Presenting – You!

Leaders take risks. One of the scariest risks for beginning and seasoned leaders alike is making a presentation before an audience. But eventually you’ll have to do it. It’s how you extend others’ awareness of your value to the teachers and students. Unfortunately, Social Phobia—fear of social situations that can result in judgement, rejection or shame—is the topmost common fear.

So what can you do? Start small and with a familiar audience. Your first presentation may be to your fellow teachers. You know them and what they need to discover so they can be more successful at what they do. You’ve been showing them, one-on-one, how you support them. Now you are just opening it up.

Next level up may be to a parents’ group. While you don’t know them individually as you did with your colleagues, they will come to your presentation because they realize a gap in their knowledge you can fill, and you can show them ways to support their students. Sharing your expertise with them makes them more aware of what you bring to their kids every day.

Presenting to your state school library association or a national one is probably the scariest. Here you are speaking to your colleagues. A part of you may feel as though they know more than you and what are you doing there. (Ah, the ‘joys’ of Imposter Syndrome). Remind yourself a committee selected your proposal. They recognized you have something valuable to offer. Keep that in mind as you begin.

For all levels of presentation, preparation counts, and preparation includes your mindset. In addition to the content, you are presenting yourself—and that means you as a leader and the value of your program. Kevin Eikenberry describes how you can do this in Showing Up When It’s Your Time. Here are his tips:

Showing Up Aware -You are aware of the purpose of your presentation but think bigger. It may be a bigger opportunity than you realized. Something you say may spark a huge idea in someone in your audience. This might lead to a larger possibility, whether it’s a collaborative project with a teacher, a parent who now would like to create a library advocacy group, or it inspires an article or blog by you.

Showing Up Prepared – You want to be comfortable with the topic as well as how you plan to bring it. Technology blips (zoom, power point, internet connectivity) and questions going in an unexpected direction are always challenging and do occur. If you have a firm grip on your presentation and the material, you will respond confidently when the unanticipated occurs.

Showing Up at Our Best – Being rested and having eaten, as Eikenberry recommends, are a good start. Also, think about yourself and what makes you feel your best. You are likely to dress up for your presentation, but are you comfortable with what you are wearing? If you’re going to be standing for a long period, think about the shoes you’re choosing. If you may be photographed, think about the colors you’re wearing. This probably is not the day to try a new look. Don’t give yourself something else to worry about.

Showing Up Expectantly – Expect to succeed. An athlete going into a game expects to win. They may see themselves making a great play or crossing the finish line first. A positive mindset at the outset relaxes your body and makes you more engaging to your audience.

Showing Up Early – Always! This helps on so many levels. If you cut it too close, you will be agitated rather than relaxed when you arrive. You will have little time to “show up prepared” for those little glitches in plans. Also, arriving early allows you to mingle and talk with participants so that when you begin, they are already open to listening to you and you are already comfortable and familiar with them.

The hardest part of making presentations is getting started, but taking the risk is worth it. In the opening of the article Eikenberry quotes Woody Allen as saying, “90% of life is just showing up.” The idea is not to just show up, but to show off—your skills, your program, your leadership. And once you have a few successes under your belt, you’ll be ready for bigger stages in the future!

Perfect or Good Enough

When my daughter was in high school, I told her, “Good enough is not good enough.”  I was wrong. One reason for our stress and exhaustion is our need to get everything done perfectly. That’s not an option. We have too much to do, and we need to be honest about the importance of our tasks. From making the bed in the morning to leaving the library looking neat, we often treat everything we do equally, but that’s not a good use of our limited time. The result can be that important jobs do not get the detailed attention they need, and we are worn out.

Time management requires more than a to-do list. It means looking at what we do with an eye toward the return we get from our investment of time. In The Costs of Being a Perfectionist Manager, Anna Carmella G. Ocampo, Jun Gu, and Mariano Heyden discuss how to use perfectionist strengths without wearing yourself out trying to get everything done perfectly. They warn that perfectionism frequently leads to dissatisfaction because even when a job is well done, it still may still not meet your standards. It becomes a matter of balance and priorities.

