Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Perspective: Helicopter View

If you've ever ridden in a helicopter, you can relate to the idea of perspective. When you look out, you can see everything--below, behind, ahead, up--all in spectacularly clear view. It is breathtaking!

So, when I encountered this concept while reading Leading Blog, culled from The Nature of Leadership, by Jim White, I had an immediate, gut level understanding of what the "helicopter view" as it relates to leadership means.

Leaders have the ability to see events, crises, challenges, etc. in the larger context. They draw on the lessons of the past to inform the present. And while looking toward the future, they keep the core principles of the organization--mission, service, vision--firmly in view. Without this perspective, it would be easy to repeat the mistakes of the past, or fail to preserve the values that have shaped the organization.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Do You Have the Time?

In a recent post, I mentioned a blog I have been reading. In his post, Cognition and Chance, Kent Blumberg makes some great points about how we think, assess information, and make decisions. One of the conclusions he drew really resonated with me. "Our estimates of time and cost are almost always too low. "

I saw this in action this month when I had my house painted. The estimate I received from the contractor was a very reasonable price, and he said that it would only take a weekend. In fact, the job took two weekends--effectively raising the costs to him as an independent contractor.

How does this relate to us in our profession? When we lose sight of the fact that time is a resource that requires management, we set ourselves up for the inevitable costs: money, morale, quality, credibility, etc.

If you are interested in taking a look at how you can be more effective with the time you have, browse through this slideshow on Time Management.

Transparency in the Moment

Most people would agree that healthy, successful organizations practice transparency with their staff. From the top down, each stakeholder is treated with the respect that is inherent when valuable information is shared. This holds true when the news is both good and bad.
The strongest organizations practice this and make it a part of their culture. This is accomplished easily when there is a concerted effort to communicate through formal channels. The organization leaders make an effort to be visible and communicate the message. But what about those times when the information sharing is not planned? This is the time for transparency in the moment.
At a recent meeting, I watched our Deputy Director make a short presentation regarding the Friends Budget allocations. This was a cut and dry, information sharing opportunity. When time came for questions, though, they were off topic and related to far more complex budget, staffing, and collection issues. While she did not come prepared for these questions, she proceeded to answer each question as candidly and thoroughly as possible.
This is what I mean by transparency in the moment. Rather than defer those questions, she took the opportunity to be open and honest about the state of those issues. The net result is a better informed group of managers that have credible information to provide to their staff. No one was left wondering--How bad is it? What is she hiding? Rather, she managed, in that brief moment, to seize the opportinty to build trust and create a sense of belonging.

Congratulations to Dean Moore

It was announced this week that Dean has become the acting manager for the Frayser Branch Library. Dean's service to the Frayser community, and his determination to pursue a leadership role have begun to pay off. We wish you success and look forward to you bringing your leadership experience and enthusiasm to your new position.

Excellent Leadership Blog

I have encountered a wonderful blog devoted to all topics regarding leadership and professional growth. The blog is authored by Kent Blumberg and offers insight from his experiences in the manufacturing sector worldwide. A quick glance at the list of posts will reveal that he targets leadership from a practical perspective. Among the gems: Who's Your Fool?, Don't Cut Price: Add Value Instead, and Are you Doing Things To or For Your Customer.

This blog is talked about among the many business, management and leadership blogs I read. Take a look. I think you will be pleased to see that many of the posts will resonate with you both personally and professionally.

What Not to Wear

What Not To Wear
I had a conversation recently with a friend who is a fan of the TLC show, What Not to Wear. You know how it goes. Everybody's favorite frumpy friend gets the professional makeover treatment, and Voila! The swan emerges from beneath the duckling's feathers.
This particular episode was a little different in that it had a very relevant message for the emerging leader. The person of focus for this episode wa a young woman in her twenties who worked as a receptionist in a bank in NYC. Her clothing was not what one would describe as "professional." She wore clothing that was more along the lines of what you would see in a junior high school rather than in a professional lending institution. One of the hosts, Clinton, made the comment, "People should dress like they are proud to be at work."
What does this mean to you? Are our wardrobe choices sending the messages we intend? Do people, followers in particular, make judgements based on simple factors like dress?
Just something to think about.

Strong Opinions and Conscience-Directed Change

I encountered a really powerful concept that has implications for visionary leadership. When reading Stanford University professor Bob Sutton's "
Work Matters" Blog, I was floored by the simplicity of the idea of "
strong opinions, held weakly." This idea contends that one must possess strong opinions in order to generate compelling and convincing arguments in favor of that opinion. Without this conviction, one will not have the motivation to dig deeply and flesh out the arguments. Conversely, Sutton contends that these positions must be held weakly. Why? Well, if one's position is too firmly entrenched, it raises the possibility that he may become deaf to alternate ideas and information.

