Posts Tagged ‘ change ’
Yesterday I attended a presentation by strengths specialist and leadership consultant, Sondra Cave, where she addressed applying strengths in times of change. Obviously, with any organizational change, there are new assignments, roles, and relationships to figure out, and understanding the strengths of your people can be very valuable. Knowing and working in your areas of strengths has been proven to result in greater engagement in the work, fewer mistakes, and (while not necessarily applicable to my environment) greater profits (1).
After the structure of a big organizational change is rolled out, and questions of who and where have settled down, the focus shifts to the work to be done. The decisions in this phase seem to begin kind of haphazardly, in a thumb in the dyke (2) kind of way. This is especially true for the folks “running the trains” as they say. But, when those decisions begin with conversations, and those conversations have a bit more thought behind them, people start asking about the skills (or even better, the strengths) needed to get this work done.
I’d like to take a closer look at a skill that often comes up in my line of work: “attention to detail“. Anyone?
Well, if you plug that phrase into the top job finder sites, this skill is desired among 25,000+ advertised jobs, anywhere from accountant to electromechanical assembly technician. You might glean a little more context from the job title as to what details you might be attending. But even with the context of the job title, it seems we might need to be more specific — more attentive to the details of the “attention to detail” skill. Ba-dump-bump.
In my experience, librarians mostly mean attention to text (or numbers) details. They will sometimes call this having “eagle eyes”. What they mean is that they want you to be able to catch what the average Joe would miss, and thereby avoiding unintentional email miscommunication, a mislabeled book getting lost in the stacks, miscalculating expenses, buying a book we already own, or overlooking and agreeing to an egregious term in a license.
Confession: I am pretty bad at some of the traditional kind of detail my fellow librarians value. I often send emails (and publish posts) with typos and grammatical errors. Numbers alone actually jumble me up; I am not quick to calculate formulas or see how figures come out the way they do — at least not without struggle, trial, and error. But I’m not willing to admit that I lack attention to detail. And this, in a nutshell, is
stubbornness the strengths concept Don Clifton started by asking:
What would happen if we actually studied what is right with people?
What I do have is a great attention to strategic detail. I can tell how something is going to work or not work in ways you might have not thought of. I am great at analyzing the numbers for which the details have already been attended, and can come up with various scenarios for taking action. I can also analyze the text-meaning of a license to know what wording and phrases might cause problems, or find strategies around problematic clauses. I am also very attentive to the details of people and their individual strengths. I’m not always empathetic. I don’t always openly relate well to people, or woo them. But I attentively listen, watch, and learn, and then find ways to help people succeed.
These are my top five strengths, although in order they are: Learner, Activator, Strategic, Analytical, Individualization. Just 5 of the 34 unique, strengths-based ways (3)* people may attend to details. I believe from experience that strengths offers a great approach to getting specific in the details of the work to be done and to getting a positive end result. Sondra Cave emphasized that there are many ways to get there, but the point is that we get there. By focusing our strengths toward the end in mind in this way, we get there faster and with greater…well, strength.
Sondra also emphasized the responsibility we have to use our strengths from a position of health, and not as label, or an excuse to do or not do certain things. One way this happens is by using your strengths to manage weaknesses. For example, I certainly use my analytical strength in my number-details weakness, and I often use my individualization and learner to manage my introvertedness — although, this is not necessarily a weakness (4)!
Point is, once you find out how you are using your strengths in the details of your current work you will be able to see how you might use those same strengths in thousands of other work and details, and how to use them to help you in less strong areas. This is how new teams are quickly formed, how new responsibilities are taken up, and how change becomes opportunity.
(1) Buckingham & Coffman (1999). First Break All the Rules. New York : Simon & Schuster.
(2) Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 23, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Brinker,_or_The_Silver_Skates
(3) Gallup, Inc. (2010) StrengthsQuest. “All 34 Themes Full Description”. Retrieved May 23, 2013 from http://www.strengthsquest.com/content/143324/themes-full-description.aspx *While there are 34 Strengths themes, the various combinations of top 5 results and how they work together differntly, mean there are even more unique ways to approach tasks and relate to others.
(4) Cain (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House.
I recently attended the 2013 Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) conference in Austin, TX. As before, the conference reinforced and solidified ideas among my fellow electronic resources librarians (ERLs), re-energized my research agenda, and reminded me that I am not alone in making wider connections out from my work as an ERL.
