Leaders Must Be Strong Communicators

Communication is as natural as breathing and just as constant in our lives. Unlike breathing, however, there is so much room for error, it needs our focus and attention. Leaders need to be clear in their communication. When people receive a clear message, they are more likely to support, trust, and follow you. Taking time to improve your communication skills makes you a more successful leader.

In a post on SmartBrief, Want Real Leadership Growth? Focus on Strengthening as a Communicator,  Al Petty writes “too often, we ignore the centrality of communication effectiveness to effective leadership”. He goes on to say, “everything important in our careers and working lives takes place in one or more challenging conversations, and every communication encounter is critical if you lead.” There is a direct correlation between your success as a leader and your effectiveness as a communicator.

Petty notes that every failed professional situation in his career was proceeded by problems in communication. Poor communication inevitably has a negative effect on desired outcomes. For example, when a plan isn’t working, before changing the plan, check to see if everyone is clear on what to do, who’s to do it and why it’s being done. On the flip side, good communication produces even greater positive results than expected.

According to Petty you need to put these three tactics into operation to improve your communication skills and avoid the fumbles that detract from your leadership:

Listen Harder – There is almost nothing more powerful you can do to benefit your communication than to be a great listener. Unfortunately, in our eagerness to respond to what someone is saying or to get our point across, we stop listening. Our brain is busy constructing what to say as soon as the other person stops talking. We may think we are paying attention, but in this situation, we are, at best, hearing only the surface information which means we are more likely to miss the core of the message. Petty states, by “focusing intently on the person in front of you, you are projecting empathy, showing respect and gaining critical verbal and nonverbal insights necessary to truly communicate”. All of these increase your ability to be an effective leader.

Slow Down and Respect the Persuasion Cycle – Being eager to get to the end goal, it is easy to keep pushing for a response. When we do, we are apt to be faced with the other personal stonewalling and resisting what we’re suggesting. A good maxim to remember is, “No one wants to be sold. Everyone wants to buy.” The challenge is to make someone want to buy.

Petty explains the “Persuasion Cycle” as moving a person from

  • Resisting to Listening,
  • Listening to Considering,
  • Considering to Doing,
  • Doing to Being Glad They Did.

Knowing what the other person wants and needs helps you frame your message, so they move from resisting to listening. When you actively listen to their response you can elicit their willingness to consider your message. They now are interested in doing.

The final step in the cycle is the important piece. When the person is “Glad They Did” you have a supporter and advocate. The next time you approach them, your conversation is more likely to start at Considering or Doing portion of the cycle.

Design Your Critical Communication Messages – When the message is important, it is worth time and effort to get it exactly right. You don’t want to have any words that detract from it. Each word counts and has weight. Writing, rewriting, and testing it with a mentor or trusted colleagues will help you get it clear.

According to Petty, you need to have “three or four core drivers behind your core message.” The drivers are the foundation for why the message is so important. In the library world, one core driver is the students. They are the emotional tie that brings the most response. Test results are another driver. School and district goals are powerful drivers if you connect to them. Budget can be another.

Illustrate your core drivers so your audience understands them as clearly as possible. Pictures, graphics, and videos are more quickly internalized than text. Use the language your receivers understand. If you are talking with administrators in schools, they know the educational terms but not library terminology. If necessary, change from the terms you use to the ones they do.

If you review your past success and challenges, chances are you will see a correlation with the strength or weakness in communication. Taking the time to work on your communication skills – listening, persuading, designing your message – will exponentially increase your success. The better your ability to communicate, the better your ability to lead.

Talk (Kindly) To Me

Do you talk to yourself? Of course you do. But what are you saying? Of all the ways you communicate with people, how are you talking to yourself? For most of us, far too often, the words we say to ourselves are self-criticism. We would never think or say these things to anyone else, but we are fair targets for all our negative thoughts.

We are our worst critic, and we tend to believe every negative we say about ourselves. This barrage is a subtext for our day. Rarely are we conscious of how constantly we put ourselves down. In over emphasizing our weakness, we detract from our leadership.  It fuels our resistance to step out of our comfort zone. How can you move forward when you see so many places where you are inadequate?

