I have recently blogged about Dealing with Failure and Dealing with Criticism but I have steered away from discussing behaviors we have that may be contributing to the problem. However, since we can’t fix what we don’t know, let’s uncover ways we may have inadvertently added to our problems. The good news is, you can change.
There are librarians who still focus solely on the tasks needed to run your library. No matter what you hear, you feel too overworked to proactively promote your library program and yourself. It’s no wonder no one knows what you do or believes you have anything to contribute. Others have gotten sucked into the negativity that pervades schools today. The problems (challenges) are easy to see. Rather than tackling them, they endlessly discuss them with like-minded teachers. This contributes nothing to your program, and, as I’ve written, it’s the opposite of how a leader behaves.
Leaders inspire. By holding a bigger picture, they find alternatives and new directions. No one enjoys being with someone who only complains and sees what’s not working. This is the time to launch a new program. It could be small, but it needs to be new. Something to bring a positive focus on the library—and in some ways to offer hope to teachers who, just like you, are feeling undervalued and overworked.
I was inspired by Bryan Robinson’s article identifying 10 Reliable Career Killers: How Many Do You Practice on a Daily Basis? Most of us do some of these things. Fortunately, there are ways to combat the behaviors.
- Multitask – You know it. I know it. Studies have proven it. Multitasking doesn’t work. Yet we continue to think by doing several things at once we will get through faster. Remember the old adage, “Haste Makes Waste.” This is how you send an email to the wrong person. Or put something in a place you can’t remember later. The errors happen because your mind wasn’t fully on what you were doing. This is a tough habit to break. Work on catching yourself and pulling your mind back to focus on the priority at hand.
- Play It Safe – This especially happens after you have had a project fail. You crawl into your shell and hope nobody sees you. But that will do nothing for your program, and you certainly won’t be seen as a leader. Stay “safe” for too long and you will be viewed as expendable. Leaders need to be out there.
- Work More Hours – Your job is huge. There aren’t enough hours in the school day to get it done. So, you come in early. You stay late. You are always somewhat behind, but that doesn’t stop you from getting on the hamster wheel each day. Stop! That behavior leads to burnout (and multitasking!). Prioritize. What must be done? What is less necessary? (And don’t forget family and friends time in the priorities.) Once your list is done, schedule a meeting with your principal and discuss those priorities. Does s/he agree? What suggestions does s/he have? And come with your own suggestions.
- Focus on Problems –If all you can see are problems, you become a negative person. It’s hard to build relationships when all you are giving off are negative thoughts and/or in a bad mood. You are likely to attract equally negative people. Leaders seek solutions and often do so in collaboration with others.
- Put Yourself Down – When we are feeling low, we can resort to self-deprecation, believing we are saying what others are thinking about us. It is rarely true, but by repeating such comments often enough, we convince others we are failures. Try positive self-talk, internally and aloud, for a change. If this is one of your typical behaviors, find a good friend and ask him/her to help talk you out of that negative mindset. If your friend suffers from the same syndrome, you can be partners.
- Practice Self-Neglect – There’s a host of ways you can neglect yourself. Not getting enough sleep. Not taking downtime. Not exercising. Unhealthy eating. Airplane safety says to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. It’s the only way to survive. When you neglect yourself, you invariably neglect others whether it’s your family, students or program. If you are drained, you can’t be your best self.
- Harbor Self-Doubt –You are better than you know you are, but you won’t find out unless you give yourself a chance. Every leader has doubts, but they act despite those niggling thoughts. Focus on the places you have succeeded. Use that to power you rather than rehashing any failures. I have been a lifetime member of Weight Watchers for years and have seen how those who look at the week they gained weight as a failure are more apt to quit—and then they really fail. Those who succeed point to the progress they are making, knowing it won’t be a straight line.
- Fear Failure – No one succeeds all the time. You are trying to teach your students to see failure as part of the learning process. You need to embrace that as well. You don’t have to love failure, but there’s no need to fear it.
- Set Unreasonable Deadlines – This leads back to multitasking and working more hours, which leads to other defeating habits. Recognize life happens and the best-laid plans don’t always work. Be realistic in your deadline. Build in a “cushion” for things going wrong. And set short-term deadlines on large projects so you know if you are on target or need to adjust the final deadline.
- Eschew an Idle Mind – Believe it or not, we need more idle mental time. This is the pause for reflection and rejuvenation. I walk. Some of you meditate, color, or do yoga. All good ways to have an idle mind. Look for SEL activities that work for you.
Life is hard enough. We shouldn’t be making it harder. Notice which of these behaviors might be holding you back. If you can overcome these habits, you will make your life easier – and you will make it easier for others. It’s what leaders do.