Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dear Kitten Leadership Lessons

As I ponder leadership and lessons, for some reason this video popped into my head.  The older cat has found himself in a leadership role when the new kitten enters the household. I wondered if there would be some way work a leadership lesson around this video.  I will hold a staff meeting next month and wanted to start with something lighthearted but meaningful.  Since the staff knows about my trials and tribulations of living with the two Diva Boys--they will find added humor to the Dear Kitten video.  Clearly cats, narcissistic by nature, are not cut out to be great leaders--so we can explore both his positive and negative aspects of being a leader.
In the opening, we see that that our Tom is a reluctant leader.  He attempted to make the kitten feel unwelcome for hissing at him the requisite number of time before taking on the mantle.  Like our Tom, most of us don't realize that at anytime we may find ourselves in a leadership position.  Any employee in any position can take on a leadership role, either temporarily or permanently.  As we know, not all leaders have a title. So it is best for those of us in leadership positions to prepare everyone to lead.
From this video, we learn that he is only following tradition set down by his mentor, Rest In Peace--when he hisses at the kitten.  Traditions are important to building a culture--but some traditions may work toward building the sort of culture, we do not want.  For an enlightened collaborative culture this tradition would  be best dropped.
Some of the positive leadership skills demonstrated are:
1) Orienting the kitten to his new environment
2) Giving the kitten information to keep himself safe
3) Providing information for future development and the value for that development (letting the kitten know there are growth opportunities)
4) Sharing his vision of the world and providing explantations for how the world works (transparency)
5) Praising the kitten for a job well done
6) Despite a voiced fear that the kitten may usurp him, he still provides leadership.

Overall, not a bad leader this cat.  After few bumps he seems to be adjusting to his role fairly well.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Awake at Work

For about a year now I have had the intention to read Awake at Work: 35 Practical Buddhist Principles for Discovering Clarity and Balance in the Midst of Work's Chaos by Michael Carroll. The book came in as a donation to the Friends of the Library, as I was sorting through to see if anything was suitable for the library, the title caught my eye.  I added my dollar to the Friends' money box and added it to my book shelf.  First it was at work for several months, then it came home.  I was sorting through my books a couple of months ago to take to the Friends and added the book to the Take Pile.  Then when I was getting the books out, I decided that really I wanted to read the Awake at Work.  So I  left it in the back of my car.
Finally, last week, I needed to go to Urgent Care.  I knew it  was going to be a wait so I grab the book.  I reasoned that since I was taking sick time from work, I should probably spend that time doing something somewhat work related.  So I read while I waited and waited and waited.
I found the book entirely relevant to my situation now.  The book suggested using sitting mediation to help keep your life in balance.  Before I picked up the book, I have felt that this is something that I should do.  Last month, I downloaded Insight Timer a meditation app for my iPhone.  
I wondered why I had put off reading the book for so long when I found I didn't want to put it down.  All I can say is that, this is the time that I needed to read the book.  I don't want to sound so touchy feely.  But I do believe in serendipity and that things do come to you when you need them if you are open to them.  Most of my jobs have come to me through serendipity--circumstances lining up perfectly to lead me to the next step.  And since most of my jobs have involved moving from one country to another, I take serendipity fairly seriously.
Michael Carroll worked as a human resource professional holding a number of executive positions after his guru told him to go into the world rather than become a monk.  He is now the founding director of Awake at Work Associates.
I want to explore this book further. I intend the next several posts to cover several of the principles as they relate to me and my life.  The first principle that caught my attention was Welcome the Tyrant. When I read the title, I laughed out loud at how entirely appropriate this book is.  So Welcome  the Tyrant will be the first theme for me to explore in an upcoming post.
In the meantime, I will handle my work day with the suggestion to be curious whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Storytelling and TED Talks

