Become Confident

Leaders are confident. Confidence is the outward manifestation of your trust in yourself. It is an essential ingredient for leadership. When you trust yourself, people trust you. When they do, they will follow and work with you. That doesn’t mean you believe you are always right. You can question your original decision and/or get feedback from others. But you are still confident and recognized as such.

You need confidence when you propose a new program. You need confidence to deal with students who are acting out. You need confidence when you make changes to the facilities in the library. You need confidence to face challenges to your collection. You need confidence to grow. And if you are not growing, you are dying.

But how do you develop confidence?  The Indeed Editorial Team gives some helpful recommendations in Building Self-Confidence: 10 Ways to Boost Your Confidence.

  1. Attend professional development training – The more you know, the more confident you will feel. Going to your state’s school library conference is an important investment in yourself. In addition to the specific knowledge you gain, you also develop a vocabulary that shows you are informed about the topic. The added benefit of attending PD sessions is the connections you make. Building relationships with other librarians is as important as building relationships with people in your building. They are potential mentors, people with whom you can safely vent, and sources of advice and experience.
  2. Learn new skills – Similar to the first, but this can also refer to choosing a specific course or topic. For example, you may feel you could use more help with time management. Or you want to learn more coding so that you can make recommendations to students and teachers. Searching online for some training in this area will make you feel more knowledgeable and therefore more confident.
  3. Dress for success – This outward step has an important impact on your inner self-assurance. Your dress affects your attitude and mindset. Think of elementary kids on picture day. When they are dressed up, they behave much better. When considering this, make sure your clothing does not restrict you from being able to do your job comfortably. If your day requires you to sit on the floor or a low chair, keep that in mind. The way you are dressed transmits a silent subconscious message to others while potentially empowering you.
  4. Leave your comfort zone – Almost everything on this list asks you to take this step. It is key to professional growth. Giving your first presentation is scary. Getting through it is an enormous confidence boost. The Indeed Editorial Team also notes that doing something like a presentation can open the door to new opportunities. Someone in the audience might note something that suggests a new direction. Confidence lies outside of your comfort zone.
  5. Emulate confident peers – Look for role models. Who do you know who appears confident? How do they do it? The authors of the article suggest observing how these people interact with others and incorporating some of their strategies.
  6. Set goals for yourself – As with #2, start with something you want to learn or do and set small goals on your path to achieving it. Each goal you reach builds your confidence and keeps you going.
  7. Focus on your strengths – There are things you already do well. Can you do them better or can you use these skills more? Don’t look for perfection. Keep your focus on improvement Indeed recommends keeping a list of your achievements. (I keep a journal of what I accomplish each day.)
  8. Learn from your mistakes – Mistakes are a good thing – even though they don’t feel that way in the moment. They are part of growing. Mistakes give you information on what’s not working so you can do things differently. Use this information to move forward.
  9. Eliminate negative language – Notice how you treat yourself. We tend to be our own harshest critics. Change that mindset and look to what your accomplishments are and the goals you are working toward. Keeping that journal will help.
  10. Ask questions – Questions are another important part of the growth process. Pretending you understood everything someone said keeps you uninformed. Everything around us is changing at a faster rate than ever. One way to stay on top of what you need to know is by asking questions.

The Indeed Editorial Team had 3 final tips:

  • Take your time,
  • Be persistent, and
  • Keep developing your mindset.

I would add to that: Keep growing; Recognize the value you bring, and Build your PLN. With practice and awareness, confidence is there for you.

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Creating an Advisory Council

In this day of libraries receiving regular disputes about books in their collection (and ALA has some great resources should this happen to you), it’s important to have advocates for the library who can support you through this process and any other challenges your program may face. One of the best ways to do this is to create and develop an Advisory Council.

When you’re planning, try to make your council as diverse as possible without becoming unwieldy by limiting your board to between 5 and 8 members. First, consider other librarians. You can invite the local public librarian and a college librarian, if there is one in your area, are other potential members. If you are at the elementary level invite a middle school librarian. Middle school librarians should look to high school, and high school librarians invite the middle school librarian.

