Pharmacy U

Do you have what it takes to be a pharmacy “leader”? Part 3 – Manage expectations!

GeorgeA NEW


by George Anastasopoulos


“I expect you to get this all done on time.” “I expect you to do everything I ask of you, when I ask.” “I expect no surprises.”


Ah, expectations. We all have them … express them … and expect them to be met.


You may have heard these words of wisdom: “the secret to happiness is low expectations.” How depressing! Well, I disagree. I contend that the secret to happiness isn’t LOW expectations, it’s NO expectations. Now you’re probably wondering how that’s even possible. “Ya, but I need to set goals and objectives,” you say. To be clear, I’m not talking about setting goals or objectives, more on that later.


I share a metaphor as an example. It’s the big game, both teams are well prepared, but the team expected to win … shockingly loses. Players, coaches, management, fans, the media are shocked and disappointed. What happens next? More scrutiny and criticism, curfews, more practices, more drills, and more intensity from the coaches.


The same thing happens at work. Managers create and communicate expectations. Then, they’re disappointed when they personally and others don’t meet those expectations. That’s to be expected (pun intended) because it’s business and more specifically running pharmacy retail, so ambitious (aka unrealistic) goals are the norm. That may be fine, but lofty goals turn into high expectations, producing disappointment and frustration for everyone. And that leads to anxiety, more “hands on” (aka micro-management), a fair amount of disempowerment, and a team playing not to lose rather than playing to win. Would you sign up for that? No? Then, why would your people?


Here’s today’s leadership tip to shift your belief system, and ideally your actions and behaviours.


Managers set high expectations.

Leaders have high standards.


In case you didn’t notice, check out the difference between managers “set” and leaders “have”. For leaders it’s a way of being (WHO they are), whereas for managers it’s about WHAT they do. The high standards that leaders have are clearly understood ways of thinking, behaving and acting. Then they do what managers don’t; they support people around them to rise to those standards.


The same metaphor: a big game and the team expected to win (by everyone except the team) loses. Interviews following the game praise players and coaches for preparedness, high quality of play, execution, how they improvised, and teamwork. They intended to win but did not meet their goal of winning the game. So, disappointment is muted, frustration is nonexistent, team cohesion is high and they’re heading into the next game on a positive note.


Now how about you and your people?


There’s hope for pharmacy managers. It starts this way. Stop obsessing with managing (controlling everything, getting everything just right, issuing instructions, and fixing everyone else’s problems).


I recently concluded a training and coaching program attended by managers in all walks of life called “Leading in an environment of chaos, urgency and change”. Hugely impactful for all participants. Yes, apparently managers everywhere and you too, can do less, accomplish more and make a difference. It’s a process, not a destination. Our next program is called “Winning big at a different game” and you’re welcome to check it out.


In the meantime, to move briskly in your journey, do this homework today…


  • Set SMART, ambitious goals. Then be clear in this distinction with your team: that you and they have intentions of reaching and exceeding the goals (following the plan you create), but hold no expectations of reaching or exceeding them.
  • Jettison your own expectations. It starts with removing the word from your vocabulary. Pay attention and when you notice yourself using “expectations,” replace it immediately with “intentions” or maybe even “anticipate.”
  • Demonstrate your high standards in the way you think, behave and act. Leaders lead by example and are the role models for others to learn from and apply themselves.
  • Support your people to rise to those standards. If you’re not sure how, start with asking them.


Doing one piece of homework will not miraculously solve all your problems but it will start your transformation. By contrast, I guarantee you that NOT doing your homework will definitely NOT solve any of your problems. Better still, reach out to me and in a half-hour I’ll coach you to deal with one of your thorniest issues as a leader.


Part 1

Part 2