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Learning how to Lead Change

While working in the Poplar Drug Store in Elmwood, Kim realized that the recipe for success is hard to bake into a standardized scorecard that thousands of stores spread out across the country are expected to follow. The one- size-fits-all approach drove business, but not necessarily culture. The threshold score to “meet expectations” was 77 points out of a possible 100, with up to 50 points earned through customer ratings and the other 50 from sales. In some stores, this created conflict among Poplar’s employees who felt at times they did not have ample time to help each customer as quantity of interactions seemed to be valued just as much, if not more, than the quality of them. With the current scorecard structure, stores could somewhat mask issues with customer service if the sales volume was there, which had been the case in Chelsea. Though sales levels accounted for only 50% of a store’s score, it was Kim’s impression that financial performance played a significantly greater role in determining how stores were assessed, including managerial bonuses. Why else would Chelsea’s lower scores have been tolerated for so long by upper level management at Poplar’s?

The Elmwood store was a high performer before and during Kim’s time there, scoring in the low 90s and earning the designation of “outstanding performer.” At first Kim found this ironic since Elmwood was a busier pharmacy with a less tenured staff than Chelsea. She quickly learned that there were key differences between the two pharmacy teams, accounting for their scorecard disparity. Part of what made Elmwood so successful was that everyone on the team knew how to do every task. This alleviated pressure on individuals and created a team environment where the staff knew they could rely on one another to get things done. Additional team-building activities, such as weekly competitions to see who could get the best customer comment or sign up the most customers for flu shots, created a fun atmosphere in Elmwood. The senior pharmacist and the senior pharmacy technician encouraged Kim to have weekly check-ins with each of her technicians as well as take part in team meetings, hiring interviews, and the quarterly performance review process. Kim knew she’d need to bring these practices to Chelsea. Her experience in Elmwood confirmed what she already knew. Scorecards and trainings do not teach passion, empathy, positivity, or trust—leaders do.

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The leaders in the Elmwood store, both in the pharmacy and the general merchandise section, shared Kim’s vision about how great Poplar could be for its customers. They emulated the passion they wished to see in their teams and led by example. They worked in harmony, offering associates from either section to help the other. Every employee in the store was trained to assist any customer, and coached on the importance of teamwork and great customer service. This was all done in addition to the standard training all Poplar employees were required to complete, and the Elmwood team lived out these principles every day. Elmwood even had an unofficial, motivational slogan that Kim found rather clever: “Who puts the U in PopYOUlar?” When an employee was recognized by a customer for a job well done or reached a goal or milestone, their picture was displayed on a bulletin board dubbed The PopYOUlar Wall of Fame. The caption on the board read, “Great job, and thank you! Poplar wouldn’t be PopYOUlar without you!” Kim loved this approach and recognized how happy it made the team at Elmwood. She spoke with the senior pharmacist and store manager to learn more about it. They believed that passion must start at the top—if the team doesn’t observe genuine enthusiasm in their leader, the shared goals become less important to them and they will pursue their jobs with less fervor. They encouraged Kim to be self- aware and think about how she could show her passion in her work to inspire others.

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