Life is a Marathon

More than two years after the beginning of the pandemic, thinking about masks, reaching for the hand sanitizer, getting vaccines and boosters has become our new normal, but we want it to be over. The reality, which we already know, is that it never will be over. And on the horizon are the next changes and new challenges. Life is truly a marathon, long and winding. All of it requiring our energy and attention. How well we do in this race depends on our mindset and willingness to learn so we are ready as we can be for what comes next.

In The 18th Mile: It’s Not the Finish Line Leaders Should Focus On, RapidStart Leadership further develops the familiar life-as-a-marathon example. When the pandemic started, we dug down to do what was necessary. But it lasted so much longer. And we are tired. We are now at what RapidStart calls the 18th mile, the true test of a marathoner. The beginning excitement (or, in our case, the willingness to take on the challenge) has faded, and we are faced with miles to go before the finish line. This is the true test of our resolve and our leadership.

Directed to the business world, RapidStart offers the following 7 steps – along with my tweaks and comments they are:

  1. Expect it – Anything long term hits this point. When you are a leader, you often are involved in complex, sometimes multi-year, projects. It’s around here where things start to go wrong and it’s harder to find the energy to invest. What strategies do you have in place to deal with this point? How about a mini celebration of the distance you have travelled?
  2. Put in the miles – Doing the work means continuing to learn what you need to do the new and old tasks. It also means once you’ve gone this far in the past, you can go further in the future. And as you go further, remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. Look to the other “runners” for support. Make use of your PLN.
  3. Recognize when it comes – If you expect the stress and stumbling blocks, you will be better at recognizing it. Notice changes to your mindset and focus. When you are ready to call it a day before the day has begun, you know you have reached that point. Put your strategies into play.
  4. Pace wisely – Enthusiasm is great, but it can burn out quickly in the enormity of what you are facing. Likewise, starting out too fast can mean you have nothing in reserve. A fast start is fine, but don’t keep that pace. And when you’re flagging, what keeps your reserves up? Time for family and friends and time for yourself are musts. You can’t keep drawing water from the same well without it running dry at some point. Brain, body, and spirit all need to be refreshed regularly.
  5. Watch for the “reveal” – The 18th mile is where you see what you are made of — your commitment to your Mission and Vision. Your perseverance. The longer the project, the more likely the shine is going to come off and you’ll get to see the truth of this work and its impact. Who is still with you? Who’s dropped off? Assess how things are going. Where are there weaknesses that can use some extra support? Whether it’s a pandemic or a project, you are in this together.
  6. Go mental – The power of the brain over your attitude has long been noted. RapidStart says where runners count steps or sing songs, we should look to our why. When fatigue and doubt arise, revisit your vision for and the purpose of the project. There is more to come, but you can do it. You know it because you have already done so much. Review the many accomplishments and milestones you have achieved.
  7. Enjoy the journey – Or as RightStart says, “embrace the suck.” Not every part of the journey will be filled with joy, but these important projects are worth the time and effort. Going through this process, especially with collaborators, brings you all closer together, even (especially?) when it’s challenging.  Find ways to make time for fun and laugh when the situation gets tough, knowing it’s just one more step closer to the goal.

No matter what a project — or life — throws at you, don’t be stopped by the 18th mile. Keep the end (and your Vision) in sight, work with your team, and look forward to reaching that distant and important goal. Maybe we’ll even get a T-shirt at the end!

Always Leading

Leadership should not be something you turn on and off and it’s more than something you do. It’s a mindset and a way of being. When you see yourself as a leader, you carry your leadership qualities and skill set into all situations and regardless of the type of administrator you work for.

By being aware of what your administrator(s) want and need, and responding as a leader, you sharpen your leadership skills. Other people respond to your actions by seeing you as a leader. The more naturally you assume the role, the more you own this identification. Your colleagues and administrators come to view you as one of the building leaders and respond positively to your suggestions and proposals.