In addition to describing several different types of perfectionists, the trio recommends the following approaches when faced with your own perfectionism:

Design the Right Goals – Ultimately, your goals should be tied to your Mission and Vison, however, as they say, your goals need to be “attainable yet challenging.” Interim goals that inch you towards your larger one will give you the best results. You learn what works and what doesn’t, and you don’t beat yourself up for not seeing your whole Mission in operation or achieving your Vision. You enjoy the process.

Recognize Failure as Part of the Process This can’t be stated often enough. We teach students that failure is learning, then don’t apply the concept to ourselves. We won’t get it right the first time. The learning is as important as the goal. If we don’t accept this, then fear of failure will keep us from taking risks, and risk-taking is an important leadership quality.

Cultivating Mindfulness – How you think is how you feel. Meditation is what the trio recommend. This could be traditional meditation, but anything that gets you away from your desk and immediate demands on your attention can be beneficial (long time readers of this blog know that I’m a walker). Look for times in your day when you can take a break, listen to your own thoughts (or music, or a podcast) so that you come back recharged.

Using Pep Talks – We are well-aware that we speak a lot of critical things to ourselves, things we’d never say to others. Perfectionist tendencies can make these thoughts batter us too often. Ocampo, Gu, and Heyden recommend finding calming and positive mantras to help banish these thoughts. I use this technique and remind myself of past struggles and ultimate successes. Again, what you think is how you feel.

Fostering Positive Interpersonal Relationships – Although every conversation is an opportunity, you don’t have to have an end goal in mind for each one. We know how important relationships are to the success of the library program, and building them begins with casual interactions. The authors point to how good we feel when we help someone. Doing so is a natural part of being a librarian. And not all help needs to be tied to library use. It’s about being an empathetic, caring person.

Managing Emotions – This is part of SEL and is vital for us all. Perfectionism leads to stress which tends to make us irritable and unpleasant to be with. The above techniques can help reduce that as will reframing. Every cloud has a silver lining. Find it and use it to calm yourself. This may also be a good time for a walk or reading some funny memes. Do whatever you need to restore your mental balance.

How many tasks do you have that don’t need to be done perfectly? Look to your priorities, give them the time they deserve, and then let the other things go. Sometimes, and again with apologies to my daughter, good enough is good enough.

The Power of Partnership

Getting teachers to collaborate with you can be a challenge. At the elementary level, you are their prep period, and they are perfectly happy to let you work with their students however you choose. At the high school level, you may never see them. And if they do come into the library, they know what they want and look to you for assistance, not collaboration. They don’t always see how your vision supports their goals.

If there is to be a change, chances are good that you must be the one to initiate it. It will take time and multiple steps to achieve your goal, but it will be worth it to everyone—especially the students. As you develop these partnerships, keep in mind your Mission and Vision. Look toward the relationships you have already built and focus on those who are most likely to be open to an overture from you. New relationships take longer but are just as worthwhile.

How you approach your teachers to begin the process is critical to your eventual success. Jim Knight offers Seven Principles for True Partnership. Although written to address to the business world, they are powerful reminders for us as well.

Equality – Although you are the one doing the initial heavy lifting, both parties must feel heard. No matter the teacher or what you see you bring to the project, it’s important that we “recognize the value and dignity of others.” This means listening without interrupting and correcting, which will likely cause them to withdraw. Be sure you show you recognize and value their interest in their students’ learning and the part they play in the success of your collaboration.

Choice – Rather than trying to find ways to impose your plan, look for ways to incorporate their ideas into the process as well as the final design. A partnership means there are contributions from both sides. Identify what you see as good ideas in what they proposed. Rather than thinking of it as selling your idea, approach it as how can you create something good together. It will be stronger for having input from both sides.

