Thursday, June 4, 2015

Building the Introverted Library Scene?

So, I recently took one of those short online Myers/Briggs based personality assessments because, you know, the internet. I came out just about how I always do, INTJ, with strong I & J, weaker N & T. I don't think this would be a surprise to anyone who knows me or the MB. I also think that the rarer types like INTJ tend to be over-represented in library and academic work for obvious reasons. Anyhow, as we come to the point, in its descriptions about "work habits" I read the following:

Above all else, INTJs want to be able to tackle intellectually interesting work with minimal outside interference, no more, no less. Time-consuming management techniques like trust-building getaways, progress meetings, and drawn-out, sandwiched criticisms are only going to annoy INTJs – all they need, be they subordinate, colleague, or manager, is to meet their goals with the highest standard of technical excellence and to be surrounded by, if anyone at all, people who share those values.
 Note that as I am reading this, I am involved in supporting and planning "time-consuming management techniques." What I'm interested in doing is high level intellectual stuff and making the library the very very best it can be. What I've found is essential in making that happen is... people. In fact, PEOPLE are the most intellectually interesting problem I've found in my life. I can put a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle together in less than a day, I learned how to do a Rubik's Cube and now find them relaxing. Planning scenarios for how people will react to proposals and options? Figuring out if the people (who make the organization) are on the right track? that never gets solved, never gets finished, is mind-bendingly complex. It's the best puzzle there is.

I realize that many people would be appalled to hear that I consider them a puzzle to be figured out, but it's just the way I consider everything. Including myself. I suppose the consolation is that I want everything and everyone to be operating at its absolute peak. Which speaks to my management style and my obsession with organizational development and strategic planning. Specifically, doing them right. If I manage people, I want those people to be doing the best things in the best ways being their best selves. That's what is best for the organization, best for the people, and best for me as a manager. Putting in the people-work to make this happen is therefore I can probably say best some more, don't worry.

There's been widespread dismissal of many different kinds of management strategies, specifically about the time and effort they take without "proof" of the results. These strategies are not solutions in the way that the solution to your car not starting is a new battery. They are solutions like meditation. Ones that are difficult to implement well, have many trip-ups at the beginning, take a while to show results, and have dramatically positive benefits in the long term. Taking the time to work with people to get them truly involved in these processes means working through an iterative process to show the value of the various practices that you're trying to implement. The time to sit down with someone and help them work through their feelings about all of the issues, their intellectual, and emotional thoughts about everything that is happening in your organization.

That's a lot of work! But! Librarians! Look at me. Let me tell you the reward for getting these puzzles solved is better than any other puzzle-solving experience. If I can pivot the skills and dispositions of my INTJ personality to working on huge system projects where the system is made of people, there are a lot of people in libraries who might be able to do the same. We have the capacity to make "annoying management practices" into truly effective organizational tools.

And when we do? It's gonna be rockin'

What's your M/B? How do you use the dispositions within that type to push against it's very definition? Let me know in the comments or on twitter.

Keep rockin'


Megan said...

I'm the super touchy-feely ENFP, and my biggest and most interesting challenge as a manager is to figure out how to manage folks with MBTIs like yours. In short, how do I support them and then get the hell out of their way?

Rachel Fleming said...

Just speaking for myself, what I want from a manager is to make the end goal clear to me and to let me know if anything is required along the way. This gives us the space to mess around with process like we like to do. Managers I've had that have really helped me grow are ones who help me think through things that need to get done (sometimes with "I don't know, you're the specialist"), and ones that have helped me think through the best ways to do things ("You're trying to fix everyone's problems, and that's not your job, what is a better approach?").

Think about what kinds of things they find rewarding -- is it getting credit for big work? is it taking a lead in some kind of training? is it just being left alone? I think it really depends on the person.

If you do have to check up on something, or if you want to just check in with somebody, bring a question or something else small, to use as a starter. "So about this DVD order... and how is everything else..." That kind of thing works well with me.