You can find many tips, strategies, techniques, etc. to employ in the workplace with the staff in mind. All are designed to bolster a staff’s productivity and yield positive results. Depending on your particular work environment, some can be successful; others, not so much.
While I don’t consider myself a guru in staff ascendancy, allow me to share one key to a successful workplace that I have found to be rewarding for the staff environment where I work (a library).
The key? Laughter.
If you walk into the staff break area at our library, you’ll be greeted by the following sign:
This sign represents the way in which our staff interacts on a regular basis. Laughter. Humor. Playfulness. Bufoonery. Whatever you want to call it, lightheartedness helps to keep things in perspective and make all those hours we spend together something to look forward to each day. Don’t get me wrong. We can set our nose to the grindstone and focus on serious productivity with the best of them. However, a shared perspective of we’re-in-this-together-cheerfulness flows beneath it all. In a nutshell, we are a family. We laugh together, cry together, rant together, struggle together, succeed together, fail together, get tired together, celebrate together, endure together. And through it all, the smile keeps us going.
A shared family-like joy in the job goes a long way. Skills can be taught over time. A smile can be shared during a quick pass in the hallway. Both have their benefits.
No, it’s not a typo or a victim of autocorrect. That’s a V instead of an S.
I’ve never been one for creating New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, like the idea behind the concept. At the heart of the whole exercise is a desire to change something for the better (usually about ourselves). And the resolve to embrace change is not for the sake of change itself, but rather for the sake of improvement. We can envision a better us and desire to be in that place. The problem with a resolution (particularly of the New Year’s type) is that it is an act of the mind that often stays in the mind. A revolution, on the other hand, moves one beyond thought to action. I suppose we could begin a protracted philosophical debate at this point, but I see enough merit here to run with it.
And so, here are my (first ever) New Year’s Revolutions:
1. Laugh every day. (Overdose acceptable.)
2. Actually do something that I keep telling myself I ought to do. (Insert visual of me kicking myself.)
3. Complain ONLY if I am willing to identify and offer possible solutions. (Take that, John, and take it to heart.)
4. Don’t just say that every day is a new day. Believe it, and act accordingly. (Enough said.)
5. In my actions consider not only my interests, but also the interests of others. (Our planet is not the center of the universe, and neither am I.)
And another thing, John. Why reserve the initiation of such actions only for the beginning of a new calendar year? Any day is as good as January 1. Start your revolution now.
For the past few days, I have temporarily placed my primary hat of librarianship on the rack and taken up the Stetson hat of assessment to attend the 2012 SACS Annual Meeting in Dallas with some colleagues. With assessment firmly on the brain, I am finally getting around to a post that I have been meaning to share for some time. My institution completed a reaccreditation site visit this past spring, concluding a lengthy, two-year self-study process. Or so one might think. The site visit does bring a sense of finality to a self-study, but there is another way to view the assessment activity that drives the self-study process.
At the initial meeting for the site visit, the following statement about the reaccreditation process was offered: “It’s not a destination; it’s a journey.” Off and on since that time, I have reflected on that statement. And I consistently end up thinking about one thing:
Anyone who has ever played a flight sim game or actually flown an airplane is familiar with the concept of the waypoint. In flight navigation, a waypoint is a specific point along a flight route that serves as a marker or guidepost to help keep you on your correct flight path. One dictionary defines a waypoint as “the co-ordinates of a specific location as defined by a GPS.” Another dictionary offers this definition: “An intermediate point on a route or line of travel.” In other words, it’s not an (ultimate) destination, but rather a (point along the) journey.
The reaccreditation site visit is typically seen as the “capstone” event of a self-study process, bringing much-needed closure to a long-suffering process that includes massive amounts of data collection and review, many sleepless nights, more meetings that you can shake a stick at, a few more sleepless nights, hours upon hours of writing, and even more sleepless nights. Our minds need some finality to the whole process. We need time to breathe. To quote Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men” [with some translative license]: You WANT this to be the end! You NEED this to be the end!
