January 21, 2020
Inside: There’s a lot more to managing managers than to managing employees. Learn how to foster a team of leaders you can trust to take care of each of your locations.
When you open multiple pharmacy locations, one of the biggest changes you’ll face is delegating to pharmacy managers. You’re no longer the person that every employee reports to — your job is now to manage managers, which is different than managing the rest of your staff. Managers have more autonomy, and they need your support to develop the skills to make judgment calls on the ground.
Use these tips to coach your pharmacy managers into becoming the best leaders they can be.
Research shows that good employees don’t necessarily make good managers. An employee who’s quick at the register and friendly with patients doesn’t necessarily have the skills to be a leader in the pharmacy.
When you hire a manager, you need to look for management-specific skills. For instance, good managers are good communicators. They get their expectations across, and they actively listen. Good managers can stay resilient and calm amid chaos. They have superior judgment and problem-solving skills.
Read more about the traits of a good pharmacy manager here.
You might need to hire a new candidate for a management position, but you can benefit from developing a manager from your current staff who you already know and who already fits well in your pharmacy.
Dedicate time to check in with your managers. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, one-on-one meetings give you an opportunity to speak privately and candidly about what’s going on in your pharmacy locations.
They also give you a chance to give feedback and offer course corrections before small problems become big problems.
This is what makes a one-on-one meeting successful:
Setting goals with your managers helps them to measure success in their position. Goals can focus on meeting specific store benchmarks (like improving employee turnover rates) or individual professional development for the manager (like improving communication skills).
When deciding what sort of goals to set, keep in mind the acronym SMART. Goals should be:
Don’t just name a goal and send managers on their way — you should continuously support them as they work towards their goal. Set aside a portion of your regular one-on-one meetings to discuss their progress and mentor them on how to proceed.
When a manager reaches their goal, make sure to reward them. This doesn’t mean you have to pop a bottle of champagne or take them out to a steak dinner. Calling attention to your managers’ successes and congratulating them will motivate them to keep working towards improvement.
Your regular one-on-one meetings can help you get a sense of what your manager thinks are the biggest challenges they face in the pharmacy, but you shouldn’t rely solely on the manager’s interpretation.
Drop into your pharmacy locations and observe your managers at work. You may notice blind spots they can’t recognize themselves.
For example, they may have complained about a problem employee that’s having trouble with a specific task. When you observe, you may find out the manager isn’t explaining the task as clearly as they thought.
The point of these observations isn’t to make managers feel like you’re looking over their shoulder and waiting for them to screw up. Instead, it’s an opportunity to gain further insight so that you can guide them more efficiently in the future.
Now that you’re not the only manager, that doesn’t mean you should completely take your hands off the steering wheel. Get to know all your pharmacy staff members, even if they aren’t your direct reports anymore.
Spend some time on the ground in the pharmacies and make time to chat with everyone. Ask about personal and professional goals — you may find a great pharmacy manager in the making.
By building a rapport with all staff members, you may be more helpful to your current managers. If a manager brings up a problem employee, you’ll be able to offer better insights because you have a personal relationship established.
On the other hand, if a manager is struggling, they might not come out and tell you. When you have a friendly relationship with staff members, they might reveal problems at their pharmacy location that you didn’t know about. The point of building these relationships isn’t to spy, but to get a new perspective on the situation.
With managers, it’s especially important to give honest feedback, even when it stings. Managers who aren’t meeting expectations don’t only hurt themselves, they hurt the business and make the pharmacy a less pleasant place for their staff members.
Most people naturally want to avoid confrontation, which means you might be tempted to put off delivering critical feedback. But the longer you wait, the worse the problem will become.
Give feedback frequently — your one-on-one meetings are a good opportunity to do this. If you address issues regularly, your managers will become used to the practice and it will feel like a habit instead of a personal criticism. This also prevents small issues from spinning out of control and becoming large issues.
Good feedback is also specific. It lasers in on a specific problem and lays out how it’s affecting their team. Then, it provides a specific solution.
Once you’ve delivered a piece of critical feedback, make sure your manager understands, then check in on the issue during future meetings to find out what kind of progress is being made.
People learn from example, according to Dartmouth research on superbosses. If you want your managers to be good at their job, you have to model the behaviors you want them to emulate.
If you want your managers to always be punctual and easy for their direct reports to reach, you can’t come in late every day and never answer your phone.
This essentially means you have to be on your best behavior at all times. When you’re frustrated with a problem employee, it’s not a good idea to vent to your managers because that sends the message that this kind of behavior is acceptable in the pharmacy.
Similarly, when you make a mistake, don’t send it down the food chain for someone else to fix. Take responsibility and make corrections yourself.
Being a role model requires constant patience and integrity, but you’ll build the trust of your management team and establish a precedent of personal responsibility in the pharmacy.
When a patient visits your pharmacy, you want them to have the same great experience no matter which location they walk into. To achieve this consistency, your managers need to be on the same page.
A few times a year, gather all of your location managers to do group management training. You can concentrate on day-to-day issues like reviewing standard operating procedures, or bigger picture concepts like how to mentor direct reports or how to approach diversity and inclusion in the pharmacy.
While some people are more naturally suited to leadership than others, management skills still need to be taught. Management training sessions give you the chance to set the same expectations for all of your managers and provide them with the right resources.
These trainings are also an opportunity for managers from different locations to get to know each other better and build camaraderie across the business.
When you go from being the sole manager to a manager of managers, it can be difficult to let go of all the little things you used to do.
However, if you don’t allow your managers some autonomy and micromanage their performance, they’re going to end up feeling demoralized and discouraged.
Instead of micromanaging, give your managers the tools they need to succeed on their own. Establishing clear standard operating procedures ensures managers know exactly how to get the job done and you will be freed up to focus your attention on big picture problems.
This blog series is all about the unique aspects of managing more than one pharmacy location. Follow along as we discuss how to improve efficiency, productivity, and profit across multiple pharmacies.
PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.
PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified 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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