The Mound Visit

photo credit: Thomas Huston via photopin cc

photo credit: Thomas Huston via photopin cc

Recently I was attending a Detroit Tigers baseball game with my daughter.  She is still learning the game, so when the manager left the dugout to go talk to the pitcher during the middle of the game she was confused.  “What is he doing Dad?,” she asked as the skipper made a slow strut to the pitching mound.  “He is checking in with the pitcher to see if he is feeling OK, if he needs anything, remind him of the game plan, or to simply encourage him,” I explained to my young fan.  This question got me thinking.  How many times do we check in with the players on our team?

The quick check in, or mound visit, is essential for a healthy workplace.  If we are being observant of our team it becomes obvious when one of them needs a visit.  How many times a week do you simply stop by an employee’s workstation to see how they are doing?  Do you regularly talk to staff about what they need to succeed?  Are quick morning meetings in which you review the events of the day commonplace?  Is recognition and encouragement the norm?

I’m a huge fan of the idea that leaders try their best to interact with their team members once a week.  The benefits of leaving your dugout to be more actively involved in the game are enormous.  This is something I have decided to committing myself to doing during the second half of the year.  I also love the idea of short, 5-10 minute, morning meetings just before you open.  This allows for a review of the day’s events as well as a chance to recognize and celebrate success.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Bull Durham is when the catcher Crash Davis , played by Kevin Costner, calls time out to talk to his pitcher Calvin LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins (see below NSFW).  LaLoosh is nervous because his dad is in the stands cheering him on, so Davis does what all great catchers do and distracts him.  Soon the rest of the team is at the mound discussing their problems and Davis goes on to help them all.  Don’t be afraid to visit the mound.  Make it a regular part of your leadership duties and it will result in a winning team.

Let It Roll

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

A co-worker asked me the other day how I manage to let things not bother me, or shake things off easily when I am bothered. It’s true, I have a fairly easy-going personality and it takes quite a lot to really get me worked up – but this post is not about me or about personality types. It’s about the answer to the question: How can we let things roll off our back more easily? At the time I told the co-worker that I guess it’s just the way I’m made and I don’t know why or how I am this way; I just am. I think there is a better answer, though.

  • Acknowledgement. It’s not about not being bothered. Of coursewe should be bothered when we are stressed out, insulted, or harmed in any physical, mental, or emotional way. The trick (for me, anyway) is to not let that negativity fester. Acknowledge it, deal with it, and move on.
  • Pick your battles. You have to decide how best to acknowledge the negativity. Sometimes it requires confrontation and sometimes that confrontation is more painful than the original stressor. What is it worth to you? Do you think that the person or situation that caused you stress will be “fixed” by the confrontation? If so, confront. If not, let it go. You can’t fix everyone and everything that is negative in this world. You can, however, choose which battles to take on and put your energy into those things, rather than feel negative about everyone and everything all the time.
  • Stay in control. If someone insults me, I have two choices. One option is to fight back and ramp up the negativity one more notch. Was I still insulted? Yes. Do I feel better after fighting back? No, it works me up even more. Option two is to shake my head and ignore it, hoping that the person who insulted me got what they needed out of the interaction. Do they feel better? I doubt it, but apparently they felt the need to act out, so I hope it did something for them! Do I feel better? No. I’m still insulted. BUT I DON’T FEEL WORSE.  I am in control of how I allow negativity to affect me. I am in control of my actions. I can’t control others, and honestly, the energy it would take to fight back is energy I could save for more positive interactions. So I usually choose to ignore it and move on.
  • Perspective. Compare the situation to other negativity in this world. Are there people in worse situations than you? I don’t mean you should compare your crazy boss to starving children, either. The starving children always win the game of “who has it worse.” I mean that you should compare it to a similar situation. Is your crazy boss better or worse than not having a job? Is s/he worse than your friends’ crazy bosses? Can you live with your situation when you put it into perspective of the rest of your workplace? Perspective also applies to the rest of your day, going back to picking your battles and staying in control. Put the situation into perspective of the rest of your day. If you are honest, many times you will realize that if this is as bad as it gets, it’s still going to be a pretty good day. Maybe I was late for work, stubbed my toe, and forgot my lunch, but you know what? My family is healthy, my car started, my co-workers are fantastic, and a patron appreciated my help.