Next, consider inviting one or two teachers from different subject areas, STEM teachers especially. If you are at the high school level, consider adding a student representative. Reach out to the community as well. Invite parents and local business owners. Inform your administrators, inviting them if they are interested. (And keep administrators in the loop no matter what).

As you develop your plan, start by creating your ask. What will be the purpose of the Advisory Council? How do you see the potential contribution of the members?  What will the commitment entail? Before or after school? Evening? Zoom or in-person? Know what you are asking people to do.

Also consider what members will need to know about the library to be effective. This includes an explanation of the Code of Ethics and the 6 Common Beliefs in the National School Library Standards. Add whatever else you believe necessary, depending on the members, and be sure to have these resources available to the members.

At the first meeting, welcome and thank the members for volunteering their time. After brief introductions, review the purpose of the council. Ask what they know and think about the school library. As succinctly as possible, review what you determined members need to know and encourage questions to ensure their understanding.

As a group, develop what the goals of the Council should be. You might want to focus on the diversity of the collection, reviewing the collection development policy, or what changes are needed to ensure the library is welcoming to all. Although you are leading what the possibilities are, be open to their suggestions.

Alaina Love’s post How to Lead a New Team to Success offers a direction for how to continue.

  1. Listen before leading – Don’t plunge into the tasks. While you want something to show for the first meeting, allow time to hear from the members. You asked them to be on the Council for a reason, but they may have more to offer than you knew. Be open to discovery.
  2. Share – Set up a Google doc or other method where Council members can report so every one can keep up with what is being done. After the first meeting, for example, you may have them comment on any goals that were discussed. Also, the doc can have a place to post any questions they have that have arisen since the meeting. Be sure they know everyone can respond to someone else’s posts.
  3. Seek insight –Discover what drives your members. Why did they agree to be a part of the Council?  What do they hope to give? What do they hope to gain? What have libraries meant to them. Knowing them as people, beyond their titles, will make them more connected to the team.
  4. Evaluate and align – The more you learn about the members the better you are at assigning tasks. We all have strengths and weaknesses. You do as well, and the Council is meant to help you do better at leading the library program. By knowing what members like to do and are good at, you not only get the best results but also increase their commitment to it.
  5. Review – Leaders inspire and inspect. Over time, notice how things are going and assess whether members have been offered the opportunity to give their best. Should you make changes in who is responsible for different tasks, be sure to frame it in the context of feeling they could give more in the new assignment.
  6. Query, acknowledge, celebrate – Get their input as to how they feel things are going. Instead of asking “how are we doing?” ask, “What can we be doing better?” And celebrate Council’s achievements and those of individual members. Even if you meet virtually, try for an in-person celebration. People stay more invested and active when they are acknowledged.
  7. Look outward – Council members don’t stay forever and new blood will always be needed to keep the council strong. Encourage outgoing members to recommend their replacement. Be sure to welcome new members and get them up to speed.

Creating and sustaining an Advisory Council takes work, but the benefits to your program and how you are perceived make it worth it. Bringing in diverse perspectives will give you the direction you need to ensure the library is a safe, welcoming space to all and continues to be an invaluable asset to the school.

Moments in Leadership

Leadership is a journey. You start small and grow as you go. And, no matter how much you grow, the journey doesn’t end. It’s a lifelong pursuit. For librarians, leadership is not an option. AASL’s Vision puts it succinctly, “Every school librarian is a leader; every learner has a school librarian.” 

We cannot forget that until every librarian is a leader, not every learner will have a school librarian. Too many non-leader librarians have seen their positions and libraries disappear. Yes, leaders have been eliminated, but it’s those who haven’t stepped out lead who have been the most likely to have lost their jobs.

We do face a challenge, because librarians don’t have a title, such as principal or superintendent, that implies leadership. We are the ones who define and develop what our leadership is and what it means. Fortunately, we have colleagues who have marked the path. Develop your PLN. Use social media to connect to library leaders. Observe how leaders in your state association assert their leadership and take the profession (and their library) forward. Seek out someone you admire and ask if they would be your mentor.

Mark your own leadership path. Art Petty delineates 3 Big Moments That Can Define Your Leadership Career.

