The playground of life can be a harsh teacher. The kids on the playground can be so blunt. As a result, we develop little pieces of supposed wisdom to help us through these turbulent times. Phrases like “sticks and stones may break my bones” or “I’m rubber and you’re glue.” Please tell me that I am not the only one to ever hear (or use) phrases like this.
One of the phrases that my son brought home from school one day was “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Now this is an interesting phrase, especially to consider as a leader.
While I would tend to agree with the “and you don’t throw a fit” part of the phrase, the first part does require a little deeper examination.
Is it true that “you get what you get”?
By this, I mean, is it totally random? Is what you get just by chance? I suggest the answer is “no.”
As leaders, we need to challenge the wisdom of “you get what you get” and understand that what you get is dependent on two things: rewards and tolerance.
You see what is rewarded is repeated. When someone does something well and it is rewarded, even with simple things like recognition and praise, that something will be repeated.
This goes all the way back to our programming as children. We are learning how to walk, and taking just a single step was met with praise and encouragement. The result: we tried to walk again. Before you knew it, we were running all over and our parents were likely regretting all that praise they gave us.
The same holds true in the pharmacy. When we recognize and appreciate certain actions, they are more likely to happen again. We thank a customer for their business, they are more likely to come back. That is why so many retailers now have loyalty and rewards programs. What gets rewarded gets repeated.
So, the leadership lesson is to reward those things that you want to see repeated.
There is a danger, though. That danger is tolerance. You see, while what gets rewarded get repeated, there is another perspective we must be keenly aware of. What is tolerated is repeated. For our definition in this case, tolerance is something that is short of a standard. The example I use for this in the pharmacy is how we answered the phone. The standard was to thank the caller for calling our pharmacy by name, to identify ourselves, and to offer service. “Thank you for calling Main Street Pharmacy, this is Jesse. How may I help you?” That was the standard. But you know what, it was not rewarded. There were no “good jobs or “well dones." And do you know what happened? People stopped doing it. I believe that it is always harder to do the right thing. It certainly rings true in this example. It's certainly more difficult to answer the phone with that script. So, the script deteriorated to: “Pharmacy! Can I help you?” (And deep down, I think there were many who answered the phone hoping the answer to “Can I help you?” was “no.” This lackluster, abbreviated script became tolerated. And it was repeated again and again. We also had the nerve to question how anyone would not consider our customer service top notch.
As we wrap up another year and take the time to look back, let me ask you these questions: What are you tolerating and what are you rewarding? These are valid questions to ask in relation to our patients, our teams, and also ourselves.
What are you personally tolerating and what are you rewarding? I challenge you to up the level of your expectations for the coming year. What can you reward and what do you need to stop tolerating to lead yourself and your team to achieve those expectations?
So, you do get what you get, but you have a say in what that is. Either way, you can’t throw a fit.
Until next time -
Jesse McCullough, PharmD
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