Why is this important for visionary leadership? Leaders must be prepared to present opinions in the strongest possible light. To do this, the leader must develop compelling and defensible positions that will influence followers. However, holding the opinion weakly allows the leader to examine situations, information, and trends that may validate the present course or necessitate conscience-directed change. By conscience-directed change I mean leaders making decisions based upon what is right, moral and most prudent for the situation.

History is replete with examples of leaders staying the course in the face of contradictory evidence or experience. The leaders of Enron maintained the status quo regardng their business practices when all evidence pointed to the fact that the business model was not sustainable. Had they had the courage to face the situation head-on and make conscience-directed changes, history might tell a different story. However, we all know how the story ends.

Are any of your opinions so strong that you are willing to hold them to the bitter end? Do you have the courage to make conscience-directed changes? Just some questions to ponder.

Self Knowledge is the Key to Effective Leadership

Jeanne Carr, Managing Partner with Team Trek Coaching Group completed the all day retreat for our new LEAP class. In the session, Jeanne clearly established that effective, visionary leadership can only begin after a thorough process of self discovery and awareness. This process leads one, inevitably, toward an understanding of talents and strengths. It is the application of these strengths, in a measured and balanced way, that leads to excellence.
Most importantly, the session outlined the principle of 100% responsibility. Simply stated, "I am 100% responsible for how I choose to respond to the people and circumstances in my life. Everyone else is 0% responsible." Therefore, I am 100% responsible for developing my strengths, 100% responsible for preparing for challenges, and 100% responsible for how I react to challenges. It is quite empowering and liberating when I realize that, although I cannot control the circumstances, I do control my reactions. And, consequently, I am far more likely to effect positive outcomes.

Welcome to the Class of 2007

We have been dilligently reviewing applications and conducting interviews to narrow the fine group of applicants, hence the lack of posts. Now, we have done our work as a selection committee and are ready to present to you the Class of 2007. Here they are:
Laura Bonds
Leann Gordy
Lillian Johnson
Twan Jones
Kam McHugh
Dean Moore
Carolyn Ray
Linda Scott
Nathan Tipton
Keshia Williams
And what a wonderful group it is. We have high expectations. Here's hoping that you discover your true leadership style. Here's hoping that you unlock hidden talents and conquer long-held fears. Here's hoping you bond into a formidible group of future leaders!


LEAP Logo blank2.jpgIn a recent issue of Training Magazine (May 2006), there was an article about the leadership legacy of Jack Welch, the much lauded former CEO of GE. Jack Welch is revered in business circles for good reason. He headed one of the largest companies in the world for 20 years, and was responsible for a market value increase from $13B to nearly $400B during his tenure.
What struck me most about his ideas about leadership was that they he was always focused on people. Jack Welch looked for authenticity above all other leadership qualities. He felt that success in business was about treating people well. And, most interestingly, he wanted the organization to celebrate! Celebrate the victories, no matter how small. Have fun and enjoy the work. In his own words:
"At GE, I preached celebration over and over again. Somehow it was just in my blood. I think you have to have fun in the workplace. There's no excuse for not doing it. Don't ever be too busy to do it; don't ever be too cheap to do it. Celebration is one of your biggest obligations."
We could not agree more! We had a wonderful time at our graduation ceremony. The LEAPers had an opportunity to present their work, and we had an opportunity to celebrate their creativity! We had great food, plenty of time to catch up with colleagues, and a chance to see this group shine. Enjoy these pictures of the LEAP graduation. It is our hope that the event adequately celebrated the achievements of this fine group of leaders.
LEAP group picture gay.jpg

I Say "Yes!"

