Recap: AALL Leadership Academy

By Alyson Drake

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend the AALL Leadership Academy in Chicago, IL.  Librarians from all over the country attended; the only requirement for those applying for the Academy was that they were in the first ten years of their career in law librarianship.  On the agenda:  how to communicate with those with differing communication styles, how to have difficult conversations, and how to motivate those around you—all skills that can be helpful no matter what type of law librarian we are.

Here are the top five lessons that I walked away with:

  • Be Direct. Address issues in a way that guarantees it won’t come up again.  Make sure that you are defining what the real issue is.  When the solution doesn’t get the results you expect or you’re constantly addressing the same issue, you likely haven’t defined the real issue.  Practice CPR.  The first time you discuss an issue, talk about content—this is the single event that just happened.  The second time, talk about pattern—note that it has happened before, that you previously discussed it, and that you had agreed it wouldn’t happen again.  Should the problem continue, talk about relationship—that you cannot count on the person to keep his or her word.  In each of these discussions, explain the consequences to you, to the organization, to the other members of your team, but be concise, not longwinded.
  • Select your values and rank them. Are you most concerned with being authentic?  With being efficient?  Once you identify them, rank them.  You are always going to be faced with decisions where values conflict; if you don’t rank them ahead of time, you just get to choose which is most important to you at any given time.  This can cause a lack of clarity, because you can be inconsistent.
  • Ethical leadership is aligning your values (internal) with how you act (external). Make sure that what you say and how you said it and how you do it all match.
  • Most important rules of motivation: people do what they want to do and they won’t change unless there’s a benefit to them to do so. Motivation comes from within.  Make them think that they’ll succeed and they’ll try.  If they don’t think they’ll succeed, they won’t even give it a shot.  Fifty percent of people are disengaged or highly disengaged.  Being valued and being appreciated are the top motivators for employees—even more so than money.  When a manager focuses on an individual’s strengths, the chances of being actively disengaged is 1%. It’s exhausting to give it all at work; it’s discretionary energy!  So, to get it, you need to motivate and give feedback and encouragement.
  • Hold people responsible for their performance and actions. Be clear with your expectations and follow up.  Don’t reward a bad job by giving an individual less work or punish good workers by always giving them the hard jobs.  If someone doesn’t do something right, give it back to them and explain what the problem is, so they know how to fix it.  By allowing unmotivated workers to be mediocre, you are devaluing a good job.  Accountability is NOT negative.  In fact, holding people accountable is motivating.

Obviously, this is just a snippet of what was covered at the Leadership Academy.  I highly encourage you to apply in future, as one of the most motivating aspects of attending was being around a group of newer-to-the-profession librarians who all want to change the world and ensure that their libraries are collaborative, engaging places to work, teach, and learn.


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