Directly Speaking - Building Alliances and Accepting Compromise

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
April 9, 2013

Last time I checked, Illinois was still part of the United States of America, and the USA was still a democracy. And while hospitals and health-systems don’t always function as democracies, there are some lessons to be learned for a properly operating democracy. Having made that last statement, I am by no means endorsing the current political arena in the US as a properly operating democracy. The US and Illinois Legislative and Executive branches have lost the ability to compromise almost completely. Our elected officials need to reread their history books to see how the early leaders of this country envisioned our existence.

Unfortunately, the current political climates in Washington, DC and Springfield are out of my and our control, at least until the next elections when hopefully enough US and Illinois citizens will band together to demonstrate their dissatisfaction and disappointment at the voting booth! In the meantime, pharmacy and all of health care continue to face struggles as a result of factors. Cost-containment efforts, new challenging resistant infections, more government and accrediting body regulation and expanding technology and treatment options all pose unique challenges and opportunities for health care in general and for us, pharmacy specifically.

Just like the at the State and Federal level there is an important political environment, the hospital has its own political climate, albeit without the elections. But elections may be the only difference. In the politics of government there are alliances that often produce change at a faster pace than most observers would expect. Frequently these alliances are made of members of different parties making the effort bi-partisan. Sometimes it can be a struggle to build an alliance within a single party. But most times, it takes some alliance building to get bills passed or defeated.

In the hospital, it has been known to be difficult for pharmacy and nursing to see eye-to-eye. However, when they do and work for the common good, amazing accomplishments can be achieved! The same is true with pharmacy and IT or pharmacy and administration or even pharmacy and their suppliers. But whenever a win-win can be identified, the change usually moves quicker and the results are often magnified. This shouldn’t be a new concept.

But just like the Executive and Legislative branches of government in Illinois and the US, we forget that a decision to find a win-win rather than a winner-takes-all result can make accomplishing the goal possible and will often amplify the positive gains down the road. So building alliances should be an important function in every pharmacy director, manager and supervisor’s job description.

However, alliances with other departments may not be initially possible, so then what do you do? First, look for a champion or two within the department you seek to partner with to help you get the rest on board. Individual champions can facilitate the alliance building process, so tap into the relationships your staff members have built with individual members of the other department. Use all your resources, but remember what the Knight Templar warned Indiana Jones when he sought to select the cup he thought was the Holy Grail, “You must choose wisely!”

Selecting just anyone from another department to champion your cause could cost you any gains you may already have achieved. To put it simply, think of who in your own department would carry the least amount of influence with you and make sure you have done enough background work to make sure you haven’t selected that same type of person in the department you are trying to court. It makes the most sense to go after the most respected member of the department, but sometimes the hardest worker may be of equal value. This is why professional working relationships outside your department by all your staff are critical and should be encouraged whenever possible. As a matter of fact, feedback from other departments about positive relationships between their staff and the department staff could and should be used during annual performance evaluations! And for those of you who think, “I just need to do my job and I don’t have time to schmooze people outside of pharmacy!”, don’t say I didn’t give you a heads up.

As pharmacists we always talk about being a member of the patient care team, but as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians we also need to think more globally about being a member of the health-system team. Each member of the pharmacy department needs to build relationships with members of any department they interface with daily, weekly or even monthly. Each positive relationship will prove to be helpful sooner or later.

Once the relationships are identified, you will find it is difficult to go for the winner-takes-all objective because the relationship will be damaged or destroyed. Accepting compromise to get closer to your goal is better than losing an all out fight and landing further from it. Working with each other always produces more than working against each other.

Maybe instead of letting political leaders from opposing parties play golf together, we should encourage them to build a Habitat Home, serve a meal in a soup kitchen together or better yet, clean the litter off a section of interstate highway together! Then they would actually experience the benefit of working together, feel the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal and develop a relationship that is not based on competition but rather cooperation. Then building alliances and accepting compromise might come a little easier!

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