This negative self-talk is often the basis for the Imposter Syndrome which convinces even successful people that they are not good enough for a particular task or opportunity. While you may not experience the worst examples of the syndrome, you are likely to find many of its typical thoughts are part of your self-talk.

Art Petty says Success as a Leader Demands Positive Self-Talk and explains what needs to be done. According to his post, we have about 6,000 thoughts a day. As the Pareto Principle anticipates, 80% of these thoughts are negative. That means we have nearly 50,000 self-criticizing thoughts every day. That’s a heavy load for anyone to carry. Petty proposes a 5-step process for “Active Reset:”

  1. Stop and acknowledge: You can’t change anything until you recognize its presence. The number of times you stop may come as a surprise, and you are likely to miss many. But, as James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Take the time to notice what you’ve been saying to yourself.
  2. Question: Now ask yourself, “Why am I thinking this way?” There’s usually a trigger that started the negative spiral. is that true? Chances are fear is the underlying factor. Was it fear of failure? Fear of the unknown? Maybe it’s fear of success – success can bring challenges that will take us out of our comfort zone, and that’s another fear. Once you’ve asked that, ask yourself, “What evidence to I have that supports the negative?” There’s probably not as much as you think – and there may be none.   
  3. Reframe:  Now that you have recognized the underlying cause, you can look at the situation more logically.  Have you succeeded at this or something similar in the past?  Is this related to another person? Petty suggests asking, “How can I reposition this situation and look for the opportunity?” It’s an empowering question.
  4. Act: Action is a positive response to negative self-talk. Having reframed the situation, you can do something about it. The action and result will become part of your toolbox – and stretch your comfort zone. When the issue arises again, it will less likely cause the negative self-talk, and you will take action more quickly.
  5. Reflect: Pause and consider what you have learned. Recognize the exercise as an opportunity for growth. Not only will you be more willing to analyze and change your negative thoughts, but it can help you be more empathetic with colleagues and students when their own negative self-talk is a barrier to their success.

Work on positive self-talk to balance the negatives. Cheer and celebrate your successes. Recognize your negative self-talk for what it is – a thought that can be changed. Leaders don’t only have positive self-talk, but they know how to deal with it. Once you hear your thoughts, you’ll hopefully be willing to be kinder to yourself.

Exhausted

Bone tired. Drained. Weary. Drooping. Pick a word. It all comes down to the same thing – we are beyond tired.

We have been working crazy hours in stressful conditions. We have been flexible. We have pivoted. We have learned resilience. And it’s still not over. Uncertainty about your future as well as the future in general has raised your stress levels. Even if you are a planner, it is hard to determine which approach will best meet what is an ambiguous tomorrow. What can you do to overcome the constant exhaustion?

If you, your program, and your life outside the library are to survive – and thrive – you need tools to deal with it. In a blog post from the Eblin Group, the author explains What to Do When You Are Feeling Exhausted, offering six steps to take. These are all an important form of self-care to help you get through this next stage.