In fact, the “we don’t usually have a theme” theme of the conference was bridging communities and cross pollinating ideas — which led me to ask myself, Self: How do I communicate and bridge ideas across the world of ERL and the larger library mission in practice? But another subtler theme that I picked up on throughout the conference turns out to be a very reality-based response to my own question.
The keynote opening and closing speakers, as well as many presenters throughout the conference, challenged all of us to move beyond research results or the identification of problems in our communities (content) and become involved in myriad ways with solving problems and building bridges (service). Even more than my little parenthetical emphasis on service over content — this was a call to individual action.
“What are you going to do with what you now know about Google Generation users?” asked Michael Eisenbert (session notes) — Opening keynote: Listening to Users: What the “Google Generation” Says About Using Library & Information Collections, Services, and Systems in the Digital Age
“You are the Digital Library Federation” chided Rachel Frick — Closing keynote: The Courage of our Connections: Thoughts on Professional Identities, Organizational Affiliations and Common Communities)
“Are you disgruntled? Support these start-ups, your fellow Disgrunterati who are making things happen!” coined Jason Price — Lightening Talks
I attended sessions mostly focused on my passion areas, the places where I am most action-oriented — workflow and communication. I felt particularly energized by presentations from early adopters of webscale systems like Intota (session notes) and Alma (session notes). Unlike years past when new ERM systems were adopted and met with fairly wide-scale disappointment, these adopters spoke specifically to how these new ILS systems are helping them manage the complex nature of our work across the library (e and p, content and service) And they seemed so happy! They clearly demonstrated how the ability of these systems to centralize and structure key data and to bridge that data across all library service workflows enabled them to more quickly take action to address internal and external users needs.
I was also very pleased with the Project Management in Libraries (session notes) post conference workshop led by the most excellent Jennifer Vinopal (NYU). To energize my research agenda there was a welcomed talk on the importance of both Internal and External Customer Service (session notes) , especially as it relates to various organizational restructuring. Timely! These sessions helped me see where I can act by both confirming current thinking and offering new ideas to help me move forward.
Some others included Jill Emery’s and Graham Stone’s TERMS (session notes) project. I would love to become involved in extending areas of TERMS that relate to communication and information mangement, as well as key troubleshooting best practices. Another was Extreme E-resources Endeavors…(seesion notes), which included a mix of things we have already acted on (PDA, E-reserves) and things we are hoping to (renewal calendars, POOF!). Feeding one of my passions (and past professions), Instructing Future ERLs (session notes) was another inspiring call to act, although maybe further down the road with this one.
Now, strangely, and despite all Dan Tonkery’s advice to the keep emotion out of it (Improving Communication & Relationships Between Librarians & Publishers session notes), my initial overall response to the conference (after a great closing keynote) was not resolve and energy, but reservedness, fear, frustration, and believe it or not – tears! I reasoned that it was frustration with wanting to act, but not being able to due to lack of resources or, possibly, as Frick suggests, the “courage of my connections”. But I also think changes going on back at my organization may have played some subconscious role in that perhaps too — the sense of uncertainty about where these idea and action bridges will be built.
You should also probably know that I was reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking during the trip. I claim to be an ambivert, but I was operating strongly with my “I” throughout the conference. I didn’t do a lot of networking, even though I had many opportunities, and it has taken me much longer to recover my energy post-conference (also classic introvert behavior). Thankfully, some of my first tasks back were sharing project management approaches, discussing ideas for development programs, and spending most of today cleaning up my notes and summarizing my experience.
Reflecting now upon these bold calls to action and individual responsibility, I’m reminded that I begin acting within my circle of concern. My strengths in learning, strategy, analysis, and taking action with others are what help me be effective in my circle. These same strengths also enable me to see and act beyond this area by sharing ideas and bridging communities. I have always thought of myself as a bridge-builder of both ideas and communities. This conference is always great reminder of how I do that as an ERL prepares me in all sorts of ways to be a greater and broader leader in librarianship as a whole.
crying through reading my third YA novel of the year, and trying not to be ashamed of this fact, I thought, the reasons why a non-YA seeks out YA lit might at least be kind of like the reason she seeks out TV — except better. And I really shouldn’t be too ashamed about it, right? Let’s face it, I’m probably not alone in trying to relive a little adolescence in mid-life. But more importantly, I know there are pleasure reading levels and there are challenge reading levels. And what I’m seeking in this resolution-to-read experiment is to know what both feel like, jump right in, and eventually become a voracious and diverse reader. But, I’m stubborn and impatient and insecure — just like a teenager. So you have to deal with a little rant now and then until reading begins to civilize me.