Voice – Give them room to react to your ideas. As with creating Equality, listen attentively. Make sure they know you hear and value their ideas. Sometimes a teacher’s idea of resources, essential questions, and other components seem off base. This may be a matter of newness, not ignorance. Are they concerned the scope is too large? Do they think it will be more work than they can handle? Pay attention to what they are saying and any other silent communication that suggests some resistance. If you spot that, ask about it. Don’t override any issues they have.

Dialogue – Knight talks about recognizing the other’s strengths. This is one of the best ways to build a partnership and collaboration. Each of you has something unique to bring to the project. Dialogue is a back-and-forth process where both sides want to be heard and understood. How can you leverage this?

Reflection – Look inwardly to see how you behave and react as the partnership develops. We tend to jump in and fix things rather than allow the other person to find their way and learn. Telling someone what they should do doesn’t work unless they have asked for advice. Make certain that each step in the process strengthens the partnership you’re working to build because you want this to last beyond the one project.

Praxis – As Knight uses it, this is about the learning that occurs while a project is happening. Plans rarely go exactly as designed. Both of you need to be prepared to make changes and adjustments. Mistakes and successes will happen. Learn from both. And do this in partnership so that you each feel supported.

Reciprocity – Each partnership is an opportunity to learn and grow. Go into this collaboration knowing that you are likely to learn as much (or more) from them as they will from you. That is one of the gifts of partnership – it speeds our learning because we do it together. What have you learned from each other? Be sure to share how you benefitted from the other person. Hopefully, you will hear what they learned from you.

Librarians and teachers have days that are filled with tasks and deadlines. Both have goals that are difficult to achieve alone. Building and nurturing collaborations take time, but the benefits to students and to our own lives are worth it. With whom will you partner?

Love The Life You Live

Do you love your life? Only on special occasions? You are not alone. Many people count the days to their retirement even when it’s years away, and it’s not a healthy way to live. When we are not seeing the positives in our life, we are easily stressed. In addition, our negative perspective affects how we see events and people. Studies have proven our mental and physical heath are affected by our emotions.

Mindset is powerful. You know that from your experiences with students, teachers and administrators. We discuss it in SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and possibly in Professional Development groups you belong to. A negative mindset hampers your Emotional Intelligence.  

In a post about the central tenants of his book, The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment, Marshall Goldsmith offers this 5-step approach to re-examining your life and coming to love it:

  1. Align your aspirations, ambitions, and actions—Just as you have a Vision for your library, you need one for your life. Why are you doing all this? Why are you working so hard? Goldsmith says to ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. What is your big goal? In a way, this is like your Mission statement. Follow that up with ideas and plans of how to get there. In essence, you are creating a strategic plan to have the life you really want. Goldsmith cautions against basing success on the quantity of your achievements. That leads to the overwork many of us are prone to – and the exhaustion that accompanies it. Hustle culture doesn’t work. Focus instead on the doing rather than the totality (the end result) –relishing the learning that is part of the journey.
  • Eat the Marshmallow – Referring to the experiment where children were asked to decide if they want one marshmallow now or wait until later and get two, Goldsmith asks what if you are asked to delay further for three? How much gratification should you delay? Waiting for an ultimate reward can suck the joy out of everyday accomplishments. Delight can and should be incorporated into your every day. You don’t need to wait until you earn it because of some big event. Use the good dishes. Buy the thing you want so much.
  • The “New Me” Paradigm—We need to remove the “when” from our life view. Deciding that happiness will come only when a certain event or achievement is reached keeps you from enjoying the now. Goldsmith notes that there is no correlation between achievement and happiness. You don’t need to be better, thinner, more financially secure, or any other version of a “better” you to embrace being happy now.
  • Credibility Must Be Earned Twice – I have never seen the idea put this way before, but it is vital for school librarians to recognize. According to Goldsmith, for people to trust you, you have to be competent at what you do, and you are. But that isn’t enough. Your work must also be recognized. And that is where we sometimes miss the mark–and miss out on happiness. The lack of recognition for our work is a big factor in not loving our lives. The answer is to market yourself so that what you’re doing is noticed by your core audience. If that feels too hard, start by promoting your program. As Goldsmith says, “If good work really spoke for itself, no company would need a marketing function.”
  • The LPR – This is your Life Plan Review, a daily reflection of how you are doing. Goldsmith did it with a group, but you can do it alone. I keep a Success Journal near where I work to track my daily accomplishments so I can see what I’ve done in a day, rather than only focus on what still needs to be done. If you’re only looking forward, you cannot take joy in what is happening now.