The Moment You Decide to Lead – Making this active decision is key. You must decide, then pursue. Petty recommends some self-reflection questions including, “Am I motivated to help others?”  He follows that with “Am I willing to put their needs ahead of mine?” Think about the ways in which your work supports the goals of students, teachers, and administrators and make that your priority as you craft your goals. By becoming and being a leader, you are positioned to give students and teachers the information and resources they need for success.

The Moment You Decide the Type of Leader You Aspire to Become – Petty writes: Deciding to invest yourself in the work of leadership is essential. Defining the leader you aspire to become is priceless. There are many models of leadership and not all of them work for school librarians. A style known as “servant leadership” works best for librarians. This style focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belon is the style most frequently showed by library leaders. They are empathetic and active listeners; leaders who empower others.

A variation is collaborative leadership. Here the leader enrolls others and works with them. They value the skills and expertise of their colleagues as they take their library program and students forward. Servant and/or collaborative leaders in our state and national associations make our profession and value known to an increasingly larger audience.

The Moment(s) When You Make a Stand – In the current book-banning climate, there have been several school library leaders who have taken public stands in the face of hostility and even personal danger. It takes courage to stand up for your core values and professional ethics. While there are reasons some are afraid or have reasons for not doing so, these Warrior Librarians are to be admired. Hopefully, their courage will encourage others to do the same.

Making a stand is not always as earth-shaking as those situations. Sometimes, it’s showing up at a Board of Education meeting and talking about the importance to students and teachers of school libraries. It could be making an argument to your principal about the use of your time.

Your leadership journey will have many “moments.”  No matter when, you need to become more active in our profession. The first step will require you to get out of your comfort zone. Subsequent steps will hopefully be a little easier (although stretching yourself will always be part of the process). First, step up to leadership at your state level. From there look to serve on the national level. If you serve on an AASL Committee, look for a leadership position. Be ready to be part of ALA. The same is true for other professional associations/

What type of leader are you or do you want to be? How are you making that happen? The journey never ends.

Me? An Author

If on seeing the title, your first thought was, “No way!” you should know that it is absolutely possible. And being an author gives you a unique way to be noticed in your school and district. It certainly makes your presence known, and being published in any format makes you seen as a leader. Like all things dealing with leadership, it takes moving out of your comfort zone.

I have been writing since 1977, and, as with my job as a librarian, I fell into it. I took a post-grad course to earn a supervisor’s certificate. For the final paper in the course, two of us created volunteer manuals. Our fellow students said we needed to publish it. I had no idea where to begin, and neither did the other student, Ruth Toor. Fortuitously, one of my library volunteers, a college professor, suggested contacting her publisher.

Figuring we had nothing to lose, I did so. The man who became our first editor suggested we enlarge our idea – by a lot—and model it on a Teacher’s Almanac his company had done. This was far more work than we had considered, but we decided to try it. It was a definite step out of our comfort zone, but we signed the contract.

To write the book, we met on weekends and developed an outline of the chapters from September through June, along with a sample chapter. It came back loaded with corrections. Panicked, I questioned our editor if he still wanted the book. He eased our mind by saying, “we only correct good writing.”

We buckled down, adjusting our different styles and drawing on our individual skills to produce the final manuscript. In 1979, The Elementary School Librarian’s Almanac was published. You can still get a used copy online, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s more than a little dated.

Shortly thereafter, our publisher suggested we do a monthly newsletter to be called The School Librarian’s Workshop, whose title lives on in my Facebook group. Over the years, Ruth and I changed publishers several times but continued writing. The books led to presentations at state and national conferences, and our reputation grew. Ruth passed away a number of years ago, but I continue to write. My newest book, The Art of Communication: A Librarian’s Guide for Successful Leadership, Collaboration, and Advocacy, was recently published by Libraries Unlimited.

Since I started, I have seen many librarians make the same journey into authorship, and you can too. And unlike Ruth and me, you have formats other than print books to get started. For example, you can submit a blog for Knowledge Quest, the journal of AASL. Your administration will be impressed that you have published on the national level.

