Be A Good Leader By Knowing Your Values

Last night, I went to the retirement party for one of my mentors, Trish. I had so much fun reconnecting with the pharmacists I worked with when I was fresh out of pharmacy school and started my first job at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Metro stays with me. I am the pharmacist I am today because I worked there. 

I asked my pharmacist friend, Karey, who has over twenty years at Metro, “What is it about this place that’s so special?” She thought about it for a minute and then said, “We share a deep camaraderie with each other.” 

The pharmacists at MetroHealth all worked well together, there were few call-offs, the morale was good, we had lots of fun and worked really hard. We shared one common value and that was patient care. No matter what was going on, the top priority was our patients.

What Karey hit on was that there was an underlying force of shared values that connects us. The camaraderie comes from the fact that each of us pharmacists, whether we still work at Metro or not, values patient care above anything else. 

Shared values are what make companies, families, and other organizations strong and resilient. Lining up with what you value is a good way to conserve energy, find happiness at work and connect with others who are like you.

Signs and Symptoms of Forgotten Values

One symptom of forgotten values is when your job is making you feel frustrated or unfulfilled. You’ve noticed morale is low including your own. Maybe you’ve even found yourself getting upset about the little annoyances that every job has such as when coworkers forget to do a certain task, your boss does not answer your emails, or when you have to work an extra evening. Maybe, on the drive home, you find yourself wondering what your life would be like if you decided to be a teacher or financial planner, instead of a pharmacist. 

These are all signs and symptoms that you’ve lost track of what’s important. The reasons why you do what you do. It’s easy to see how this could happen in healthcare. We are expected to do so many things and all at once. We want to do it all, and we want to do it well too. But there are forces working against us.

The Forces that Pull You Away from What’s Important

There are big and powerful entities that have their own set of priorities such as the pharmaceutical companies who want to sell more drugs and hire big ad agencies to help them. Insurance companies that get between the doctor, patient and pharmacist in order to save money. You may even think that your company with staff cuts and the focus on meeting metrics, that you don’t allow you the time and energy to properly care for your patients. 

Even the people you work with, even though they have the same education and wear the same uniform, may not share your values. As the leader, you may be tempted to let someone off the hook in an attempt to be liked instead of staying true to what’s important to you and holding them accountable. It’s not easy to stay the course against these forces. However, it can be done, and the struggle is worth it. 

How to Remember Your Values 

Most of us know deep down what’s important to us. Think back to what your parents or grandparents taught you. Those simple lessons like “Treat others as you’d like to be treated,” or, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” or as my dad used to say, “Do everything you do with a good heart.” Everyone has some memories of life’s lessons being passed down in little phrases like this. They’re little value reminders. As a young pharmacist, I learned these lessons every day from the influential women in my life: 

  • Stand up to the doctor if you know what you’re suggesting is in the patient’s best interest.
  • Don’t take long breaks. It makes the workload much harder on the rest of the team.
  • Keep a positive outlook. Don’t complain. It brings the department down.
  • Show up early so the shift that’s ahead of you can get out on time.
  • When you’re speaking to the attending physician, make sure you can back up your recommendation. He’ll respect you for it.

Even though I’m a grown up woman and a grown up pharmacist, I still like to think of these things to help me stay motivated. I remember the ones who shared my values and I feel braver.

Another thing you can do to give yourself a little dose of courage and joy is to talk about your values even if they’re not work-related. Then see if you’re walking your talk. Are your actions lining up with your values? For example, if honoring your parents is a value both you and your spouse share, then think back to the last time you reached out to your parents or visited them. This way you can see if your actions are lining with your words. Go through a few of your values with your spouse or trusted family member. This little exercise will get you in the right state of mind. 

Now you can think about your actions at work and if those line up with your values. Let’s say you value kindness. You want your staff to be kind to each other and your patients. You know that kindness is like medicine as it makes your patients feel better, which also promotes loyalty. The next time you’re at work, look for opportunities to show more kindness. Can you gently show them how they could’ve handled the situation differently? Have you been unkind to a patient or a coworker? If the answer is yes, stop beating yourself up about it. Look for the next opportunity to do better. People always remember the last interaction you had with them, so there is always an opportunity for a do-over. 

Final Thoughts

There are forces both big and small that can pull you away from your values. Thankfully, there are ways to guard against this. Even though it might seem like it’s easier to just go along with what others want to get along or the fight seems too big, it’s not. You don’t have to fight it all at once or even every day. But you can do and say something every day that is in line with what’s important to you. 

When you act and speak in line with what’s important to you, you can be true to yourself. Here’s the thing you probably don’t realize: Others are watching. You are actively encouraging others to stay true to their values.

Next week’s post is a follow-up on how to build a community to support you in what’s important.

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