This is probably going to be long and boring… You have been forewarned.
I like to use my blog as a means of professional reflection and to give folks an insight into my job and career. I would like to reflect on something that from the outset seems quite boring but it is actually very exciting and kind of a big deal for me. I really value my own CPD and jump at all opportunities. So when my manager put my name forward for a leadership course “because he sees me as a future leader in the profession”, I was pleasantly surprised and excited.
After qualifying as a Librarian, I am obviously wanting to progress in my career and I would very much like to make a difference and a contribution in the field. Therefore, I am very open to the prospect of leading a team and managing a library – hence my last blog post…
The course I was nominated for operates through the Pennine Education Partnership which consists of four colleges from the local area. Colleges can choose to send colleagues at differing management levels ranging from senior leaders to aspiring leaders. Usually they will send new heads of departments and managers onto the course. As a member of support staff, I feel quite lucky to have been sent on this course as it ain’t cheap!
In this post, I will be reflecting on the stuff I’ve learnt on the course so far. This is essentially a write up of my notes. But I figured I may as well share them because these notes might help people who are thinking about leadership & management too.
The programme aims:
- Develop knowledge and understanding of excellent leadership
- To build confidence and self-esteem
- To provide opportunities for participants to learn from the experience of others
- To develop coaching and mentoring skills
- To enable aspiring leaders to gain experience in managing change and performance
- To allow participants to reflect on leadership and their ambitions
- It involve a Quality Improvement Project (QIP) to benefit participants and their colleges
I have completed two modules so far.
We completed a personal badge. It’s one of those activities that makes you feel really awkward when asked to do it but it does actually force you to really take a look at yourself… and the results are hilarious.
- This is the topic that resonated with me most as I can be a worrier and I can also get quite stressed (situations and people piss me off – not afraid to say it). Shitty people and shitty situations will always exist professionally and personally but I’d like to handle them better. I want to become the zen master of my own emotions. It’s a work-in-progress…
- Emotion intelligence according to Daniel Goleman has four aspects;
- Self-awareness – emotional self-awareness, knowing your strengths and your weaknesses (truly knowing yourself)
- Social awareness – empathy, organisational awareness (having an awareness of what’s going on around you)
- Self management – emotional self-control, positivity, adaptability (not losing your shit)
- Relationship management – influence, coaching & mentoring, conflict management, leadership, teamwork (keeping friends and not getting fired…)
- We then thought about values and motives – it’s really hard to pin these down or maybe I am just a woolly person..? We completed a motive profile and apparently mine is the “achievement motive” which means “meeting or exceeding a standard of excellence and/or improving one’s performance”. This seems fair enough actually… In my personal life I like to improve and set myself challenges. For example, I am always trying to improve my go-to recipes and my workout PBs.
Leadership styles and behaviours
- We then looked at leadership styles. In my last interview they asked me what kind of leader am I… The honest answer was I have no actual idea. Didn’t say that of course…
- We did some leadership questionnaires which apparently tell you your leadership style. According to Hersey and Blanchard I am a “coaching” leader. Coaching leaders “clearly define roles and tasks, but seek input and suggestions too”. I like to think that this is the kind of leader I am because I really do value the ideas and skills of the people around me. I do not work in isolation.
- We did another questionnaire to find out our colour. We considered the leadership behaviours we exhibit at work and rate them on a 1-5 scale. Behaviours included competitiveness, sociability, encouraging, deliberate, sharing, strong-willed, formal etc. Apparently I’m yellow. I’m definitely hasty, enthusiastic and flamboyant so they might be onto something…
Working effectively with others
- Self-confidence & self-esteem – your reputation with yourself. We talked about the self directed change model where 80% of the time, you work on building your strengths. You only work on your weaknesses 20% of the time. This interested me because I am probably not alone in being overly self-critical. We should all be tooting our own horns a lot more.
- I considered the positive things people say about me, how well I can take praise and the things I am good at. I learnt not to become a victim or have a “why me”/ “this isn’t fair” mentality which I definitely have sometimes… I need to continue using failure as an opportunity to learn and remember that I matter, the team matters and the Library matters.
