Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Helping people to Do Awesome Things

My friend, @winelibrarian, writes a really great blog about Boss Stuff. Basically, she blogs about all of the things you wish your administrator would talk to you about.

Yesterday she wrote a blog post about learning to let go of control when you're in a management position and can no longer do all of the things. She points out that even when you have staff that Do Amazing Things, it's still not easy to let them do it. One of the things that struck me about this blog post was the list of "resolutions" at the end of the post--especially #3: If you think someone in your organization cannot do something so you'll just do it yourself, get them the training they need.

In librarianship, it seems like we go to great lengths to work around the people who we think can't (or, perhaps, can no longer) do the jobs they were hired to do.  Departments are restructured and job duties reallocated to work around people. We play Org Chart Twister to the point that when people look at how our institutions are structured, we have to explain how a certain decision was made because so-and-so doesn't do their job well. Sometimes I think we do this because we can't stomach the thought of letting people go who don't meet our expectations or do their share to realize our library's mission. Other times, structural situations like tenure make the decision for us.

Working around people to get things done is hard on everyone. People who have to absorb additional job duties have a harder time getting excited about coming to work because we teach them that being a conscientious, skilled worker leads to having more worked piled on you. People who have job duties taken away from them have a harder time getting excited about coming to work because they feel isolated and like their contributions to the organization don't matter. It's a lose-lose situation.

What if, instead of taking people's responsibilities away from them, we assess what they need to succeed and then provide them with as many resources as is reasonably possible? What if we identified the problems that hold them back and got their buy-in in identifying and implementing solutions?

I recognize that this approach won't work with every person in a library. Some people don't want to improve or can't be helped with any amount of resources. But what about those people who can be helped? Don't we owe it to each other to put our colleagues in a position to be successful?

I get it. This kind of coaching takes time--time that you don't have. You're being pulled in a million different directions by people and projects who compete for your attention and your resources. But the people who work in a library are, perhaps, it's most valuable asset. And what would it be like if we could put them in a position to Do Awesome Things?

Stay positive,

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