Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's Best To Make the Most Of This

It's not about you. Well it is. It is about you providing the best services to the most people. I truly believe this is what we are interested in doing, and that's why I talk about relationships all of the time, even on other blogs. Because we want to do our jobs well, we often focus on our jobs, which can work against our interests. As a service organization, the depth of our specific knowledge and the breadth of our professional knowledge and services is often invisible. We want to make it apparent, to show everyone what we know and what we can do for them. However, "marketing" our services can happen in a way that is unhelpful or even belligerent and off-putting.

I am thinking about how we listen. How often do we run into or engage in the kind of interaction I described in this tweet?
Now, I am a person who hates being told what to do, so when this happens to me, I feel like my input isn't valued, and wasn't even wanted in the first place.  I understand the impulse to respond to input with the array of services available or avenues for action, but this impulse is wrong. We need to work on shutting it down. Erin wrote about developing relationships with faculty based, saying
And when we ask faculty what their ideal relationship with a librarian looks like, let's ask because we really want to know and not because we want faculty to take us seriously or see as as equals.
To really listen, to be interested and want to know, our impulse has to shift from "marketing" our services to understanding our users and their needs. The brief conversation in my tweet should read something like
1: Please, we welcome your input!
2: Here is my input.
1: Wow, okay. I hear that. Can you tell me more about what has led you to that position and what you would like to see happen to address this issue? Where do you want to be in that process?
1: Please, we welcome your input!
2: Here is my input.
1: I can definitely help you with that.
This should be the response even when you already offer a service that addresses the concern. Maybe there is something you can improve, maybe you can address a past wrong, maybe you will learn something. There is never a situation where a constructive answer is "oh, you know, we offer that service" or "if you would volunteer for a committee you will be able to address that concern," even when those things are true. Those responses do not encourage the actions that either party would like to see, they do not cultivate relationships. Every interaction is an opportunity to go deeper, as well. By shifting from a focus on what we do to a focus on our users, we can turn "our tech desk checks out several types of camera" to "wow that assignment sounds really interesting, what are you hoping your students learn from it? how else do you incorporate technology into your teaching? when you have some time, I'd love to show you some of the things our technology desk offers for checkout and introduce you to our technology staff."

When we ask for input, we need to be ready to hear input, because when people give input, they want to be heard. Of course, that sounds great and we can all agree that it's best and that my example is what we try to do. I think we need to practice turning off our "let me tell you what we already do" defenses more and harder to make sure we're always ready to listen and engage on a personal level.

What can you say to tell the person you're interacting with that they're being heard? What can you personally do, in that moment or in the short term future, to address their input constructively? How can you connect with their broader concerns?

And every time, after every interaction: how could I have done that better?

Keep Rockin'

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