Managing or leading up can be critical in a building or school district where administrators change frequently or the one in place is inept. Jenn David-Lang and Donna Spangler explain why and “How to Manage Up in a School Setting.”  They identify six different administrators and what skills you want to employ:

  • Brand new – Get in early and be regarded as a helper as the administrator becoming acclimated. Learn their goals and show how your work supports this.
  • Hands-off or distracted – Take the reins and run. They won’t notice it, but the teachers will, and many will be grateful.
  • Micromanager – Sending detailed reports shows you know how to do your job – and how they like to do theirs.
  • Inexperienced with teaching and learning – Infographics are a good source of help. You want to present information as succinctly as possible so they can absorb it and see the connection.
  • Know-it-all – Show that you’re aware of their knowledge. Introduce ideas with phrases like, “As you know…”
  • Indecisive – Present options (but not too many) and offer rankings along with reasons or evidence for choices.

David-Lang and Spangler expand on dealing with these six types of administrators with their “AAHH” strategy.

Ask – You need information to prevent missteps. Ask questions to learn their vision, what they see as success, and gain a sense of who they are. You also want to know what issues the administrator is focused on and any background information on it.

Adjust – Change tactics depending on which of the type of supervisor you are dealing with. What worked for a previous administrator, might not work for your new one. For example, if you were a micromanager, presenting a plan of action and having a written agreement on who will do what (and probably by when) works well. With a hands-off administrator, you can be more general in your plan and stay focused on presenting the successful end result.

Head or Heart – Some administrators want just the facts. They love data. Others respond better to the emotion behind a project. Micromanagers and Know-it-alls tend to be the former. The others can fall into either category, so it helps to identify early how they react to information and present it in a way that facilitates their hearing you.

Hands – When you make a proposal, you need to support it with an action plan. All types of administrators need to know they can count on you to deliver—and make them look good.

Get to know your administrators and their style. Present yourself and your work in the best light by giving them what they need, the way they can you it best. When you do, you are better able to lead everywhere.

Leading Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

Success feels good – it feels great. You worked hard to get there. Unfortunately, if you get too comfortable with what you have achieved, you risk to sliding backwards.

Remember Blockbuster? Xerox? Blackberry? Sears? They were all leaders in the field for a significant period and are nowhere today. These giants, and many others along with them, didn’t see the change coming and didn’t adjust and move forward. You don’t want your library to suffer a similar fate.

As lifelong learners we must keep our leadership focused on the future or our libraries will be rooted in the past. “We have always done it that way” leads to stagnation. Policies, procedures, and programs must be reviewed regularly and be open to change and new ideas.  Equity, SEL and other current issues need to be thoroughly integrated into the library program. What else is happening? How can you predict where you need to go?

One way is to think laterally. Expand your reading beyond library and education issues by looking at what is happening in business and technology. Consider how new developments and concerns in those areas might impact libraries and schools. From this you may find unique inspiration to bring into your school.

In How to Keep Learning as a Leader, David Burkus presents four ways in which you can be ready for what may be coming next.

  1. Linger on Failure – Take the time to notice what you learned, achieved and will do differently as a result of setbacks. Accept your failures as part of your process – and proof that you’re growing as a leader.. Failure is feedback when you know how to use it. It isn’t comfortable to review your mistakes, but this is not about being comfortable. It’s about growing and learning.
  2. Stay Curious – Listen, read, view, and keep learning. A random conversation can give you a new idea. Watching television or seeing a movie can start an unanticipated thought process. You just need to be open to the possibility.  Burkus talks about listening to experts in different fields. The wider your scan of the environment, the greater your opportunity to discover something new. It doesn’t have to be a deep dive into these subjects, unless you uncover a treasure you want pursue.
  3. Experiment – Put your new idea into practice. If it only stays in your head, tomorrow will have arrived before you are ready for it. Yes, you will fail sometimes (see #1) but the trying is worth it! Burkus suggests creating a decision journal and log what you decided to do. What was your intended outcome? Did it work? Can you tweak it? The journal can give you a record of your thinking and how productive it is.
  4. Cultivate Conflicts -This is the scariest step. It doesn’t mean instigating them but it does mean developing your awareness of them. We live in highly polarized time. While you don’t want to engage, listening can lead to amazing opportunities. The more you know about how others around you think and why they do, the better able you are to anticipate resistance to different ideas and projects. Knowing where pushback is likely to arise, you can plan. You might make modifications, provide background information, or include others in the planning process, which always a good idea.