There is an ongoing nature to the whole process. Even after the site visit, for example, there still remain those follow-up reports in response to recommendations of the visiting team. In many ways, today’s accreditation process never really ends. It shouldn’t end. The end-game for assessment is improvement and effectiveness, and I believe we will never reach the bottom of the jar of improvement and greater effectiveness. Yes, the site visit could be seen as a singular event in time. Underneath that event, however, flows a steady stream of ongoing activity–a river of assessment. Assessment is an ongoing process of identification, collection, measurement, and review followed by a determination of what level of success is reflected in the outcomes and a plan for using what is learned to benefit and guide going forward. And that is followed by another round of identification, collection, measurement, review, and so on.
So on the return flight back to South Carolina tomorrow afternoon, my colleagues and I will be in a plane that will (hopefully) be hitting its waypoints in order to effectively reach the GSP airport. Likewise, when we get back to campus, we will be aiming for waypoints to guide us through the continual journey of assessment. Happy flying, everyone.
Earlier this week, one of the storage closets at my library was given a (late summer) spring cleaning. It was like an archaeological dig. We re-discovered things that caused us to pause, think hard, and have to ask, “What is this? What was it used for?” Some things we figured out. Others? Well…we just gave up and moved on. Put simply: It was a blast. Forget the fact that we had a library to run. We had hidden treasures to find!
Two particular items that we unearthed from the shadows of the closet were an 80’s-era touch tone phone and what had to be one of the first laptops ever used at our library (a circa-1996 NEC Versa 2435CD notebook). I’m a librarian, so I immediately knew what we needed to do. Make a joke, of course. I proceeded to take a picture of the equipment sitting on my desk and posted it to Facebook with the following caption:
I couldn’t resist, and it provided some mid-week comic relief for a number of my friends to boot. (The ever-helpful librarian after all) OK, so it was a tongue-and-cheek reaction, but it got me thinking about how much I actually DO use “old” technology on a regular basis.
We live in a disposable society–particularly when it comes to our technology. When I walk out of the store after having bought a shiny new mobile phone, I’m already planning for when I will be back to retire it for an even shinier new phone with an improved data plan. When it begins to take more than 120 seconds for my laptop to turn on and let me double-click into my virtual world, I want to start window shopping. If I’m two software upgrades behind, bless my heart.
Before you label me a Luddite or technophobe, hear me out. I love new technological toys and advancements. How liberating it is to cloud store my files and be able to access them from anywhere with an internet connection–even if I don’t have my laptop or a folder stuffed with paper documents with me. And I was immensely thankful last week that I was able to use FedEx overnight delivery to send a time-sensitive document to Pittsburgh and did not have to settle for the Pony Express. Long live the growth of advanced and improved technologies! What I am recognizing here is the fact that alongside the new technologies, I still use and depend on many things that have to be considered old technologies. Cases in point:
- I used a hammer last weekend to hang a framed picture on the wall.
- A needle — one of the most ancient of technologies — was my tool of choice this summer when I discovered one morning that my shirt was missing a button.
- At my house we keep a classic and seasoned pocket calculator in the junk drawer for quick access (the thing is far older, by the way, than this year’s college freshmen).
- Every day I trust my life to not one but four of a millennia-old device — the wheel — on my way to work and back.
|Actual artifacts I still use|
So, yes, I use old technology, and that makes me ponder: Why do some technologies remain timeless while others become so quickly outdated? One answer: Usefulness. Let me bring this back to the library world for an illustration. Many library catalogs now offer the ability to send a catalog record to a mobile phone via text message.
The “Send via Text Message” feature is a handy way of bringing the book’s call number with you to the shelves to retrieve the book without having to engage in a cram session of memorizing the call number (which I often forget before I get to the book stacks). With that said, the classic golf pencil and scrap paper also remain effective tools for this. Not so much, granted, if I have to leave the computer to locate a pencil (and a sharpener because, of course, it would need it) and then run around looking for a scrap piece of paper in every trash receptacle I can find. But strategically placed next to the computer, yes, the pencil and scrap paper work beautifully. Effectiveness trumps age. (Not to mention the fact that the 4″x4″ scrap paper stack provides a way of recycling paper left abandoned at the copiers.)
So as society continues to develop and use (rightfully so) new technologies that improve our ability to accomplish tasks, let us give thanks. But let us also remember to pay homage to those technologies that are “long in the tooth” but continue to serve us well.
