Please take time to listen to your team when they come to you

Experienced pharmacy leader, Shilpa, shares the skills that she has picked up throughout the years that help to ensure good wellbeing in the workplace.

I’m Shilpa and I’ve been a registered pharmacist for 23 years.

I have spent my career working in Community Pharmacy, having worked for two large multiples and an LPC, and  am currently a CEO for Community Pharmacy North East London (NEL LPC).

Learning to listen

In my personal life with friends and family, I’ve always been a person that people come to when they need help or support. I have always made time to listen and give advice. 8 years ago, I became a Samaritans volunteer, and the training taught me so much about being a good listener without giving advice. By listening and asking probing questions I have learnt that most people know the solution to their worries and concerns, they just needed a little encouragement to get there. It’s important to note, however, that even when people have a solution or a plan, it’s not always easy for them to implement … it can often be quite complex and may take time and courage.

I have had a leadership role from very early on in my career, and over the years have learnt so much about the role of a leader in ensuring good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. In all honesty there has been more focus on this over the last few years than there was when I first started out in pharmacy. When I first qualified, we didn’t really talk about wellbeing or mental health in the workplace or at university.

Empathy is a key skill that all leaders should have

In the workplace over the years, I’ve always found it important to have an open-door policy for anyone to come and have a chat about anything. Early on in my career I was quite rigid in my way of thinking and often felt that as a leader, I needed to remain professional and not be as personal with my team. However, I learnt very quickly that to be a good leader you have to be your authentic self. Of course, there needs to be boundaries between a leader and their team but it’s ok to talk about life and experiences outside of work and to laugh with your team. It builds a level of trust and respect which creates better team working.

As a leader I strive to get to know my colleagues not just in a work capacity but personally too. Empathy is a key skill that leaders should have. How people are feeling in work or outside of work will affect the work they do; they can’t just leave those feelings at the door. It’s even harder if it is work that is causing them to feel unhappy, anxious, worried etc.

How to get support

As an employee if you are struggling with your wellbeing or mental health, I would encourage you to speak to your line manager. If that doesn’t work speak to someone else – many workplaces now have external organisations that employees can use to talk to. Pharmacist Support also has a confidential Counselling and Peer Support service that’s available to pharmacists. Use all the resources around you to get the support and help you need in the way that works best for you. I know it can often seem difficult but everybody I’ve ever spoken to who has reached out for help has always said how much better they feel.

Leaders, please take time to listen to your team when they come to you and allow them to have a safe space to offload. It may not always be easy to listen or even to find the time to listen, and you won’t always have the answers, but by listening and being there for your colleagues together, hopefully you can come up with a plan that will help the colleague. As a leader don’t be afraid to reach out for help yourself if you need it. It’s like they say on aeroplanes – you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others with theirs.

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