In the words of Fleetwood Mac, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow/ Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here…Yesterday’s gone.” Be staying curious, learning from setbacks, trying new things, and listening to those around you, you’ll be ready for tomorrow and continue to grow and thrive as a leader.

Take My Advice

We all are guilty of giving unsolicited advice. Most often, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Unfortunately, instead of building relationships, giving advice when it’s not asked for tends to cause resistance. In offering help, we don’t stop to learn if the other person needs or wants assistance. In rushing in with our solution, it may seem to the other person that we are minimizing the problem. In ither case, the other person pulls away and an opportunity to truly be of help is gone.

 What makes us think we always have an answer? We certainly don’t have solutions for all our problems. Often, the best help we can give someone is just to listen. Whether they want to vent their anger or release too many thoughts swirling in their heads, offering a solution cuts off their process. By short-circuiting what they were saying, you may very well have prevented them from finding their own solution. When someone is angry, fearful about a situation, or any other highly emotional state, they are not thinking cognitively. Through the process of expelling it all, reason has a chance to return. The thoughts stop swirling, and the rational mind deals with what has upset them.

When someone comes to you with a problem, you have an important role to play—without offering help. They needed someone with whom to share all of it, and they trusted you to be that person. By using your active listening skills, you help them while deepening the relationship. Instead of speaking, use your body language to show you are focused on what they are saying. Nod your head. Let your facial expression mirror supportive feelings. If there is a pause, you can restate something they just said to show you are listening – and to find out if you missed a point.

PsychCentral cautions “It’s Time to Stop Giving Unsolicited Advice“. The simplest way to do this is to ask if advice is wanted. You can try any of these questions suggested by PsychCentral:

Are you open to suggestions? This clears the path for your response. “Suggestions” is a better word than “advice.”  The latter says you know more and can be taken as a criticism. The former is just some ideas you offer that can be taken or not.

I’ve been through something similar. Can I tell you about what worked for me? Without imposing, you are establishing a bond of a mutual experience. Recognize that means you will have to share that experience. That interchange puts the communication on an even more personal level. It evokes shared trust and leads to deepening the relationship.

Is there anything I can do to help? Be prepared for a no or a yes. It is a generous offer. If the other person takes you up on it, you are obligated to follow through. The commitment may take time and effort on your part. If no further help is required or requested, you have shown your willingness and concern.

If you find that you regularly give unsolicited advice, PsychCentral offers you some advice in the form of questions to ask yourself, including the following:

  • Why do I want to offer advice right now?
  • Is there something else that I can do that would be more helpful?
  • Is there someone more qualified who could advise this person?
  • Can I let them decide or figure this out on their own?
  • What else can I do to reduce my anxiety or discomfort?
  • Can I accept that my ideas aren’t the only good ideas?
  • How can I be supportive without giving unsolicited advice?
  • Can I focus on listening and understanding instead of fixing and instructing? Would this be supportive and respectful?

Unsolicited advice is a two-edged sword. You have only the best intentions when you are the one offering it, but that may not be how it’s received. Think about times when someone has offered you unsolicited advice By recognizing what receiving it feels like, you will be better able to restrain your impulse in the future. And if they are looking for advice, hear the other person out — completely—so you understand the situation before you give your response.

And that’s my advice to you. LOL 🙂

Happiness is…

No one is happy all the time, but if you can’t recall recent moments of happiness, you are harming yourself as well as your ability to be a leader. The harm to yourself comes from the chemicals your brain produces when you are stressed or angry compared to those produced when you are happy. Your body needs the benefits of those endorphins to get you through your busy days.

The harm to your leadership ability results from how you present yourself to the world because, in addition to the negative feelings, your face shows it when you are sad, angry, or stressed. No one enjoys spending much time around people who are often unhappy or upset.

The good news is you don’t need large doses of happiness. Even fleeting pleasures can boost your mindset and last for quite a while. The challenge is to identify – and then capture – them in the moment. When something drags you down, if you continue finding these happiness-promoting instances, you will feel happy overall. And that happiness will be seen even through a KN95 mask.