Life is good.

Bullseye

 

Drawing of bullseye rendering of Ring Theory for Leaders

For leaders, it’s more like “comfort in” and “dump out.”

The Ring Theory of Kvetching has been all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds these last few months, shared over and over again as a guide for avoiding saying the wrong thing to a person in crisis. The concept is that you put the person in crisis at the center, then draw concentric rings representing close family, close friends, colleagues…with each successive ring representing people who are further from the central person. The idea is that you send “comfort in” towards the person at the center, and “dump out” anger, frustration, fears to the outer circles.

It struck me that the Ring Theory is backwards for leaders. If the leader of an organization is at the center, with concentric rings rippling out to represent colleagues, trustees, stakeholders, and patrons, then the Ring Theory for Leaders becomes “comfort out” and “dump in.” I know that I spend a lot of my time putting comfort out to my coworkers, my board, my partners, and my patrons, while taking in their concerns, opinions, complaints, and suggestions.

You see the problem, right? Where does a leader find balance in this scenario? To whom does the leader turn for comfort in the face of a lot of dumping? For me, it points out the need–the requirement–for leaders to network with their counterparts in other organizations. It drives home the truth that there are few, if any, people in the organization itself who can provide that kind of comfort and understanding to the leader. I think it’s important to have a  network of managers and directors at other libraries, people who will understand your struggles and provide support when you need it, so that you can provide support to them in turn. Most importantly, having a network outside of your organization will help you continue to provide “comfort out” while dealing with the “dump in.”

Renovation Realities

We just finished a small renovation project at my library. The library is about 53,000 square feet, and the renovation affected about 8,000 square feet, but it was an important area–right in front of the entry, so it affected everything. (Click on over to our flickr to see the befores and afters.)

New seating, new flooring.

New seating, new flooring.

The whole project started with flooring; the main entry is a high-traffic area and the carpet was very worn. As part of our strategic plan we were examining the use of space in the library, and decided to put together a group of employees to evaluate the way our residents interact in that main space, do some research, conduct some site visits, and brainstorm ideas on what we could change to improve our service. They then met with the designers, Library Design Associates, who took their ideas and desires and wishes and came up with a great plan for a consolidated service desk area to replace the three separate service points we had before. The end result is beautiful, I think, and that’s due almost entirely to the work and contributions of the people on the committees.

Before any demolition or construction began, we did a lot of planning. We knew we wanted to do the work soon after the new year, and worked backwards from there to come up with a timeline for decision-making and interim deadlines. We had some delays when our electrician had to back out of the project just before work was to begin, and of course we had the “usual” construction delays (stuff didn’t come when it was supposed to, stuff broke, snow storms), but because we built in some cushion, we remained largely on schedule.

This was my first big construction project here, and I am so proud of my staff and my patrons. We had to temporarily move an entrance, move checkin operations, and close the children’s library for two weeks, but everyone remained excited and in good spirits. It was great to see everyone pull together, and to see every day how they continue to work together as one library team.

We have just a few punch list items, including signage–we are heavily debating verbiage and wording right now!–but I think the renovation looks fantastic thanks to everyone’s planning and hard work. We plan to replace the rest of the flooring in the library over the next several years, using donations and money that we’ve been setting aside for just this purpose, so stay tuned!

ILS upgrade, a sprint triathlon of sorts

photo credit: zen via photopin cc

photo credit: zen via photopin cc

Sprint triathlons are shorter than the Olympic race and seem like a blink of an eye in comparison to an Ironman event.  Upgrades are a sprint triathlon of sorts, you don’t need to plan and train as long as a new Integrated Library System (ILS) implementation, but you do need to be prepared. As there are three legs to a triathlon: swim, bike and run, there are three phases to an ILS upgrade: planning, testing and upgrade.   There is a bonus fourth phase if all went well – euphoria.

