Holiday Tunes for You!

Kevin King —  December 1, 2016 — 1 Comment

For over 15 years, I have been crafting a Holiday Mix for my music loving friends and family. I consider it a musical Holiday Card to help you get into the giving spirit. Since many of you like when I post playlists, I thought I would share with you the 2016 Mix! I encourage you to listen to these tunes with thoughts of how you can become a better leader in 2017. We all know the world could use some good leaders.

 

Happy Holidays from all of us at Library Lost & Found!

All throughout my career I have tried to periodically get up from my desk and take a walk. One of the main reasons is being able to see the library as a patron (see the fabulous post 4 Ways to See Your Library from a Patron’s Perspective), but another is to simply step away from the routine tasks that keep you chained to your desk to gain new insight. Recently I discovered a great article from Rodale’s Organic Life in which the writer Kayla Lewkowicz took walking breaks every day at work for a month. What she discovered was that taking a short walk away from your desk every day made a huge difference in her approach to work.

I Took Walking Breaks At Work Every Day For A Month, And Here’s What Happened

If you are searching for ways to be more productive, healthier and happier I suggest scheduling time to step away and take a walk!

My library is currently undertaking strategic planning. As part of the process, our consultants (Right Management) are also leading us though “employee engagement.” Employee engagement is the extent that employees are committed to their jobs and, in our case, the library as a whole. Employees who are more engaged in their work and in the organization are generally more dedicated to helping achieve the goals of the institution. To this end, our employees were invited to take a test called the Birkman.

The Birkman identifies your interests, your normal actions, your stress actions, and your needs. The stress actions are those you display when your needs are not met. The report places a different symbol in one of four colored squares on a grid to graphically display where you fall in each of these categories. There is a red square (expediter), a green square (communicator), a yellow square (administrator), and a blue square (planner). There are also implications for task-oriented vs. people-oriented and direct vs. indirect, tangible vs. intangible, and louder vs. quieter. Apparently, my normal actions and interests fall strongly in the yellow square and my stress actions and needs are in the green square, but fairly close to the blue square. No surprises there!

Grid with four quadrants: Expediter, Communicator, Administrator, and PlannerThe Birkman also suggests careers that are most suited to you based on all of these things. Apparently I’d make a heck of an administrator, but should also consider literary, scientific, and numerical occupations. Of course, I’m not career-searching, but together these descriptions validate my career choice as a librarian middle manager: administrator = management, literary = information/books, scientific = research, and numerical = analytical/metrics. Those are all descriptions of me and my work, so it seems pretty accurate.

The employees who chose to take the Birkman were promised anonymity. We are all welcome to share our results as we see fit and self-disclose our results – and many did – but some people took the test for their own personal interest and have not shared the outcome. That’s totally fine! The idea behind sharing is so that you understand each other better and form the most efficient team possible, but there is certainly no rule that says anyone has to share their report. I believe strongly in personal privacy, so I’m glad everyone got the choice to participate (or not) and to share their results (or not). We were shown a composite grid with symbols representing each employee who took the test to see how we as an organization are distributed on the chart. There were no identifying characteristics – just a dot on the chart for each person – but it was interesting to see that the librarians mostly fell in the blue square, the administrative staff fell mostly in the yellow square, and as a whole staff we were fairly evenly distributed throughout the grid. The green square was the least-represented.

I’m fine with sharing my results, so I’ll give an example of how I could use my Birkman results. When projects are doled out for our strategic plan, I will happily volunteer for administrative projects that include things like quantifying results, measuring achievement, monitoring progress, or implementing a system. Those are all interests within the yellow square of the grid. I will avoid innovating, getting people to “buy in,” and selling or promoting services. Those are green square interests. (Remember, my green square identifiers were only for stress actions and needs. My normal actions and interests are in the yellow.) Also, I will be aware that my needs do not necessarily match my actions. I may show a proclivity for administrative activities, but I also have a need to keep unnecessary rules to a minimum, not overschedule myself, and vary my tasks. Those are the green square needs. When my yellow square interests are not met, my stress behaviors are defined by the green square, so I may become unsociable, easily sidetracked, and argumentative. (Who, me?)

The Birkman is much more complicated than I can go into in a blog post, but hopefully you get the idea of what the Birkman is and how it can be used for employee engagement. As with anything like this, I will take my results with a grain of salt and use it as a general guide for consideration. It won’t change who I am or how I behave – and it isn’t meant to. However, it just might make me communicate better with my co-workers and more efficient in my approach to projects.

