Lead The Change 2012

On 13 November 2012, two of us attended Library Journal's Lead the Change conference at the Cyril Clark branch of the Brampton Public Library.

The full-day event was held in an auditorium at the branch. There were attendees from all over the GTA and beyond. The day was divided into a series of six sessions. Each session consisted of a talk from Dave Bendekovic, the facilitator, followed by discussion from each of three local CEOs (Brampton, Vaughan and Caledon). After the presentations, we would have a roundtable discussion amongst ourselves before moving on to the next session.

We were given (paper) copies of the slides and encouraged to record key thoughts from each session.

The sessions were as follows:
*Session 1 - It All Starts With Leadership
*Session 2 - You Don't Need a Title to be a Leader
*Session 3 - Know the Library's Purpose
*Session 4 - Develop a Plan of Action
*Session 5 - Focus on Outcomes and Deliver Results
*Session 6 - Position the Library in the Mind of the Community

DN's Summary and Impressions
Session 1 - It All Starts With Leadership
This session started by describing Lead the Change and the story behind the initiative before getting into a definition of what leadership is and why it's important. Part of the definition deals with the difference between leadership and management. Briefly, managers deal with complexity (ensuring order and consistency in complex systems) and leaders deal with change (flexibility and innovation, taking the longer view). The definition of leadership has also changed over the years - decades ago, it was about imposing one's will on others and today it's about "articulating visions, embodying values and creating the environment within which things can be accomplished."

My takeaway points:
*It's sometimes hard to step back and take a look at the big picture when you're dealing with the minutiae of daily work, but necessary.
*The job of libraries is to create an environment where people can change their lives. We provide opportunity.
*In the discussion, one of the local CEOs said that part of being a leader is creating anxiety and that failure to do so means mediocrity. I get where she was coming from, but I know someone who has a boss who bores easily and likes to change things up periodically. To those below, these changes seem pointless, perhaps change for the sake of change. Creating anxiety has to be tempered by sound judgement, a realisation that pointless anxiety just creates stress among subordinates and by good communication. Yes, anxiety in the face of change is sometimes necessary, but if you're going to upset someone's life, you should at least have the ability to explain it effectively.

Session 2 - You Don't Need a Title to be a Leader
The general point here was stated exactly in the title, namely that anyone can be a leader. As an example, it was pointed out that MLK, Ghandi, Rosa Parks and other great leaders of history didn't have titles or formal authority. Instead, they had principle and influence.

We were given a little quiz to determine our leadership orientation. There were four different orientations, all plotted along an XY axis to see where our orientations lie. The four were:
*Structural - rationality, facts, data, structure, analysis
*Human Resources - people, coaching, participation, motivation, interpersonal relations, teamwork, empowerment
*Political - advocacy, negotiation, networking
*Symbolic - vision, charisma

The idea for (upper) managers is to ensure that all of these skills are represented on their team. Creating a team of people who are just like you might be appealing, because people tend to relate to others who are like-minded, but the idea is to make sure that all of the bases are covered.

My takeaway points:
*My orientation leaned heavily toward the structural, followed by the HR. Symbolic and political didn't rank well at all. It's sort of by default, but I guess it's reasonably accurate.
*And the obvious takeaway came in the title - we can all be leaders. By providing good customer service, I can provide leadership through example.

Session 3 - Know the Library's Purpose
This session revolved around acquainting ourselves with the big picture, namely looking at the core values of the library. This includes questions like:
1. What do we believe in?
2. What's our purpose?
3. How do we see the future?

Through this, we looked at some mission statements (including some really good ones - short is better - it should fit on a t-shirt) and generally considered the role of the library in society. As for the future, we didn't get into a big future trends discussion, but the broad categories we should be examining are political, economic, social and technological.

My takeaway points:
*Again, the big picture. It should inform everything we do.
*I haven't read the strategic plan in awhile. I should, and internalise it for everyday use. The idea is to bridge the strat plan with day-to-day demands at service points and public expectations.

Session 4 - Develop a Plan of Action
There are two types of planning - transactional and transformational. Transactional was slagged as defensive and conservative - the best that was said that it involved "doing what we're doing now, only better." It is still necessary, though. Transformational is revolutionary. For strategic planning purposes, we were shown a type of planning that involved a central vision, surrounded by a circle of more specific initiatives to meet that vision, which were in turn surrounded by more circles, each getting more specific. Essentially, the big vision working itself outward to doable tasks, the completion of which makes the big vision a reality. Makes sense.

My takeaway points:
*This idea of working outward from the big vision seems like a good way to plan.

Session 5 - Focus on Outcomes and Deliver Results
This section talked about the benefits of focusing on outcomes rather than problems. Problem orientations deal with things we don't want or like, the anxiety they produce and our reaction to that anxiety. Outcome orientations focus on a vision and the steps taken to meet that vision - this is supposed to engage our inner passion, which is a better motivator than anxiety.

Part of this deals with the way we report things and the idea of telling stories. Rather than stating we have X circs over the last year, we could do what Denver did and tell the story of the homeless teen patron who spent his days in the library reading cookbooks. He eventually turned this into a successful catering business, allowing the Denver Library to truthfully say that they change lives. From a more statistical standpoint, Hartford determined that career services were a major need in their city and partnered with a local job agency. The agency based two staff members in the library, where they were able to direct people to library resources and help them find jobs. This created measurable outputs, namely that Y people were enrolled in the programme and Z people found work. So even though these are numbers instead of the story of an individual, they still tell a story about making the community a better place.

My takeaway points:
*Essentially the problem vs. outcome orientation can deal with the same thing, but
*People understand outcomes better than some of the traditional library statistics - e.g. 1 million circs is a lot, but what does it mean? However, everyone can understand outcomes like those noted above. This includes those who hold the purse strings - politicians and taxpayers. None of this detracts from the fact that these numbers / stories can be harder to find and record, but it's still worth trying.
*And the more you can connect those outputs to the big picture, the better. Hartford's story deals with unemployment and economic development, big issues there. The more we can connect to issues like economics, crime, poverty, etc. the better - we do a good job at this, I think, through our connection with the town's strategic plan goals (economic development).

Session 6 - Position the Library in the Mind of the Community
Again, the title explains this session. It involves being "out there" and making sure the community sees us and remembers us (in a good way). There were several examples, high tech and low tech. For instance, Louisville gave "a library champion lives here" signs to kids who completed a reading programme, leading to all sorts of photo ops and great publicity.

There was also a useful worksheet - describe a change you'd like to see, write one thing you know about the situation and describe an action you would take to improve things (however ambitious or plausible).

My takeaway points:
*There was a slide showing a bunch of possible relationships that libraries could form with community agencies, Some good ideas there.
*They talked about something we've all talked about - the idea that if only people knew about the services we offer, they would come in droves. I find that with databases - patrons have told me that they didn't know such things existed, let alone that we had them. Rather than lamenting the fact that people don't always know what we have, we should be finding creative ways to tell them.

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