Thursday, July 23, 2009

Management and Training

I've been thinking and reading a lot about management styles lately. I've come to some conclusions about myself and my style, and thought I'd articulate that here.

First, a little discussion of personality styles. It is so important as a manager to understand your own personality style, but also that of your employees. My husband and I took the Myers-Briggs personality test as part of our pre-marital counseling in 1996. We're both ISTJ's, which stands for Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging. There is a nice profile of ISTJ's here that describes me almost perfectly! As a manager, then, I tend to internalize ideas - mull them over in my mind before acting on them. I listen carefully to what my employees are saying and don't react to things emotionally. I am dependable and accountable for my work, my decisions, and my actions, and expect the same from others.

I am also an extreme Type B personality. It takes a lot to frustrate or anger me. I let things roll off my back very easily, I don't take things personally, and I am very easy to get along with. I am able to stay calm in a crisis and be reasonable.

I am careful to try to understand the personality types of others and communicate with them accordingly. This can be tricky, but I think that if you take the time to get to know people, you will learn what they need from you. Communication is key! Some personality types appreciate one-on-one conversations, some enjoy a group discussion, and some prefer email or electronic chat.

As a manager, I encourage my staff to experiment. If they have an idea, I want them to share it with the rest of us! There are no bad ideas. Some pan out and others don't, but all ideas have potential. Staff members only need to act on their ideas: plan them, use the resources available to them, and do it! Of course, planning is key to a successful project so that you verify the availability of necessary resources.

Too many projects die because the planning stage never assigns responsibility. As a manager, I always make my expectations clear with action item assignments, due dates, and goals. My staff know I'm available for direction and consultation, but I let them take the reigns and go to work! They can work together or individually - their choice, their style.

Now let's talk about training. I wrote a training manual for my department a few years ago. We started hosting practicum students and interns from library science programs in our area, so we wanted to be able to train them properly. The Adult Services training manual includes a check list for various areas to be covered in training. It also includes information that all librarians in the department refer back to regularly, like vendor information, how to use various technology in the building, and tips/techniques for readers advisory. It is updated regularly. Last year I transferred the entire manual to the staff Intranet. It can be updated much easier now, and in fact any staff member in the building can contribute to it just by logging in to the Intranet.

There are technology implications for training too. In my presentation at the American Library Association called "Thingamabobs and Doodads: Tech Support IS Reference" (available here), I suggested a few ways to train staff to provide basic technology support to patrons. That inspired me to make a few interactive tutorials for training using free software called Wink. You can see some examples here. Scroll down to the Tutorials section. I would encourage my staff to make these tutorials too. Everyone is an expert at something - they can share their expertise with the rest of us!

What about pushing a reluctant staff member to become more tech savvy? Some people are just not interested in technology. I believe strongly that the role of reference staff includes technology, and that can't really be separated from the job anymore. I would say that technology is a mandatory part of the job and that there are minimum skills required. Training, as outlined above, has to be made available, but an open mind and a willingness to learn and embrace technology has to be presented by the staff too. Technology competencies have to be made clear so that staff can decide if the job is right for them and then take the necessary steps to learn what they need to know.

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