How do you blend the use of old technologies with the new?
One of my favorite scenes in the movie, Thor, is the following one.
Ever found yourself in a situation of looking for something only to discover that you’re in the worst place possible to be looking for it? Me and Thor–we can relate. Or how about this: Ever been hit with an idea that you were convinced would have a genuine shot of making a real difference where you are? But when you attempted to put it into action, all the wind left the sails because of the environment or surrounding factors. Insufficient resources. Lack of excitement, support, or shared vision among a supporting cast. The right idea at the wrong time. The necessary pieces simply were not there. In other words, it was like looking for a horse in a pet shop.
When we realize that we are in a pet shop looking for a horse, we can do one of several things:
- Quit and give up the idea of having a horse. Defeat is deflating. But if the idea has merit, let’s not give up. Not yet.
- Find a horse auction where we can take our money and have a better chance of leaving with a horse. That’s quite practical and reasonable. There certainly would be times when this would be the best course of action.
- Try to convince the pet shop of the value of selling horses. Less practical, yes. But for the more passionate and entrepreneurial, this may be worth the effort. That’s how great ideas are born after all.
- Modify our need for a horse. So all the shop has are dogs, cats, and birds? Fine. Do they have one of those big enough to ride? Particularly if the ultimate goal is not horse ownership but a mode of transportation, can our idea be adapted to the resources at hand?
Anybody remember the movie Urban Cowboy that helped give rise to the popularity of the mechanical bull? Most of that movie was filmed in a real Pasadena bar (Gilley’s) co-owned by Sherwood Cryer and Mickey Gilley (country music singer). It was Cryer who dreamed up the idea of bringing a mechanical bull into the bar for entertainment. (The mechanical bull was not a new invention of Cryer’s, but its use as an entertainment ride was.) The “bull” caught on with the local cowboys, Urban Cowboy placed it square in the national spotlight, and a legend was born. Sherwood Cryer walked into a bar one day and said, “I need a horse!” (or “bull” actually, but you get the allusion) When there were none in the stock room, he improvised. And at the end of the day, there was a bull in a bar.
Great needs and great ideas are often confronted with challenges. That’s a fact of life. So whether you’re a hammer-wielding Norse god trapped in a mortal body and needing to get from point A to point B, a business owner with an innovative marketing concept, or just an individual with an idea on how to better the people and things around you, keep at it. Expect obstacles, but keep chasing the vision.
By the way, if you’re ever looking for something to do one weekend, try walking into a pet shop and saying, “I need a horse!” With the right kind of person behind the counter, it can make for some great entertainment. Just saying.
OK, it’s time to come out of hiding and re-enter the blogging world. It’s been an extremely busy summer, but an experience today has motivated and called me out. So here goes.
This morning I read an article on survey fatigue in The Chronicle and shared a link to it on Twitter along with another post asking the twitter-peeps if–outside of surveys–they use any creative ways of collecting feedback data. Almost immediately, I was engaged in a Twitter conversation with Ned Potter (@theREALwikiman) about a real interest in hearing how folks might respond to such a question. (Once again, evidence of the power of social connections)
Anywho, Ned suggested that writing a blog post on the subject might help to solicit responses. And he did just that. In the post, he asks:
I’m really interested in how to get feedback – not just from students in academic libraries, but from all patrons for all types of libraries.
And later in the post:
So what are you doing to ascertain what your patrons are thinking? Is there something more reliable than surveys? And if you’re asking them via social media, how did you find out what social media platforms they used in the first place…?
I share his interest, so I ask: If people are burning out on surveys, what are some other ways of gathering feedback from those we serve? Are you using any creative/innovative ways of soliciting feedback that is working and giving you a healthy response rate?
And I, too, am thinking of libraries–those of all types–and their engagement with library patrons. But I would extend the question to areas outside libraries. Do we see non-survey feedback strategies being successfully employed in other places that could be ventured perhaps in the library environment?
So let’s hear from you! Respond to this post. Respond to Ned Potter’s post. Share your creative solutions. Yes, the irony is thick with a feedback solicitation on the topic of feedback fatigue. But, hey, it’s Friday and comic relief is good for everyone, right?