Making Things Right

This year we launched a revised web site for the library and I decided to incorporate new elements that I thought would be beneficial to students. Other library staff were challenged by one of new elements and made their case for not moving ahead. I felt strongly about the element and decided to move forward anyway. How could I act counter to how I would like to lead?

I am responsible for the operation of a community college library. That responsibility includes vision, leadership, staffing, budget, and working directly with the students and faculty. Two important aspects of my job are (1) being able to communicate effectively and (2) being able to admit when I am wrong.

Two recent blog posts inspired me to reflect on the second aspect on making things right. I’ll save my reflection on communication for another time because I believe that “right speech” is probably the most difficult precept to practice. Roy Tennant covered Managing Personal Change with some great strategies that can be applied in many circumstances. In particular, I like learn as you breathe and be grateful. The second post by Seth Godin, Demonstrating Strength, reminds readers to apologize and to offer kindness.

Even the most effective leader will make poor decisions, communicate poorly, and pitch ideas that aren’t the right thing for the organization. In fact, it is by working through these circumstances that we can separate the truly effective leader with those who stand blindly and never acknowledging an error or mistake. I don’t want to fall into that second category.

The balancing act is staying aware of those who work with me, and help them be happy employees, and not to fall into the trap of codependency. I know that everyone can’t be happy with everything that occurs in a working environment. However, one of my goals as the Library Director is to help all employees actually want to be at work. If they are happy being present then we can provide awesome service to the customers.

In my example above, my decision was clearly counter to my philosophy of management. I’ve worked hard to create an open work environment where ideas are supported and my office door is always open. It’s been two months since the decision to proceed. The sky has not fallen, but it would be erroneous of me to not spend time in reflection on the matter.

So, how do I manage my own personal change and also demonstrate strength?

  • Be inspired. I look for reading material and other people who inspire me to do better. The two blog posts above are examples. I keep my Google Reader full of other similar resources. Recently I read Linchpin and Rework and felt totally inspired.
  • Meditate. Building the connection between my body and mind support my ability to be an effective leader. Knowing my own abilities and comfort zones shine light on my limitations so that I can demonstrate my strengths.
  • Look at what’s important. Do I have to be right? Do I always have to get my way? If I want people to be happy in coming to work then I need to be willing to set aside my own agenda.
  • Admit errors. In the end, it’s really not about me. It’s about the employees. It’s about the students. It’s about the services we can provide.

How do you demonstrate strength and manage personal change?

  • stevenb

    I agree that sometimes it is necessary, as a leader, to make the call that you believe is the right one for your community. If you did provide your staff an opportunity to share their views and to make a case for why they thought you were making the wrong decision – and you told them you would take their advice under consideration – then I believe you demonstrated respect for their expertise and opinions. As long as you also prefaced all this by indicating that you wanted their feedback, but that you would ultimately make the decision you thought was best for the community – I think that demonstrates openness and honesty. In this ACRLog post I pointed to a good HBR video on the biggest mistakes leaders make. You may want to check it out – to confirm that you are on the right path http://acrlog.org/2010/09/29/sudden-thoughts-and-second-thoughts-29/ In the end, if it turns out great, give credit to the staff for supporting the decision in the long run. If it fails – you already know you’ll take the responsibility and admit your judgment call was the wrong one. Knowing you, I’m betting you have a good track record of successful judgment calls.

  • http://kenleyneufeld.com Kenley Neufeld

    I thought enough time was given for feedback, but they gave it to me after I had launched the site. That said, a few days later a suggestion was made by staff to improve the service. They were great ideas and I immediately implemented. Even with that, I’m feeling like we need to revisit again. It’s on the agenda. They have to do the work and I respect their judgement. Some things need to be done, as you say, but this example isn’t one of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1415797222 Nicole Gilbert

    This post demonstrates what being a leader is all about. As opposed to, say, being a tyrant. Got any openings over there in the library? I would love to work for someone who understands that employee morale is critical to the success of the department or organization. Duh, I know, but some people don’t get it.