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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

New rhythms, new mistakes

First, I want to thank my good friend and colleague Claudine Perrault for letting me have a mountain retreat for 5 days to work on my book. She and her daughter were vacationing, and Estes Park (where Claudine is library director) is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. I wound up writing a little over 8,000 words, which was mostly one full chapter. But I also had a chance to think about the whole structure and audience of it.

I returned to three things: first, I'm stepping in to fill out Kari May's term as Past-President of the Colorado Association of Libraries. Kari is moving to Utah to become the Assistant Director of the state library there, overseeing Continuing Education and certification. Past-president is the best job of all. CAL seems to be recovering from its recession challenges, and there's a lot of energy in the group. As part of my position, it seems I'm also to be chair of the Colorado Library Educational Foundation or CLEF. Stay tuned for more about that.

Second, I'm doing some prep work for the latest theme in my professional speaking. There are a lot of leadership development groups out there. I've spoken in Illinois, Minnesota, and will soon be in Illinois again to a new generation of leaders. I like this generation a lot, and find myself intrigued about the idea of emphasizing true leadership as they begin their managerial careers.

Third (and related), I find that I'm doing a fair amount of executive coaching lately. In essence, I have a monthly, one hour call (often Skype or Google Chat) with people, typically first time directors or senior staff. I ask them to give me a one page list of their key goals - what they want out of the relationship. If they have particular issues they are dealing with, we talk about that. If not, I have questions designed to help them achieve their goals. At the end of each session, I summarize what I talked about, and send them a bill. That gives them a record of their issues, and an outline of their progress. I've now worked with about 7 directors, and find that almost everybody "graduates" by the end of the year. Then we're just colleagues, and I find myself very invested in their success. But it's that first year that's so important.

Mostly, I find, my advice is about identifying clear systems for managing relationships. Directors have a lot of stakeholders: board, staff, community, professional colleagues. And let's toss in another one: your relationship with yourself. When thing go wrong, it's usually because people stopped paying attention to one of these areas. As a coach (and very occasionally, a consultant) I can draw from my own vast experience in making mistakes to steer somebody away from the important ones. New mistakes - that's my motto. Don't just repeat somebody else's, especially if they're around to tell you about them.

Throughout my own career, I became always more conscious of organizational development issues. There are predictable crisis points, there are predictable rhythms of looking out and looking in, of breaking out of stagnancy, then exploration, then systematic organization of discoveries, then breaking out again. What's interesting to me is that the more I think about these things, the more I realize that they aren't unique to libraries. They apply, I think, to any human enterprise.

At any rate, I'm finding that my original desire to leave Douglas County Libraries, which was to move from living and testing values to something that's more like teaching and imparting them, still holds true. I have been very fortunate in my life to enjoy some success, and now get great pleasure from moving others along their careers more consciously and more quickly than I managed to.

So if you're starting a new job, and want a sympathetic ear, give me a call.

2 comments:

VanLandschoot said...

I always enjoy reading where you are in the world. "New mistakes" is a message I will take to my team. Thank you for being you Mr. LaRue!

James LaRue said...

Well, I was GOING to be someone else, but that position was taken. 'Bout time to get together for lunch, sir!