I decided to bring for the short Christmas vacation The Perks of Being a Wallflower as 10th of the 12 books I committed to reading for my 2012 resolutions. I brought it along because of husband’s repeated suggestion of it, and because, logically, it is among the stacks on my night stand (that is starting to resemble husband’s, actually), the one that is due back at the library soonest, but mostly because I knew I would speed through it and be able to relax and enjoy passing my time with it. All these things I might say about TV, but — and, yes I know how uppity this sounds — reading, even YA, even Children’s Lit, is a better way to pass the time. Reading it in the quiet of the Christmas house, while everyone else who might need my attention was napping, had a certain quality weight to it. It made me feel full rather than drained in the way losing myself in visual media usually does.
As I mentioned, this was the third YA novel to really strike some chords, and since I’ve not written in much detail at all about any of my reads this year, I thought I’d dig deeper into what I’ve found special about these. Disclaimer — I am not a book reviewer. This will be a brief personal reflection and commentary on my own learning process through reading, and absolutely not a full and proper commentary on the merits of these books. So, read on, or not as you wish.
First, there were definitely aspects of The Perks… that I related to from my adolescence — mixed tapes, panicky feelings, and observing life more than the drug use and a solid family unit. But, as dear hubs pointed out, what’s great about these books is how they explore and often times beautifully articulate a period of our lives we probably experienced in a very inarticulate way. It was common, and intense, and forming, but unless we were gifted writers (or readers!), we lacked the words to express it to ourselves or others meaningfully. One point when Charlie is getting panicky, for example, he finds comfort in covering his head with a pillow “until the quiet slowly put the pieces back in place” (or something along those lines — dammit for letting hubs return the book before I finished this post!). While I never did that literally as an adolescent, having felt like that before, I thought as I read it:
Yes! Why didn’t I just put a damn pillow over my head every once in a while?
Interestingly, though, I more often related to the novel and the characters’ experiences as a parent. This was especially true toward the middle-end when no terrible childhood trauma and adolescent experimental consequence was left unexplored. And this is probably what’s put me in a panicky, worried mom mood since finishing the book.
I had entirely different experiences reading A Wrinkle in Time and The Fault in our Stars. I began rereading L’Engle’s sci-fi novel when my oldest was in the hospital and so, it was nice to get completely lost in a fantasy during that time. Yet, still I found articulate words of comfort here as well:
Happiness at their concern was so strong in her that panic fled, and she followed Charles Wallace into the dark recesses of the house without fear.
But as much as I hold that novel dear, my favorite of the year, even competing with the adult novels I read, was John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. Here too, I related as both a kid and a parent of a (sick) kid. I can’t remember the articulate words as much as the fullness of what I learned from that book — how to treat people. This was important to me since, remarkably, I’ve only had one chance in my life so far to experience someone close to me get sick and die. And I was a miserable failure at it. This book allowed me to get close to that again, think through it, cry through it, and learn from it. I also caught myself slowing down my reading towards the end of the book because I didn’t want to stop reading it — just like those
annoying catchy quotes about bookworms say.
So, while I said I wasn’t reviewing and commenting on the merits, I will just say that I think everyone should read The Fault in our Stars. Not sure what of my other 2012 reads I’ll process through next, if any. I may be just looking to finish by January, which means 2 more books in 5 days. Possible? Maybe. I’m starting on Dan Roam’s The Back of a Napkin and may well finish one I’ve been picking up in bits and pieces throughout the year. Stay tuned.
While I’m not absolutely certain “rules” are the answer to the world’s tough problems, be those rules gun control, or mandatory mental illness screening of high school students (as I heard Dave Cullen, author of the book Columbine suggest on NPR’s live coverage yesterday), or this interesting one — enforcing politeness — which predated the tragedy in CT. I *do*, however, find the latter’s poll finding that “60 percent of French list bad manners as their #1 cause of stress” very humbling. That and the words attributed to Mahatma Gandhi are getting me through today.
We must be the change we wish to see in the world
And for a super nerdy and way smarter version of my conclusions in that ‘confessions‘ post:
Brainpicker tweeted Explore’s discovery of the The New York Times’ Annie Murphy Paul explores the neuroscience of your brain on fiction
(take your pick)