Finding Your Leadership Pathway – Goals

What is your leadership destination?

Leader development is an ongoing process. Last week I discussed how the beginning of leadership growth is understanding your starting point. After all, you can’t plan a journey without knowing from where it will begin. Once the starting point is set, the next action is to decide on the destination.

Let’s get something out of the way first: leadership development is not solely about rising through the ranks of an organization. For many people, moving into management or administration goes against what makes them happy at work. It is perfectly fine for someone to develop within their position and never become a supervisor. That is because leaders can and must exist at all levels of an organization. The challenge for each one of us is deciding a leadership goal that is personally and professionally fulfilling.

A useful tool for this process is the Nexus LAB: Layers of Leadership Model. Created through a partnership with the Educopia Institute, the Center for Creative Leadership, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, it maps out the skills needed for six distinct levels of leadership.

  • Leading Self
  • Leading Others
  • Leading the Department
  • Leading Multiple Departments
  • Leading the Organization
  • Leading the Profession

The model is meant to be approached in a non-liner fashion. Successful leaders may only explore one or two of the levels over their careers. In fact, some people might lead their profession without ever having a management role.

I invite you to explore the model in depth and use it to determine your current leadership goal. For the level you desire to reach, write down the skills, challenges, and potential outcomes associated with it. This exercise will help you identify current strengths and gaps in your knowledge that can be grown on the journey ahead.

Next week, we will explore how to navigate around roadblocks and make the best of detours.

Finding Your Leadership Pathway – Assessment

What is your road to leadership?

At the PLA conference in Portland, I was honored to be participate in an all-day preconference workshop called, Finding Your Leadership Pathway. Sponsored and presented by the PLA Leadership Committee, over thirty participants joined our team to craft their leadership pathway, no matter if they were a new leader or one with many years of experience under their belt.

The agenda for the day followed a five stage roadmap. Over the next five weeks I will highlight one section. Today we start at the beginning with a leadership assessment.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

In order to take any trip, you must know your point of origin. The leadership assessment starts with identifying your current position, skills, and responsibilities. Knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses is also helpful. To ensure the assessment sticks, write down the responses on a real piece of paper to make it a physical process.

While those items will orient you to the here and know, there is something even deeper to consider: values. What is a value? The Google dictionary definition states amongst several things that it is: a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

With that in mind, what do you consider to be your five top values? List them out and see if they resonate with your life and approach to work. If they do not, you may be simply accepting the values of those around you. Instead, reexamine the list and go deeper with another round of listing values. Keep going with rounds of examination until you are satisfied with the list.

Now that you have an understanding of your starting point, next week we will provide a process to identify your leadership goal.

Tips for Better Writing

Do you like to write?

Much like public speaking, many people feel uncomfortable writing for public consumption. However, for almost any kind of professional career, being skillful at writing is an asset. Thankfully there are very simple ways to improve your writing ability without enrolling in a course.

In a recent article on his web site, Darious Foroux lists 15 brief tips that anyone can use to improve their writing. The first one is the simplest of all:

Keep It Brief – Short writing forces you to be clear. Because our thoughts are usually abstract and all over the place, our writing tends to be the same. You can avoid that by always aiming to be as brief as possible.  

That tip is especially true for business writing, since most people want to get to the point quickly to complete a task or project. Another tip that can be applied immediately is to: Be Direct.

Say what you want, mean, or feel. Avoid leaving things open to interpretation because that only annoys people. We can often be more direct in our writing than in real life. When I teach these types of writing lessons in my video course, I don’t need to be this direct because I can use my voice, facial expressions, and examples to make my point. But when we write, we only have our words. So make them count. 

Learn about the other writing tips on Foroux’s web site.

An Underappreciated Leadership Skill

By nature of the position, leaders are required to make decisions. While experience and training are very helpful to make good calls in challenging situations, it may not be enough. In this fast changing world, there is an important skill that will help leaders of all types succeed. It is the power of critical thinking,

In a recent article in Inc. magazine titled, Want to Improve Your Leadership Skills? Focus on Critical Thinking, executive coach Bruce Eckfelt lays out the primary reason that critical thinking is a vital skill for today’s leaders.