In his in depth blog What Leads to Happiness? Greg Vanourek lists 20 ways you can bring more happiness into your life. Here are his first 10:

  1. Regular exercise and physical activity –. You don’t have to train for a marathon or spend hours exercising. Just include 10-15 minutes a day on your to do list. And especially for those of us currently in winter, do what you can to spend a few of those minutes out in the sun when it appears. Research suggests getting out into the fresh air has an immediate positive effect
  2. Acts of kindness, service, and generosity – The getting is in the giving. When you help others, there is a boost to your sense of self. Take time to notice the small and many opportunities where you can give to others but make sure not to do this at the expense of your own needs and boundaries. Don’t turn giving into a burden or a drain
  3. Purpose and meaning – Knowing that your actions are producing something of value and making a difference is a cause for happiness. Know and notice your “why” when you engage in any activity, including those connected to your job.
  4. Relationships with others – Humans are social beings. As the pandemic proved, it harms us when we can’t interact with others. Don’t let your tasks and responsibilities keep you from spending time with the people you care about and who care about you. You offer support for each other as needed, and it just feels good to be with them. Vanourek says ‘According to many researchers, strong social relationships are the most important contributor to enduring happiness for most people”
  5. Goals and aspirations – This is related to #3. If you know where you are going – and why you want to go there is joy in the journey. As you achieve the small steps, your sense of accomplishment makes you happy.
  6. Authentic expression of self – Be true to who you are. It saves a lot of energy-draining effort. Being a people-pleaser or focusing on what other people think diminishes you and your happiness.
  7. Anticipation – An upcoming anniversary, graduation, or other event in your life adds pleasure. Savor it. If necessary, look to put something on your schedule that you can look forward to.
  8. Gratitude – Recognizing what you have in your life and being thankful for can keep you from focusing on the negatives. Taking a moment to be grateful can give you a happiness boost in the midst of a gray day.
  9. Experience – While something is happening, take time to notice and enjoy it. Do what you can to stay in the moment. Appreciating enjoyable times whether it’s dining out, seeing a ball game, or being with a friend boosts your happiness.
  10. Learning and developing – Mastering a new task or learning something new makes you feel good about your accomplishments. Consider ways you can share your new knowledge for even more happiness.

Happiness is many things. It’s not the huge events that are responsible for making us happy on an everyday basis. It’s the small moments that can make all the difference once we tune into them. When you can take the time for joy and notice what is already good in your life, your happiness will shine and others will enjoy being in its presence.

Reach for Your Leadership Vision

I often write and speak on the importance of knowing your Mission and Vision. Missions focus on what you do. It’s your purpose or your “perspiration.” Visions are your “inspirations” and “aspirations.” They are where you would love to have happen. Both grow from your core values, your philosophy. And you can’t reach your school library Vision unless you have one for yourself as a leader. Without that self-Vision, it is difficult to step out of your comfort zone and the take risks leadership requires.

In Think Deeply About the Leader You Aspire to Be, Art Petty suggests you “mine for early influences and marry them to future aspirations to develop a clear picture of your desired leadership self.” Connecting what you’ve seen and done with what you want can guide you in constructing your leadership Vision using the following four steps:

  1. Start by exploring your leadership inspirations – Look inwardly and widely. Consider the values you hold. What are you passionate about? Who are the people you admire in librarianship and elsewhere? Why do you admire them? Petty suggests you look at the behavior of those people. If they had a direct contact in your life, how did they reach out to you? I became active in school librarianship and began writing because of the people who reached out. Their trust and belief encouraged me to leave my comfort zone.
  2. Spend time reflecting on your best self – Think of those moments when you were proud of something you did as a leader. You may have put together a difficult project or you gave a workshop for teachers, and they were all engaged and participating. Consider what you did to make those instances happen. What aspects of yourself as a person did you draw on? Think of the values that motivated your behavior and/or achievement. Look to the moments when you were proud of yourself and your behavior. It may have been how you connected a reluctant reader to the perfect book. Perhaps you turned a confrontation into the start of a relationship.
  3. Your Leadership AspirationsImagine this was your last year at your current position. You’re either moving on or retiring. What would you hope your students would say about their library experience? How about teachers and administrators? Take time to think about the legacy you want to leave, the impact you want to have, as a librarian and a leader and from that, pull out the pieces you want to include in your Leadership Vision.
  4. What’s most important to you as a leader? Petty recommends answering the following questions:
  • What do I care most about doing and achieving as a leader?
  • How will I guide, teach, and coach?
  • How will I support creating great results through others?
  • How do I want to affect those I come in contact with along the way?