  1. Admit to yourself that you are feeling exhausted – Sometimes pushing through is not the right choice. Yes, you say you’re tired, but you keep on going. You are avoiding acknowledging how much the exhaustion is affecting you. Find a friend to whom you can vent. Have a short pity party. Journal. Take a short nap. Do something that admits the exhaustion. It will help alleviate it and maybe help you find the key triggers.
  2. Get things off your list – Not everything is a priority. What can be postponed, ignored or cancelled? Know what must be done and what must be done now. When you admitted your exhaustion and looked at your life, were there tasks that could be done by someone else – or could be dropped entirely without have a serious effect?
  3. Change up your input – Sometimes the brain needs different input. There is a monotony that comes with his pandemic life and to break that cycle you need to do something different. Changing input changes thinking which in turn changes action. If you read, try an audio book. If you listen to music, try a podcast. Watch a TED Talk instead of a rerun. And now that spring has come to the Northern Hemisphere, don’t forget the benefits of getting outside.
  4. Do things that are fun and bring you joy – From the look of social media feeds, people have turned to cooking and baking, either attempting new things or recipes they haven’t made in ages. Others find joy in craft projects. Make sure you’re taking time for the things that make you happy. This could be solitary, like a snuggly blanket, tea and a book or time to call or Zoom with family and friends. Think about what brings you joy and make sure it’s part of your week.
  5. Pick something that is fast and easy to finish – You’re doing important work, but if your time is all about the work – the work is going to suffer. To balance this, try to find something fun that’s also fast and can be completely quickly. Binge watch a season of The Crown or Schitts Creek. Print some pictures and put them in an album. Find a game to play – solo or in a group – that doesn’t take long to finish. One of the current challenges is that the external stress is never ending. Completing something is energizing.  
  6. Eat, Move, Sleep – Make sure you are maintaining your healthy routines. Watch out for grabbing high sugar snacks for the unhealthy and limited energy boost. With the distruption of routines, you may be sitting more (you don’t even get to walk to a meeting – just a few clicks at the computer and you’re there). Sitting too long is dangerous to your health. Find ways to add movement to your day. And, of course, one of the reasons we’re exhausted is that stress has impacted our ability to get a good night sleep. Just as you did or do with children, develop a bedtime routine that allows you so slowly unwind and be ready to sink into sleep.

I’ve included the graphic from the article to help you remember. Copy it to your phone gallery if you think it will help.

Exhaustion is quickly becoming a secondary health crisis. Ignoring exhaustion only makes it worse. Acknowledge what happening and how you’re feeling, and then do what you can to take steps to help yourself so you won’t feel as though you are slogging through mud. Following this advice won’t stave off exhaustion completely, but it will lessen it and give you some steps to take when it creeps up.

What Communication Is – And Isn’t

My blog last week, Let’s Talk Meaningfully, focused on how to make your conversations produce more positive outcomes. It addressed becoming a Social and Emotional Leader through communication. There is no question that successful communication draws on your Emotional Intelligence. You need to be aware of your emotions and that of others as you guide and respond. The better you become at bringing your understanding of what is going on under the surface, the more skillful you are. Realizing the obvious as well as the subtle nuances of communication is a core skill we need to develop as leaders.  

But what is “communications?” Although we may never pin down an exact definition, Merriam-Webster says Communication is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior,” and it is also “personal rapport.”  Looking at what communication is and isn’t, is one way to describe communication more fully. In What Communicators Know, and What They Must Teach, David Murray shares what he learned from his former boss, Dr. Larry Regan. CEO and Founder of Ragan Education, and reinforced by his experiences. There is an important mind shift to become a true “communicator.” 

A communicator knows that words are not communication – We’ve heard the expression ‘actions speak louder than words”. This is what Murray wants us to remember. Factors such as body language, voice, and our appearance are part of “speaking,” often before we open our mouth. Also, if we’re not careful, these things can influence our analysis and sometimes the judgements we make of the other person which have nothing to do with what is being said. Be aware of what is being communicated without words.

A communicator knows that communication doesn’t simply mean persuading other people to our point of view When that is your aim, you are not listening and the other person will be aware of that. We need to be willing to listen before we try to make our point. This is essential to good communication. Only when you truly hear with the other person says can you even begin to respond.

A communicator often helps in humble, unseen ways – When carrying a message, unless you were charged with repeating it exactly, you can rephrase it if there are trigger words while keeping the meaning. If you see there’s a possibility for communication to be unclear, do what you can to correct that. It is also what you do when you bring a teacher’s success to the attention of the principal or a student’s success to a teacher.

A communicator knows that there has never been a universally shared truth – While there are facts, truth can feel “elusive.” We see the world, and our truth, from individual lenses, and a communicator/leader must be attuned to how others perceive it. Eyewitness accounts of the same event vary. The difficulties this causes have been increasing obvious. To be a communicator, you need to draw people out so they can recognize how they came to their conclusions and to see where shared truths can be used.

And a communicator knows the limitations of communicationSome things can’t be talked through – some things need to be “worked out.” Sometimes you need to stop talking and get to work. Focus on the product. For a library, this can mean instead of sending well written advocacy-based messages, look for ways to be necessary to others. Let your actions speak for you – and then create a well worded follow up.