As promised, I am posting the entire remarks by Donna Moore. Donna has been a huge inspiration to the entire group. I mentioned her in a previous post. She came to the program with a serious fear of public speaking. The fact that she volunteered to provide commencement remarks is a testament to her will to gain valuable experience from this program. Here are her remarks. I hope you find them to be as powerful and inspirational as I did!
"As we concluded our day of learning at LEAP, we were required to evaluate our day. Allow me to evaluate my success as it relates to the Leap Program. I must first know: What success is. Definition: Success is the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; or a successful performance or achievement. Questions to consider during my evaluation--- Did the Leap Program meet its 4 objectives?
  • Developed visionary leadership through practical hands-on experience and classroom training sessions;
  • Developed awareness of external/internal social and political influences impacting the library system, resulting in effective communication strategies for disseminating information;
  • Developed proactive strategies to address a shifting workplace environment; and
  • Gained an understanding of all overall operations of the library system and how each part works together to support the organization’s mission.
Allow me to briefly review.
I participated in small group activities and discussions
  • We were given a scenario--the goal was to come up with a solution.
  • I practiced writing a media release which was the introduction of e-audio books.
Objective #1 successfully completed
I discovered the world outside Memphis Public
Exploring other libraries (Buckman Labortories, SSCC, and St.Mary’s to name a few) and community service based organization ( MIFA,
ChurchHealthCenter, Bridges &
PeabodyMuseum) helped me in understanding the importance of their individual functions and how they deal with financial funding. Our group would return to MPL to discuss and to report our findings. Objective #2 successfully completed Our small group project has addressed our proactive strategies in a shifting workplace environment.Objective #3 successfully completedThe session “Follow the Book” taught me about each department as the book travels through the library. Our mentors provided the opportunity for us to see their department through their eyes. I’m sure each LEAP participant gained a greater respect and appreciation for the mentors, as I did. “Challenges throughout the System History/We’ve Come a Long Way Baby”, my personal favorite, was a session that I experienced a sense of awe in learning about the rich history of the library and its memories. It is my belief that if we know where we have come and what it took to get there we can better appreciate where we are today with a more sincere gratitude. Objective #4 successfully completed With objectives completed… Let me share a little about myself so you can understand and appreciate how far I have really come. You see, I learn with my heart, my eyes and my hands. With my heart I gained tremendous life experiences and knowledge of how to be a more effective leader. After taking my online assessment through Team Trek, my god given/ inner core strengths were given a name and a voice. Now what I did and how I did it made sense- We were taught to build upon what you do right. Laying the foundation to build and improve.LEAP opened my eyes and allowed me to see people and myself in a new light. I was blessed with the opportunity to share my LEAP experience with the 11 wonderful leap participants who I have come to admire and appreciate for their talents and leadership skills. So get ready for what is to come; we are--prepared, equipped with the proper information and ready to lead. I could not omit all those who contributed from the beginning to make this a successful program and wonderful environment to learn.I’ve received multitudes of hands-on experience that broadened my views and exposed me to a world of possibilities and opportunities. An unknown author quoted “The right man/ women in the right place at the right time doing the right thing in the right way.” This is how I view my 11 months with LEAP. I thank all who encouraged me to apply. Words can only begin to express how much I have gained through LEAP.Our first session taught me to step outside my comfort zone and into the zone of possibility. Conquer your False Expectations Appearing Real (FEAR).I end where I began to make the circle complete. Evaluating my success as it relates to LEAP. Did LEAP meet their objectives as it related to ME?I say “YES!!!”There is a famous quote that states “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate but that we are powerful beyond measure”What was my fear: “Public Speaking.”I thank you for this opportunity to LEAP; you have made me soar beyond my own expectations. "

Graduation Day

We held the graduation ceremony for our first LEAP group on Thursday, May 11, 2006. It was a huge success and a proud moment for the members and our Library. We had an opportunity to hear presentations of the small groups' year-long projects. We were treated to very professional, engaging mutlimedia presentations on three important issues: internal communication, cross-training, and customer service modeled after a well-known retail establishment. There is plenty of food for thought and we will be examining these projects to see how we may apply the concepts to improve our organization.
Afterward, two class members made very moving remarks about their individual experiences. They were such powerful speeches that I will include them in subsequent posts. Finally, Judith Drescher, our Director and leader par excellence, inspired the group to close the circle and put their experiences into practice.
All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon. I was really touched by the pride each class member displayed. Any doubts or concerns I had about the quality of the program or its importance for the class members went right out the window. I look forward to seeing the fruits of our labor.

Managers, How Do You Lead?

One of the inevitable questions managers ask themselves is "how to do I model for my staff?" Good leaders are concerened with the examples they set for the staff in their charge. They want to motivate staff, provide direction and vision, and demonstrate a commitment to that vision. So, as leaders in our Library, what can you do to lead your staff?
One important thing you can do is encourage your staff to apply for the LEAP program. Let them know you value their contribution and have recognized their abilities. By giving them your support, you are letting them know they are an asset to our system and deserve an opportunity to grow into a leadership position. This demonstrates commitment to your staff and to the goals of our system.
The staff will gain invaluable information and experience that will serve your agency well. They will be armed with a renewed commitment to "satisfying the customer's need to know," while, at the same time, serving as a representative for agency!

Blogs for Leaders

A recent post to our very own LEAP member Kevin's MPLIC Techtrain blog, made me realize what a tremendous resource the blog world is for everyone, potential leaders included. His post, "Put Everything in One Place and Be Done with It" underscores the need to have a "management tool" so to speak when sifting the web for information. The technology that allows you to choose an aggregator and subscribe to blogs is a wonderful opportunity to have relevant, timely leadership information sent to your account.
I have found some great blogs that are very relevant to my position, and to the concept of organizational leadership. These are just two of the many I have found in my searches:
Take a look at them! And, use your aggregator to find other blogs and sites that will enhance your leadership reading and learning. Finally, comment to this post and share what you found!