You have so much in your life that is good and so much you’ve accomplished. True, there are challenges and problems, but if you look closely, you can see how much is right with your world. Take time to see all the good choices you’ve made, the wonderful people in your life, the opportunities you have. Start loving the life you live–or keep waiting for more marshmallows.

The Core of Librarianship – Ethics, Courage, and Planning

In the United States, you can’t escape news of the nation-wide movement to ban library books. Almost daily, social media, television, and newspapers have stories about books being removed from library shelves and legislation that could mean jail time for librarians. You want the library to be a safe place for all, and now it doesn’t even feel safe for you. All this is happening and you’ve barely had time to get your library program going in the new school year.

How do you manage within this turmoil?  What choices should you be making? 

My recommendation is to anchor yourself and use the resources available from the American Library Association (ALA) as well as the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Start by reviewing ALA’s Code of Ethics. Number 7 and the newly added number 9 are of particular importance at this time.

Number 7 reads: “We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.”

Number 9 states: “We affirm the inherent dignity and rights of every person. We work to recognize and dismantle systemic and individual biases; to confront inequity and oppression; to enhance diversity and inclusion; and to advance racial and social justice in our libraries, communities, profession, and associations through awareness, advocacy, education, collaboration, services, and allocation of resources and spaces.”

Those are powerful and often difficult principles to maintain. Number 7 is the basis for the idea that a library should have something in it to offend everyone, including the librarian who purchased it. Number 9 flies in the face of the restrictions and bannings centered on LGBTQ+ themes and the history of racial injustice in the United States.

The Library Bill of Rights adds another dimension by listing eight statements that should be part of library policies. It defines what libraries must do – and not do – to provide equitable services to all. They further delineate what is in the Code of Ethics.

Additionally, school librarians can also look to our Common Beliefs as given in the AASL Standards Framework for Learners. The fifth Common Belief is “Intellectual Freedom is every learner’s right.” The explanatory sentence states: “Learners have the freedom to speak and hear what others have to say rather than allowing others to control their access to ideas and information….” These statements represent the core purpose of librarianship. They are what guide what we purchase, how we arrange our facility and resources, and the displays we create. It is who we are.

This is where courage comes into the picture. You don’t have to do any of it. If you choose not to buy a book because you don’t approve of the author’s viewpoint, you won’t be drummed out of the profession. These documents carry no legal weight. No one even needs to know how you made your choices. It is up to you to decide how deeply you are committed to the ethics of our profession. You are the one who must make choices based on what could be the personal cost of that decision.

 Everyone has different things at stake. I, and other librarians, won’t fault you even as we hope you are willing to hold these ethics. Sometimes you figure out ways to bend them in order to do the best you can. Holding them can be impossible in some situations, but the workarounds are better than nothing.

No matter where you live, whether it’s a liberal or conservative community, challenges are now almost inevitable. You need to be prepared for them, or you will not be able to respond in a way to get the best possible results for your students, teachers, and yourself. As always, planning is required.

Build your plan around your resources and your allies What resources do you have on hand? You should have a board approved selection and reconsideration policy. If not board approved, the one you have been using is a good start. Even better, work with the ALA Selection and Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, & Academic Libraries.

