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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

Today's TED Talk was by Simon Sinek, the author of the best seller Start With Why.

Since it is well known that there is a palpable culture of fear in the system, I was drawn to this talk.  Sinek is a not only a compelling writer but also a compelling speaker.  He puts forth that great leaders make their team feel safe.  If someone acts or thinks "If I don't follow the rules, I could lose my job." That is a red flag that the staff does not feel safe.  Not feeling safe is a bad system for survival.   It is the leader that sets the tone and depending on the tone the team may feel trust and cooperation or fear and uncertainty.  Through the millennia we have developed a deep-seated contract within our species.
 If we feel that our leader will sacrifice us to meet her own agenda, then we feel that they have violated this contract.  This is the reason we feel outraged at the huge bonuses that CEO's receive when they are laying off their employees.  We understand that they have not made their team safe, that they have engendered neither trust nor cooperation which clearly goes against our ingrained moral code.
It is up to the leader to create a circle of safety.  Leaders need to create opportunities, provide education and discipline when necessary with growth as the goal.  Sinek commented that when times are tough, you don't decide to lay off a child from your family.  When the child comes home with a C on the report card, you don't fire the child.  Well, we all know that there are all types of families out there, but clearly we recognize that it would be good parenting to do so.  But then isn't what we recognize as good parenting actually good leadership.  Good parents want to create opportunities, provide education and discipline when necessary in order to develop strong, capable, well-balanced, contributing members of society.
When we use our authority to force own agenda, we are not developing trust and cooperation and the team will not follow when a critical situation develops.

Friday, November 21, 2014


This is the post that I intended for yesterday but had to get past yesterday's events to get back to this place.  
I have been invited to be a judge for a First Lego League Robotic Competition.  On Wednesday night I took part in a teleconference for judge training.  The judge panel for the competition I am judging is made up solely of professional women in the area. Since this competition is sponsored by the Girl Scouts of America, the organizer stated that she wanted the panel to be women in order to inspire girls with breadth of professional women in our community.  I felt honored to be selected for the panel. I am am quite sure I will also be inspired by the opportunity to meet and work with my fellow judges. 
The trainer was excellent and I found myself relishing her phrasing.  I also found myself really looking forward to the event.  Prior to this training, I was a bit concerned because what do I know about robotics?  But she put those fears to rest when she said: There is no expectation that judges will understand every mission.  Have the teams tell you, talk about strategy, how they chose their missions, you will find teams can have chosen their missions very differently. 
In these comments there are several elements that I took away: 1) I don't have to be an expert, I am there to listen to the kids' stories of their experience 2) It is expected that the kids will have arrived at the competition via very different routes and that is OK.  The goals is judge how well they can convey that path. 
The trainer made us comfortable with what to expect by walking us through the day.  The next point that resonated with me was to listen for comments that indicated that the coach had the kids do all the heavy lifting.  This is after all their competition. Although it is would be easy for the coach to do all the work with the kids watching, that isn't the point, the kids need to experience the hurdles and roadblocks on the way to the path of success.  The kids need to learn to celebrate failures and learn from them.  
I will be one of the research project judges.  Here the kids can choose their own topic within a parameter with the goal that as a team they were able to come up with a mutually agreed upon topic as well as demonstrate that they are passionate about this topic.   The trainer went on to let us know that there is a particular challenge in this, as an individual it is fairly easy to find something that we are passionate about but once you start adding other people into the mix, it becomes increasingly more difficult.  The ultimate goal here is to make the case in a very short period of time for their topic and make it well enough that some one would want to do it and then share that idea with others.  
This was followed by: The teams need to demonstrate Gracious Professionalism which means I want to help you compete with me and I want to compete with you fairly.  She went on to say: We are here to have fun through Coopertition.  Yes, this is a competition and the teams are competing side by side but if a team does assist another team in meeting that team's goal, then as judges we need to recognize  and reward the demonstrated graciousness.  
The trainer continued on with a discussion of the rubrics and a reminder that any comments that we enter on to the rubrics should be positive because the teams will get them back because: we want to inspire these kids.  
In the midst of everything that is happening, this is a particular bright spot and I am grateful that I have the opportunity for this experience and I am really jazzed to see what fantastic things kids between the ages of 9 and 14 are capable of.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Trying to Stay Engaged

I am a professional and I take great pride in providing quality service to my community.  But I am finding it challenging to remain engaged and this is frustrating.  Once again I have slammed up against the system and feel bruised.

I want to work in a system that values and trusts its professionals.  I want to work in a system where fear is not the first impulse and a place where professional development is encouraged and supported.  I want to work in a system that is dynamic and innovative and one that not only recognizes but celebrates the good service that the professionals are doing.

