Finding Your Leadership Pathway – Plan of Action

In most journeys, complications arise that force us to take alternative paths. Two weeks ago, I discussed how to anticipate roadblocks. Once these obstacles are apparent, the next step is to formulate plans to detour or bypass them. There are several ways to develop these strategies. Two are highlighted below.

A solitary method to address potential roadblocks is by brainstorming options. I suggest using map maps to avoid the trap of linear thinking. Take a sheet of blank paper and write the name of the roadblock in the center. Around that center point start listing potential solutions. Avoid early self-censorship by writing down everything that comes to mind. Don’t worry if ideas seem unworkable. The point is to get them out of your head for full review. In fact, sometimes ideas that seem silly at first might have merit upon closer examination.

Challenge yourself to come up with a least five options. For example, let’s say the roadblock to succeeding with your project is lack of funding. Here are several ideas to solve it:

  • Ask the owner/director for additional funds
  • Seek out grant opportunities
  • Arrange for a loan from a bank or colleague
  • Identify options to reduce the project’s overall costs
  • Recruit investors to the cause
  • Close out other projects to divert funds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A collaborative way to overcome roadblocks is through a support network. There are many people out there with experience and resources that could be amenable to assist. Too often we fail to seek help due to embarrassment or ego. However, being willing to reach out to colleagues can be the difference maker.

One way to do this is through existing professional networks. For example, I am a member of the Urban Libraries Council Library Director/CEO listserv. Through that network I have access to hundreds of years of professional executive experience. Whenever a question or request is posted to the listserv a dozen or more people may respond. Quite often, solutions and options arise very fast in the candid conversation.

To that end, seek out professional networks, even ones that are not within your occupation. Oftentimes the way to overcome a roadblock is by applying ideas from another profession. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, construction workers, and librarians all have different mindsets. Join the local Chamber of Commerce or attend a Toastmasters club. Both are examples of cross professional organizations. Tapping into alternative viewpoints is a helpful way to find novel solutions.

With the end in sight, next time I’ll discuss how to reflect on the journey.

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.

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 …

Leadership Perspectives – Organizational Health

Who is responsible for the health of the organization you work for? Most people assume it is the top leader and there is lots of truth to that belief. However in reality everyone in the organization has a role to play in building a strong culture.

The ALA Learning Exchange newsletter recently published a short article I wrote about this topic. It starts out with this question.

So how does one determine organizational health? Many people think it is through the measurable outputs and outcomes laid out in the strategic plan. These can be such factors as visitor counts, circulation numbers, program attendance and more. Other factors such as employee turnover may point to job satisfaction. However, all these pieces are just a part of the equation. After all, you can have an organization that achieves its goals yet is stressed out and hostile. In the end, an organization’s health is determined by the strength of its culture. Strong cultures thrive no matter what the situation, while weak cultures disintegrate at the slightest sign of stress.

To learn more about how culture directly affects an organization, please read the rest of the article which has been posted here for your review.

Think Like a Scientist

The world is full of disagreement. Throughout our lives we encounter people who have different views from us on a wide range of topics. In some cases, these views may be held very intensely, leading to arguments, conflict, and at worst violence. If you have ever tried to change people’s minds, it can appear to be a futile process. Why is that so?

According to Adam Grant, part of the reason that disagreements are rarely resolved is because people don’t know how to engage in thoughtful debate. He argues in his new book, Think Again, that most people fall to one of three default modes of persuasion. In a recent article in Inc. magazine, contributor Jessica Stillman describes these modes this way:

Adam Grant

Preacher: “When we’re in preacher mode, we’re convinced we’re right,” explained Grant. From the salesman to the clergyman, this is the style you use when you’re trying to persuade others to your way of thinking.

Prosecutor: “When we’re in prosecutor mode, we’re trying to prove someone else wrong,” he continued.

Politician: It’s no shock that “when we’re in politician mode, we’re trying to win the approval of our audience.”

The problem with all three of these modes is that they rarely succeed in changing other person’s mind. In fact, they often create more resistance. Instead, Grant identifies a different approach to resolving disagreements.

Scientist: When you think like a scientist, “you favor humility over pride and curiosity over conviction,” Grant explained. “You look for reasons why you might be wrong; not just reasons why you must be right.”

This mode is challenging because it requires the maturity to accept that their position could be wrong. This vulnerability can become a bridge to connect people in a way that allows for understanding. To learn more, I invite you read Stillman’s article. If you want to dive deeper, please read Grant’s book, Think Again.

Don’t Worry about FOMO! Live the JOMO lifestyle!

