Why are some librarians successful and others are not? It’s not about knowledge and competencies. I have seen highly experienced librarians unable to regularly get teachers to work with them while some newly degreed librarians are quickly embraced by the faculty. What makes the difference?
My blog on “It Begins with Relationship,” posted on April 4, 2016 began with almost the same words. I discussed some ways to build relationships with students, teachers, and administrators. Everything I said is still valid, but there is something more.
Back in the very sexist 1950’s, a self-help book for teenage girls asked, “What’s Your PQ?” It stood for “Personality Quotient.” While the advice was to employ tactics I would never use, the question is relevant for librarians of both genders.
Personality is a major factor in how people relate to you, how they connect – or don’t – with you. And I am sure some of you are thinking that your personality is ingrained. It’s how you are. But as someone who has seen her own personality evolve over the years, I am convinced you can work with who you are and by knowing how to accent the positives of it, bring out a more engaging personality.
Attributes of an engaging personality include:
Optimism – It feels good to hang out with someone who has a positive approach to life. This doesn’t mean a Pollyana who believes life is wonderful no matter what happens. It’s a person who doesn’t focus on the negatives but deals with them by seeing them as “chopportunites” – challenges that can be turned into an opportunity (click the word to see the original post).
But perhaps you are a pessimist. What can you do about that? It’s who you are, right? Face it, living with pessimism isn’t pleasant. Even for the pessimist. So take one page from the optimist and find the “chopportunity” in a given situation. Change your mind set. Affirmations seem too corny for most pessimists, so instead try “I can handle this.” It’s not a ringing statement but it moves you from looking at whatever is occurring with a sense of despair. With practice you will get better at it.
Introvert/Extrovert – Oddly both can be leveraged to animate your personality. If you are a librarian and an introvert you can’t retreat from being with people. What you mean is that you don’t initiate a contact. But introverts are great at listening and that is very attractive to others. Use this in a focused way and people respond.
If you are an extrovert, the caution is to “curb your enthusiasm.” Enthusiasm can be infectious, but it only work if you aren’t overpowering others with it. Rein it in a bit and give others a chance to respond.
Empowering – As AASL exhorts in Empowering 21st-Century Learners, one of the things you do is to empower your students—and teachers. In addition to giving them the skills they need, you can also empower others by recognizing their accomplishments and cheering them on. Quite different from empty complements such as “good job,” this is specific. You might say, “that was a very creative use of this technology” or whatever else they did.
Teachers and students need to be validated as much as you do. Many don’t see where they are special. Those with a positive personality know how to make others feel good about themselves. It ties to the Tom Peters quote, “Leaders don’t make followers; they create more leaders.”
Inclusive – What pronoun do you use most? Listen to yourself. If you are saying “I” very frequently you can easily be viewed as egocentric. It’s not about you.
Start thinking, “We are all in this together. Together we can make things work better.” It’s important that you identify with the faculty. So it’s “we teachers” not “you teachers.” Your language will affect how others start viewing you.
In addition, as a librarian you should have plans at least in the back of your head for how to improve your program. You can’t do it alone. When you are inclusive you build the basis for a team. Using the other aspects of personality, your team will be ready to work together with you.
And finally the “Plus”
Related to personality but not exactly the same thing is Charisma. When you think of charismatic leaders you might name President John F. Kennedy, President Ronald Reagan, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and others. Not everyone liked them but a large segment of the population did and followed them, glad to help them achieve their goals.
To be sure there are negative charismatic leaders and they have successfully led their people down dark paths. However, I trust you are not heading in that direction. The fact is charisma is a powerful leadership attribute.
You might think charisma must be innate, but like any element of leadership it can be learned. LaRay Que wrote a blog post on her website called 6 Ways to Become a Charismatic Leader. Among the things she talks about is how to win the hearts of followers – an important lesson for librarians who want to get support from their teachers and administrators.
She also explains how to use story. We have been focusing on this increasingly, but she brings an additional thought to it. Her last point is on how to create a strong persona. By polishing your personality and recognizing your own skills and strengths you can do it.
So how is your 21st century PQ? Where does it show up in your relationships? And what how can you make it more engaging?