Communications has its limits and its strengths. When you think of yourself as a communicator you will find more ways to make connections with those around you, and, in the process, you will be a stronger, more reliable leader.

Let’s Talk Meaningfully

I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, we need to talk with one another – and do it well. Conversations are integral to how we connect. We are social organisms, and talking with one another is necessary for our survival. No matter that there is text, email, Zoom and phones. For relationship connections to be made, we need to see each other and communicate face to face.

We cannot overlook the importance of meaningful conversation. A great conversation helps build relationships and can make an audience of one or more recognize your value and become an advocate. By contrast, a mismanaged conversation can alienate the person or persons you are speaking with and result in a negative impact on you and your program. When we are tired and stressed, we are obviously not at our best. Those are the times when mishaps – and “misheards” – are most likely to occur. How can we manage conversations that support us and those we are talking to when we are not feeling our best?

From his book Making Conversation: Seven Essential Elements of Meaningful Conversation Fred Dust offers five ways to engage in talks that produce positive outcomes, large and small. They are valuable to incorporate into your daily interactions.

The history of humanity is one long conversation – It’s important to remember how basic conversation is. Conversation is natural to us, and we can conduct aspects of it without words. Hand gestures are part of them. We even have them with those who don’t have words (I’m looking at you, pet owners). It’s how we reach out to others. Think of the first phrases you learned when studying a new language: “Hello.”  “How are you?”   In conversing with others, you may not speak those words, but be sure you are communicating them. They open up possibility.

Silence is an essential component to conversation – Consider those Zoom meetings when people start speaking over each other. Those not competing for airtime, tune out. When you are talking, you are not listening. The pause, the moment of silence, gives you time to digest what has been said and respond to whole idea, not just the piece that captured your initial attention. It also shows you were listening to the speaker which creates additional connection.

Get good at naming – As someone who has always struggled with remembering names, I recognize how important it is to remember as many names as possible of the people you connect with. It tells people that you see them – and are ready to hear them. In a large school, even learning all the teachers’ names can be a challenge since you may not see many of them outside of faculty meeting. It helps if you can “name” something about them. For example, “Janet Quilter” or “Fred Gardner.”  (Interestingly, that’s how many last names were created – and why there are so many Smiths).

Notice change – There’s an ebb and flow to conversations. Be aware of the shifts. Is it moving to the heart of the matter or beginning to fade out?  Is the other person becoming angry or calming down?  If you are using “silence,” you will be more able to tell when this is occurring. It will keep you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. It may alert you to the best moment to say something important or that it’s time to wrap up.

When in doubt, make – Instead of “having” a conversation, “make” one. As in your makerspaces this implies you are building something that matters. And you are. You are building a relationship and when you have the conversation in connection to something that is being done, more is created. Ultimately you are adding substance to a relationship and that’s valuable. When we have meaningful conversations we are the creator and maintainer of that relationship.

We are stressed and tired, but we need to ensure that we use conversations to both strengthen us and bolster the ones with whom we are conversing. Sometimes a meaningful conversation with a student or teacher is exactly what we need to feel energized and more productive. As a leader you never want to lose sight of what conversation can do for you and those you support.

Social and Emotional Leading

You have become adept at incorporating Social and Emotional Learning into your library program, but you also need to consciously integrate these tools when you are leading. The social aspect is more obvious. We are in a relationship-based business, and you can’t build relationships without social skills. It’s the emotional leading that requires a rethinking.

In a profession where women are in the vast majority, it’s important to remember that, with awareness, emotions can be appropriate and important, rather than avoided or dismissed. Understanding and managing your emotions is the key to successful leadership. Emotion is a neutral term that encompasses an immense range of responses. In Social and Emotional Leading, you need to draw on the positive ones and recognize and reduce the negative ones.

