Archives For morale

It’s 8:55 and I fall into my desk chair. Then in an almost zombie-like state, I turn on my computer, take a swig of coffee, and let out a huge “sigh.” The clock has not yet indicated that it is officially time to start the work day, so I try and use the remaining minutes to work up some motivation. Unfortunately my efforts are futile and my day begins being frustrated that my energy reserve is already depleted.

How many of you feel that way? Many people consider me super high-energy, but even I struggle from a lack of motivation every so often. This is not a bad thing, it happens to the best of us. The trick is to make sure you identify and attend to it before it spirals out of control.

Sally Blount, the dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management writes in in Fortune that, “The research, both academic and applied, is consistent and can be summed up imply; Staying motivated at work is about five things.” Blount goes on to write that the first four things are all about the job and the last is about you.

  1. Right mission – If you are not fully behind your library’s mission, then finding motivation to move that mission forward is going to me really difficult.
  2. Right job – Finding motivation is super easy when you are using your talents to move the library mission forward. Seek out the jobs and task that best utilize your skills.
  3. Right boss – Maybe the most difficult. If you do not trust your supervisor and believe that they also want to move the library mission forward, motivation is super difficult to find. I find that working hard at being a great leader myself will often inspire your boss to work towards moving the library forward.
  4. Right team – Surround yourself with co-workers who have a work ethic that most resembles your own. Teammates that will challenge you to work at a top level will keep you motivated.
  5. Right attitude – Great leaders need to know when to step back and assess their attitude. Talk to your most trusted colleagues about your own performance and really listen. Challenge yourself to investigate your own actions towards moving the library mission forward. Have you been a roadblock? Blount writes, “I’ve observed that the best CEOs are really disciplined about self-assessment and renewal.”

The wise philosophers the Beastie Boys once stated “It takes a second to wreck it, it takes time to build” (A song that was really an anti-George W. Bush song). A constant lack of motivation will lead to actions as a leader that can destroy bonds of trust and halt a library’s progress. You must know when your motivation is beginning to wane and take the time to build it back up.

hand giving a thumbs up

Compliments are just as important to library leaders as they are to everyone else. In the last two days I’ve received three compliments about my work. This is notable for several reasons:

First, they were compliments about my work product/work style, and not my hair or clothing. I’m way more interested in being perceived as competent and good at my job than being perceived as fashionable (this is a hallmark of being an INTJ). Because so much of my work as a library director is about glad-handing and being out in public, most of the compliments I receive are about what I’m wearing or what I look like.

Second, they were spontaneous compliments. Unsolicited work compliments are rare for me, and I assume for any manager. Being a library director is a singular, and often lonely, position, so there’s little opportunity for the kind of camaraderie and support that other library staff provide each other. If I ask a coworker “What did you think about my presentation?” I worry that it puts them in a weird spot because I hold power over them, so where’s the incentive for them to be honest? I totally get that. So to have coworkers tell me out of the blue that I did a good job is a real ego-boost.

Lastly, I hardly ever get compliments anymore, and to get three in two days is way out of the norm. Partially it’s because a lot of the work I do is amorphous, long-term, and difficult to quantify, so how does anyone compliment that? I think it’s also because I don’t have someone onsite daily who monitors and reviews my work, so I don’t get feedback on a consistent basis.

Managers like compliments, too! If you have a great boss, or great boss’s boss, I encourage you to let them know when they’ve done a particularly good job on something. I know the three sets of kind words I’ve gotten recently will get me through the next several weeks, if not months.

Remember That Guy?

Kevin King —  May 10, 2016 — 4 Comments

Remember that guy that gave up? Neither does anyone else. – Unknown

My past few weeks have been filled with incredible highs and depressing lows. The problem is that I am perseverating on the lows. These lows have been very tough and I have caused me to fall prey to a very defeatist attitude. I write this not to elicit sympathy or emails that encourage me to “hang in there” but to remind all of us that this is part of being not only a leader, but human.


When I feel this way I start to create a movie in my head. A cinematic masterpiece in which I am the downtrodden hero combating evil on all fronts. This means at work, I start to interpret all slights as criticism. This “movie” when watched by others will often result in your team wanting to create some distance from you. Thus you are less likely to give them what they need to succeed.

The challenge is to stay focused on not only taking care of yourself, but also the immense responsibility of leading your team towards success. Smashing the projector that is currently screening that horrible movie in your head is the first step. The people you work with are not villains, so stop thinking that they are out to foil your plans. The second step is to start taking care of yourself by practicing mindfulness. In a recent article from Harvard Business Review, the benefits of taking time to relax and breathe at your desk throughout the day helps both your focus and awareness. Being more in tune with your leadership goals and team will help pull yourself out of the quagmire of misery.

Most importantly, I remind myself that I do not want to be the guy people forgot. I do not want to be the guy that gave up on his team. I especially do not want to be the guy stuck crafting sequel upon sequel for the cinema in my head. I focus on taking care of myself, so I am truly present for my team. This intentional action only will help me escape the lows that threaten to keep me down.

How do you keep away the depressing lows that threaten not only your team, but your own mental health? Please share in the comments below.