Planning
As a project manager for an ILS upgrade, this is not the time to be seen flailing.  You need to be strong with a clear message and plan; communicate the reason for the upgrade.  Is your library a beta tester?  Will the upgrade eliminate a problem or two?  Is there a new feature that you are excited to implement? Anytime there is an inevitable or upcoming change, you can expect a little  dissent and fear from your colleagues, patrons or funders.   Look at your annual library use statistics and find a time when the library has lower door counts and circulation.  You can’t predict blizzards and other natural disasters, but holidays, baseball season and other community events do effect your library.  Use data from your ILS , not your intuition and decide the best day and time to upgrade.  Once a date is set add to the project calendar multiple training dates and times for staff.  If your library is fortunate enough to have a training server to load and test the new software before “Go Live” let staff know when the software is going to be available to them.  Communicate any changes to the plan.

Testing
This phase in not only a test of your patience, but also your workflow, homegrown scripts and customizations. If you don’t already have a dedicated testing server then take advantage of any training that the ILS vendor provides.  If the upgrade has significant changes to workflow give all staff the opportunity and compensation to attend training sessions. If you do have a training server, issues that are revealed and dealt with before the go live date minimize frantic phone calls on day one. If your ILS has an offline mode, have planned fire drills practicing the procedures of circulation and patron  registration without the luxury of confirmation and verification, just in case the upgrade takes longer than expected. The  last thing you want to do is be blindsided or ill-prepared to handle everyday library business.  Keep track of questions that arise during this phase.  You might need to log these with the ILS support staff or  find “workarounds” to obstacles in workflow before the upgrade.

Upgrade
The big day has arrived, the upgrade went as planned and the phones are quiet. Unrealistic? No. If you planned,  tested and trained in the weeks leading up to this moment then show stoppers,obstacles and workflow kinks have already been worked  out.  Be relieved when the first complaint of the day is “How come my notices print in landscape instead of portrait?  It is wasting paper.”  Euphoria!

5 Non-Library Websites You Should Be Reading Right Now

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

If you are like me, you have probably got a whole slew of blogs and websites about library work. However, in my experience, if you want to see the big picture or find the next big idea, you will need to look outside our circle of library people. Here are some websites that I put on my reading list.

Ask a Manager

Alison Green is a former manager that answers questions on everything from resumes, interviewing to being productive on the job. Every library supervisor should read her stuff religiously. Even if you have no aspirations for management, Ask a Manager, puts problems in context and also helps you manage “up”. Job hunters will love the advice on cover letters, resumes and interviewing.

My personal favorite: 10 Worst Holiday Party Disasters

Evil HR Lady

This one is one of my favorites! Evil HR Lady is Suzanne Lucas, a former human resources manager. Like Ask a Manager, Suzanne answers questions on everything human resources. I can’t tell you how many times I have used her for my “reality” check. Not sure something is legal? ethical? or practical? Evil HR Lady has you covered. Even if you are just a minion out there in the working world, this blog will tell you what to expect from an employer (beyond a paycheck).

HBR (Harvard Business Review)

HBR is one of the best places to get your head around big ideas in leadership, work performance and strategic thinking. The format is a bit longer, but worth every paragraph.

Recent Favorite: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To

Forbes

Like HBR, this is where go for more big picture articles about leadership and management. On the left hand top right menu pick the Leadership category and you are good to go. Job hunters: there are some really good tips for writing resumes and great advice for interviewing.

Recent Favorite: Leadership Lessons from Animal House

Lifehacker

I can already hear everyone saying that this isn’t really a business blog or management blog. It’s a blog about tips, strategies and shortcut in everyday life. I always think this is a great source for what I will tactfully call “getting your crap together”.

Even if you don’t like my favorites, try expanding your library reading to the non-library world. Hanging with “civilians” can be illuminating.