My Leadership Vision is “School Librarians are recognized everywhere as vital leaders.” I know it will never be universal, but I always work to be a force for change. It inspires all I do.

Taking the time to see yourself as a leader and the impact your leadership will have on your library can inspire and should inspire you. Reach high and fearlessly create your own leadership Vision.  

Being Human

What does it mean to be a human? The biological definition doesn’t come close to the contextual meaning and the layers the word means to us. Over the years I have discussed many qualities of leadership, but human wasn’t one of them. A post by Kerry Azar, Great Leadership is Radically Human, has me thinking that I had missed an important quality. It encompasses much of what constitutes Emotional Intelligence, but goes beyond that to a new level.

Our first thoughts of what a leader is tends to focus on their dynamism and vision. Someone who gets things done. This is true, but it’s only about the “doing.”  We are human “beings.” How we act and behave is more important. In our dealings with others, we need to be human. Being that way is how great leaders behave.

In her post, Ms. Azar writes of being “radically human.” She defines it as, “showing up (in) more transparent, authentic, vulnerable, empathetic, passionate, and compassionate ways.” When you are human, you behave as such wherever you go. Others respond on a deep emotional level to that kind of leadership. Think of the administrators you have had who you admired and loved working for. They were undoubtedly human beings. They cared. They pitched in when needed. They were supportive. You felt safe in going to them with a problem, knowing they would help.

We all know humans make mistakes. Being transparent and vulnerable about these mistakes makes you real. You don’t hide your doubts. You welcome input from others. We are never perfect. Accepting that in yourself and others creates that safe, welcoming environment we strive for in our libraries.

Being passionate shows our values and core beliefs. Anyone who meets me knows I am passionate about school librarians being leaders and intellectual freedom. Letting your passion show lets people know what matters to you as a person. It also gives them the freedom to share who they are. This is how relationships are built. And we are in the relationship business, so being human is good for our work.

Azar also talks about “kintsugi,” a Japanese art form which repairs broken items by putting them back together using precious metals. The restored item doesn’t look like the original but it “maintains the integrity of the original creation while creating something even more beautiful and enduring. Kintsugi is a suitable metaphor for how a great leader deals with our pandemic-challenged world. When we view it as creating something new amidst the broken and perhaps something better, we help ourselves find the direction forward. This allows us to lead the way, helping others do so as well.

Being radically human isn’t easy. Azar suggests we take time to ask, “how am I getting in my way”, not to look for where we’re making mistakes, but rather to look for how to be more transparent, authentic, vulnerable, empathic, passion and compassionate. When we do that, we will find our way forward and be able to grow through what life brings us.

Courage Sees You Through

The Wizard of Oz was on television over the Thanksgiving weekend, and every time I watch, I learn something new or am reminded of ideas that have gotten buried. This time I was struck by the triumvirate who were Dorothy’s companions and support on her journey. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion represent three qualities necessary for leadership: brain, heart, and courage. You need Brains to plan. Your Heart guides you and brings you the relationships that strengthen you. And then there is Courage. Courage makes it possible for you to take the risks to change what is and go forward into unknown territory.

As the avatar for Courage, the Cowardly Lion is frightened most of the time. He often wants to retreat, but the Scarecrow and Tin Man haul him back. In the end, his true courage comes through because his commitment to Dorothy is so strong.  Like the Cowardly Lion, you need to be courageous in the face of fear and your commitment to your Mission will be what helps pull you forward into leadership, change and whatever risks may be necessary for both.

Summoning that courage is not always easy, even when you have the brains and heart to know you must leave your comfort zone. In her post, “Why Courage Is Essential If You Want Power Over Your Life,” LaRay Que notes we all fear the unknown.  Fear can paralyze us, keeping us huddled safely within the walls of our library. But in the long run, the walls won’t keep you safe. Staying hidden is the behavior of prey. While I am not suggesting you be a predator, you do need to soar.

