Archives For trust

Trust in the Library

Jessica Jones —  January 12, 2017 — Leave a comment

Bookshelves with bright lightbulb and title Trust in the LibraryLibrarianship is one of the most trusted professions. Our patrons trust us; the public trusts us; but, what do we do when we have trust issues within the library itself?
When I was the director at a small college library, we had trust issues within the institution. Significant ones. I managed this by working to make the library “campus Switzerland” and actively avoided the academic politicking that was happening at the time. In keeping the library a safe space, we thrived in comparison to many other departments. We still felt the effects of the larger institutional issues, but it was mitigated considerably by everyone making efforts to keep divisive issues out of our space.

Having already learned that lesson, my next position at a public library followed what I understood to be a very contentious manager, over a bigger staff than I had at the college. These were mostly site-specific issues, and, without the threats of employment termination and organized protests (the college was an adventure), I made the mistake of underestimating the problem at the public library. I thought that if I were proactive in repairing the damage previously done to the manager position, while forging positive relationships with my new staff, that other issues would gradually untangle.

To a degree, they did. I did individual interviews with each staff member, made an affinity wall, improved some IT processes, implemented a new chat program so that communication between separate desks would be more fluid, and troubleshot acute issues as they arose.

The thing is, trust issues don’t often correct themselves. Few problems do. When a manager instigates conflict in their staff, they don’t just compromise the staff’s relationship with the manager. They also compromise the staff’s relationships with other staff.

This feels obvious in retrospect. It was pointed out by a staff member who came to me to talk about trust in our building and the patterns she was noticing. I am not happy with myself for not seeing this earlier. This is the part of introspection that is more disappointing than insightful, but the two sides are equally important. It’s how we learn to do better.

It is our job as leaders to be responsive and our duty as fellow humans to be empathetic.At the college, I was partly successful because of my own efforts, but, in hindsight, I recognize that some of it was also fortuitous timing. The problems at the college were not endemic when I arrived, and I was able to get out in front of them to minimize damage. I cannot manage my current staff’s trust issues the same way I managed my former staff’s. Trust is complicated. It is multi-faceted and affects every possible permutation of involved parties. When you have a big staff, like I do now, it will be an ongoing struggle. It would be short-sighted to underestimate these issues.

So what do you do when you finally see the problem?

I am in the process of figuring that out, but I have some ideas. You know those terrible trust exercises that everyone hates? They have a purpose: to give people an opportunity to test their relationships in a controlled environment. We will also be having more staff meetings where we prioritize and facilitate discussions regarding personal conflicts in the professional sphere. I am scheduling follow-ups with individual staff members to talk about their needs and insecurities. And, I’m asking my staff to be active participants in helping themselves.

photo credit: Cracker Jack via photopin (license)

photo credit: Cracker Jack via photopin (license)

Oh new job jitters! It’s stressful and disconcerting to go from a job where you felt secure in your knowledge and role to a new job where you don’t even know where the bathrooms are. This is especially stressful when you want to be a leader in your new job. You want to do well! You want to impress! You want to leave your mark! You want…a pen, where is the supply closet again?

I’ve been experiencing this phenomenon myself and as I come out of the new job haze (I know where the bathrooms AND the water fountains are!) I have a few tips to share. I share these tips from two perspectives: trainer and trainee. One of my last projects at my previous position was to train new student assistants. Obviously, one of my first duties in my new position was being trained. Going from trainer to trainee helped me get a smooth start in my new position and now I hope to help you whether you are starting a whole new job, starting in a new department, or taking on a new job duty.

1. Be patient.

Nobody expects you to be an expert on your first, second, or even fourteenth day on the job. Nobody, that is, except for you. I’m sorry to report that you are going to feel awkward and lost for a while. If you embrace this you put a lot less pressure on yourself to be amazing right now. This leaves you more brain power to learn your new duties instead of beating yourself up for not knowing something.

2. Be quiet.

There is an urge to prove yourself in the early days on a new job. If someone is showing you something that you think you know, you’ll have the urge to interrupt, take over, or tell the person you already know that. Instead, just listen. You might not know it. You might not know all of it. Or you might think you know it but surprise, this is something different.  Managers usually have a system in place for showing you the ins and outs of your new job and the most impressive thing you can do while being shown new things is to listen and ask questions. A manager will be able to tell by your questions and by watching you in action that you know a process. Obviously there are exceptions: if someone else has shown you this procedure already or if you are totally comfortable with a process, it’s fine to speak up. Just don’t feel like you have to call out a bunch of answers to a process you only sort of know in order to impress. Again, go back to number 1: no one expects you to know everything right now.

