Posts filed under ‘Management of Libraries’
Back in March, at PLA, I remember Karen Hyman talking about authenticity in the lastest issue of Time magazine. It intrigued me enough to cause me to look into the issue of Time and then also interlibrary loan the book, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II.
While the book is definitely geared towards business I think there are lots of ideas that we in the library field can take and use to our advantage with our customers. Gilmore and Pine talk about why we buy what we buy and that currently, people purchase based on how well the items reflect what the person wants to say or project about themselves. Consumers will consider experience and products more real if they have a hand in creating it themselves. What it boils down to is creating an experience that is true to what you say you are.
Steven Bell echoed these sentiments at the FutureTech for Libraries Symposium in June. He explained that we are in an experience economy and that we need to be aware of the expectations that exist regarding services and technology.
So what does this all mean for libraries? Well, let’s think about a few key questions:
- What expectations do users have about your services? Are they positive or negative? Do you meet those expectations, even the negative ones?
- Are your customers able to personalize their services? Do you offer pointed email advisories? Can they customize their experience on your library’s website?
Gilmore and Pine say “Be what you say you are by finding your very own original way for customers to experience your offering in the places you establish” (p.152). It isn’t an easy proposition. It may take lots of work to make the vision and missions of our institutions to match and exceed positive expectations that people have about libraries of all types.
Important to remember is that “What you’ve done is what you are, and what you do is who you become” (p.218).
Sounds like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” Maybe that is exactly what we need to do.
What juicy vision gave birth to your Library?
by Peter Bromberg
Want an easy yet powerful way to re-energize and re-focus your passion at work? Clear five minutes from your schedule (yeah, you’re busy, but you can do it.) Pick up a pencil or a keyboard or a crayon and answer this question: What juicy vision gave birth to your library?
Think about it: Libraries don’t just appear. Your library didn’t just pop fully-formed into existence one day, did it? I’ve never started a library, but I’m sure it’s not a quick or easy process. A short list of needed elements might include: Funding, employees, land, building, furniture, collections, utilities, finances, training, computers. The creation of your library may have also required an expression of the will of the people, perhaps in the form of a public vote or approval from a Board or Commission.
So how did your library get here? There must have been many people involved and they must have really wanted to create it. A lot of time and energy went into it. These people, these ‘founders’ could have been playing golf, or spending time with their children, or watching a movie. Why did they choose to invest some of their limited time on this planet into creating your library? There had to have been one heck of a compelling vision.
THE JUICY VISION
Before brick one was laid, or book one was laminated, your library begin its existence as a vision in someone’s mind. It must have been an exciting, juicy vision, so filled with energy that people felt compelled to share it, and talk about it, and invest their energy and time into making it a reality. That vision must have turned people on.
“Yeah, a library… I see it! Information. Books on anything and everything. A great collection of materials. It will be a living reflection of our community’s values. It will help ensure a healthy democracy. It will be a place where people can educate themselves—level the playing field. A place for focused study. A place for serendipitous discovery. A place to bring the kids. A place to relax. A place to be stimulated by new ideas. Yeah, I see it!!”
People got so jazzed by this vision that they wrote about it and talked about it, and got other people jazzed to a point where a community of people said, yeah, let’s do it! We want it! Let’s spend money. Let’s give our time. Let’s develop some land. Let’s build buildings! Lets create something that will reflect this juicy vision. Let’s bring it to life!
My question is, what was this vision that got everyone so turned on that they got into action? What was their original intention in creating your library? What got them so motivated? If you want to re-energize and re-focus, try reconnecting with the founding purpose of your organization.
Start there, at the beginning, but also remember that organizations are like people; they are capable of changing and growing. The cells in our bodies today are not the same cells that were in our bodies when we were born. We are, physically speaking, a completely different set of atoms. Yet there is still some organizing energy that makes you, you and makes me, me. Ten years ago we were different people, but I was me and you were you. Our goals may have changed since then. We may have acquired new skills and abilities. The roles we play may have changed, evolved, grown. Maybe we’ve abandoned certain roles in exchange for others that make more sense for us. This is also true about your library. The people may have changed, the building may have changed, and the mission may have even shifted, but it’s still the same library. So start with the founding vision, but also think about what vision animates your library today. And what vision might animate it tomorrow?
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: A FEW JUICY QUESTIONS
- What juicy vision gave birth to our library?
- How does that vision inform, animate, shape, and energize what we do today?
- What is the purpose of our library today? Is the vision the same? If not, how has it changed?
- Why does the library continue to exist?
- What energy flows through this library, connecting all aspects of it?
