What’s Your Why?

Just prior to COVID, I had the pleasure of presenting a session to pharmacists both in Vancouver and Toronto at PharmacyU where I posed to each group a question.  “Why do you do what you do?  Why are you a pharmacist?  Why did you go into the profession and why are you still here?”  I stated that indeed many of their colleagues have left the profession altogether, and many more are so disheartened you would never find them at a pharmacy conference. 

This question was a risky move on my part.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure at the start of the session whether I would even include the question.  I could’ve gotten all kinds of responses that perhaps I was not prepared to hear.  But I decided to risk it and gave the groups of pharmacists five minutes to discuss the question with the colleagues at their tables.  I then walked around to the tables to collect their responses and share them with the group. 

PharmacyU Toronto 2019

As I went around the room, in both Toronto and Vancouver, table after table resonated with a very similar theme.  In many varying ways, participants expressed that what got them excited about their work and why they continued to do what they do, is the difference they make in the lives of their patients.  In both rooms, at opposite ends of the country, pharmacists spoke poignantly about the patients they serve, the hopes they had entering into the profession, and the patients that keep them there.

The question of why we do what we do and what gets us out of bed in the morning is not my schtick.  I borrowed this from Simon Sinek, and if you haven’t seen his TED talk on this subject it is well worth the watch.  The reason I adapted the question for our own profession is that it is so easy to forget why it is we are pharmacists in the first place.  We are bogged down with negativity and the continual hammering at us from all directions chipping away at our professional identity.  It is vital as health care professionals to take back that identity and own it.

Leaders therefore need to first examine their own “why”, and if they don’t know it, it is exceedingly valuable to spend some time discerning what it is that gets them out of bed in the morning and into their pharmacies.    

As leaders and managers in our pharmacies, it is also essential to remind our team why it is we do what we do.   As the leader you must be able to clearly articulate the why to your team.  If we can’t articulate the why then how do we expect our team to know WHY to come to work?  WHY give their best?  WHY go above and beyond to provide exceptional care?

When people come to work with a higher sense of purpose they find it easier to weather storms; hard times, times of increased stress, difficulties and conflicts. People with a strong sense of “why “ are less prone to give up after tough times or failures because they understand the higher purpose.  It also results in a team that will provide exceptional care to patients, not because they have to, but because they WANT to. 

Simon Sinek