- Assertiveness (not to be confused with aggression or manipulation). Think about how you want a conversation to playout and always remain calm. This tied in greatly with your ability to manage your own emotions. 10 ways to be assertive:
- Be decisive
- Take responsibility
- Say NO when you need to
- Actively listen
- Communicate clearly
- Say YES when you need to
- Ask for what you want – I live by this anyway. If you don’ ask, you don’t get!
- Follow your intuition
- Take a chance
- Stand up for yourself – ALWAYS!
- Resilience – learning from setbacks, ask yourself what you could have done better. Not letting the shit grind you down! Optimism. I can easily get sucked into negative talk and thinking cycles so this is an area I am working hard on. In our resilience self-assessment, I scored 65 which = “resilient, but could improve more”. Insightful. Choose your battles carefully and just always remember to consider the wider context of your life and work and the home lives of others. There’s more to life than what’s going down in the office. Thinking like this makes it easier to worry less.
Delegation and empowerment
- Empowerment is delegation done properly – give responsibilities to people and do not interfere. I am not fully there yet with this as my partner will know full well. When he’s cooking dinner, I just cannot help interfering! I like to make sure things are done right. I do just need to let go and trust in his ability – he is a perfectly good cook.
- Managers do not have to experts all of time – we work with talented, competent individuals and we should trust them. If they can’t do something, help them to be able to do it. Or find them something that they can do.
- To effectively delegate you need to clearly communicate the job you are asking someone to do, specify outcomes, specify a timescale, provide support, give them ownership of the task and the freedom to do things differently and to even fail.
- Effective delegation creates win-wins for all involved.
- Capability and conduct – “can’t do it” VS “won’t do it”.
- Characteristics of a “stuck” departments/ colleagues – depressed colleagues, stress, lethargy, negative talk, underperformance .
- Helping a “stuck” dept or colleague – be observant, informal 1-2-1s, free up workload, offer to delegate, empower and support them.
- Managing upwards – can be scary dealing with senior leadership and managers. Understand their leadership style, think about the desired outcome of the conversation, provide evidence, be realistic, be confident, show diplomacy and flexibility and always be professional.
- Work relationships are two-way! NOT just top down and you should never be made to feel inferior by your “superiors”. As much as our managers are responsible for us, we also need to take responsibility for how we are “line-managed”
Climate and culture
- So important. Can impact greatly on motivation, performance, productivity, happiness, well-being and staff retention.
- Climate = “how it feels right now”, people’s feelings and impressions of what it’s like to work in a particular place
- Culture = “the way we do things around here”, habits, unspoken rules and values
- Climate/culture = 70% leader/managers attitude. Not sure how this figure came about but it’s a scary statistic. Managers can make work life a living hell but on the flipside, they can also make work extremely enjoyable and can make employees feel happy, valued and important.
Difficult conversations & situations
- We did some role-playing activities where we acted out difficult conversations/ situations and attempted to deal with them. In my hypothetical situation, I was a teacher by day and a strippergram by night. You can imagine the difficulty of this conversation…
- Be honest and brave but don’t demoralise – try to re-motivate and encourage self-awareness
- Be supportive and open to change but don’t over-promise. Don’t take over, empower them. Get to know them as a person.
Module 3 – to be completed
- Understanding ethos
- Vision and mission
- Authentic and ethical leadership
- Strategic awareness and thinking
- Building outstanding teams
- Reflection on career progression
As a new addition to my role last year, I became an administrator for our new learning management system, Canvas. As part of the course we are asked to do a quality improvement project and I am going to be looking at support services, communication & marketing with a special focus on Canvas.
What do I want to know?
- What communication tools are students most receptive to?
- Current awareness of Canvas?
- How can Canvas be used as a communication/ marketing tool for support services?
My manager put a word in for me and managed to bag me a slot at a heads of department and senior leadership away day today. The College principle, four members of SLT and over 10 support managers were at the away day. Delivering a presentation to a room full of “seniors” was a little bit terrifying! To be the authority on a topic and to advise colleagues feels really good.
I felt like a “real professional” – whatever that even means. I am getting better and better every time I deliver a lesson, a talk or a presentation and even though I still get nervous initially, I now that I can do it. And I enjoy it! It was a really valuable experience for me as a Librarian and as a future leader.
If you read this, I salute you and love you.