As a business grows in size, so does the complexity and scope of its problems and challenges. Without good critical-thinking skills, leaders will make poor decisions and fail to take advantage of strategic opportunities. Very often, what holds the business back from reaching its true potential is a lack in the leadership of foresight and effective problem-solving skills.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

To enhance this skill, Eckfelt provides five ways to improve critical thinking skills. The first is something librarians loves to do: gather more and better data.

The first thing I emphasize is that most teams try to make decisions with limited and poor-quality data. Good critical thinkers start by collecting as much high-quality data as possible. They don’t take things at face value. They question summaries and dig to make sure that they really understand what’s happening on the ground and maximize the raw information they have to work with.

Learn the other four ways to improve your critical thinking skills by reading the article.

Second Brain Summit

Some very exciting happened this past week. The first ever Second Brain Summit was held online! Tiago Forte of Forte Labs brought together a series of speakers to excite and educate everyone on how to build a second brain and maximize its potential.

Here’s what Tiago had to say in a recent email:

Incredibly, we had over 12,300 live participants across 15 sessions led by 18 experts and thought leaders. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

This week you learned:

  • How to avoid self-sabotage in your productive efforts
  • How to apply a “systems mindset” to your life
  • How to reframe productivity through the lens of ADHD
  • How to use apps like Notion, Logseq, Evernote, and OneNote
  • How to automate your notetaking using tools like Readwise and Matter
  • Insights into the future of digital notetaking
  • How to use “meta” thinking and adopt “habits of learning”
  • How to choose the perfect productivity app for you
  • How to appreciate the inherent joy of thinking
  • How to leverage your Second Brain to do your highest value work

And you know what? In case you missed anything, we’ve made every recording available on a YouTube playlist you can revisit and watch anytime.

Learn more about Building a Second Brain at the Forte Labs web site.

You Don’t Need More Content … Yet

Yesterday I finally subscribed to Netflix. Given that the streaming service already has 75 million subscribers in the US alone, it felt like I was the last one to sign on! Why did I wait so long? Quite frankly, my family has subscriptions to Disney+, Discovery+, and HBO Max. Between all three of those services I have enough movies and TV shows to keep me busy for three lifetimes of endless viewing. I resisted Netflix because I didn’t need more content.

As a trainer in productivity, leadership, and libraries, it is tempting to load up presentation with content. This is a useful approach when doing an introductory seminar or presentation. However, I have come to believe that most trainers focus too much on content delivery and not enough on integration. In short they sacrifice the cultivation of knowledge for the sake of information overload.

This insight came to me while developing a leadership clinic for TBLC, a Florida library cooperative. For weeks I struggled to decide what content to share with the students during the 2.5 hours of training. After picking and discarding many different ideas, I fell back to a training approach I learned years ago. The concept divides training into four sections:

  • Content Delivery
  • Written Component
  • Small Group Reflection
  • Large Group Share

Based on this model, delivering content is only a quarter of the learning experience. The other three components are designed to allow participants to integrate the information into their own experience. By offering students time for quiet written work, such as answering a question, they begin to wrap their mind around the material. Through communication in small groups followed by large groups, knowledge is deepened through conversation. By the end of the four sections, the student should have a strong understanding of the material and how it impacts their lives.

At the leadership clinic, the students spent a third of their time in breakout rooms. The conversations were deep and honest. In fact, the students afterward said they wanted more time in the rooms than we had available. Many stated how useful it was to talk through their issues and identify points of resolution.

Whenever you feel you need more content, it may actually be time to reflect on the information you already have. Only after you identify gaps in your knowledge is it time to seek more information.

The moral: Don’t go looking for more content, at least not yet …

Finding Your Leadership Pathway – a PLA PreConference

Are you planning to attend the Public Library Association Conference in Portland OR or live in the vicinity? If so, why not brush up on your leadership skills by joining me and a team of great leaders for a full day pre-conference session, Finding Your Leadership Pathway.