As with everything, the hardest part is getting started. In How to Grow a Reputation as a Thought Leader, Becky Robinson recommends five ways for people to get started writing:

  1. Identify the content you want to share – You have knowledge, skills and experience. Don’t assume everyone has the same. Start with what has been a big success and what you like to do. Have you had great bulletin boards or other displays?  Have you been able to reach formerly reluctant teachers and now collaborate with them?  You have probably been more successful than you give yourself credit for and there are inexperienced librarians who would benefit from your results.
  2. Figure out what content you have and create a content catalog – Robinson suggests checking out slide decks from presentation you have given. If you have a website, you may have posted content that can be used. Did or do you write articles for the school newsletter? All this is content you have ready to put together.
  3. Create a content calendar – This usually refers to when and what you want to post on social media platforms and your webpage, but it can also help you to look forward towards what a publication might need. Look at your content and see if there are topics where you are particularly strong. In September, they are looking for New Year ideas. In March or April, they may be interested in information on how to wrap the school year up so the fall starts strong. Identify themes and any times of the year when they are most appropriate. Some themes are good all year such as leadership, advocacy, and collaboration. Robinson suggests that you, “think about the stories you tell again and again. What are the questions you always get asked? What are the frameworks you share?” That will help you build content.
  4. Flex to repurpose your content – A presentation for teachers can become an article with the presentation used as graphics. Several short pieces on the same topic can be merged into a longer one. A long one can be broken into shorter ones.
  5. Bundle it up – When you look at the work you’ve done, you may discover you have a book almost ready to go. As a librarian, you are familiar with the non-fiction publishers in our field. Contact their acquisition editor and see if they are interested. If they aren’t, try another publisher. Ask around your PLN to see who may have recommendations.

Your years as a reader have likely made you a very strong writer. Your experience as a librarian likely means you have something to share. Look for what you’d like to give back to our community, where you’ve learned and grown, and you may discover some exciting publishing possibilities.

Working Together

To be truly successful as school librarians, we need to collaborate with our colleagues. Yet, because we have full schedules and so do teachers, many of us have found this an insurmountable challenge. It’s easy to fall into existing patterns and not go beyond what we have always done.

Collaboration needs us to extend beyond regular projects or limited to what has been previously done. Our students need it and our programs are better because of it. And doing so is part of our national standards. Collaborate is the fourth of the Shared Foundations in AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Libraries and Librarians. How School Librarians are to implement it is best shown in the framework on pages 84-85 of the Standards. Here you find:

Key Commitment: Work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals.”

Under

School Library Domains and Alignments: A. Think

The school library facilitates opportunities to integrate collaborative and shared learning by

  1. Partnering with other educators to scaffold learning and organize learner groups to broaden and deepen understanding.”

As a leader, grounded in your Vision and Mission, it’s part of your job to look for ways to connect with as many teachers as possible for the benefit of your students and the teachers. Finding the time won’t be easy, but you need to make the outreach a priority. Ken Blanchard in Playing Well with Others presents reasons why it is worth your extra effort.

When getting started at building relationships forming the basis for collaboration, I recommend reaching out to those with whom you already share a bond. But, as Blanchard points out, you can’t stop there. Playing well with others means finding places to form a connection. Those with different viewpoints are the very ones who can help us grow. In the process, you can form the start of a relationship leading to collaboration.

Blanchard discusses four benefits of working with others:

Learning–When we work with others, we learn: about them, ourselves, new ways to create. Like Blanchard, I have written a number of books with a co-author. We had some knowledge in common, but each of us had areas where we knew more than the other. Our combined strengths led to a better book and to me learning more than I expected during a venture where I was sharing what I knew.

Skill BuildingOne of the most vital skills in creating relationships is listening. You have to truly listen – and not just wait for your chance to talk—when you are working collaboratively. Related to Learning, there will always be skills where your partner is stronger and their knowledge will help you grow. Acknowledging what you each bring to the partnership strengthens it and leads to future collaboration.

Productivity—An obvious benefit. When work is divided, the load is lessened. While it seems at first that building relationships and creating collaboration increases in your work, ultimately you will be more productive and successful when you collaborate.