Several weeks ago, I spoke frankly with my new supervisor.  I took a risk and then yesterday, I discovered the consequences.  I had requested to attend a conference at the end of January on my own time.  There was a sale on airfare, so I quickly grabbed the last seat thinking there couldn't be a reason that I might be denied the opportunity for professional development.  Yesterday after a meeting, the supervisor took me into the hallway and expressed his extreme regrets that he could not send me to the conference.  The stated reason is that the staff really need my leadership at this time with the retirement of one, and the possible promotion of another.  The approved transfer that I have not yet seen, can not be in charge apparently because she will be new to this library but not in the system at that time.  Yes, I understand that the management has every right to refuse a vacation request.  Apparently it was refused because "it was for a conference."  If I had just put down travel--would it have been approved?

At any rate, I know now the consequences of taking risks in the current environment.

At the last full managers meeting, our leader indicated that they will be going outside to fill several newly created positions.  A fair number of people took away from our her comment that the system is looking outside because no one is qualified to be promoted to the newly created positions. I rarely attend conferences.  But I am striving to fill in the knowledge gaps and become a better leader. Meeting with peers, sitting through sessions and visiting vendors is one of the best ways that I can fill in those gaps and add to my leadership tools.
This is not the first time that my attempt at professional development has been thwarted.

Here was my first go:

I sent this last week, but haven't received a response.  Is it possible to obtain a letter of support for the Leadership Institute?  If not please let me know, so that I won't continue to wonder.

I just spoke with XXX;  she said that she will discuss with in the Executive Meeing on Monday 2/24/14.    You will get an answer after that, but don't get your hopes up because this may or may not be approved.   

At the time, I felt the above comment was just mean.  To be fair, I did get approval 8 days after the meeting it was to be discussed in, but there was no mentioned of the requested letter of support.  Almost a month had passed since the initial request, deadlines were approaching and I just didn't have the energy to pursue getting the require letter of support because I just didn't feel that the support was actually there.

Shortly after this both, one of my staff and I wanted to attend a nearby annual conference.  I submitted both of our names, but was told that only one of us could actually attend.  Of course, I want to give my staff all the opportunities that they can get so I forewent attending with the thought that I would go to midwinter conference.  Hmm...that thought stream did not work out so well.

Yes, yes, I know that I was approved to attend the in-hourse Leadership Training Program.  This was a valuable experience, however, we best develop when we also have outside perspectives and despite the willingness to outlay my own funds, the efforts have come to naught.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Technological Woes

Although, I use technology at work and am fairly proficient in troubleshooting problems, I never really thought that I was dependent on technology.  I don't even have cable TV or stream video for crying out loud.  I send maybe 20 texts a month, and I am not a huge e-mailer.  But then, I spent 6 days fairly painful days in near unconnectedness.  I can only imagine how I might have felt if I had been truly unconnected.  The problem here is that I expected to be connected.  I was in an urban setting staying at a hotel that provided complimentary wifi hookups each day.  And I reasoned if for some reason I couldn't hook up with my laptop, I have 4G on my phone.  I intended to download a book on my phone to occupy myself during down time so I didn't take one with me.
The first night, I tried to log on with my computer, but Safari wouldn't accept the connection.  We were able to get my travel companions logged on to their computer after a few tries.  I wondered aloud if I called down and asked for someone to help me if they would be able to.  Everyone cracked up laughing so I decided not to trouble the poor probably less savvy than me hotel employee.   All that I had my phone.
But then I couldn't get my phone to load in the hotel.  For the next 6 days, when we were off doing something, I became familiar with the pinging sound indicating that I had e-mail.  See here is where the near  unconnectedness comes in.  I got e-mails, text messages, and voicemail hours after they had been sent and generally when I received them I was either too busy to respond or had become irrelevant.
Text:  We are going down to eat.  Where are you?
When I received it 2 hours later:  I'm right next to you, hungry.  Was it good?  
Actually the entire vacation, not just the last 6 days, was a technology nightmare that resulted in me getting lost in Oakland, after dark, twice.  I was returning from wine country on my way back down to LA.  I had just crossed the Bay Bridge--a nightmare for anyone who doesn't particularly like crossing bridges (ME).  I needed to do three things, calm my nerves, get gas, and use the facilities.  I got off at an exit, gassed up, and asked the convenience  store attendant if I could use the restroom.  He indicated the bullet proof box he was in and said that there was no access from the outside to the restroom.  I asked if he had ice-cream and he held up 4 types for me to choose from.  Once I paid for and received my ice-cream via the plexiglass mechanical drawer, I returned to my car only to find that neither Google Maps nor Imaps were cooperating.  The entrance to the freeway was no where in sight.  I ended up driving south and/or east in Oakland with a pressing bladder until I found the freeway.  Back on the freeway, I realized that I would need to get off again and fairly soon. Hence getting lost in Oakland A SECOND TIME.  This from someone that has always felt that there is no real good reason to visit Oakland.  Prior to this, I had only been to Oakland twice.  Once to catch the train to take me to Dallas when I packed up my life in San Francisco for Slovakia.  And then again when I was living in Hawaii to turn down the opportunity to open my very own language school in Oakland.    I turned down the Oakland school opportunity, because I hadn't accomplished my goals in Hawaii and also because I had walked around both Oakland and San Francisco for the weekend mulling over the decision and realized that I was constantly wanting to get back to the safety of my friend's apartment before it got too dark. This compared to Hawaii where, with the exception of walking around in Chinatown, after dark held no real safety concerns.  Ok, not that I am going off tangent, I will close.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Lollipop Moment