- What purpose does the library serve?
- What purpose can the library serve?
- What purpose do we want the library to serve?
- What purpose do I want the library to serve?
- What can I do to bring the juicy vision to life every day?
I’m sure there are other questions that I’m not seeing. If you see others to add to the list, please leave a comment–and tell me about your library’s juicy vision!
Kate Sheehan had a wonderful post a week or so ago, Customer Service Mind, Beginner Mind, in which she writes about the value of looking at things with a fresh eye. It reminded me that every time I ever started a new job, I was hyper-aware of all the wacky things about my new organization; the signs that had been taped to the door since 1973: the restrictive (or just plain arbitrary and weird) policies that seemed to have no rhyme nor reason; the lack of basic equipment available for staff (no sliderules or abaci, but close.)
These awarenesses weren’t always negative. Sometimes I was aware of the amazing benefit package that everyone else seemed to take for granted (or even grumble about) ; or an incredibly efficient work flow or communication mechanism — like a wall in the staff room with everyone’s picture (Facebook 1.0), or a Director that was actually available to speak with employees.
But no matter how strong or strange these awarenesses were, they always faded away within the first few weeks on the job. It didn’t take long before my new environment would simply register as “normal.” Seriously, there could have been a chimpanzee in a tuxedo singing the star-spangled banner in the lobby; but if he was there on day 1 and day 2, by day 3, I’d be nodding and saying, “morning George, you sound good today. Nice job on the bow-tie…” In other words, I can’t underestimate the power of our brains to adapt and reset the benchmark for normal experience.
I always thought that those first few weeks as a new employee, when everyone told me everything and more, but no one asked me for MY thoughts or impressions, were a wasted opportunity. So when I became a department manager I made it part of the orientation process to squeeze these observations out of all new employees. I would literally take new employees to lunch and tell them that for the next few weeks, their perceptions were extremely valuable and encourage them to share with me if there was ANYTHING that we did that seemed odd, inefficient, wasteful, or stupid. Or amazing, creative, and blazingly brilliant.
If you can manage to get this data — heck, even one tiny piece of datum — from your new employees (give them a break now and then from reading the 250 page employee manual), you’ll have gotten some very useful information.
So. Submitted for your approval, here are my [drum-roll please...]
TOP TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK EVERY NEW EMPLOYEE
- What was your first impression when you walked into the library?
- What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment inside the building? What could we do to improve it?
- What are your impressions of the aesthetic environment outside the building? What could we do to improve it?
- What are we doing that strikes you as wasteful — of time or money?
- What services are you surprised to learn that we are offering, for better or worse?
- What services are you surprised to learn that we are NOT offering, for better or worse?
- Are there any policies that you don’t understand the rationale for? Are there any policies that strike you as just plain nuts?
- What are your impressions of our website?
- What was your experience like when you called the library? What are your impressions of our phone system?
- What are your impressions of our customer service orientation? Are we customer-focused? What could we do to be more so?
BONUS QUESTIONS (for the brave ones out there)
- How friendly (or unfriendly) did the staff seem when you first walked in the door?
- What are we doing that strikes you as straight-up bat sh*t crazy?
If you consistently ask these questions of your new employees, you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to recapture the newness of seeing, if only briefly, through borrowed, “beginner mind” eyes.
I recently stumbled across a wonderful little book called Leadership Simple: Leading People to Lead Themselves, by Steve and Jill Morris. It’s based on Dr. William Glasser’s “Choice Theory” (which suggests, among other things, that the only person whose behavior we control is our own) and Glasser’s “Reality Therapy” (which suggests that we choose our actions and we are responsible for our choices.)
The authors use a fictional case study written in narrative format to illustrate the process of “Lead Management”, or “self-evaluating, and leading other to do the same.” The principles are also presented in bullet-point format in an appendix, which makes it very easy to quickly review the main points.
The Lead Management process involves walking oneself (and later others) through five basic questions:
- What do you want?
- What are you doing to get it?
- Is it working?
- What else can you do?
(I like to throw in an extra one here: “What am I willing to do”)
- What WILL you do?
The authors suggest that when using the process, we spend the majority of our time on steps 1-4, thinking, talking, analyzing, generating options and generating more options. Finally, we decide what we WILL do and commit to an action.
I’ve realized that in the past I’ve sometimes rushed through steps 1-4, failing to think deeply enough and generate enough options. But more often I’ve spent too much time on steps 1-4, enjoying the process of exploration and never getting to a commitment to action.
“You are accountable for the meaning you place on the information you receive. for what you want, and the behaviors you choose to get what you want.”