Be familiar with the ALA Challenge Support page. It gives you all the go-to information you need as soon as soon as you hear about a challenge. Also know what help your state association provides.

Look for allies among your teachers, administration, and community. Well before a challenge arrives, let people know how you make your book selections. Share the Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights. Discuss the library as being a safe place for all. If – and probably when—you are faced with a challenge, these are the ones who will show up for you and come to Board meetings as needed.

It has never been easy to uphold the ethics of our profession, but it has become much harder in the past year. The issue is not going away. Understand our ethics, be as courageous as you can, reach out for help and support when you need it, and plan so you are prepared.

When Worry Overwhelms

Last week, I blogged about how to Build Your Confidence, a necessary trait for leaders. Once of the biggest barriers to building confidence is catastrophizing. We all fall prey to that negative mindset and the fear that goes with it.

Many years ago, I read Dune by Frank Herbert. One line stayed with me through the years, “Fear is the little death.” It will always come to you, but in that book, Herbert said to let it wash through you. There are two pieces of wisdom to be gleaned from that. First, if you let it, fear is paralyzing. It will stop you dead in your tracks. Second, accept that it’s fear and, rather than succumb, nod at it as you allow to pass through. Not easy, but very helpful.

In How to Stop Catastrophizing–Managing Our Minds, Greg Vanourek defines catastrophizing as being when “we assume the worst and blow things out of proportion.” Most of us do this in and out of work. The pain in our chest is a heart attack. Or the car making a strange sound means it needs an expensive repair. In our professional life, it sounds like: “If I try to give a workshop for teachers, they will ignore me.” How can you deal with these moments of paralyzing fear? Vanourek offers 12 ways to combat catastrophizing.

Acknowledge that bad things happen to all of us – We know this to be true. We can point to examples and those who have managed through the bad things. It’s life. When we acknowledge it, the grip of fear lessons and it’s easier to take action.

Recognize when we’re engaging in catastrophizing—When you are aware you are doing it, you are more likely to notice you are stretching the situation out of proportion to reality.

Place our experiences into perspective—Perspective can make us calmer. Ask – on a scale of 1-10, how big a problem is this? Or—do I really not know how to do this or is there an aspect that is new to me?

Consider a range of possible outcomes – What is the worst that can happen? (And how likely is that?) What are some other possibilities? What are the best outcomes? Focusing on those can get you moving.

Reframe thoughts from negative to positive ones—Chances are there are at least as many positive possibilities. What will you gain from taking the risk? What could you learn from a new program?

Recall situations in which we’ve coped with and overcome negative events—You have been successful before. There is no reason to assume you can’t handle this one. Stumbles are part of the road to success and you’ve gotten through them in the past.

Lean on trusted relationships—Use your PLNs, and others who have been through similar situations. Remembering that you’re not alone and have the wisdom of others to support you can be very helpful.

Focus more on helping and serving others—Think of how this relates to your Mission and Vision. What can you achieve by doing this? The bigger picture can move us out of fear.

Think about the things we can control — It is a waste of effort to spend time on what you can’t control. Use your energy to work on what you can control.

Command ourselves to stop catastrophizing—As strange as this sounds, it works. Noticing when we’ve blown something out of proportion allows us to shift to the next step.

Use positive affirmations — Positive self-talk can change your outlook. Give yourself some good advice and encouragement. “You can do it.” “You have done it before.” “One step at a time.” “Keep going.” Use your favorites.

Engage in regular self-care practices—This comes often as an important leadership practice.  It’s nothing new—except we keep ignoring it. When you are exhausted, it is very easy to slip into catastrophizing. You already feel bad. Don’t treat yourself badly, too.

Vanourek closes with a passage commonly called the Serenity Prayer. It’s worthwhile to remember: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Catastrophizing drains your confidence. Learn to recognize when the fear comes, and you overreact. Your students and teachers need you to be the great librarian you are.