In her blog post, Essential Decision Making Emotions: Are You Using These?, Kate Ness presents five decision-making emotions to incorporate into your leadership and five to manage. Starting with the positives, here are her first five:

  • Showing Respect – Recognize the value of others. You do this when you don’t interrupt work with a student to respond to a question from a teacher. If you must, you explain that you will be back. In our world of text messages, we shouldn’t forget the importance of “please,” and “thanks” becomes a perfunctory “thx.” Be more conscious of the little civilities. They make a difference.
  • Expressing Empathy – Recognize what others are going through. Use your ability to read body language and their tone of voice to reach out to them. Send a quiet note. Offer to be a listening ear if they need one. Do it with all the lives you touch, from students through administrators – and parents.
  • Considering Human Impact – Ness’ post references laying people off. We don’t do that, but we do see it happen to others in our educational community – and too often to us. This pandemic has led to all sorts of losses. In any difficult situation you come across, offer help where you can and empathy where you can’t. Let them know you are there for them at some level.
  • Recognizing and Appreciating Talent and Effort – When you inform your administrator of a successful project, highlight the important contributions of people who were a part of the project. When you’re offered suggestions, acknowledge them, and show you are considering it. When you give this type of respect to students, you give them voice and choice and further make the library a welcome place.
  • Valuing Altruism – Look for ways to give back – and acknowledge ways that others are giving. Suggest and lead projects that help the community or an individual. These are hard times. We need to work together to stay strong.

And the five you want to avoid when building relationships are:

  • Anger: Anger is a valid emotion, but you don’t want to speak or act out of it. Most people don’t think clearly while angry which can undo much of what you have achieved when using positive emotions. Remembering to pause will do much to get you back on track.
  • Panic – Panic also stops you from thinking clearly and leads to poor decisions. Once again, a pause helps along with taking time to breathing more deeply. Slower breathing leads to a slower heart rate and a clearer mind. You will get through it. You always do.
  • One-sided Compassion – Avoid being immersed in one emotion and not letting yourself see where there are other forces at play. Be sure you are seeing the whole picture.
  • Fear of Conflict – Fear of causing anger and disagreement is understandable, particularly in today’s very polarized world. But you can’t lead if you keep stepping back. Use your positive qualities and all your emotional intelligence to look for ways to respond in a non-controversial way.
  • Uncontrolled Passion – Being passionate about your work and your core values is necessary for leadership. However, overwhelming people with it is not. People feel you are battering them and that there is no room for their interests and priorities. Find ways of sharing your values and abilities without it sounding as though you demand to be heard.

Emotions are everywhere and always with us. They are powerful but can work against us when we’re not aware. Recognize and work with your emotions and your leadership skills will improve.

Tired of It All

Is it me or is February the fourteen month of 2020? We have been carrying so much for so long, but even with vaccines being distributed and administered, the pandemic marches on. When does it end? When can we put the burden down? The longer it goes on, the longer we have to push out the deadline for returning to “normal”, the harder it is.

We and everyone around us are continually exhausted. Lisa Kohn tells those in the business world How to Keep Leading When It Starts Getting “Old.” Some of her ideas are not new, but the reminder is helpful as we continue to lead despite the exhaustion.

Keep a Sense of Humor – Laughter is the best medicine is not just a maxim, it’s a fact. It changes the body chemistry for the better. Our need for laughter is possibly one reason for all the jokes and cartoons on Facebook and other social media. Sometimes it’s the black humor reminiscent of the Korean War set sitcom M*A*S*H, but it makes us laugh, and it eases some of the exhaustion. Laughter is also contagious. It brings out the best in other people. Then they can be more light-hearted and able to bring humor and new focus to the situation. 

Keep Things in Perspective – Tiredness leads to a mindset focused on negative absolutes. “This is never going to end.” “I will never have my library back again.” “Everybody is too stressed to work with me on a project.” Having these thoughts too often in the course of the day adds to a sense of hopelessness, contributing to exhaustion. The truth is not everything is in bad shape. Which leads to –

Look for What’s Good – Where has the pandemic given you new opportunities? What new contacts have you made? Find things that make you happy. What puts a smile on your face? It can be the smallest thing that helps you to balance out the barrage of negative news. I am sometimes stopped in my tracks while watching a bird find food in the snow. It may take more looking than usual, but the good is there.