Our presenters include:

  • Lynn Hoffman, Director of Operations, Somerset County Library System of New Jersey
  • Isaiah West, Teen Services Specialist, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System
  • Derek Wolfgram, Library Director, Redwood City Public Library
  • Douglas Crane, Director, Palm Beach County Library System

This full day event is happening on Tues. March 22, 9 am to 5 pm, at the convention center.

What to know what is in store? Read on!

Public libraries offer multiple pathways to leadership. From team supervision to directorship, and from small municipal and rural libraries to large multi-site systems, the array of options create a rich leadership landscape for public library careers. Join current and prospective leaders at all levels to share in a day of exploration, self-reflection, and networking, all focused on helping you map out your own career development journey. In addition to having ample opportunities for interaction with other participants, you’ll also hear from over a dozen diverse leaders as they talk about their own varied experiences throughout the day.

Outcome OneState their leadership value and identify the strengths they can put to the most effective use now and in the future;
Outcome TwoCommunicate with stakeholders and powerfully advocate for change within their organizations, employing strategies to make their voice heard at all levels of leadership; and
Outcome ThreeCreate a plan for sustained action that exemplifies their commitment to maintaining and building on their leadership practice

Register for the PLA Conference and add on this event for an additional charge. Lunch is included.

I hope to see you there!

Empty Inbox – Less Stress

With the high volumes of incoming email we all receive, it can be very tempting to let them pile up. In fact, most people use their inbox as a workflow management and archival system. This approach is highly inefficient and creates unnecessary stress. Thankfully, there is a simple way to resolve this problem: empty your inbox regularly.

For the past ten years I have enjoyed the clarity of an empty inbox. I was inspired to do this after reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. In the book he provides a simple approach to clearing out the inbox no matter the volume. At the core of his technique is the workflow diagram. In a way, the GTD approach is similar to a plumber who ensures that water remains flowing through pipes.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Pexels.com

To clear any inbox, there are three important things to understand:

1 – An inbox is only for in: The best use of an inbox is to identify new messages. Once they have been read, they must leave the inbox. No skipping over items. Go through every message from newest to oldest until complete.

2 – Empty it regularly: To cope with the high volumes, it is important to clear the inbox every day. Not only does this prevent serious backlog that can impact your efficiency, it can eliminates the stress which comes when important messages are buried under junk.

3 – Create functional folders to store messages: An “action” folder will hold items you need to respond to as soon as possible. A “waiting for” folder will hold reminders of actions you are waiting for others to do. An “archive” folder will hold all non-actionable messages you need to retain. Finally, be sure to trash as much as you can early to reduce clutter.

If you want to enjoy a less stressful work life, be sure to clear out your inbox every day. I speak from a decade of experience on this point. An empty inbox is an awesome sight to behold.

Personal Productivity Stacks

We rely on a wide range of technology to get things done. However, if we don’t apply the right tool in the right way, we can end up undermining our efforts. To avoid this problem we need to spend time understanding the structure of knowledge work. This will guide us to use the right tool the right way for better results.

Tiago Forte has thought deeply about how to be more productive and creative at the same time. In a recent posting on his web site called How to Build Your Personal Productivity Stack, he discusses how technological change can both make our work easier and more frustrating.

Each wave of technology does legitimately solve a new problem from the previous wave, and – if harnessed correctly – can move us closer to our goals: the experiences and feelings that we want more of. 

But if you’re like most people, you’re probably using email for multiple purposes far beyond what it was designed for:

  • You use email to send messages
  • You use email as a to-do list
  • You use email to keep track of notes and ideas
  • You use email to manage complex projects and areas of your life

These are extremely different use cases, and using one platform for all of them ensures it fails at all of them.

To be more effective, Tiago breaks down the four key components of knowledge work.

To perform each of them effectively, you have to break apart each of the four essential activities of modern work – Email, Task Management, Notetaking, and Project Management – and use the right tool for each of those jobs.

I call these four functions a “Productivity Stack,” since each one is layered on top of and builds on the one before.

To learn more, read the rest of his post on the Forte Labs web site.