Build Your Confidence

Leaders are risk-takers. You can’t make changes or achieve your Vision unless you take risks. But risks imply the possibility of failure. (Did you get a sinking feeling in your stomach?) In order to take on the challenge of stepping out of our comfort zones and taking risks, we need to build our confidence. As with learning anything new, it starts with baby step. Just like exercising, the hardest step is lacing up your sneakers—or in this case, determining to build your confidence and take risks.

In Build Confidence in Yourself and Your Leadership, Gregg Vanourek lists the various benefits of confidence (including improving health and boosting attractiveness and creativity!) and goes on to list these steps for developing self-confidence:

Focus more on areas of our capability and achievement, and less on areas of weakness and struggle—What are you good at? You may be crafty and/or have artistic ability. Use it to decorate a wall outside the library to call attention to it. Do you write well? Try a newsletter. Are you great at tech? Offer an after-school teach-in on a new resource for students or staff.

Set and meet goals that lead to personal and professional accomplishments– If you have big goals (and most of us do), look for the small ones that will get you there. You don’t have to conquer the world on your first forays. Look at your Mission and Vision. What small goal can showcase your Mission and/or get you closer to your Vision?

Switch off negative self-talk, self-criticism, and limiting beliefs—More than any actual circumstance, this is what stops us most of the time. We judge ourselves much more harshly than we would anyone else. Noticing this negative inner dialogue can help us take risks and build confidence.

Swap in positive thoughts for negative ones—Once you’ve taken steps to switch off the negative self-talk, go one step further by talking to yourself as though you were speaking to a friend. Look to previous successes, positive feedback, and glowing responses.

Face our fears and, in the process, build a sense of agency and capability–What is the worst that can go wrong? Whatever you think that might be, you will recover, learn, and be wiser the next time. You can use the experience to bolster your creativity.

Stop the unhealthy practice of comparing ourselves to othersNever compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. Typically, we focus on their strengths and don’t notice that, like you, they have weaknesses, too. (And you never know when they may see your strengths and compare themselves to you.)

Continue learning, growing, developing, and building new capacities—Work on areas of weaknesses, but also build your strengths. Our world and our profession are constantly evolving. Grow with it.

Engage in consistent self-care practicesYou can’t feel confident if you feel drained and exhausted. Make yourself a priority. You have heard this before. Knowing that increased confidence is a byproduct may make you more willing to take care of yourself.

Speak up for ourselves (self-advocacy)—This can be challenging, but it’s a necessary part of leadership. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s for your program. Look for ways to showcase and promote it to as wide an audience as you can.

Stop thinking in terms of fixed traits (e.g., “I’ve always been bad at math” or “I’m not a confident person”)—Have you ever thought “I am not a leader”? Let go of this belief. You are if you are willing to be. And your students, teachers, and program need you to be a leader.

Think about a time when we felt high confidence and ask how we’d act if we were feeling that way now—You have been successful in the past. How did you feel? You are still that person. Tap into that feeling, remember that energy, and use it going forward.

We know that failure is part of the learning process. We teach that to our students. Yet, when it comes to our own behaviors, we stop short. All we see is the possibility (probability) of making mistakes. Confidence is a combination of mindset and efficacy–the knowledge that you have the ability and the resources needed to complete a task or goal. Have confidence in your knowledge and resources and go for your goals!

Calming Your Inner Turmoil

Over the next weeks, the school year will begin again. Much as we love our jobs, it’s not easy to step back into work as responsibilities and tasks, old and new, fill our to-do lists. Time management skills notwithstanding, it’s a challenge to slow down and focus on what needs to come first. What is the priority? What is urgent? 

The old slogan, “haste makes waste,” is a reminder that if we go too fast, we will skip things and miss what really needs to be done. But knowing this and doing something about it is difficult when people are coming to you, sending emails, and demanding your immediate help.