Have you ever had the experience of wondering if you are missing something important? Have you ever been concerned that other people are doing something that you need to know? Have you ever had a potential heart attack when you noticed that your phone is in another room and you may have missed a call or text? Welcome to FOMO – the fear of missing out. It drives people to constantly check their messages and social media feeds to see if important things are happening around them. Most often nothing is, but the fear drives people to compulsively worry about it!

The folks who developed Basecamp understand this concern. That is why they propose living your life in a state of JOMO – the joy of missing out. As they describe in their book, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy to Work Here, authors Jason Fried and David Hansson share the philosophy of JOMO on pages 70-71.

People should be missing out! Most people should miss out on most things most of the time. That’s what we try to encourage at Basecamp. JOMO! The joy of missing out.

Later on they clarify why it is a part of their company’s culture:

Because there’s absolutely no reason everyone needs to attempt to know everything that’s going on at our company. And especially not in real time! If it’s important, you’ll find out. And most of it isn’t. Most of the day-to-day work inside a company’s walls is mundane. And that’s a beautiful thing. It’s work, it’s not news.

I invite you to give it try. Resolve to focus only on what is truly important in your job and life. Let the Twitter feeds and gossip slide by without a second glance. Give it a week then see if you feel more relaxed and focused. If so, then you are now living the JOMO lifestyle!

Support Your Local Library – Its Easy to Do

Do you know how your public library is funded? Most of them survive on revenue from property tax, sales tax, and fees. While most people assume that they will always be there we have seen library systems lose revenue and reduce services in the face of broader economic downturns. As tax funded institutions public libraries rely on the support of local, state and federal elected officials. This makes the advocacy of library card holders essential to ensure their future.

This time of year is especially important for your voice to be heard. Many governments are in their budget planning process for the 2022 fiscal year. Speaking to your elected officials early on in the budget process can make a huge difference. For example in my home state of Florida the State Legislature opened its annual session last week. At stake is funding for the State Aid to Libraries Grant, Public Library Construction Grants, and the five Multi-type Library Cooperatives. To support this push, the Florida Library Association put together an advocacy campaign for increased funding to support libraries as they assist with economic recovery and advancing education. At the Federal level, the American Rescue Plan increases funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to assist libraries of all types, including schools.

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

One organization that advocates for public libraries across the country is EveryLibrary. They have made a huge impact in library referendums through fundraising and expanding awareness. As explained on their web site:

EveryLibrary is the first and only national political action committee for libraries. We are a gold-rated non-profit organization that helps public, school, and college libraries secure new funding through tax and advisory referendum, bonds elections, negotiations with school boards, and advocacy at municipal, state, and federal levels. Our primary goal is to ensure stable funding and access to libraries for generations to come.

EveryLibrary carries out its mission through the generosity of its donors. I am a proud monthly supporter of EveryLibrary. If you want to ensure libraries thrive I encourage you to consider offering financial support for this hard working organization.

At the end of the day, don’t forget that the majority of library funding happens at the local level. Send your Mayor and Board of County Commissioners an email or a quick call to share how important libraries are to you and your community. Sometimes all it takes is a few passionate voices to make a difference. Libraries exist for the betterment of the communities they serve. Make sure your voice is heard now to ensure their future.

Disagreeable Feedback

It is a simple fact that in order to improve in any skill, whether it be management, communication, or computers, feedback is needed. Great feedback happens when it is very specific, given timely, and in a way that is supportive of the recipient. However, we have all experienced feedback that doesn’t work for us. In fact, some feedback may simply be inappropriate or wrong. What is the best way to respond?

Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, is one of the leading experts on effective workplace communication. In a post on her blog, 5 Tips for When You Disagree with Feedback, Kim is very straightforward with the notion that you do not have to agree with feedback.

You can and should tell the person that you disagree. If you just say, “Thank you for the feedback” through gritted teeth, you seem Manipulatively Insincere. Better to take the time to explain why you disagree. Once, a CEO to whom I’d offered criticism told me the next day, “I reject that feedback — but I love that you told me what you think! Do you want to hear why I disagree?” Of course I did — and I actually felt better about my coaching of him after that because he’d been so totally open to criticism before that moment that I wondered if he was really hearing it.

Kim Scott

Kim wants to ensure that the person providing the feedback is honored for doing so. That way they understand you appreciated the effort even if you disagreed with their assessment. She then provides five tips on how to deal with feedback. The first is to check your understanding.

Repeat back what you think you heard, and say, “Did I understand correctly?” or “Did I get that right?” This is a good opportunity to show you care about the person, and what they think.

Learn more tips about how to respectful respond to disagreeable feedback on the Radical Candor web site.