Up the Self-Care – We are drained by continual stressful situations that trigger the fight/flight/flee mode. Self-care is an important means of combatting this. If you are having trouble giving yourself the time, you need to restore and rejuvenate (or at least step back a bit), put it on your to-do list. Remember, self-care is emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. Have you tapped into all those areas to ensure you are taking care of yourself? Doing this for yourself will help you notice when those around you need more too.

Connect with Others – However You Can – We are social creatures, and the change and decrease in our interactions has been hard on everyone (even introverts!). Reach out to people professionally and personally. Like self-care, this can be part of your to-do list—something to look forward to. When I started making these calls, I thought I was doing it for them, but I have seen how much it brings to me. Have you noticed how many people are sending good morning messages via social media these days? It’s just one more way to get some of the human connection we need.

Acknowledge It’s Getting Old – No question about it. It’s a case of been there, done that, and have the T-shirt to prove it. Being honest about your feelings strengthens your bonds with others and allows them to be honest about where they may be struggling. Acknowledging the situation reinforces that we are all in this together, and together we will get through it.

Plan for the Future –Planning for the future, even knowing that it will not be the same as what was, is an important and positive act. It is also a part of self-care. Allow yourself see beyond the challenges of the present. It doesn’t matter what the future actually turns out to be. The act of thinking about it gives free rein to ideas that you might be able to incorporate into whatever happens. In the meantime, you will have given yourself the gift of dreaming.

One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic has been how long it’s lasted coupled with not knowing how much longer it’s going to go on. Adapting and readapting is draining when you don’t know where the finish line is – or it keeps getting moved. Adding some of these ideas to your plans will hopefully help you, your program – and even your family – get through it all a little easier. And a little easier would be a lot welcome.

The Ins and Outs of Negotiation

Don’t neglect this important leadership skill which can strengthen your program.

In the education world, where the library is only one small piece of the pie, knowing how and when to negotiate can grow your program and result in your being more valued. If you are like most school librarians, you rarely think consciously of how and when to negotiate. You are likely not to recognize when you have employed it, and as a result may not have achieved your aims. The business world, however, recognizes it a vital skill, and school librarians need to do the same.

One of my most successful negotiations came in the early stages of the tech explosion. I had just been responsible for building a new library wing in our high school, a huge expenditure. Now, I wanted to get the latest digital tool –  a CD-ROM tower. It cost $20,000. Obviously, if I put that in my budget for the next school year, it would be turned down. I knew what I wanted, why I wanted it, and what I could and couldn’t sacrifice to get it. I made an appointment with my Superintendent of Schools during the summer.

The Superintendent’s first response to my request was to refuse, as I expected. I briefly summarized the benefits and offered to make cuts elsewhere in my budget. When she suggested eliminating my periodical budget, I explained why that would be a problem, and proposed slashing my book budget. Ultimately, because of my determination, clarity and willingness to negotiate, I got the CD-ROM tower – and didn’t lose anywhere near $20,000 from my budget.

You have more opportunities to negotiate than you think. You can use negotiation to propose a collaborative or cooperative unit with teachers or you can negotiate with your principal to modify your non-library duties so they relate to your program. The idea is to be open to the possibility of changing what is to something better.