How do you soar? How do you get past the grip of fear? Que says you begin doing it by acknowledging your emotions. Trying to pretend they are not there doesn’t work. Fear is a strong emotion that brings out our bodies response to threat. Our cerebral cortex, the logical processing part of the brain, cuts out. Our lower-level brain (commonly referred to as our lizard brain) takes over, and we go into flight/fight/freeze. Professionally, freeze means we stay quietly where we are.Que says, “Courage begins by examining your emotions.”  She recommends making a two-column list of pros and cons. As you see where the gains are and what might hold you back, you can begin to make a reasoned decision about what you should do. She recommends these three ways to make this work for you:

  1. Identify the call or challenge that is in front of you – What is the “why” for doing this? What will it give you as a result? How will you grow as a leader? As a person? What might you lose or miss out on if you don’t do it? One example might be stepping up for a leadership position in your state school library association. Or moving up to a national association for librarians. You could gain experience, connections, confidence – or miss out on all of this if you freeze.
  2. Pinpoint when emotional courage is needed – Where is fear rooted? What will you need to do that is creating your high-level anxiety? Consider where or to whom you can go to talk this out. Plan how you might handle it if and when it occurs. With a plan or support in place, your mind becomes calmer about the possible situations, and your fears diminish. They won’t go away entirely, but like the Cowardly Lion (and Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch), you will push through it.
  3. Claim power over your own life I love this idea. We do what we can to not to let others control us (professional and personal responsibilities we cannot avoid not withstanding). The same should be true of fear. Don’t let it decide for you. You can control your reactions and behaviors when fear comes up. There will always be something to fear. Don’t let that stop you from doing what you know you should do or from the results you are looking to have.

Part of the magic obvious to the viewer in The Wizard of Oz, is that all of Dorothy’s friends already have what it is they think they want – brains, heart and courage – and she needs all three to get what she needs. This is true for you as well. You’ve got big goals. Your head and your heart know the way forward. Embrace your courage – it’s definitely in there – and if necessary, give yourself a medal.

The Centrality of Trust

image from Wavetop via Canva

Trust is the foundation of relationships. And we are in the relationship business. It is through relationship we build the collaboration with teachers – and administrators – which engages students in meaningful learning. Building trust requires trusting yourself and the willingness to trust others.

We have had many successful experiences that began with us not knowing everything necessary to do a task. In those cases we either get the information through our research or from the knowledge of our colleagues either locally or in social media. We may not know the answer – but we can find it. This builds our trust in ourselves

Trusting others is somewhat more difficult, but relationships are a two-way street. Most people have had an occasion where someone violated their trust. To build a relationship, you have to give trust even before it is accepted. This is not about sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. It’s letting people know who you are as a person and following through on what you say, which makes it safe for them to share themselves with you.

In How Successful Leaders Build Trust with Their People Lolly Daskal discusses “trust-inducing behaviors” which build relationships.  You probably exhibit many if not most, of these, but it is helpful to be aware of what you are creating. Work on any you find challenging. Many of them weave together. Here is her list of eleven behaviors:

  1. Being accessible – Of course you are… except for when you are feeling rushed and harried. You can’t always just drop everything, but you can ask when you can get back to someone. Being honest about where you are, combined with being available when you say you will be, builds trust.
  2. Being confident – It’s not arrogance. It’s being efficacious. When you are confident, teachers and students know they can count on you to help them. People come to you for what you know or what you can do to support them. Be willing to show them they’re right to trust you for this.
  3. Being credible – We build credibility when we are willing to share both our mistakes and our successes. Acknowledging our goofs, large and small, along with our wins lets people see we are human. Admitting we are wrong doesn’t make us less in the eyes of others. It makes usmore worthy of trust.
  4. Being honest – There are times when we might want to skirt an unpleasant truth but telling hard truths builds trust. People know when you’re avoiding saying something. Instead, pause to choose your words and give honest feedback.
  5. Being supportive – Others make mistakes, too. If theirs has a direct effect on you, it might be hard not to jump on them for it. Go for “being honest,” and acknowledge it happens to us all (“being credible”). Look for the lesson you both get. If they are sharing something that doesn’t have to do with you, be prepared to listen (“being accessible”). If they ask, you can help them find a solution or fix. Your support will build trust.
  6. Being dependable – Keep your word. When you make a commitment, see it through. You build trust when you can be counted on to do what you say.
  7. Being consistent –We are known by our actions. Our actions must match our words. Students – and teachers – need to know how you will react. If you allow them to behave one way on a given day and then rebuke them for it on another, they will not trust you.
  8. Being open – Listen to others. Show by your actions that you see and care about them. Give them the space to give you honest feedback. When people know you listen, their trust will grow.
  9. Being empathetic – Everyone is dealing with something. We try to put it aside when we get to school, but it is there, and sometimes it is significant. Despite what they are showing on the surface, be attuned to the body language and behavior of others. It will help in your dealings with them, and when you’re “being open” and “being supportive”, they will share as needed, further building trust.
  10. Being appreciative – Acknowledge the success of others. In collaborative projects, give them the limelight. Emails or, even better, hand-written notes brighten someone’s day. They also realize you see them.
  11. Lead from within – Take trust very seriously. When you display the previous ten behaviors, people feel safe in having a relationship with you because you are trustworthy. This allows you to be an effective leader.

