Archives For staff 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.

group of 4 people talking in a circle and talking with text "improve you library communication in 20 minutes with standup meetings"Internal communication has been a sticking point in for every library department I’ve worked in. Even within a team, employees felt like they didn’t know what their colleagues were doing.

Solutions to internal communication usually involve a lot of reading and writing. There are internal newsletters, emailed updates, or project reports. All of this written communication takes a ton of time and energy, with only mixed results.

If internal communication is a problem in your library, I want to share an almost magical solution that you can start doing right away. Even better: this communication fix takes 20 minutes at most.

A few years ago, I learned about a great solution to internal communication problems at a fantastic project management training from Megan Torrance of TorranceLearning. I realized in the training session that internal communication isn’t a problem unique to libraries, and that project management strategies offer a fix for this issue.

Many software development teams start each morning with a quick standup meeting to explain to what they’re working on that day.

Standup meetings are a classic project management technique. The idea is to keep each other informed about new projects, let colleagues know if their help is needed, and share a team sense of achievement. Participants don’t need to literally stand up; the name standup just indicates that you’re not going to be in the circle long enough to get settled in.

The time investment to payoff ratio is stunningly good. Each person is given 60 seconds maximum, so the standup meetings last only as many minutes as there are people.

I wanted to try standup meetings out with my circulation department, but I needed to tweak the format to fit our service-oriented work.

The timing was the first thing to change. Daily meetings seemed way too often. For one thing, we cover a wide variety of schedules to keep the library open, so it’s a rare day that we’re all here at the same time. Instead of daily standup, I settled on weekly standup meetings with my access services team.

The standup meetings have been amazing for our team communication. In just a few minutes, the entire team gets a sense of our biggest accomplishments and the challenges coming up.

I borrowed the format Megan Torrance shared at the training. We gather around our ILL processing table every Friday morning, and in 60 seconds, each team member is asked to share:

  • What you’re working on
  • What you need help with
  • (If you want to share) something that’s going on in your personal life

This basic outline results in a lot of information packed into 60 seconds. For instance, a circulation manager might say:

“I’m working on hiring new student employees to staff the circulation desk. I might need your help with some of new hire training, because I’ll be out on vacation next week if my kid makes the gymnastics semi-finals.”

These two sentences give the team a heads up that new student employees will be joining the department, that they might need to lend a hand for training and orientation, and that their coworker has something exciting going on at home.

As a manager, I really appreciate the communal format of standup meetings. Everyone’s voice is heard and my staff are giving status updates to each other, not just to me. Everyone at the standup hears that reserve requests are flooding in or that interlibrary loan urgently needs extra processing help, and we’re able to create a quick plan to deal with it as a team.

The better understanding of current workloads we get at standup meetings helps us empathize with each other. When you know your coworker is dealing with rewriting loan rules, you’re able to empathize with her, hold off on less pressing requests, and understand if she’s slow to get back to you.

The empathy also extends to personal life. If you know that your colleague’s sister is visiting from out of town, you understand why he’s really motivated to get out the door at 5 o’clock sharp.

Of course, all of these things could be shared in casual conversation. The beauty of the standup meeting is that it sets aside a small amount of time to ensure updates are shared, and that information is shared equally with everyone at the same time. Staff who felt out of the loop before are assured a place in the circle.

I also believe that standup meetings help us get more done. Saying out loud what you plan to accomplish instantly creates a feeling of accountability, so we get to work right away.

How does your library department keep up to date with each other?

Standup up meetings are the best strategy I’ve found for my group. They’re quick, effective, and help us feel connected. If your library department could use an internal communication boost, invest 20 minutes to try out a standup meeting.

The Hell of Holidays at Work

Mary Kelly —  December 2, 2014 — 2 Comments

jinglenoIt is that time of year. That dreaded time for the library/office holiday party. I have also referred to office parties as “forced fun”. I have endured in my more than 40 years of working (not just in libraries!) career ending cocktail parties that nearly ended with police intervention, expensive and stupid Secret Santa gift exchanges, and countless “parties” where attendance was more or less mandatory. Jesus himself, would slap these people.

Last year, Alison Green over at Ask a Manager wrote a wonderful article on holiday celebrations. If I could, I would take this article and email it to everyone I ever worked for and I would use it as a basis for any holiday plans in the office. Holidays can be ground zero for office morale and even the best intentions can result in poor morale.  Want some horror stories? Read them here.

In my own family I have had holidays where we buried a relative on Christmas Eve, had a hospitalized child, and waited for an eternity to find out if my husband still had a job. The last thing in the world I wanted to do is hang out and wear a Santa hat and make chit chat for what seemed like hours (unpaid). The holidays are stressful even if you have nothing planned or don’t celebrate anything. Don’t make it worse.

  • Bottom line: If you want to do something kind for your team or at least acknowledge the holidays in some way, try these ideas:
  • Bring in treats or sandwiches for the entire staff. Offer it up during the regularly scheduled work hours. Make participation optional. For example, set out some food in the break room and tell people to graze at their leisure.
  • If you are a boss, get out of the way. Make greetings and then leave. I don’t care if you are the most delightful understanding person around. Get out. No one wants the boss hanging around.

If you really want to reward employees, consider the only gift that is beloved by all – cash and or paid time off.

Sick Days SUCK!

Kevin King —  November 24, 2014 — 1 Comment
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

Already this fall I have been out sick a few days.  I am one of those people that has to be on their death bed to call in, which is ironic because I am the first to send people home who are feeling ill!  My fear of being out of the office is that the work will continue to pile up, but I need to get over that concern because I could be making life miserable for my co-workers.

Fast Company recently posted “6 Ways to Avoid Making Everyone in Your Office Sick.”  It is a great reminder how to make sure you have a healthy library staff.

Let It Roll

hhibner —  May 21, 2014 — 2 Comments
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.