In Inner Peace — Be Cool, Calm, and Collected, Frank Sonnenberg offers fifteen guideposts to calm your swirling brain. To help you find a little focus and calm try any one or more of these:

Accept Responsibility – In our frustration, we sometimes blame others for what is going wrong. Sonnenberg reminds us to recognize our part in making the choices we did.

Find Your Purpose–Look to your Mission and core values. Post them where you can see them. Review them as you start your workday and connect to the positive feelings they bring to you.

Live with Honor You are a leader. Integrity is an integral component of that leadership. People need to count on you. You keep your word and don’t compromise the core values you hold.

Be Reasonable–This is with yourself. Perfection is an illusion. Excellence is the goal–but know when good is enough. Not every task requires the same level of effort. Save your time and energy for what really matters.

Develop Trusting Relationships–Our relationships support us, and we need to support them. Reaching out and helping brings people to us. Our integrity keeps them. We build advocates and extra hands when needed.

Make Everyone a Winner–Putting others in the spotlight and giving meaningful compliments makes people feel good. The practice makes us feel good as well. Definitely a win-win habit.

Be Thankful – Gratitude for what you have rather than longing for what you don’t gives you a better outlook on life. This translates into how you present yourself to others. They are then more likely to respond positively to you.

Strive for Balance – Sonnenberg reminds us the journey is as important as the goal. Those you meet along the way, the time you give them, are as important as meeting the deadline you set. Make the time for family and friends. And make the time for yourself.

Learn to Say “No” – Set boundaries for yourself. You can’t do everything. The fuller your plate, the less likely that important stuff gets all the attention it needs. In dealing with teachers, try “what if we….” By offering an alternative that requires less of your time, you will do a better job and stay calmer.

Live in the Moment–Whenever you can, don’t worry about past mistakes or potential future failure. You can’t change the past (although you can learn from it). You don’t know what the future will bring, so worrying about it is a waste of energy.

Unclutter Your World–This is an extension of living in the moment. We have so many conversations with ourselves during the day. Too many of them are negative. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.

Control What You Can–You can’t control others’ behavior or what life throws at you. You can control how you respond and act. And the choices you make are what define who you are.

Be True to Yourself–This includes living with honor. It also means seeing who you truly are and celebrating you. You earned it. Be proud of what you achieve and how you achieved it.

Build Good Karma– Doing good is no guarantee of good karma, but, as Sonnenberg says, “seeing others’ happiness is, by itself, a worthy reward.”

Hold Your Head Up High–Be proud of yourself. You are a good person. When you start by believing in yourself, others will follow.

Don’t try to do everything on this list! You’ve got enough to do. Choose the ones that speak to you, keep them in mind and to help you stay calm as the new year gets underway.

My Imperfect Self

I am not perfect. We know humans are imperfect creatures. So why do I spend so much time worrying about the things I should do better or be better at, not to mention all the imperfections in my body? “If only I…” is too often a part of my inner conversations with myself, and I know I am not alone in this.

In my forthcoming book, The Art of Communication: A Librarian’s Guide for Successful Leadership and Advocacy, I cite an article claiming we “speak” over 4,000 words to ourselves each day. Too many are self-critical. It is time to recognize that these flaws are often an integral part of who we are. While self-improvement is a worthy goal, reality says somethings won’t change. For example, I am a talker. I have learned to not be the first to rush in with an answer- most of the time. But I will always be a talker.

