Cash on delivery. That’s when you must have a check ready when they deliver the merchandise. If the check isn’t there, the merchandise is put back on the truck and taken away.
Our hospital wasn’t cash on delivery. We were cash in advance. When our pharmacy ordered drugs, we were given a dollar amount. When the check was ready, we called the company with the check number. Then we mailed them the check. Only after the check was received did the company release the order.
It was a tedious procedure to go through. But I really couldn’t blame the companies. They wanted their money. And we didn’t pay our bills.
I remembered an eye drop that our pharmacy needed. I usually ordered eye drops from my wholesaler. But they didn’t carry this particular one. So I had to order it directly from the company.
My pharmacy was a victim of this cash in advance procedure. I ordered six eye drops. I got a dollar figure from the company. I typed up a check request and prepared the necessary paperwork. Then I got my boss and my vice-president to sign off on it.
The signed check request and paperwork was submitted to our accounts payable department. Then, after it was approved, a check was cut and sent to me.
I then called my contact at the company with the check number and dollar figure. I mailed her the check. After she received the check, she released the order.
This entire process, from the time I originally placed the order, until the time my contact person released the order, took about three weeks!
But I had to go through this procedure. I wanted the eye drops. They wanted their money. It had to be done this way.
This was the sixth time that I had ordered the eye drops. I had gone through the entire process and had the check in my hands. I called the woman (my contact) from the company. I confirmed the dollar amount and provided her with the check number. I was about to mail her the check, but I decided to speak up first.
“I ordered these eye drops from your company about six times now.” I said. “Each time, I’ve called you and given you the check number. Then I’ve mailed you the check.”
I continued, “I’ve proven myself. I’ve sent you the check when I said I would. I’m going to send it out right now. Will you take me at my word and release the eye drop order immediately?”
She didn’t even have to think about it.
“Absolutely,” she replied, “You’ve proven yourself. You’re a person of your word.” And she released the eye drop order and sent it to me. I mailed her the check.
As a leader, I’ve always felt that what I said was crucial. I was always willing to stand behind the words and promises that I made.
In addition, my actions were important. People would view me and judge me not only by what I did, but what I said I would do.
Thus, as a leader, what I said I would do had to match what I did. And what I did had to match what I said I would do.
Being Part Of the Solution
There was a pharmacy IV clerk who worked in my hospital’s pharmacy. He worked Monday through Friday. His job was to supply each nursing unit and clinic area with IV solutions.
He’d visit each unit and take an inventory of what they had on hand. Next, he’d determine what they needed. Then, he’d deliver the IV solutions to the unit, and put them away in their utility closet or cabinet.
Each nursing unit and clinic area had their own specialties. But after a while, he’d know what each place needed. He’d service about 25 nursing units and clinic areas daily. He was very good at his job.
I don’t remember the actual circumstances, but I do recall that he was abruptly terminated. That meant that starting with the next day, that the pharmacy would have no one to inventory, deliver, and put away IV solutions for about 25 nursing units and clinic areas.
And since the average time to fill a vacant position was three months, it meant that I (the pharmacy manager) needed a plan immediately.
I didn’t have the luxury to move one of my staff members into this role of pharmacy IV clerk. And my staff didn’t want that either, because then they would be short staffed.
This vacancy created a hardship for everyone — myself as well as my entire staff. Thus, my solution would be to involve myself and my entire staff. I decided that, in addition to their daily tasks, that EVERYONE would be assigned one nursing unit or clinic area each day to inventory, deliver, and put away their IV solutions.
By EVERYONE, I meant myself as well. I would be part of this process. In addition, I told my staff that I would be responsible for the toughest unit.
I’ve always felt that a good leader must be part of the solution process. I’ve always noticed that my staff was more receptive to a solution, especially when I was involved in it. After all, I wouldn’t ask my staff to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do as well.
Holding Myself Accountable
It was the end of the year. Like most people, it was time for my evaluation.
In most cases when it comes to evaluations, employees are required to complete a self-evaluation. I’ve always felt that a self-evaluation accomplishes two things:
- It allows the employee to say wonderful thing about themselves,
- It allows the employee’s boss the opportunity to take the employee down a notch or two for saying all these wonderful things about themselves.
Regardless, I always wrote wonderful things about myself. For the most part, my boss usually wrote wonderful things as well. But it was my annual goals that I always considered the most important part of my evaluation.
I’ve noticed that most people tend to forget about their goals. Yes, they wrote them out and attached them to their evaluation. But once the evaluation is over, they usually forget about them for the year. Then maybe a month or two before their next evaluation, the employees review these goals and try to adapt them to what they’ve done.
I never did that. In fact, I did just the opposite. I would post my goals on my office door for my entire staff to see. As a leader, I wanted my staff to know what I said I was going to do.
I also wanted them to know how close I was to accomplishing my goals. So I reviewed my goals once a month at department staff meetings. And I celebrated with my staff as my goals were achieved.
I wanted them to hold me accountable. And I wanted to hold myself accountable too.
A leader should always post their goals for others to see them. By posting my goals, I improved my performance and achieved better employee involvement.
