Archives For praise

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.

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.

 

My library instituted a new staff recognition program recently called “Above and Beyond.” It was meant as a way for staff to recognize and celebrate each other and the extraordinary contributions they all make. It is a way to create positive energy in the workplace, which we can all use more of!

photo round squeeze toy with excited face, arms, legs, and thumbs upAnyone can nominate anyone else for an Above and Beyond award. They can even nominate anonymously if they want. They just fill out a form or email their nomination to the Public Relations and Marketing person saying who they are nominating and why. The nominee receives a “Squeezable Praise Thumbs Up Thanks for Being Awesome” guy and a certificate. They don’t get anything fancy or monetary, since that really wasn’t the point of the program. They get recognition and we all get warm fuzzies when we hear these positive stories.

The program is not meant for managers. If we start nominating people for awards, it could look like we are playing favorites. We have had managers (including myself) nominated anonymously (thank you, Anonymous!), but that is possibly so that they don’t look like they are sucking up to their boss. That said, managers could certainly nominate each other. We wanted to minimize all possibility for unnecessary and unintentional drama with this program and focus on the celebration of each other. So far so good!

Boosting Staff Morale

hhibner —  December 16, 2014 — 2 Comments

From time to time, in any institution, staff morale can wane. All kinds of stressors can cause it: budget cuts, staffing changes, planning huge events, and even the weather. (Last winter was brutal!) When it happens – and it will – here are some ways to raise staff morale.

It’s More than Just a Job
Make sure all staff members know that their work contributes to a greater purpose. Every single person on staff plays a part in the overall success of the organization. Certain projects can feel tedious, and other duties are just part of the daily grind, but reminding everyone that everything they do benefits our purpose can make everyone feel more invested in the work itself.

Celebrate!
Celebrate success! I just said that even the most mundane projects contribute to the greater good, so celebrate the success of the project. Celebrate milestones toward a goal. Take a minute to congratulate yourselves. It doesn’t have to be a full-on party, just a simple acknowledgement and some “go team applause” at a staff meeting. (Though from time to time, a treat is nice too. Bring donuts, provide lunch, or have a lunchtime Wii bowling tournament.)

Give the Gift of Time
This can be more difficult in smaller institutions, but you could award the staff with time. Give them an hour away from customers (and/or co-workers, if they choose!) to explore something new. They could read a book about a subject they want to pursue for a program. They could take a webinar or drop in on a lecture on campus. They could attend a program the library is offering. They could visit the local historical museum and wander around for an hour. If your organization can manage it, they could even volunteer their time in the community for that hour. Help plant flowers in the beautiful downtown! Help the animal shelter walk dogs! Read to the residents at a nursing home! It’s just an hour, so it won’t hurt productivity, but it lets them shake off all work stress for an hour, recharge, and get inspired.

We’re All in This Together
If you, the leader, build relationships with your co-workers that makes them trust you, they will understand that you’re under the same pressure they are. Possibly even more pressure.  I’ve written here before about leading by example. In this model of leadership, it is clear to everyone that you are all working toward the same goal, and that you’re all experiencing the same stress. You can boost morale just by being in the same situation they are and working together to make the most of it. I’d hate for my co-workers to think I wouldn’t understand their situation because I’ve never been in it. I have been there, and I am there with them right now.

Recognize
I think the worst thing a leader could do is to not recognize a change in staff morale. You have to be in tune with attitudes and energy levels. When people stop volunteering to help, when they are less enthusiastic about their duties, when they get sick or call in more often, or even get patron complaints, you may have a problem. Pay attention to changes in staff behavior and do something to try to fix it.

Kiwi Love

Kevin King —  May 8, 2013 — 5 Comments

268361436_640As leaders it is extremely important to acknowledge staff that are not only doing great work, but also helping promote your vision.  So often we get wrapped up in advocating the direction of the team, that we neglect lifting up individuals that have embraced the work towards achieving goals.  This type of praise is different than simply thanking someone for doing an individual task, which is very important as well (check out these LL&F posts).  What I have discovered is that when I lift up staff for furthering the vision and goals, I have reinforced the importance of the mission.  You will also find that reluctant staff may start to see the light.  The journey becomes much less fraught with peril.

Recently at Library Lost & Found we surpassed 10,000 views.  Although this might not be as impressive as other blogs, I am thrilled at the response in just under two months.  What surprised me the most is that the country that has responded the most to the blog after the United States is New Zealand.  Imagine my thrill when I discovered that the land of hobbits loves the library knowledge we are dropping.  So I would like to take this time to publicly thank the Kiwi library leaders who have been supporting our mission and spreading our ideas in their great country (I’m looking at you @sallyheroes).  I know that you will inspire the other countries of Middle-Earth to start reading our blog.