How can we learn to accept and love who we are, who we are not, and who we will never be? Mike Robbins offers five ways to Love Your “Flaws”. Even seeing the word flaws in quotes is a good reminder of where we are judging ourselves—possibly incorrectly. To make a change, he suggests:

  1. Acknowledge What’s True for You—Honestly identify your flaws. There’s no need to run from or ignore these aspects of ourselves. If we want to make a change, we have to be clear about what needs changing.
  2. Admit and Express the Underlying Emotion- What do you feel about these flaws? Robbins says, “If a specific aspect of your personality, body, or career bothers you and you find yourself feeling ashamed—as uncomfortable or negative as it may seem, the best thing you can do is acknowledge and express your shame.”  It’s normal to feel shame or embarrassment about these flaws that you think are keeping you from being your best.
  3. Forgive Yourself—We always judge ourselves more harshly than we do other people. Flaws are a part of all of us. As a friend of mine once said, “Don’t judge your inside by someone else’s outside.”  You notice only that the other person doesn’t have your flaw, but they see the flaws and struggles in themselves.
  4. Appreciate—Robbins asks us to value what we have learned about ourselves and life by recognizing our flaws. Knowing and acknowledging our flaws has given us opportunities for learning and doing better. Instead of focusing on the negative, we can be grateful for these lessons and how we’ve grown.
  5. Love—As you don’t withhold love and caring from others, no matter their flaws, you deserve to love yourself as well. You are a whole package. Think of the friends you have. We expect and accept imperfections in others. We need to do that for ourselves as well.

Celebrate yourself. You do much and mean much to so many people. You would never put a friend down. Be a friend to yourself and offer yourself compassion and support when all you’re seeing is your flaws.

Building Trust

Earning and keeping the trust of others – students, teachers and administrators – is key to your success. More than trusting your expertise, they need to know you will be able to deliver on your promises and be there for them when needed. Trust takes time to build, but it can be quickly lost.

Building trust is rooted in integrity. Keeping your word, honoring confidentiality, and other elements of honesty are vital. But trust is an emotional state, which means other more subtle factor contribute to its growth. In The Leadership Trust Crisis, David Livermore discusses the fact that trust in leaders (political, corporate and others) is at an all-time low. This means that relationships are shaky. He identifies five factors that affect the development of trust. Applying these can help you deepen the connections with the people in your building.

  1. Likeability – You get to know people you like. In the process, trust is developed. But what makes someone likeable? It often begins with a smile that goes beyond the superficial. It continues when you show you are interested in who the other person is. Sharing who you are extends the connection. Give people a chance to know and like being with you. It takes time, but it pays off.
  2. Competency – Livermore poses three questions on this: Do you have the skills to lead us? Can you communicate effectively? Do you know what you are doing?  As a librarian, this is where you excel. When we are aware of trends, new learning opportunities and the most recent tech resource or even teaching approaches (think inquiry-based learning), teachers see us as leaders and feel confident in coming to us with questions or concerns.
  3. Intensions – Are you in it for your success or do you care about mine?  What is your overarching purpose in putting this project together? Your everyday behavior sends messages to other about your character and integrity. We (usually unconsciously) make judgements of others based on their actions. Teachers and administrators are doing the same about you. Make certain you are treating others right and demonstrate that you care about the collective success. For example, when a project is complete put the teacher and their students’ outcomes front and center. Give credit to them. The library’s role and yours will be obvious. Their trust in your intentions builds.
  4. Reliability – Do you follow through on what you promise?  Can others see your commitment to living your Mission for the library? This relates to your integrity but is also about delivering in a “timely and consistent manner.” What did you tell your principal were your goals for the year. How did you hit them? In building trust – and the relationships that go with it, they need to know you can be counted on to do what you said and get it done on time.
  5. Reputation – This is the sum of all the others. How are you seen and thought of?  The stronger your reputation, the more others will trust you. The more they trust you, the more willing they are to work with you – and hopefully seek you out. And each time they do you grow as a leader.

I once had a teacher tell me she wouldn’t schedule a class with my co-librarian because she felt my co-librarian didn’t like the kids. That doesn’t work. Students learn more when teachers and librarians work together. The collaboration is formed on relationships, and relationships are built on trust. Look for ways to promote other’s trust in you and you’ll find your relationships and program getting stronger.