Owning The Problem
I worked in a career school for part of my career. I worked as a career services rep. I helped pharmacy tech students and students in other disciplines find jobs. My placement rate was very high. It was over 85%
The Dean of the school liked me. But he had a problem. Due to cutbacks, he had no one to watch the front desk and greet visitors as they entered the school between 8AM and 10AM. That’s where he needed my help. He wanted me to watch the front desk and man the phones during those hours.
Why couldn’t they just hire somebody? Actually they had somebody. In fact, they had two people. One person worked from 8AM to 4PM, the other person worked 10AM to 6PM. But cutbacks occurred and there went the 8AM to 4PM person.
Now I didn’t mind helping out once in a while. But every day?! To give up my first two hours of everyday to babysit the front desk? I had my own work to do! I didn’t have time for this!
But I knew why he wanted me. Because he liked me. He respected me. He viewed me as a leader in the school. And it was important to have someone like me, that would be the first person which visitors would encounter when they entered the building.
So I assumed the role of front desk monitor and telephone greeter. It was three months later and I was annoyed with the role.
But what really irked me were some of my colleagues. These were employees who perpetually came in late, ran to get coffee, checked their mail, and talked with other staff members. In other words, they goofed off for their first and perhaps second hours that they were there. Why couldn’t they watch the front desk?
But I knew the answer to this question. If they were so cavalier in there work ethic, would anyone really want them to be the first person that a visitor would encounter when they entered the school? Probably not.
About two weeks later, I was in a meeting with the Dean. It seemed that one of my co-workers had a very low placement rate with the students in one of her disciplines. The Dean wanted to know if I could help my fellow co-worker improve her rate.
So I seized the moment.
“Of course I’ll help her,” I said, “But you have to get me off the front desk assignment every morning.”
“Now you don’t think I’d dump something like this in your lap, unless I had a solution,” I stated, “My suggestion is that we have this person cover the front desk on Monday. Then this person on Tuesday. Then this person on Wednesday. Then I’ll do it on Thursday. And finally this person on Friday.”
“That way, you’ll still have coverage for the front desk— five days a week. And I’ll have ample time to help my co-worker.” I said.
He thought for a second.
Then he replied, “Excellent idea. Let’s do it.”
As a leader, I wanted to be viewed as a problem solver. The reasons for this are twofold:
- If I constantly ran to my boss to solve my problems— after a while, what does he need me for?
- If I deflected my problems to my boss to solve, I may not like his solutions.
Thus, as a leader, I’ve learned not to dump a problem into my boss’s lap unless I had a solution.
Poking Fun At Myself
A wise man once told me that a good leader should “always take their job seriously, but never take themselves too seriously.”
I always found time to laugh at myself. My staff really enjoyed it when I poked fun at myself. I did too.
My hospital hosted its own Leadership Development Initiatives (LDIs). These were entire day sessions that benefited vice-presidents, directors, and managers within the hospital.
The in-house committee that organized these programs was led by a remarkable chairman. His presentations were dynamic and energizing as well as informative. He conducted most services and was a pleasure to listen to. In addition, he was quite knowledgeable on a variety of topics.
He was quite creative also. Each LDI had a theme. And he made sure that each theme was incorporated into all the handouts, activities, decorations, and food to best complement the program.
Even his slideshows and video clips adhered to the theme. His visuals were really brilliant! They enhanced his presentations and were a lot of fun to watch.
The theme was the Wizard of Oz. One of the committee members found that a local drama club was presenting the Wizard of Oz that weekend. She was able to borrow the costumes.
Someone dressed up as Dorothy, the scarecrow, the tin man, the cowardly lion, and the two witches. I was the Wizard. I wore a sequined green jacket with a white shirt and sparkly green tie. My emerald green pants were ¾ length with a green strip running down the side. And I wore white knee high socks and black shoes. I looked pretty snazzy, if I say so myself.
The chairman set the stage. He spoke about the many things that we needed to follow. It was important to follow the rules, follow the guidelines, and follow directions. Furthermore, everyone should follow their policies and procedures in order to follow their goals.
However, it was also vital to follow other important things in one’s life. It was also necessary to follow one’s heart. And follow one’s aspirations. And follow one’s dreams.
“But aside from all these things,” he said, “it was truly necessary to follow this.” And with that, he played the soundtrack of the munchkins singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”.
Our committee came out dressed in our Wizard of Oz costumes. We sang as we interacted with the audience of managers. We passed out candy, made jokes, and fired up the crowd.
It was nice to share a laugh with everybody. We had a great time doing this. It was a lot of fun and everyone truly enjoyed this.
I view myself a leader. I’m a problem-solver who makes fair and consistent decisions. I’ve always considered my actions and my word as my bond.
I lead by example and listen to other people’s thoughts, complaints, and needs. Many times I try to empower people and guide them as they resolve their own issues.
And I never take myself too seriously. I always take time to laugh at myself. Or poke fun of myself in front of others.
Daniel Shifrin, R.P., M.S. is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy. He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.