Leverage pharmacy employees’ strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses


Focusing on strengths improves engagement, productivity and performance 

In brief:

  • While pharmacy owners are engaged, the majority of U.S. workers are not.
  • One way to boost employee engagement: focus on people’s strengths, not weaknesses.
  • Focusing on strengths boosts engagement, productivity and performance.
  • When managers (including pharmacy owners) focus on strengths, they manage differently.
  • There are multiple tools and resources to help become strengths-based.

Most pharmacy owners are engaged and passionate. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the majority of American workers. Research from Gallup1 shows that:

  • 5% of U.S. workers are “engaged”
  • 9% are “not engaged”
  • 7% are “actively disengaged”

These numbers are largely unchanged over the past decade.

Per Gallup, “Engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work … employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization’s financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Engaged employees drive the innovation, growth and revenue that companies need.”

Three key questions to determine engagement

Former Gallup researcher and best-selling author Marcus Buckingham has said that among hundreds of questions that can be asked to discern engagement, three are most powerful:

  1. At work, do I have a chance to do what I do best every day?
  2. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  3. Are my colleagues committed to quality?

People are engaged when their boss knows them, when they are provided with clear expectations, when they are able to do things they are good at, and when they work with others who care deeply.

Also important is, “Does my supervisor seem to care about me as a person?” When people feel cared about they are less likely to have accidents on the job, less likely to file workers’ compensation claims, less likely to quit, less likely to steal, and more likely to recommend the business to family and friends.2

Create engagement by focusing on strengths

Every person has strengths and weaknesses. In most work situations, employees and managers both tend to focus on weaknesses.

  • When employees are asked what will help them be most successful, almost 70% of people say fixing weaknesses will help them be more effective, while only about 30% say that building on their strengths will lead to the most success.
  • When managers provide feedback, it typically focuses on getting employees to work on and improve on their weaknesses.

book-cover-now-discover-your-strengthsBut a series of books (like Now, Discover Your Strengths) by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton (termed the father of strengths-based psychology) propose a unique approach. They suggest focusing on identifying and enhancing people’s strengths, rather than attempting to eliminate or correct weaknesses. Building on strengths is seen as the most effective method for motivating people.3

Gallup has found that focusing on strengths works.4

  • People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged.
  • Teams that focus on their strengths are 5% more productive.

“Gallup research proves that people succeed when they focus on what they do best. When they identify their talents and develop them into strengths, people are more productive, perform better and are more engaged.”

— Gallup Strengths Center5

To help employees and employers identify strengths, Gallup offers the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, which is available online for as little as $15. More than 13 million people have taken this assessment.

Great managers help people play to their strengths

Buckingham has written extensively about the traits of great managers. He says that great managers realize that each person is different. They also realize that to create the most effective team and to achieve the best possible business results they must identify and leverage each person’s unique strengths. Great managers leverage strengths and play to them to turn talent into performance. Buckingham has said, “The way to win is to leverage strengths.”

In regard to how they allocate their time, Buckingham says that great managers spend 80% of their conversations with employees focused on leveraging strengths and just 20% discussing how to work around weaknesses.

Leveraging strengths in retail pharmacy

In his book The One Thing You Need to Know,6 strengths-based management expert Marcus Buckingham focused on the management style of an effective retail pharmacy manager. This manager:

  • Concentrated on identifying the unique talents and strengths of each employee. For example, one person was an analytical introvert who liked being given very specific projects he could work on alone; another was creative and great at customer service.
  • Redesigned tasks to play to each person’s strengths. Instead of cross-training and having each employee do a little bit of everything, this manager revised job responsibilities to play to and leverage each person’s strengths. By doing things that leveraged their strengths, employees were more engaged and more productive. The result was a better team, where each person valued the contributions of others and worked more effectively.
  • Provided frequent positive feedback. Buckingham cited research that fewer than one third of people report receiving frequent praise or recognition for good work. This manager understood employees’ strengths, put employees in positions that leveraged their strengths, and then praised them for their strengths.



1 Little Change in U.S. Employee Engagement in January, Gallup, February 8, 2016 Link
The One Thing You Need to Know, Marcus Buckingham Link
3 Amazon Editorial Review for Now Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton Link
4 Gallup Strengths Center Link
5 Gallup Strengths Center Link
The One Thing You Need to Know, Marcus Buckingham Link