Okay, I’m just going to have to be honest--I’ve been battling writer’s block for this issue’s column. Please bear with me. In researching topics to discuss this time, I went back through what I’ve covered so far:
- New beginnings and how the more things change the more they seem to stay the same.
- Doing the “right thing” and tips for adopting a professional attitude even on the worst of days.
- Recollections of unusual library patrons.
- Caring for our library volunteers.
So, after reflecting over past columns, I have decided that I really want to write about leadership roles in libraries and strategies for mentoring others. But the words keep getting crowded out by uninteresting things I could share with you:
- How all of my writing enthusiasm has been poured into twenty plus faculty and staff evaluations over the past couple of weeks. (I take evaluation writing very seriously, as it is the most appropriate opportunity to accurately record employee successes and growth. I use the evaluation as a tool to reiterate my appreciation of an employee’s work, creativity, and contributions to the Library mission. I choose carefully my words, as I recognize that this record is scrutinized not only by the employee, but by administrative officials in the Library who view each employee as a key participant in the Library’s success. For me, the evaluation document is never meant to be a surprise for an employee. In fact, because I meet regularly with each employee in my unit, the evaluation serves as a detailed summary of accomplishments, and, when applicable, it outlines strategies and support so that an employee can achieve improvement if necessary. Evaluations in my unit are never meant to be punitive, period. If they were, I would be a failure as a supervisor. My role is to lead, encourage, and facilitate. Thus, I exhaust my writing abilities annually during the evaluation period because I take this part of my work responsibilities so seriously.)
- How I’ve been writing detailed messages to employees in my unit to update and encourage them on a myriad of projects and issues. (Communicating to those in my area is as natural to me as breathing. The best way I can help employees in my unit feel empowered and part of the Library’s mission is to share with them what I know. This includes setting up regular meetings both within my unit and cross departmentally, facilitating discussion sessions, sharing summaries of the discussions, representing unit concerns to Library administration and reporting back results, and inviting folks to participate/provide input whenever applicable/possible. Employees want to be a part of decisions that impact their work. Obtaining their buy-in from the very beginning is critical to the success of even the smallest project. Any communication must be informative and helpful, as well as inviting, so that all feel part of the initiative.)
Okay, okay, enough of my wanderings. I really do want to talk about leadership and mentoring employees. But I’m still having trouble focusing because I caught myself reflecting about:
- How I’ve been working on detailed policy revisions for my unit. (We all know that up-to-date policies are critical to smooth workflow and the success of any organization. Policy revisions also require facilitating communication among employees, as these employees are the very folks carrying out the responsibilities. It would certainly be unfair, indeed inappropriate, for me as a supervisor to develop policies in the vacuum of my office and tell folks on the front line to carry them out. From day one, I’ve tried to integrate myself as best as I am able into each unit under my responsibility. Thus, I can better understand “a day in the life of...” Further, I include employees in each applicable area in the policy review. We use this opportunity to make necessary updates and reflect on ways to streamline workflow. Then, we work together on the policy development/revision. When the document is finalized, we have a project that was completed together (think employee empowerment and team building) as well as a united front to present to our users. Win/win.)
Okay, thank you for your patience with me. I promise to get on to the mentoring thing, but I’m still having a hard time getting myself on track. In fact, I’ve been battling a bit of a summer slump. I know it’s going to be difficult to talk about leadership and mentoring when I’m in a funk, so I’ve got to focus on getting myself together first. It’s time to:
- Put one foot in front of the other. (Sometimes I have to start small in order to gain momentum. See? I’m doing it right now--putting one finger after the other onto the keyboard and making words appear on the screen. I might have to delete everything and begin again, but I find that after the first step or keystroke, I can keep going.)
- Be honest. (When I find myself in a slump, lagging, or even exhausted, I try to reflect quickly on my feelings. What has been happening on the job or in my personal life that has me feeling this way? And, what can I do about it? I’ve found that identifying what caused the fatigue or the feelings of burnout is a big step toward making a plan to refresh and regroup.)
- Be thankful. (Sometimes this is hard for me. When I am tired or unmotivated, the last thing I want to do is itemize what is good or find the silver lining of the dark cloud. But, thankfulness and appreciation are actually keys to climbing up from the slump.)
Wow, I’m sorry--I got sidetracked--again. Thank you for working through this with me. I feel so much lighter now that I’ve shared with you how I value employees and their input, and how I establish with them open lines of communication. I am ready to focus now that I’ve talked about the importance of the evaluation process, and of working alongside those reporting to me on policy development and revisions. I am much more refreshed now that I’ve admitted I’m human and am subject to periodic downturns in my overall enthusiasm. Whew!
Okay, so now finally, I’m going to write that column.
Well, what do you know? I think I already did.