Practical Solutions for Managing High-Demand Situations

When you’re in charge, whether as a pharmacist or a manager, you often face high-pressure situations where multiple people need your attention simultaneously. This can lead to threat emotions such as anxiety, frustration, confusion, or overwhelm. If these emotions take over, you might snap, exhaust yourself trying to be everything to everyone or fail to give your best. If you’re wondering why, the answer is found in emotional intelligence. These emotions limit our capacity to think and find solutions. When this occurs we succumb to our default reactions without any thought. While a helpful evolution in some situations, not so much in this one…

Here are five practical strategies to help you manage these moments effectively:

  1. Acknowledge and Pause the Conversation:
    • Recognize the person in front of you and then hit pause. For example: “I appreciate this is a problem for you. Let’s talk about it in [your timeframe of choice] when I can give you my best.” This works well for non-urgent enquiries and people respond better to this than either being ignored, snapped at or being given a sarcastic response. Regarding sarcasm, you probably know the line, ‘really? you want to talk about this now?’
  2. Train Your Staff to Triage:
    • Teach your staff to ask themselves two key questions before approaching you:
      1. “Will there be an instant cost if this is not dealt with immediately?”
      2. “Is the person I am about to ask the best person to help, or is there someone else who will know?”
    • Initially, you may need to ask these questions yourself when staff come to you. Over time, they will learn to answer these questions before reaching out.
  3. Encourage Specific Questions:
    • Guide your staff to frame their questions so you can answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ For example, instead of saying, “Mrs. Jones needs a DAA change, what do you want me to tell her?” they could say, “Mrs. Jones needs a DAA change. I was going to tell her to come back tomorrow. It’s not urgent, she needs to add a vitamin. She has a med summary from the doctor and enough packs for tonight. Are you happy with this?”
    • This approach develops their problem-solving skills and saves you time.
  4. Set Clear Boundaries:
    • Be clear about your limits. When trying to answer everyone at once, each person gets less of your attention. Set realistic wait times and communicate how you will prioritise the order which you’ll address each issue. This ensures you can focus better on each task.
  5. Review Your System:
    • Reflect on past high-stress moments and assess the processes in place to minimise them. Consider solutions such as:
      • Placing questions in the dispensary queue.
      • Designating a front shop and a dispensary point of contact, particularly during busy times.
      • Reviewing what decisions you can delegate to others. Clarify your expectations to empower your team to make decisions independently where appropriate.

By implementing these strategies, you can create more time and mental space, allowing you to engage your thinking brain, explore multiple options, and avoid default behaviours that may not serve you or your staff well.

Having the confidence to break the ‘norm’ is good for leaders and good for business.

To change you need awareness of the problem, the confidence to stretch and the tools to adjust. The Emotionally Intelligent Pharmacy Leader’s Program gives just that.

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