Still Stunned

Kevin King —  November 17, 2016 — 1 Comment

shutterstock_116560858The 2016 Presidential Election was ten days ago and I am still stunned. Immediately afterwards I imposed a media blackout on myself and took a Facebook sabbatical because I did not want to see any headlines. My stomach was messed up and I woke up often in the middle of the night worried about the uncertainty of a man in the White House who did not remotely share any of my values. I felt alone. I wanted to be alone. I am willing to bet that these feelings were not uncommon.

Eventually, I realized that although it was understandable to want to withdraw, pulling people closer was actually healthier and a sign of a good leader. Executive coach Mary Jo Asmus recently wrote on her blog that,

It’s time to pull closer to people.

There is no better time than now to pay more attention to the people around you. Start with your loved ones, including the ones you’ve distanced yourself from during this divisive time. Move outward to friends and neighbors. And of course, be present to those who rely on you at work to lead them through their fears, anger, and disappointment.

Asmus goes on to list four things you can do to help the people feeling stunned and powerless during this post-election time. Leaders can easily adapt what she has written to help their teams cope.

  1. Care for yourself first – During times of crisis or turmoil, great leaders need to become symbols of stability and strength. This means before going to work, take care of yourself first.
  2. Be present and vigilant – Now is not the time to hide in your office. It is important to check in with your team. Asmus writes, “This is not about who won or lost, and not the time for you to express smugness or dismay. It’s the time to notice and just be there for others.”
  3. Listen to understand – Leaders that promote a trust-filled environment understand that there are times when you need to listen to someone even when you do not agree. It is important to be sure you are listening to EVERYONE on your team, no matter who that voted for last week.
  4. Have compassion – It is going to take time for many to move away from sadness and move to action. Likewise, some on your team may even want to enjoy the results of the election a little longer than you would prefer. It is important that you have compassion for both no matter which candidate you supported.

Our world is entering a time that will consistently challenge both our emotions and ability to lead. Great leaders will take on that challenge and find ways to pull their teams closer together to not only provide a sense of safety but to also inspire the team to take on the responsibility of making the library a safe haven.

open book with title: Leading Without Supervising

I’m not a supervisor. Or a manager. Or even the cruel or gentle taskmaster of one student employee. But, in some respects, I feel I’m a leader in my professional life.

From my own experience, and from watching others in action, here are some elements I’d call “leading from within.”

Taking on leadership positions

Want your voice heard on policy decisions? Being an officer on a committee is frequently the path to that goal. In that role you may have a tad more clout in shaping discussions.

Enjoy organizing, hate evaluating? Both ongoing organizational groups, as well as ad hoc projects, need people to create expectations and shape projects. The payoff? Earning significant input into processes and outcomes.

Responding

Are you asked for input? Rejoice! Your opinion may be the one that makes something a whole lot more marvelous. (Or it could be ignored. Such is life.) My biggest challenges? I’ve got two. The first is working on only responding when I’ve got something useful to say. The second is responding when the issue seems unimportant to me, but is obviously important to the person asking for input.

Offering a friendly shoulder

Personal life? Professional life? Some elements inevitably intertwine. Fellow employees may seek someone who’s not their boss, and may not even be someone they regularly work with, as a sounding board for issues. Earning this kind of trust feels terrific. And knowing you’ve cultivated the shoulders of others to lean on, as the need arises, is a comfort.

Are there downfalls to choosing the route of subtle leadership? Yes:

Feeling left out?

Yeah, too bad. Designated leaders do earn the inside track on many matters.

Feeling a slight unease

Though I’m too far along in life to feel much true embarrassment for any decisions I make that don’t kill kittens, I have, more than once, endured a sort of squinty look from official leaders, usually accompanied by a questioning tilt of the head, when I say that management was never in the cards for me.

Being a nosy body

When you’re not a leader, but brimming with brilliant (brilliant, I tell you!) ideas, you may be perceived as offering your opinion on (a.k.a. sticking your nose into) too many issues. Which leads to the next point.

Needing to learn patience

I’ve learned to wait longer than I used to before noting a non-urgent perceived problem. Generally, that problem is being addressed somewhere in my organization.

Salary

Yeah, there’s that. But other non-monetary rewards may be offered or available if your value is noted.


I do feel there are some specific benefits to leadership without supervision. One is the ability, as even a longtime employee with “high level” expectations from management, to participate in frontline service. Having the experienced and the freshly passionate working together is to everyone’s benefit. Those who’ve been around have great breadth and depth of information. Newer people notice new angles and directions.
Perhaps the leading from within choice best fits a person with dilettante tendencies. Hey! I can’t lead! I think. My mind, which I acknowledge has only so much capacity, overflows with ever-tumbling thoughts and ideas that cry to be examined and acted upon. And I even follow-up on some! I feel certain that daily oversight of others and big picture thinking could make the whole shebang just explode.