3. Trust yourself.

Confession time: on my second day at my new job, I was at the circulation desk and the phone rang. And I stared at it. It rang again. I stared. I stared until it stopped ringing. It wasn’t until the moment the phone had started ringing that I realized I didn’t even know what to say when the phone rang! No one had told me! I completely missed that call because no one told me how to answer the phone. Which, of course, is silly, because I know how to answer a phone. I’ve been answering phones in one way or another my whole life and professionally for over sixteen years. You, like me, were hired for your new job because you have skills, experience, and the personality for it. The hiring committee knew it, so don’t you forget it when you’re on your new job. Of course you’ll do silly things like not answer the phone and it’s ok, the library is still standing and I am not fired, but remember: you know how to do a lot of this already. And if you don’t, just ask for help. Trust yourself to know how to answer your metaphorical phone.

Good luck out there with new jobs and new job duties! It can be a stressful time but it is ultimately rewarding to challenge yourself and learn new things. Just remember: be patient, be quiet, and trust yourself.

Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain.

Simon Sinek

Trust

Back In Full Effect

Kevin King —  October 2, 2014 — 2 Comments
photo credit: msaari via photopin cc

photo credit: msaari via photopin cc

Thanks for finding us.  We were lost for a few months.

The leaders behind Library Lost & Found want to earn your trust again as a source for practical and sound leadership advice.  Good stuff from the trenches.  It certainly does not help when the blog drops off the grid for a few months.

How many times as a leader do you feel like you have lost the trust of a team member?  It is not a great feeling.  I was really worried that our absence may result in losing your trust as a reader.  When I started thinking of how the contributors of LL&F could get you reading again, an email from the Harvard Business Review appeared in my inbox that really helped.

In her blog post Carolyn O’Hara outlined four easy ways to build and keep the trust of your team.  Every suggestion helped me reevaluate the charge of this blog.

  • Make a connection. – We have enlisted seven new contributors!  All of them are from different types of libraries all over the United States.  Most importantly each one is at a differently level in their leadership career!  We hope that you will connect with the diverse voices writing about their experiences.
  • Encourage rather than command. – LL&F is not a “how-to” manual.  The goal is to share the honest stories that provide insights on how to lead in libraries.  Success will be measured if we encourage you to become a better leader from what you have read.
  • Take blame, but give credit. – Some of the best posts come from stories in which we failed.  The contributors are not above admitting mistakes in their own leadership adventures.  We will share when we mess up and will celebrate the people in our lives that help us lead.
  • Show competence– LL&F is committed to not only waxing poetic about the leadership battles that make us strong, but also providing scholarly research.  Expect to see more links to articles on leadership from different professions, resources that support the journey, and insight from the people charging forward to make libraries great.  Don’t worry, we will still try and make you laugh as well.

LL&F is back in full effect.  Ready to be the trusted blog you visit weekly to discover “library leaders dropping knowledge.”  Thanks for coming back to pick up what we are putting down.

Pull Over, Watch This

Kevin King —  December 3, 2013 — 3 Comments
Officer Elton Simmons

Officer Elton Simmons

I just discovered the best customer service training video and it is a news story about a cop.  It is less than three minutes long, but in that short time it encapsulates how public servants should interact with patrons.  Click this link to watch it. 

Officer Elton Simmons has made over 25,000 traffic stops over the past 20 years in Los Angeles County and has received ZERO complaints.  That is not a typo, ZERO complaints.  Think about it, this is a guy who issues tickets and not one single person has complained.  Unbelievable.

What is his secret?  It is so incredibly simple – he treats all people with respect.  Officer Simmons explains, “I’m here with you, I’m not up here” (motions his arm up towards the sky). One thing I hate is to be looked down on — I can’t stand it — so I’m not going to look down at you.”  Wow.  Read that again.

Below are the things Officer Simmons does when interacting with individuals:

  • Uses a tone of voice that is a perfect blend of authority and diplomacy
  • Displays no attitude
  • Gives individuals the benefit of the doubt, even though he still might issue a ticket
  • Refrains from laying a guilt trip on the person
  • Smiles!

When he practices the above Officer Simmons immediately disarms the person from giving him an attitude.  These actions instantly deescalate a possible bad interaction and the driver actually ends up appreciating what he is doing for them.  Which is GIVING THEM A TRAFFIC VIOLATION!

Our goal as public servants should be ZERO complaints.  Like police officers, most library employees are supported by taxes paid by the people they serve.  This news story proves that it is possible to work every day providing exceptional customer service without a single patron complaining about the treatment they receive. It is imperative that we strive for Officer Simmons type numbers if we hope to become an essential service to our communities.

The key is respect and trust.  Library employees need to trust that every patron that enters the building has noble intentions.  We need to respect that a patron’s reason for visting is to possibly try and better their lives by maybe researching information, finding a book to read or even discovering a great movie.  It is time to climb down from the Ivory Tower built on intellectual superiority and simply be with the patrons we serve.  We need to be down here.