Earlier this week, a friend and mentor sent me this link: As libraries become cultural hubs, TEDx events bring the community in. I have considered hosting a TEDx at the library, but right now it is the formative stage. 
This morning as I was showering, I began to ponder why I am so drawn to TED Talks and feel the need to comment on them after viewing.  I let that roll around in my brain for a bit and then suddenly I had an epiphany:  TED Talkers are our modern storytellers.  
I love hearing stories and storytelling.  In fact, I believe that stories are vital to our humanity.  I am certainly no Joseph Campbell--he is one of my heroes.  But I believe that humans created stories to make sense of the world and that those motifs that are important to us as humans can be found in stories around the world.
For example the Cinderella story can be found in innumerable cultures.  What does the Cinderella story teach us about the world:  Life is not always fair--and events happen that we don't have control over. But we have control over how we respond to these circumstances and if we remain true to ourselves, continue to have hope, faith and perseverance eventually the balance will eventually shift.  When it does we need to remember the compassion that we would have enjoyed during our darkest hours.  Furthermore, the story also tells us that we can't go it on our own, we need help to achieve our dreams.  
Each year, I host two Mother Daughter Teas.  During the Tea, I always tell my story of a mother that always took time to show her TomBoy of a daughter how beautiful the world can be.  I tell the story that I host the teas in her honor and that by sharing the planning of them with her, she is with me. I explain the importance of storytelling and encourage the mothers and daughters to share their own stories with each other.  I explain that through stories we learn to bridge the divide from being a Homo Sapien to becoming a human (OK so I don't use those exact words during the Tea).  Afterwards, I share several themed stories from around the world.
I let them know that the art of storytelling is endanger of falling by the wayside--or so I thought. I have spent the day in renewed hope.  With TED Talks and TEDx Events, storytelling is alive and well.  The number of people in audience of TED Talks and the growing number of TEDx Events around the world, demonstrates the need people have for hearing stories that can teach us to be the better part of our dual natures.
“As technology becomes more and more prevalent in our daily lives, it’s easier and easier for us to only interact with people who think like us,” says Barr. “For our democracy and our way of life to function, we need to develop skills of compromise and consensus building by working with people — thinking with people, talking with people — that are a little out of our comfort zone.” "  
In my opinion this is the role that storytelling has always played in our (humanity's) lives.   The world is a better place when we tell stories so that we can learn compassion how to recognize the wolf and the witch especially those within us.
What a pleasing Ahh-ha moment it was this morning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Treating Your Employees Like Customers

Recently, someone I don't quite respect suggested "Just treat your employees like they are your customers" twice within a two week period.  The first time I heard it, I felt that it was somewhat of a platitude that didn't really address the situation but I thought it was a fairly reasonable suggestion.  The second time I heard it--I realized that it was this person's tag line. So I needed to understand what this meant.
Several months ago, in fairly quick succession, I encountered Don't treat your employees like your children and then Treat your employees the way you would your children.  I wondered, how did this person land on this as a pat phrase.  We tend to live by The Customer Is Always Right commandment would that mean that the Employee is always right as well?  That doesn't sound quite right.  I polled several managers and the general thought was no we can't treat our employees like our customers.  We have customers have a full range of customer behaviors that we often tolerate for short periods of time for good customer service.  With adults we walk a fine line and tolerate considerable bad behavior.  We only correct if their behavior is egregious--which would be behavior that would end in the termination of a civil service employee.  I'm sorry sir, there are children around, can you please use that computer over their to look at your porn. / I'm sorry ma'am but please do not use that racial slur when speaking with the staff. / Yes, I can smell the cannabis permeating his clothing as well, but no one else is sitting around him, maybe it will dissipate soon. 
In this manner, it doesn't seem reasonable to treat our employees as we would our customers when it comes to allowing ongoing behavioral issues.
One person suggested that we should treat our employees like we do our teenage customers.  We want to give them free to act independently but when their behavior is disruptive then we correct their behaviors with somewhat more authority.  But then we are back to treating our employees the way we would our children.
My next step was to go to the internet so see what has been written on this.  I found an article by Fast Company that gave me a better idea.  This leadership article speaks about creating an organizational culture where the organization that believes that it's culture is it best products.  The culture hires employees with this in mind.  I can of course work on the micro culture of a particular space, but I don't see this being demonstrated in the current organization culture.  In fact, the person offering the advice has in fact in my opinion demonstrated just the opposite to date.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hosting a Successful Book Club

I have to say that I am very proud of the book club I host.  It is amazing, I never have less than 20 people attending each month and can have up to 32 people discussing the title.  I can have over 50 people reading the title in any given month.
I began the book club almost 4 years ago, from the start we had a good turn out with about 10 regulars.  Gradually it picked up steam and then since January 2013 the club has been incredibly robust.  I have pondered what has made it so successful?

  • First, I have to give credit to the community.  I have an engaged community that are joiners.  Several of them attend other book clubs.  People in the community enjoy reading, they are joiners and they want to support the library.
  • Also, it seems that a long time book club in the community had run its full cycle and disbanded, my book club received several of these members.
I have no real control over the above elements--of course it could be argued that I have control over the first and I believe I do.  I am recognizing that I live in one of those great communities where a significant number people already have a sense of ownership and belonging.  My job is to continue to foster that sense and to reach out to those who are not yet involved.  So, it is important for me to understand why I have been so successful with this book club.  Specifically, I want to understand what I am doing that makes people choose to read the book, come each month and also tell their friends about the book club.  