Where I Went and What I Learned

The most recent session was entitled Where I Went and What I Learned. Each class member submitted an activity, event or opportunity that they wanted to participate in. They were charged with analyzing the experience and presenting it to the larger group. The LEAP class did a wonderful job of presenting their experiences!
Activities ranged from presenting at a professional conference to participating in a Delivery and Distribution nightly run. The presenters utilized a variety of presentation styles, from graphic intensive powerpoint shows to a really fun scrapbook that was used as a visual aid.
I am very pleased with the progress of the class in their public speaking abilities. In particular, one class member stood with confidence at the podium, spoke clearly and strongly, and fully entertained the group with her comfortable speaking style. What a contrast! She was the class member who was reduced to tears in the first session at the prospect of public speaking. Kudos to her for having the courage to face that fear and develop into a fine speaker!

Why Would You Want to Be in LEAP

I have received quite a few calls this week regarding the application process. Most were matter of fact questions about having supervisors sign off, the deadline, etc. But, I had one very interesting question. "What is going to happen to those who are graduating from the current class?" In other words, how did they benefit?
The question gave me pause. Really what the person was asking was, "What's in it for me?" or WIIFM. As a trainer, I understand the importance of this concept. Much of our motivation for learning new concepts, accepting new responsibilities, enrolling in classes, etc. revolves around this question. Instinctively, I feel that true leaders are motivated intrinsically. A leader does the right thing because it is right. A leader avails himself of learning opportunities for self improvement.
However, one cannot discount the importance of the WIIFM. So, here are some great reasons why you should apply for the program:
  • Candid insight into the history and philosophy of the Library system, as told by its current leadership
  • Continual opportunities to learn new communication skills and techniques, and improve on existing ones
  • Gain a deeper understanding of public relations as it relates to libraries
  • Learn who our major collaborators are
  • Have an opportunity to shadow and model current library leaders
These are just a few of the reasons why you want to consider being a part of this great program.

LEAP Program Schedule

In order to make the LEAP experience a consistent one, we will be maintaining the same program schedule as last year. However, there will be some minor modifications to some of the programs. Also, the order of the sessions may need some minor adjustment in order to refine the flow of the program.
Here is the schedule in its current form:
Welcome Reception
Leap Retreat
Essentials of Communication
Follow the Book
Part 1: Challenge throughout System History
Part 2: We've Come a Long Way, Baby
Public Relations: Our Window on the World
Shake 'Em Up: A Day in the Life Somewhere Else
The Library world Beyond Memphis Public
Community Involvement
Where I Went/What I Learned
I will be adding more content regarding these sessions, including links to PowerPoint Shows and .pdf versions of the handouts in the near future.

Applications Are Available

I sent out the applications last week. Last year, we had 37 interested applicants. Not bad for the first year. With word of mouth and encouragement from all levels throughout the system, we are expecting a larger pool this year.
The process will be the same as last year. Interested staff must complete the application, and be sure to submit with a letter of recommendation attesting to his/her leadership potential. This letter may come from someone outside the system.
After the applications have been screened, a group of interviewers will be selected. The pool will be narrowed to 20. These finalists will be interviewed individually to determine suitability for the program. Ultimately, the 12 members of the class of 2007 will be selected from the process.
So, if you are interested, please go ahead and complete the application. You can download a copy by following this link:
Do something positive for your career--LEAP!

What is LEAP

LEAP is a leadership program of Memphis Public Library and Information Center.

LEAP (Leadership Empowerment Achievement Program) is designed to:

  • identify potential leaders within the library system,

  • allow employees interested in advancement an opportunity to enhance their leadership skills, and

  • develop a pool of individuals who can assume leadership roles when the need arises.

The objectives for participants in LEAP are:

  1. develop visionary leadership through practical hands-on experience and classroom training sessions;

  2. develop awareness of external and internal social and political influences impacting the library system, resulting in effective communication strategies for disseminating information;

  3. develop proactive strategies to address a shifting workplace environment; and

  4. gain an understanding of the overall operation of the library system and how each part works together to support the organization’s mission.

The following is a list of “soft skills” or “transferable skills” identified by the Leadership Development Steering Committee as shaping future Memphis Public Library leaders. Individual LEAP sessions were designed based on these competencies; each session addresses one or more of these skills:

  • identifying and appreciating various leadership styles

  • effective communication

  • motivating followers and teambuilding

  • ethical leadership

  • valuing professional organizations

  • advocacy and outreach

  • stress management

  • strategic planning

  • personal and professional development

  • dealing with change

  • coaching and mentoring

  • community awareness

  • public relations

  • coping with chaos

  • recognizing charateristics of good leaders

  • political acumen or savvy

  • building collaborative elationships

  • networking

  • handling criticism and adversity

  • creating and communicating vision

  • understanding the library "big picture"

  • time management

  • identifying future trends