To increase this skill, Ed Browdow presents Ten Tips for Negotiating in 2021 that can help you achieve goals you didn’t think possible. Here are his ten with interpretations for school librarians:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – If you don’t ask the answer is always, “No.” Leaders have a vision. Go for yours.
  2. Shut up and listen – Active listening is a must. Don’t rush into counter what is being said and be perceived as pushing your agenda. Pay attention so that you know what is at the root of the resistance.
  3. Do your homework – Know what the other person’s needs are. What is challenging them? How is what you want to do going to help with that? See where you can align with their priorities.
  4. Always be willing to walk away – Know when to stop. If you continue pushing when the other person is firm on their position, you are only going to increase resistance for the future. Not every negotiation ends positively.
  5. Don’t be in a hurry – While this means prolonged negotiations in the business world, for us it can mean not to give up or be upset if an appointment with an administrator is cancelled, a teacher needs to reschedule, or you are told they need time to think it over. Most negotiations are part of a longer process, not a quick yes or no decision.
  6. Aim high and expect the best outcome – Don’t second guess what is achievable. You want to lay out where you want to go. At the same time, this is a negotiation, so be prepared with your Plan B. And your Plan C.
  7. Focus on the other sides’ pressure not yours – This is where doing your homework counts. You want to present why what you are planning is beneficial to the other person whether it’s a principal or a teacher.
  8. Show the other person how their needs will be met – Related to the others sides’ pressure, if you can show where your request/suggestion/need supports them as well, you’re more likely to get the answer you want.  Be ready to be specific as much as possible. The best negotiations end with both sides feeling as though they’ve won.
  9. Don’t give anything away without getting something back – In our case this means being watching out for little landmines. For example, I had to be prepared for my Superintendent to seize on my offer to slash my book budget without giving me the tower. Had she suggested it, I would have pointed out that without the tower I was forced to make do with what I had on hand and so could ill afford my budget to be cut.
  10. Don’t take the other person’s behavior personally –This is about what you are trying to get but is influenced by the pressures and needs of the other person. Listen for the message rather than its delivery. Staying calm is a top tactic in negotiations.

Negotiations happen all the time, making this a great leadership skill to develop. Some are noticeable, others are easy to miss. They are present in your work and your home life. If you are aware of when the opportunity shows up and are prepared, you’ll strengthen your program and getting more of what you need.

Think, Create, Share, Grow

The four Domains in the title refer to the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (NSLS) and should be familiar. As the Standards state, it’s the steps you use “to empower learners to master competencies ….” (p.15). It’s a continuum we have followed since the AASL Standards for the 21st– Century Learner (2009). While AASL has updated those standards, the continuum is still incorporated into our teaching. Is it incorporated into your professional life? When you focus on these Domains, you have a path to follow that can reduce stress or help move you and your program to a new level.

It starts with Think, the cognitive domain which deals with inquiry and critical thinking. Create is psychomotor and requires drawing conclusions, applying knowledge to new situations, and creating new knowledge. Share is the affective domain and involves sharing that new knowledge and participating ethically and productively in our democratic society. Grow moves into a developmental stage involving personal and aesthetic growth.

Consider how one Domain flows into the next. Although all are needed, you probably can identify more strongly with one of them. It’s always good to know where your strengths are and where you need to gain more proficiency. Now to apply them – in the library and in our lives.

Think – Take time to pause and look at the big picture, your Mission, your Vision. We don’t do that enough. What is working?  What isn’t?  What is and what isn’t in your control?  What is in your control that you would like to change?

It doesn’t have to be about the library. It can be in your personal life as well. We have a tendency to compartmentalize our work and private life, but one impacts the other. You might be concerned about not spending enough time with your family or be stressed by non-library duties. Select the one that is most important to you or the one over which you have the most control.

Create -What is your best method for representing a complex problem?  Many people like mind mapping. You could use a Google doc or a simple blank sheet of paper. Maybe dictating your thoughts into a document helps you. The purpose is to look at all the things buzzing in your ear and give yourself the ability to sort them out.

Color code, boldface, or do whatever works for you to highlight the best ideas you have. Move them around into an order that makes sense. If it’s something at home, can you make a schedule that helps you see where you can spend more time being with family rather than giving them the leftover minutes from your household tasks?  For a library issue, consider how to introduce “library” into those duties or offer a better proposition to the administration.

Share – Who needs to hear this? Who can help? If you don’t ask, people will rarely notice you have a problem. We are often so busy, we don’t take time to reach out, feeling that it will take too long, and either we might as well handle it ourselves or we don’t want to bother others.

For the personal issues, you may discover that others are feeling the same way. When you work together, it might solve the problem or at least reduce it. In the library, finding a good time to talk to the principal, keeping it brief and leading with solution can get you what you want. Particularly in this climate, your administrators are at least as stressed as you are. If you can help them, they are more likely than ever to go with your approach. It’s one more thing off their list.