And this one:
“People are going to do things. Events will occur. In essence, whatever happens outside your mind is information. You get to choose what that information means, what importance you place on your perceptions of that information, and how it fits with what you already know.”
One value in adopting this perspective is that it takes us out of victimhood. We can’t simultaneously take responsibility for the meaning we ascribe to events and to the behavior of others AND feel like a victim. This is highly empowering. Victimhood, whether experienced individually or as an organizational or professional culture or belief system, gets us nowhere. When we perceive ourselves as victims we are less likely to invest our energy in trying to change or influence events. However, when we take responsibility for our perceptions and the meanings we ascribe to them, we become grounded in a place of power, and we are more likely to make conscious choices regarding our behavior. We are more likely to take concrete steps and try to exert our influence on outcomes.
The commitment to action (the “what we WILL do”) is the final step in the Lead Management model. The process, however, is circular. This means we can choose to go back to earlier steps and re-evaluate what’s working, what’s not, and generate more options. We may even decide to re-evaluate at step 1, and look at whether or not we still want what we originally wanted. We may discover that our original goals have shifted over time in the light of new experience and knowledge.
The Lead Management process is designed to beused for self-coaching and the coaching of others. But I think the process of working through the five questions could also be effectively used to guide decision-making for departments and organizations by re-phrasing the questions:
- What do we want to achieve? (What is our mission? What is our goal?)
- What are we doing to get achieve our mission/goals?
- Is it working?
- What else can we do to achieve our mission/goals?
(“What are we willing to do”)
- What WILL we do?
Over the past year I’ve been acting as a personal coach to a friend/colleague (and as I move into 2008 I will be doing more, and will begin receiving formal training from a professional coach.) Coaching, as opposed to mentoring, is about asking questions, not giving advice. So far my experience with coaching (both as a coach and coachee) has been very positive, and I can see how the five questions of the Lead Management process could be integrated into an effective coaching session.
Now maybe it’s a bit early to be making New Year’s resolutions (although tech support people are already wishing me a “Merry Christmas”) but maybe I can set a New Year’s Intention:
- What do I intend?
I intend to learn to effectively coach myself and others.
- What am I doing to get it?
Setting up agreement to be coached by (and trained by) an experienced professional coach; Setting up agreement to coach a colleague.
- Is it working?
- What else can I do?
Read books listed on coaching bibliography provided to me by an experienced coach.
- What WILL I do?
TBD… Share my coaching experiences on Library Garden!
Nowadays, I consider myself really lucky because I have an extremely level-headed boss. She might tell you her opinion and will definitely let you know when things need to improve but, in doing so, she never speaks in a way that I’ve construed as offensive. It’s always been direct but not demeaning and I have never left her office feeling like I just got pummeled.I haven’t always been so lucky though, I used to have one of the worst types of bosses imaginable: A Screamer.
On a near daily basis, I would hear my boss yelling at someone in her office. To put that in perspective: the distance from her office to my desk was through one room, then a hallway, up a flight stairs and then behind a solid oak door… a distance over 100 feet. To put this it in further perspective, I have a moderately severe hearing loss. If I could hear the screams just imagine what other employees and patrons actually heard her saying! I left the position almost exclusively because of her and took the first job offer that came my way… Fortunately, it lead me to my current boss.
But some of my friends aren’t so lucky. Just having to listen to the nightmare stories and thinking back on my own experiences I am dumbfounded as to how these people wind up in management positions. What quality did they possess which made the administrators willing to go with such a nasty and ineffective communication skill? And what possibly makes that boss think that their method of management is, if not effective, is constructive or pragmatic in the overall scheme of running business!? Furthermore, how do these screamers possibly think they are actually good bosses!? And yet, it seems that I always have at least one friend who is plagued by such a boss.
So, why is this being put up on our library’s blog? Because we are certainly not immune to such poor managerial practices and maybe some of us are active participants, and I have been offered a promotion to the Head of Youth Services in the Library where I work. As excited as I am, this had led me to really reflect on the poor bosses I’ve had in the past and my own managerial skills.
In hopes of being proactive against the habits of “poor bosses” I have compiled a list of, shall we say, ethical goals I would like to instill upon myself in hopes of becoming a quality supervisor. By all means, please add your own advice.
Do not panic: Even when things are at a panic stage, it is my job to present level-headedness, which leads to the second point…
Do not play into histrionics: Situations should emit their own sense of emotions and do not need my help.
Do be approachable: If staff and I cannot talk openly, then we are already on losing ground.
Do be pragmatic: When problems arise, find ways to ‘fix’ them.