Good leadership begins with trust. Leadership is not something you take on when you want to get a project done. Leading is how you interact with people every day. By acting in the ways listed, people recognize you are a leader and someone they can trust.

Move Closer to Your Vision

You live your Mission every day. You incorporate your Core Values or Philosophy into all you do. But what about your Vision?

Your Vision is your aspiration. It is how the library will be perceived in an all-perfect world. Although the world is not and will never be all-perfect, if you aren’t moving toward achieving it, your Vision can’t come to pass. It remains wonderful words. A dream that has no hope of becoming real.

So how do you incorporate a goal that won’t completely happen? As always, start small. Develop a plan to take you one step closer to achieving it. When that’s done, review your Vision and determine the one part you will focus on next.

Consider this sample Vision:

The Blank School Library Media Program is the center of collaborative learning, producing creative students who have an appreciation of literature, critical thinking skills, and a respect for others and self, and who are prepared to make a contribution to the world.

First, identify the key concepts of your Vision. In this example, these would be: collaborative learning, creativity, literature appreciation, critical thinking, respect, and possibly activism. It’s a formidable list.

Since collaboration is needed for so much, this is one good place to begin. What do you need to have the library be a center for collaborative learning? Look around your library. Does it promote collaboration? How is the furniture arranged to encourage that? Are there resources that would help? How can you showcase them so teachers and students will use them?

Now that you know what you want to achieve, create a plan to get you there. Will there a be a cost associated with it? Can some of the work be done for free? Can you fundraise? Who are your logical allies? Who will you need to convince? How can you sell it?

The three-step process Paul B. Thornton puts forward in Leaders: Clarify Your Ideas Before Communicating Them, with some modifications, can help you turn your ideas for achieving your Vision into reality.

Step No. 1: Clarify your thinking – You begin this process when you determined which part of your Vision you will focus on. Take time to think about what you want to do first. Yes, there is so much to do, but thinking is doing in this case. Get clear about your priorities, what you have time for, and what might make the biggest initial impact (early wins are helpful for motivation!) Then before going forward, test it out with allies and those you trust.

Going back to the earlier example, you might ask a teacher ally if they thought the library promoted collaboration and how it did so.  Speak to one or two students who use the library frequently. Do they think it is comfortable to collaborate in the library? What, if anything, would make it simpler? How close are their ideas to yours? Share what you are contemplating. Do they like it? Have other suggestions? Fold any new ideas into your planning.

Step No. 2: Prepare Your Message – As Thornton says, you need to engage emotions and address “heart and head.”  Think about why would your audience want this? What would appeal to them (and what’s the emotional appeal)? Hit the big idea quickly and don’t give too many details. They will ask if they need it.

Thornton also suggests blending optimism with reality. Too much optimism makes you sound like a dreamer. Too much reality, and it’s likely to sound overwhelming. Prepare questions that focus your audience on their values and priorities and show how this will mesh with them. Again, try your message out with your allies and make any necessary modifications.

Step No. 3: Deliver Your Message – You have worked long and hard at this. Let your passion and conviction show. Thornton says to make your idea visible, dramatic, and consistent. Use pictures of libraries that have achieved what you want. On the create a space that promotes collaboration example, you could rearrange the furniture to show what the changes will look like.

Don’t let your Vision be just a dream. When you make a plan, create a lesson, consider a new project, look at your Vision and remember what you are always working toward. Every step brings you closer.