If your plans work out, share them with other librarians and your friends. They may need the ideas and encouragement. We can all use help.

Grow – This is about you as a person and as a librarian. It might be self-care but also think of new avenues you wish to explore and give yourself a space for them. Whether it’s cooking or learning or getting back to playing an instrument, don’t dismiss the thought. To grow, we need to break open shell that encases us. What ideas excite and inspire you?

As a librarian, look how far have you stretched your leadership muscles. Just like starting an exercise plan, you don’t need to put in extensive new time. Consider doing a blog post for Knowledge Quest and share it (!) with your administrator when it is published. That one thing will raise awareness of what you contribute. And then you can get back to the ideas you came up with as part of Think.

Take time out to Think, Create, Share, and Grow. Notice ways these Domains can support you in and out of the library as well as those you serve. Look for ways to gain experience in the competencies that will improve your life, your leadership, and your librarianship. Let your imagination run wild and your program – and life – will move to a new level.

Communication – Positives and Pitfalls

Online, in person, via text or via social media, we are always communicating. It is the basic tool we use to form relationships, and relationships are the core of our success. As adults, one would think we would have mastered it by now, but it’s not that simple.

Because our interactions with others consist of multiple levels of communication, there are many opportunities for confusion. Most of the time we successfully send our message in a positive way and that is how it’s received. Other times we are not as successful, and we don’t always know why. What can we do to have conversations that produce the desired results?

What can we do to have conversations that produce the desired results?

Lolly Daskal has advice for business leaders, which applies to all. She minces no words in 9 Dumb Things Smart Leaders Need to Stop Doing Right Now. Here is her list:

  1. Stop talking over people – We strive for active listening, but when we’re excited or concerned we have a tendency to interrupt to get our comments and ideas in. When we don’t listen to others, they stop listening to us. (This is one I need to work on – especially when I’m harried.)
  2. Stop thinking you know best – There are knowledgeable, trustworthy people around you. Just because we know better than anyone how the library works doesn’t mean that others can’t offer something important. Their viewpoint can alert us to something that needs changing. Give them the respect of listening to what they say and the tenor of the conversation changes. You also gain a potential ally. Remember, it’s feedback, not criticism.
  3. Stop creating unattainable goalsWhether working with students or teachers, having a large goal is great, but if the receiver of the message feels it can’t be achieved, they will tune out, you will get annoyed, and your body will communicate that message. Instead, break goals down into smaller ones that do seem attainable. You don’t want your goals to add to anyone’s stress – including yours.
  4. Stop trying to control everythingWhen there is too much to do and not enough time, ironically, we tend not to trust anyone to help. We fall back on “you know best,” and it will take too much time to explain everything. Pause. Breathe. Then figure out how to loosen the reins otherwise you will probably come across as bossy and feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, and tired. When others can help, we inspire new leaders.
  5. Stop taking people for granted Unless we consciously remember to acknowledge people, teachers, administrators and students. When we recognize their worth, they are more apt to recognize ours. Thank people for their time, support, encouragement, and help.
  6. Stop the hypocrisy – Keep your actions aligned with your words. When it comes to the big things, we rarely struggle, but the small things can slip our minds in a stress-filled day. Be aware of the possibility to keep it from happening.
  7. Stop imposing unnecessary rules – Some rules are necessary, but if they are arbitrary and/or make people’s lives more difficult, then they revision – or they need to go. Don’t set rules that make the library less welcoming. Look to create positively stated guidelines that support your Mission and Vision.
  8. Stop criticizing people in public This applies not only to teacher (and administrators) but students as well. Public humiliation is harmful and can have long-term negative effects. Responding too quickly with a negative comment is damaging. Apologize immediately. No matter how well the person appeared to take the comment, the barb stung, and they won’t forget it.
  9. Stop trying to act alone This is most likely to happen when we are guilty of #2 and #4. Daskal quotes the adage, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

We all have fallen into some of these communication pitfalls. Being mindful of them will minimize their occurrences. We need to ensure we send –and receive—messages positively. It builds our relationships and our leadership.