 2021

When your employees are struggling, it can be easy to lay the blame on individuals: they’re not invested, they don’t care, or they just don’t have the right skills.

But as a manager, you can turn things around with the right encouragement. When Frank Pacetta started as a manager at Xerox’s Cleveland district sales office, the staff was a mess, but with the right motivational techniques, he was able to turn things around and make them into top performers.

His book Don’t Fire Them, Fire Them Up: Motivate Yourself and Your Team demonstrates how leaders can turn even the most lackluster employees into winners.

Use these tips from Pacetta to nurture your employees and help them hone their skills in the pharmacy.

1. Hold on for diamonds in the rough

Sometimes, staff members screw up. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re irredeemable or incapable of doing their jobs.

Pacetta points out that at the beginning of his career, he wasn’t a particularly strong employee. “If I had been my boss, I would have fired me at several points along the way,” he writes. “Fortunately, I hung on and matured. The occasional near-death experience taught me about management and leadership.”

A good leader will make room for a certain amount of failure and use failures as a teachable moment. You may find that the employees who struggle the most are actually diamonds in the rough who can shine if they have the right management and motivation.

2. Remember people are the linchpin

Your employees are your pharmacy’s greatest asset. Don’t treat them like they are cogs in a machine.

“We continue to manage these assets as though they are in fact commodities: easy come, easy go,” Pancetta says. “Meanwhile, the process, the product, and the mechanics of the organization itself are given paramount importance. And they are important — but not as important as the right people in the right places, with the right skills, attitudes, motivation, and dedication.”

Remember that your employees are human beings, and work to build trust and generate enthusiasm. You can experiment with all the new trends and flashy services you want, but if you don’t have your team on board, you won’t succeed.

3. Recognize heroes

Even if your pharmacy employees are struggling overall, go out of your way to praise the people who are succeeding in spite of it all.

“What’s the point of breaking your butt if nobody notices?” Pacetta writes. “Praise doesn’t cost anything and it yields big dividends. A paycheck, no matter how large, isn’t enough.”

Go out of your way to thank someone for doing a good job every single day, and do it publicly. Not only will it be a morale boost for the individual employee, your other staff members will witness it and strive for praise in the future.

4. Don’t write people off

For your employees who are struggling, don’t automatically write them off. Give them a chance to prove their value in the workplace.

Be frank: tell them you recognize that they’re underperforming and set expectations for what they need to do to improve. When Pacetta started working at a struggling district office at Xerox, he says, “I needed to demonstrate that redemption was not only a religious doctrine. Each of them had a second chance. All they had to do was reach out and take it.”

If you have low expectations of your struggling staff members, they will meet those low expectations, but if you set them higher, they may surprise you with what they can achieve.

5. Remember the basics

Athletes who haven’t mastered the fundamentals can’t achieve at a high level.

The same is true for business. Pacetta recommends refreshing the basics to make sure staff members are best equipped to do their jobs, and the best way to do that is to constantly ask questions.

Constant questioning ensures that employees who may be struggling stay engaged. And if you ask a question that a staff member doesn’t have an answer to, it will motivate them to find out.

6. Be a coach

To inspire employees to do their best work, don’t just be a manager. Be a coach and a mentor. If you’re only training employees on their job duties, you’re not actually pushing them to be their best.

“Don’t hold your people back. Promote them, move them, make them as successful as you can,” Pacetta writes.

Sometimes, this means that great employees will move on from your pharmacy and onto bigger things, but in the long term, the practice will help you attract and retain the best talent.

If you have a reputation for fostering careers, your current employees will be more likely to do their best work for you, and when you have an open position, you’ll be choosing from candidates who are the cream of the crop.

7. Inspire a winner’s mentality

In a competitive retail environment, you and your employees need the will to win. “Everybody wants to win,” Pacetta says, but not everyone has the will to persevere and clinch the win. “Winning is hard, risky work. And it entails losing from time to time.”

If your staff members are just going through the motions — clocking in, doing their assigned work, and clocking out — it’s a sign they aren’t at work to win, and you need to take steps to fire them up.

To do this, you can change things up. Make your pharmacy goals more challenging. Find out if employees have side projects they’d like to pursue around the pharmacy. These changes will get staff members reinvested and more passionate about their jobs.

8. Take care of the patient

As a retail business, if your employees aren’t performing at the top of their game, that’s eventually going to trickle down and affect your customer service.

Because of this, as you work with your employees, you always have to keep your patients in the back of your mind. “Customers. If we take good care of them, they take good care of us,” Pancetta says.

If your efforts to motivate your employees don’t translate into improved relationships with your patients, they will find another pharmacy to fill their prescription or switch to mail order, so don’t lose sight of patient satisfaction as the ultimate endgame.


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PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The member-owned company serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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