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Coworkers in a serious discussion with text 4 ways to heal your team after a micromanager
If your predecessor was a micromanager and you are more of a collaborative type of manager, you may have some clean-up to do to get your new team on track. Here are a few tips that will help you know where to look, and how to repair the damage.

1) Review all rules

Sometimes libraries can go a little overboard with their rules. How strict do you need to be with staff and patrons? Take a look at your policies and procedures and see if they need to be loosened up. Check out job descriptions, too. Do they reflect the needs of the library and is there some flexibility built in? All of these changes will require board (and union) approvals but it will be worth it to have everyone on the same page.

Also look for meeting minutes. These may give you an idea of how much control your predecessor had over things and how much staff were allowed to contribute to decisions. One person cannot possibly have all the answers. Were a variety of voices being heard?

2) Enjoy the honeymoon period

Staff will be so excited by hearing the word “Yes” for the first time that they may build up confidence and get carried away with requests. You will be such a breath of fresh air and will probably end up confused by why their requests seem like such a big deal. Some micromanagers are change-averse and use their power to say no to just about everything.

When the ideas and requests really start flowing, you will eventually have to draw a line and park some of the requests. Staff will have to get used to the new world of ideas and how they need to be managed properly (Why should we implement this? Do we have time right now? How should it be prioritized? How do we do it properly? How will we evaluate success? Do we need to create an experimental space to pilot new ideas?)

3) Wean your staff off dependency

Your priorities will be different than your predecessor’s and they should mirror your job description. For example, working on a presentation for the local Chamber of Commerce is probably going to be a higher priority than filling the golf pencil holder. Micromanagers seem to have an incredible amount of energy to work on everything but their own job duties. Delegation will be very important here and you need to tread carefully.

Find gentle ways of breaking it to your staff and support groups that things are going to be different. For example, you may need to review with your Friends of the Library board what you can and cannot legally do for them. Chances are your predecessor was doing more than just being a representative of the library at this group’s meetings. Be firm about your duties and priorities. Tell staff and support groups all the great things you’re doing so they understand you are being a productive member of the team and then delegate the rest.

4) Build staff’s self-esteem

Now is the time to let every staff member know what they are doing right. Library Lost & Found has some great articles about praising staff. They are used to being criticized or never doing anything quite right. Let them know when you like what they are doing! It’s time for some positive reinforcement.

Being the new boss is never easy. Taking over for someone whose management style is completely different than yours – especially when their style was toxic – means you have your work cut out for you. Your style may be welcome in some ways and confusing in others. I hope this article has given you a few places to start looking to find out which changes need to be made and which expectations need to be redefined as you begin leading your new team.


Do you have a favorite employee? It’s OK to have a favorite. What would you do if that person left your organization for another job? Would you be surprised?

book cover for The Stay InterviewI was talking to a colleague yesterday who was lamenting the departure of a couple of her staff and how sad she was to lose them. Is there anything you can do to avoid a similar fate?

Shortly after our conversation I was doing one of my regular walks around inside my building when I noticed a book on display in our New Books area: The Stay Interview: A Manager’s Guide to Keeping the Best and Brightest by Richard P. Finnegan.

I’d heard of an exit interview but not a stay interview. I was intrigued. The book description explains that a stay interview is a “powerful new engagement and retention tool.” Sure, you’ve been trying to check in with your staff and see how things are going, but are you asking the right questions to determine if your employees are happy with their jobs?  Are you and your employees on the same page when it comes to expectations? Could you be assigning more challenging work or perhaps helping your employees prioritize their work better so they’re not feeling so overwhelmed? It’s easy to get busy but these regular check-ins could be the key to avoiding the loss of those staff who are pushing your organization forward.

If you are ready to try this out, please be open to the answers you will hear. Any defensiveness of your part will make this whole process a waste of time. Your job is to listen and understand. If you and your staff person aren’t on the same page then it is time to communicate expectations or use your power to clear roadblocks. Work on a plan together that comes with a timeline. If you have an employee thinking of leaving, there may still be time for you to have a second chance to win them over.

For more information, check out the Stay Interviews book, or check out questions to create your own stay interviews:

As a bonus, spending some time answering the questions listed in these articles for yourself may help you work through burnout and find your own way to happiness at work. Your answers could highlight some changes that you need to make to reinvigorate your passion for your own career.


On not checking out

Donna Feddern —  May 10, 2013 — 3 Comments

laptopgirlFeaturePlanetSenioritis (noun)
As defined by Wikipedia: a colloquial term used in the United States and Canada to describe the decreased motivation toward studies displayed by students who are nearing the end of their high school, college and graduate school careers.

Remember those last days of school when you all you could think about where the new adventures life had in store for you? Well, it happens again in life when you have accepted a new, exciting position or are about to enter relaxing world of retirement. We’ve all seen our colleagues check out during these times and may even have been guilty of it ourselves. Most coworkers are willing to cut you a bit of slack for tuning out a bit more or being less motivated. However, your lack of productivity does hurt your team and even the community you are serving. So here are some tips for keeping yourself focused on the present even when your fantastic future is just weeks away!