Here is what I have come up with:

  • Each monthly selection is determined at the end of the previous year and published as a list.  This gives people the opportunity to know what is coming up.  I have one member that spends half the year up north in a small town in Yosemite.  She follows us along and while she is away.  I have another member that can only attend on alternating months because due to his busy schedule it takes him two months to finish a title, so it is important for him to know what is upcoming, so that he can get a head start.  I also have several other people that have conflicting schedules, but they enjoy reading along and if their schedule opens up they can attend.  
  • Although, I compile the list and the members do vote on what to read for the year.  This give the members a sense of ownership and control.  In the fall, I compile a list of about 30 titles, I search the internet for lists and think of books that I have read that might create an interesting discussion.  Once I find a title that might be interesting, I search the system's catalog to see if there are enough copies to support the book club.  This has become increasingly challenging because now I am searching for titles that have more than 50 copies.   Once the list is compiled, with a brief synopsis, I distribute the list and have people vote on their top 10.  I then tally the results and arrange the titles for the eleven months that we meet.   
  • I look for variety.  I always try to add titles from a variety of genres, fiction & non-fiction, teen books and even once a children's book.  This feature is highly appreciated, because people tend to read certain types of books and enjoy being challenged to read outside of their comfort zone. 
  • I provide a list of questions with the title.  I recognize that people want some guidance and what to know what is happening at the book club.  Quieter people will fill comfortable discussing the title because they have had time to organize their thoughts. I generally try for about 10 questions that cover not only the book but also bring in some personal connection to the title.  I either write my own questions or adapt published questions.  I find that published questions have too many parts for the purpose of the book club.  I also want to add the personal questions for two reasons, if someone hadn't finished the book, didn't like the book or even hadn't read the book, they can contribute something positive to the discussion.  And the second reason, is that by sharing that personal connection with others in the group, the group coalesces.  
  • I go for moderation.  I through out the question, and then let members discuss.  If I see that someone wants to say something or hasn't contributed, I will ask that person what he/she thinks.  And sometimes, I will add my own thoughts, stories to the conversation but I try to only do that to move the conversation alone.  For the most part everyone is very polite, take turns, build on the other's discussion and sometimes the discussion goes in directions that I never expected. 
  • I provide refreshment and when possible themed for the book.  I find that people really appreciate making the connection between their refreshments and the book we are discussion.  It also gives them the sense that I really care enough about the book club, to put special effort in the snacks.  
  • There is a book club display of the current title for anyone to check out.  I call it the Book Club Corner, but members know that they can pop into the library and pick up the title.  And more importantly, non-members can pick up a title with the questions and may choose to attend.  
  • I foster a safe environment. The safe environment is established with everything that happens above.  I support other ideas, try to balance the conversation, provide people with an expectation of what will happen. I know that I am successful, because people continue to come, feel comfortable with bringing in more to the discussion: for example, one member invited a couple of people who had direct experience with the topic of the book and once several occasions people have brought in newspaper articles, pamphlets, photos and other items to share with the everyone else.  
Below is the list of titles that the book club will be discussing in 2015. 

Tuesday, January 27—The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
In 1939 Nazi Germany, Death takes time out of his ever busier schedule to pay attention to Liesel, a foster child that finds meaning in life through the theft of books.  January 27, 2015 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  

Tuesday, February 24 — The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty   What if your husband writes a devastating letter to be opened only
after his death?  What if you stumble upon it while he is still alive? 

Tuesday, March 24 — Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children  by Ransom Riggs   A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A collection of very curious photographs.  It all waits to be discovered.  Read an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction with found photography.

Tuesday, April 21— Under Wraps Book Club   Select and
unwrap one or more selections for discussion at this month’s book club.

Tuesday, May 26 — China Dolls by Lisa See   Grace, Helen and Ruby, three very different women brought together by circumstances.  Follow their friendships as they try to succeed as glamorous nightclub dancers in the 30’s.   

Tuesday, June 23 — The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by
Gabrielle Zevin   On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of
a Victorian cottage is the motto No Man Is an Island, Every Book is a World.
A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

Tuesday, July 21 — Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talkingby Sue Kane   Although they are often labeled quiet, it is to the introverts that we owe many of our great contributions to society.

