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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.

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.

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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.

skylineIn our continuing effort to inform LL&F readers about leadership training opportunities, I want to tell you about a fabulous opportunity I have been helping plan.

So You Want to Be A Director? is a preconference being held on April 5 at the PLA 2016 Conference in Denver, CO. This workshop will feature some of the most seasoned and innovative directors in the public library world. Participants will not only learn practical information they can use right away, but also leadership theories and the soft skills all directors need to succeed. Our group of experts will discuss topics such as emergent leadership, organizational health, and strategic planning. This is in addition to the breakout tables where directors will discuss HR, budgeting, customer service, programming, media relations and more. So if you are a new director or just want to start gathering the skills needed to be one, this is the perfect opportunity for you!

The first few LL&F readers who attend will get a special prize! Just say to me the secret phrase “Yes, I will buy you a delicious Denver beer.”

Flippin’ Busy

Kevin King —  November 18, 2015 — 2 Comments

flipboardThe past couple of months I have been burning the candle at both ends. This means that the blog has been taking a backseat to things like sleeping and eating. Even though I have not been posting as regularly as I would like, I am still monitoring articles, reading books, and viewing other blogs on leadership. I save the best stuff on Flipboard an amazing tool that allows me to “flip” great articles I find on the web into a “magazine” so I can refer to them at a later date. Many of my blog posts are based on something I have “flipped” into the Library Lost & Found Magazine.

I encourage you to use Flipboard online or download the app. Afterwards be sure to follow the Library Lost & Found Magazine. You’ll find a lot of great resources to help you be a great leader and you just might learn a thing or two.

The pile of leadership books that I want to read is growing. I recently added four to the list that I hope will help me grow as a leader.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Bilding Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest by Denise Lee Yohn

A Curious Mind: A Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

All of them have something to do with innovation. This is a trait that leaders often fail to improve. When you foster and encourage innovation within your team, you not only contribute to organizational health but you also keep your mission moving forward. This is why I am constantly trying to seek out the best ways to exercise the innovation part if my brain. Let’s hope the weight of my book pile gives me a good work out.