Rising to a leadership role can make you feel disconnected from front line library work. You might even forget how to librarian.

One library director wrote about this feeling, highlighting the change from instruction to administration:

So, maybe what I’m trying to do is put myself out there and say, out loud, that I feel a little lost. I am looking for my peers…my community. New(ish) library directors or other administrators who don’t always feel like they belong, don’t know which circles they should be floating in, don’t always feel like they can identify anymore as librarians. But, they love what they do.

Building a community of library leaders who love what they do is, in a nutshell, the mission of Library Lost & Found. We want to create a community of peers to talk about leading change, moving things forward, and even just the nuts and bolts of managing people in libraries.

Some ways to combat feeling lost after moving into leadership:

  • Find a wide group of peers (as BossLady mentioned)
  • Work a shift on the ref or circ desk into your schedule every week, even just a few hours
  • Take steps toward being the awesomest leader you can be
  • Focus on the impact your library has on users – and how you can make it more meaningful

It might take time to find your footing after moving into an administrative role. Leadership is critical to making libraries great, but the role means a significant change in how you focus your time. Feeling a little lost is OK.

three_new_yoga_posesThe lesson I learned in yoga that stuck with me the most is the balance between pushing myself and giving myself rest. This was taught through the poses in yoga: hold that warrior two a little longer but ease up when it’s time. Give your body what it needs whether that’s more effort or more rest. This lesson has translated to every area of my life. I use this pursuit of balance when I decide what to do with my time, my exercise, and my work. I like work a lot. Like, Leslie Knope levels of liking work. I like to be busy and work hard, pursuing projects and solving problems. I have a tendency to push, push, push, constantly taking on more without taking into account whether I have the time or energy to do more. Because of yoga, I’m learning to temper my work love with some self care. If you’re not familiar with the concept of self care,  you might be interested in this blog: If you need more convincing, take a look at this blog post about how one librarian uses self care outside of work to be a better librarian : Self care outside of work will make you a better worker, a better librarian or library professional, and a happier person. But what about those hours when you are at work? Those can be, even for a work lover like myself, some very stressful hours of the day. Here are ten small strategies that can serve as jumping off points for self care at work:

  1. Take your breaks: You have them, take them. What can you do in 15 minutes? More than you might think! Walk around, get a drink of water, read a book, do anything to give yourself a break from your work and preferably from your work station and screens.
  2. Let yourself off the hook: Did you just do something kind of dumb? Maybe you screwed up and told a patron something not quite right. While it’s a great idea to honestly evaluate your work and look for improvement, obsessing about something that’s done and over with isn’t any good. If you did something wrong ask yourself if it can be fixed. If it can, fix it and learn from it. If it can’t, learn from it and move on. You are only human.
  3. Self-sooth: As a person who struggles with anxiety, I have learned the value of having a list of self-soothers at the ready. If you get stressed or anxious or have a bad day, what can you do to get yourself together again at work? Try some things out and see what works for you. My list includes a cup of super hot tea or coffee, a brisk walk, a piece of dark chocolate, one of the songs from my Anthem List on Youtube (more on that in a moment), or, when things are really dire, a good quick cry.
  4. Refocus: It is easy to let one bad interaction with a coworker or patron to get you down. Once you’ve tried to process the situation, try to gently shift your focus. If you find your mind returning to that situation, try to think of the positive things that have also happened. Our minds tend to hold on to the situations that made us unhappy and forget the happiness. For example, on a day I had a patron yell at me very harshly, I also had three patrons who thanked me sincerely for my help, and at least ten patrons with whom I had neutral interactions. I am not going to let the yeller be the thing I remember from an otherwise great day
  5. Call in sick when you’re sick: If you have the sick time, don’t come to work when you are sick. It does a library no good to have you sniffling at the desk, not doing your best work and infecting coworkers and patrons alike. Stay home, you’ll feel better faster!
  6. Ask for help: If you aren’t sure about a policy or procedure, ask your supervisor or a coworker. I can’t tell you how many times I have stressed myself out over not knowing an answer or suspecting I’ve been doing something wrong instead of turning to the person sitting 3 feet from me an asking their advice. This wastes time and valuable energy and is no good for you.
  7. Breathe: Seriously. Deep breath in, slow controlled breath out. Or even listen to the rhythm of your breathing without changing it. You will be amazed how calming this is.
  8. Laugh: It doesn’t even have to be laughing about a stressful situation, simply having a laugh with your coworkers can help take away the stress.
  9. Play an anthem song. I created a play list of songs (some songs are a little NSFW so tread carefully) that pump me up and make me feel like I can take on the next challenge (or at least do a quick dance when no one’s looking). I’ve linked to my list but I think it’s important to choose your own songs. The Meet the Press theme isn’t going to do it for everyone, but it helps me!
  10. If allowed, take a quick look at blogs or Twitter: my blog feed in Feedly and my Twitter feed are full of librarians. Taking a quick glance can make me feel connected in a larger way to my profession. It’s encouraging to see what other smart, funny, great librarians are doing.

So remember: whether it’s your work-self or your home-self, take care of yourself! You’ll feel better, do better work, and enjoy yourself more. You’re the only you you’ve got! Take care of you!