Tuesday, August 25 —The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood  
Two women, two eras, two stories of uncertainty trimmed in sadness laced with hope. 

Tuesday, September 22 —The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick   For 38 years Bartholomew has lived with his mother, but when she dies Bartholomew wonders how a man whose entire life has revolved around his mother, Saturday Mass & the library can learn to fly.  A humorous selection.   

Tuesday, October 27— Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafron   A tale of love, literature, passion & revenge in 1957 Barcelona.   

Tuesday, November 24 — A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki   Bullied by classmates,16-year-old Nao feels life is unbearable in Tokyo.
A diary is Nao’s only solace & will touch lives in ways she cannot imagine.    

December — No meeting — see you in 2016!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What It Takes to Be a Great Leader

An inspiration to get out of ruts, to widen our comfort zones and to take initiative in our own development; today's Ted Talk is What It Takes to Be a Great Leader. Rosalinde Torres explores two questions:  Why is the leadership gap widening when there is more investment? and What are successful leaders doing differently?
Where are you looking for the next change?  Who are we spending time with, reading, visiting to determine where the next change is.  Great leaders see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.
What is your diversity measure?  How can you develop relationships who are very different from you?  Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network gives you better access  to varied solutions.
Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? If you keep doing what is familiar and comfortable which means that you won't be moving forward.  Great leaders are able to withstand others telling them their new ideas are crazy.
Great leaders prepare themselves for the realities of today as well as the unknown possibilities of tomorrow.
Now, to explore what I am taking away from this talk.  First, the world is a fast moving place, organizations need to explore non-traditional methods in development in order to narrow the leadership gap.  I would have to say that the recent, Leadership Development Program is a step in that direction.  But added to that, it is important for us be active in looking for changes, widening our networks, developing a support network. idea, yes a wee idea is percolating up to the top here.  What if...?  Would that work?  Just might and I won't know unless, I go for it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

It seems that I have an intellectual crush on Mr. Sinek.  I might even begin to cyber-stalk him. Here in How Great Leaders Inspire Action he speaks about how leaders use the Golden Circle to lead because  people follow others not because of what they do but because of why they do it.  If you understand what you believe and why you do something, then you can articulate that to others.
He states that the limbic brain is where we have our feelings of trust and loyalty.  The limbic brain has not capability of language.  When we talk about why we do things rather than what we do, then we are address the limbic brain and can inspire loyalty because we can hire people that believe what we believe.
But what if we have people who were hired before we ever arrived and don't believe what we believe?  Personally, I don't have a lot of control of who is hired to staff the library.  I am gifted employees and some of them have been transferred to my library because for a variety of reasons they could not remain where they would have preferred to be.  So how can I make a difference and inspire action this environment.  To tell the truth, I have been struggling with this for a while.  I can say that I haven't had enough support--and indeed I haven't--but I need to own this.  I need to find a way to inspire my staff to work together better, I need to find a way to inspire the staff to be better than they think they are.  The only way that I can get a better result is to have the staff do a better job because they want to, they believe that they can.  First they need to feel safe.

So why do I do what I do?  Being a Librarian is WHAT I do. WHY am I a librarian?  Is it to get rich? Silent belly laughter here.  For job security?  This makes me pause because I often use this to answer the why question.  But, clearly, I am willing to throw long term security under the bus.  I had security in Hawaii at the language school, yet, I still went to graduate school.  I wanted to become a Librarian.    WHY?

I became a Librarian because I believe that I can improve people's lives as a Librarian.  I believe that I can make the communities I live and work in better.  I believe that I can create positive memories and those memories can go on to have a bigger impact in the world we live in.  This is why I became a librarian.

As I struggle with staying engaged, remembering WHY I do what I do will help me through.  Last week, I had a customer tell me that her friend from San Diego attended last year's Holiday Mother Daughter Tea. The friend was so inspired that she took the idea back with here and now there is a Mother Daughter Tea in San Diego that wasn't there before.  She said "I wanted to let you know that your influence is changing the world."

I always hark back to the one library program I attended as a child with my friends.  I have such warm memories of watching Riki Tiki Tavi in the darkened meeting room, I want share that sense with others.  As a teen, I challenged myself with reading a set number of books during either summer or winter vacations. I poured over the stacks looking for books that would improve me.  I remember being especially fond of the Emily Post's book on etiquette.  I couldn't believe that there was a world where such things mattered.

In order for me to change the behaviors of my staff, I need to share that vision frequently and enthusiastically with them.  Maybe just maybe the spark will ignite one or two and if it does maybe we can get a tipping point where the others will follow along.