Networking Creating a network of teachers who understand and support the library is vital for your ongoing success. In addition, collaboration can extend to working with other librarians in your district (if you have them), public librarian, or a librarian at a local college. The larger your PLN, the more you grow, and the more you have to offer your teachers and students.

It’s simpler to work by yourself. You know what needs to be done. You have your own style and approach for doing it. Working with others seems be a way to slow things down. But as the saying goes, “To go fast, go alone. To go far go with others.” Thinking about this, realistically, how many teachers can you target for a collaborative project before the holiday break? Even one is a start. How many can you target from January to the end of the school year? What you learn from the first will help you reach the new ones with whom you plan to work.

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?

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.

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!

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.

Listening is Leading

When we ask someone “Are you listening to me”, we’re typically expressing our exasperation. We don’t feel as though what we’re saying is being heard, and that’s frustrating. But what about the reverse? Are we really listening to what others are saying? And are we listening to ourselves?

Active listening, like emotional intelligence, is an important skill to master. So many messages come at us, verbal and unspoken, it can be hard to focus during a conversation. However, the skill is too valuable for our leadership and for our lives in general not to work at getting better at it.

Learning to listen opens the door to expanding relationships, which is key to our ongoing success. In Nine Practices All Leaders Share, Dr. Alan Patterson shows what can be built by improving your ability to listen. Some of his advice is more of a reminder, but reinforcing the basics helps you reach the next level in your leadership. Here are Patterson’s recommended practices, annotated:

  1. Listen with Intent—Focus on what is being said, not the answer you plan on giving. It’s about respect. If you can, use restating to keep you on track and let the other party know that you think what they said matters. It’s an early step in relationship building.
  2. Ask Probing Questions—After listening, go deeper to increase connection and understanding. “Could you explain?” and “Why?’ take you past restating and opens the discussion. A good leader needs to know the concerns and issues of those they work with, whether it’s teachers or students.
  3. Study People—Listening includes reading body language and other non-verbal cues. Be careful about the implicit biases and judgements we all make. You need to see and listen to what the person inside is telling you. It’s not easy, but it is a skill worth developing. Patterson adds that as you get to know a person, you learn what is important to them.
  4. Share observations about the broader horizon with your team, colleagues, and senior leaders—Share your Vision and how you think it can become a reality with teachers and administrators. Contact teacher friends who you think would be open to trying something new and collaborate. School vacation is also the best time of year to have a meeting with your principal and outline your path for going forward. Listen for their responses so that you can see how your work will support them as well.
  5. Look for opportunities to engage in a dialogue—Have conversations that are not only about work problems or situations. Patterson recommends asking “how” and “why” questions to better understand what people need and want. Relationships, connection, and advocacy grow when your colleagues see you are aware of and responsive to their needs. Knowing who your colleagues really are–including as people outside of school–develops the relationships critical to your success. And when they answer–listen with intent and ask probing question.
  6. Practice translating a project or concept into the language of the audience—We do this all the time when we are teaching students. Use the same thinking process when making a presentation to a group, whether it’s parents or a grade/subject meeting. This is not the time for “library language.” What do they already know? What do they need to know? Why? What do you want them to do as a result? Using language that everyone understands makes people feel included and allows them to listen to you better.
  7. Translate vision into individualized responsibilities for your team members—Whether it’s students or teachers with whom you are collaborating (or cooperating) with on a project, be sure all concerned know who is doing what. This will show that you’re listening to what they need and that you’re available if they need help. And be sure to acknowledge their work to the principal.
  8. Trust that your success is based on your ability to create the conditions for other to succeed—You need feedback. That is an important part of listening. Ask in such a way as to get an accurate response. “What did you think of the project?” is not likely to get any helpful feedback. “What could I have done better?” or “Was anything missing?” will get the discussion started in a meaningful way. And listen to the responses you are getting. Receiving feedback builds trust.
  9. Focus on impact and meaning—Reflect on your week. Where did you make a difference? Where do you want to go next? Go an extra step. Ask others where they saw themselves making a difference–and listen to their answer.

Listening is at the heart these leadership skills. It’s also at the center of building the relationships you need to be successful as a leader in a school. Take the time to listen to others and yourself and you will find yourself making a greater impact.