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10/13/2021

Get ready to stretch like a rubberband

Jesse McCullough
Founder, Keystone Pharmacy Insights
Jesse McCullough profile picture

Like the rest of the world, I went to see Avengers: Infinity War at the theatre when it came out in the spring of 2018. As the story unfolds, a group of characters is introduced to the audience while the song “Rubberband Man” by the Spinners plays.  I was not familiar with song before seeing the film, but I can tell you that this song is now on my playlist.

You see, I can’t say that I had a real affinity for rubber bands. One Christmas, my dad decided he wanted to be more involved in the gift giving process in our household, so he went shopping. At an office supply store. Yes, one year for Christmas, I received a wrapped bag of rubber bands. Three pounds of rubber bands in that bag, to be exact.  It was like a pillow! I think I still have over two and half pounds of those rubber bands left. 

There is both an interesting and important lesson to be learned from rubber bands. If you happen to have one within sight, what is that rubber band doing? If it is just lying on the table, the answer probably is “not much.” However, if that rubber band is wrapped around something, the answer will be along the lines of “holding something together.”

This is the magic of the rubber band. It only works when it is stretched! Its real value is realized when it is stretched. 

And you know what? The same is true for you and me. We provide more value and we become more valuable when we are stretched, just like a rubber band! 

But here is another truth: most people don’t like to be stretched. It is uncomfortable and can be unpleasant. 

But we are in the arena of pharmacy. And the fact of the matter is pharmacy is always changing and evolving. Maybe it is going too fast or too slow for you, but each of us can likely start a list of major changes we have seen in pharmacy throughout our careers to date, and we can have a high degree of confidence that we will see even more changes before all is said and done. 

Throw in a global pandemic and we find the stage is set for some serious stretching.

So, as leaders, what could we, can we, and should we do?  I would share with you today, the need to address the perspective and attitudes for ourselves and the people that we serve. We need to recognize that a stretch is coming. We also need to encourage people to look forward to the stretch and to welcome the benefit and value that comes from being stretched - just like the rubber band. 

When we adopt a perspective and attitude like this, it puts us in a position to endure more than we thought we could. Consider the rubber band that is wrapped around a shoebox to keep it closed. How long can it hold that box closed? A long time, as long as we use the rubber band properly.

This brings us to another consideration. Every rubber band has a limit. And each of us has a limit. There is a breaking point. If that point is exceeded, the band breaks and becomes worthless. I have seen this happen to pharmacists. I have seen this happen to pharmacy technicians. 

This truth that we all have limits may not strike you as being encouraging, but that depends on how you look at things. Recognizing that each one of us has limits, it then becomes valuable to know what those limits are and then for each of us to operate within those limits where we are stretched and provide value.

For example, if you have a team member who is not stretched at all in the role, we should not be surprised if there isn’t much value produced. Conversely, we would also not want to stretch someone so much that the person breaks and is longer of use to your operation.

But there is a significant difference between people and rubber bands in regards to their capacity. A rubber band only has so much. However, with people, their capacity –their ability to stretch – can be increased, especially over time. You simply need to have a plan and work that plan.

I encourage you to learn the lesson of the rubber band. Welcome the stretch and the value produced in this situation. Have open conversations with people on your team to identify their capacity and then work to increase their capacity and make sure everyone on your team is well positioned to stretch.

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

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