  • Pass it on
    You probably know things about your job that no one else in your organization knows. Now is the time to figure out who will be taking over you job duties. If someone outside the organization will be replacing you, try to write everything down and organize all your files (digital and hard copy). If someone inside the organization will be taking over your duties, now is the time to do some training. You did a fabulous job, right? Why let all your knowledge, planning, and organization go to waste?
  • Remember that people are still counting on you
    If you’re at work, you should be doing work. Now is not the time to start new projects that will eventually be dumped on someone else’s already full plate but you need to keep up with your other responsibilities so as not to add more work to the person who is taking over your duties. Remember you are still a valuable member of the organization and that people need you. Granted, this will be easier if you have been a respected member of staff and work with a productive team.
  • Stay professional
    Even if this is a bad breakup and you cannot wait to leave your dysfunctional organization, you need to be the bigger person and remain professional. You’ve heard it a million times – don’t burn any bridges. This is especially true in the library world since it is so very small and there is always someone who knows someone who may eventually tell the story about how you acted badly during your last days at your most hated job.
Pop Up Podcast van

Joanna and Viktor showing off the Pop Up Podcast van.

California librarians early in their career have a unique opportunity to build their leadership skills. The Eureka Leadership Institute, a partnership between the California State Library and Infopeople, provides 32 librarians with anywhere between 3 and 10 years of experience, an opportunity to work on their skills by participating in a 6 day residential leadership program held in three parts over the course of one year.

The details of what happens at the Institute are shrouded in mystery. This is so that participants don’t arrive with expectations and so that they see it as a safe place where they can feel free to challenge themselves without being afraid of an official record or recording. To give you a better idea of what is involved, here is a basic outline of activities:

  • Application/Acceptance
  • Homework assignments
  • Attend first 2 Days of Institute (meet/work with fellow participants and mentors)
  • Write LSTA grant for project (must be responsive to community needs and fit California LSTA guidelines)
  • Implement grant project
  • Encore event (2 days together)
  • Anniversary Event (2 days together)

I have the pleasure of working with a Eurekan (how they referred to themselves) so I interviewed her about her experience so far. Teen Librarian Joanna Axelrod, recognized as a 2011 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, was one of the 32 applicants chosen to participate this year.

Why did she choose to participate in Eureka?
“I wanted to be part of the club”, Joanna says. Everyone she met who had participated in previous years spoke about Eureka with such passion and praise. She wanted the opportunity to expand her professional network and says that the network that results from attending Eureka is “like going to a conference times a thousand.” Eurekans tend to develop close bonds that continue for years to come. The support from colleagues who are just as interested in leadership as you are, and from mentors who take a personal interest in developing you as a leader, make it an unforgettable experience.

What has she learned so far?
Joanna has learned a lot about her own personal leadership style. As an extrovert and someone not afraid to take the reigns, she challenged herself to not be the first person to volunteer for leadership roles in group settings. Surprisingly, she found that not being the official leader or the first voice heard, did not impact her ability to contribute her leadership skills to the group. Also, getting feedback from the mentors and other participants has helped her realize her strength as a public speaker.

What is it like working with the mentors?
Every group of Eurekans gets to work with mentors who are mostly directors from California libraries. Joanna found this experience very beneficial because it gave her the opportunity to see life outside her own library. She got to learn about different leadership styles and what other libraries were doing. It truly broadened her horizons and she was happy to network with these amazing leaders. She also appreciated the honest feedback they gave during her first two days attending the Institute.

Joanna’s project for Eureka is called Pop Up Podcast, a free, after-school activity that provides a fun, creative environment for teens to engage with audio recording technology and explore their own self-expression and presentation skills. Joanna travels to two off-site locations with Digital Services Librarian, Viktor Sjöberg, to teach teens about podcasting. The project is going great and Joanna is looking forward to telling her fellow Eurekans about it at the upcoming Encore event. In the meantime, she is keeping in touch with them and getting their support as the project progresses.

I wish I’d known about Eureka before I reached the 10-year mark in my career. If you’re working in a library in California and are interested in leadership, I encourage you to consider applying for the next Eureka Leadership Institute. The library world can use more Eurekans!


I was upset this week when I heard that Google Reader is going away, but the reality is that I find most of my professional online reading (articles and blog posts) through my Twitter feed. I’m following over a thousand people and they post a lot of interesting links. However, I am always looking for other news aggregators that suggest great articles, so I was very excited when my friend sent me a link to a NY Times blog post about this new app called Prismatic.

I downloaded it right away and spent the rest of my Friday night reading great articles and sharing them on Twitter. I logged into Prismatic through my Twitter account and it got a sense of the topics that interested me and allowed me to select which ones I wanted it to add to my profile. You can also search for any other topic that interests you and add it to your preferences.

I found this great Forbes article: How To Become A Successful Young Leader At Work
I think anyone early in their library career would benefit from the tips such as: volunteer opportunities allow you to get leadership experience, books are still great sources of advice on how to improve your leadership skills, and sometimes a good way to make your mark is to come up with solutions to problem areas which have been ignored for years.

I love reading management books but I don’t always have the time, so reading Prismatic articles on management is going to be a great way for me to keep learning and getting inspiration. I encourage you to try it and see if it works for you.