Do be clear with expectations: Make sure that staff knows what is expected of them and their job details.
Do not micromanage or get bogged down in minutiae: nobody likes someone looking over their shoulder and critiquing their work to the very foundation.
Do not personalize: Sometimes, you have to be the bad guy and some times people will goad you… but do not let it sink in.
DO BE POSITIVE: Remember that your leadership will affect how the department runs.
From today’s New YorkTimes…
Town Considers Guards for Library Disrupted by Students
By TINA KELLEY, Published: January 4, 2007
NYTIMES, MAPLEWOOD, N.J., Jan. 3
The Maplewood Township Committee is asking the public library’s board of trustees not to follow through with a plan to close its two buildings during after-school hours and is considering providing security guards to help quell disruptive behavior, Mayor Fred R. Profeta Jr. said Wednesday.
The committee discussed a plan late Tuesday night to provide the library with security guards. “The township will pay for that, because it’s a public safety issue, though it may go through the library budget,” Mr. Profeta said in an interview.
The mayor said he would petition the library board to rescind its initial decision before the planned closing on Jan. 16. “I think the closure’s a very bad idea,” the mayor said. “I think that it was not warranted, because a lot of the programs we have in the works are designed — and well designed — to alleviate the situation. We just have to put those in place.”
But David Huemer, who represents the Maplewood Township Committee on the library board, said the library had already indicated that a plan for guards was not enough to rescind its vote on the closing.
In Janie’s first post she mentions that the quip, “sharing is the new black” has been rattling around her brain for a few days. One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog is because it’s beginning to feel like there’s no room left in my brain for anything to rattle. It feels more like that closet upstairs that’s already full, but every time I find some new interesting tchotske at a garage sale I bring it home and stick it in the closet. So now the closet’s full of cool stuff, but I don’t often stop to look at any of it, I just keep finding a little open space to shove in some more.
Library Garden is my place to take some of those ideas I’ve been accumulating and revisit them. Pay them some attention. Show them to my friends and colleagues. Talk about them. And in turn I hope to get turned on to some new ideas and develop a deeper understanding and a broader perspective on my own.
In no particular order here are some ideas/questions that have been stuck up in the old attic:
If you glanced at my bio you know I used to work for Nordstrom. It was one of my first “real” jobs (no funny hat, no dyno labelmaker nametag ), so I didn’t have the perspective to appreciate what a wonderful organization it is. On my first day of work I was handed the “Employee Handbook”. The Handbook is a 5 x 8 inch card that says “welcome to Nordstrom” and then moves on the rules: “Rule #1. Use your good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.”
An employee handbook with one rule? “Use your good judgment in all situations.”? That’s it??? Then the store manager — an actual Nordstrom boy, who worked his way up to Store Manager; like every upper level employee, he had to start at the bottom — tells us we will NEVER get in any trouble for doing ANYTHING as long as we can demonstrate that we were doing it to deliver good service to the customer. OK, now here’s the thing: He really meant it.
Think about that for a minute. One rule, “use your good judgment” (note, they don’t say “best judgment”; they give employees credit for having good judgment right from day one.) One rule, followed by the encouragement to do anything that the low-level, inexperienced employee deems appropriate to give good customer service. That’s employee empowerment, and it’s that foundation of trust that naturally gives rise to the famous Nordstrom culture of customer service.
Now think about the experience of library customers. What is the experience of the customer that walks through your doors (real or virtual.) How different would their experience be if libraries told staff to “go out and give great service”, and meant it, and supported it, and rewarded it. How different? How different would the customer’s experience be if we ditched the rules?
You can guess my answer. My little plea is this: Think like a customer. Try to experience your library from the customer’s point of view. Ask them what you do right and what you could do better, but remember that many of them think your “nice” and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Also their expectations may be rather low… So in addition to talking to them put yourself in their footwear and walk a few laps around your library in their shoes. Ditto for your website. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? Try calling your phone system, does it work well? Try renewing a book on that self-checkout machine over in the corner (yes the one with community newspapers piled on top – – and oh yeah, don’t forget to plug it in.) Does it work? Is it optimally placed and signed for customer usage?
I’ll be posting more in the future about library walk-throughs and some of things we’ve been doing in New Jersey to help libraries think about “Library as Place“. In the meantime I welcome you to take a peak at some of the material we generated in 2004 when NJLA chose “Lessons From the Nordstrom Way” as our first “Leading Through Reading” selection (think “What if every library staff member in NJ read the same book?”)
Well, this was going to be a laundry list of ideas (Library 2.0 is next on the list) but time she has run out. Talk to yuz soon.