I watched Drew Dudley's TED Talk  where he talked about a time at university where he impacted another student's life which involved a lollipop.  He didn't remember the event, but his everyday actions changed the lives of the people that he came into contact with--some of them significantly.  He discusses how this is leadership, it isn't something out there, an ideal that few can reach, but rather  everyday we can chose actions that they may have a positive impact on others.  And when other's actions do have positive outcomes in our lives, we should celebrate them.
Since his lollipop moment resulted in the marriage of two people who might otherwise not have met, I remember my own moment.  I had a student that was in her last 20's, she was an account and had to deposit receipts almost daily.  She found that every time she went to the bank she often had the same teller.  He eventually asked her out and they went on a date.  On the date, he revealed that he was in his early twenties.  During class she told me she thought she wouldn't go out with him again because he was too young for her--this was pre-Demi/Ashton days--she asked my thoughts on the subject.  I told her that only she could know if he was too young for her or not.  I told her the story of another student in Japan who was actually 14 years older than her husband and that they had one of the best marriages that I knew of.  I also explained that it only made since for women to be older than men because women lived longer than men.  If the woman is younger then she will more than likely become a widow.  If the woman is older then they will more likely die closer together.  Maybe not the soundest logic in town.  I am not sure which story swayed her more, but I was invited to the wedding a year later.  My words changed lives.  I forget this fact.
As a manager, I know that my decisions will impact others, but I don't always remember this from day to day.  In November, I want to be more mindful of my own words and actions.  I want to remember to Use my words for Good and Not for Evil.

Monday, November 3, 2014


If the future looks like me being a Library Director, what can I do help prepare myself to take on that role.   When searching the web, I found the Handbook for New Public Library Directors in New York State. I am impressed at how thoughtful this document is.  I doubt I will end up in New York state--but I have learned not to disbelieve in any possibility.  When I am offered a position, I will use this as a guide to ensure that I am not overlooking something during the learning curve phase.  
Having the tools to ensure success of a project is essential.  Tools may be as simple
as the right pair of shoes doubled knotted. 
One of the gaps in my knowledge is grant writing.  I think the key here is that this is a knowledge gap.  I am intelligent, able to identify gaps and then work to fill them.  Grants demand planning and a process.  The skeleton of that process is:
  • Statement of need
  • Project Description
  • Evaluation
  • Sustainability
  • Budget
  • Documentation
  • Compliance
  • Reporting
The project might be long and at times uphill and the signposts few
and the route at times unclear but as long as the goal is kept in
mind and the route is one where lessons are thoughtfully considered and learned the
success can be had. 
One of the most valuable experiences, I have ever been part of was the Accreditation process.  I had less to do with the building of the accreditation document--Andrea, a very competent instructor was tasked with that.  But when the gaps in the process were identified, I worked on filling them.  This included the long range and short range planning process, documentation that specific policies changes had been implemented, and a narrative of the compliance process.

The planning process was the most enlightening.  I worked with the small but effective executive team--me the director, the assistant director, head teacher, and the office manager to create the plans.  After we had crafted a document we were comfortable with to guide us, I found that we were then making decisions based on whether it met the goals of the plan or not.  This was liberating and streamlined the should we or shouldn't we conversation.  

Grant writing is similar in that there is a process.  Outside bodies will be evaluating the process and what is most needed is to take each step one by one methodically to be successful.  And to have a plan with specific goals will assist in the grant writing process because it will identify needs that we can search for grants to fill.

No matter what, I will not be on my own in any of this.  There will be other staff that can be part of the grant writing team.  Depending on the place, I may take a more active role in the process but my primary function in any case is to support and guide the process in a way that will allow for optimal success. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Sun

One day during the Leadership Development Program (LDP) we spent about 20 minutes out of the classroom and on the beach--the only day we were at the beach--quietly taking in our surroundings.  When we return to the classroom, we were then tasked with choosing an object that we had observed during our meditation and then relate that object to ourselves.  I chose the sun.

  • Power over life.  I too have tremendous power over my life and depending on how I use that power I can either grow myself and others so that we thrive or we can wilt and wither
  • Strength--similar to power but in this case I want to remind myself like the sun I can be strong
  • Focused--by maintaining my focus I can move forward
  • Shining--by shining a light on my strengths and weaknesses, I can build the one and minimize the other
  • Routine--the sun comes up and goes down, seasons change with predictable regularity with out the routine there would be no life.  And so only through routine can I effect changes on myself.  

I also want to add that when the sun is covered up for an extended period of time the quality of life is effected.  In this manner as well, if I walk around with dark clouds swirling in my head because I am not satisfied with where I am, not only is my own quality of life in doubt but the butterfly effect comes into play.  Could it be that my bad mood today results in war some place else later?  Something to ponder and at the very least a reason work on changing what I can change.