March 2012 research Library issues: a QuarterLy report froM arL, cNi, aNd sparc
RLI 278 3
LEAdIng A FuLL LIFE
director, you don’t. Instead, express often and publicly what is important to you. Staff will hear and act
accordingly.
Fund-raising. The first I heard from university development staff was how formidable I would appear
to donors. Most donors were once college students and they remember “the dean” as a remote and
powerful figure. You, of course, know that it is just you behind that title. Recognizing your power in
the relationship makes it easier to be at ease and to be oneself. Being less pompous than expected is
wonderfully disarming. You still have the power; you don’t need to flaunt it.
While fund-raising is chief among tasks you can’t delegate, you still do not have to go it alone. Enlist
lieutenants. Establish a development group. Staff the group with your fund-raiser (even if he or she
doesn’t report to you), an events and publications person, the senior person who oversees collections,
and the head of special collections. I include a rotating position in this group for a department head,
coordinator, or other up-and-coming professional. If any of these people ends up as a director, he or she
will have had a year of exposure to the nuts and bolts of fund-raising. This group meets regularly without
me to sort through things that don’t need my immediate involvement. My time is reserved for broad
directions, personal insights, asks, and high-level stewardship. And, often one or more of these staff acts
as my emissary—taking donors to lunch and other everyday stewardship. Every member of the group
knows the library’s goals and dreams and has learned how to court, encourage, and steward donors.
Use Your Own Time Well. A desire to respect other people’s time can help you manage your own.
Being on time for meetings and expecting others to do so is essential. Having a plan for what you want
to accomplish in the meeting and sticking to it helps. Choose the right length of meeting for the topic,
quietly monitor progress during the meeting, and end on time. Many people who work long hours do so
because they are unable to manage this unobtrusive control or they get far more deeply “into the weeds”
than is appropriate for a leader.
Making lists also helps you manage your time. Make those lists and evaluate the priority of each task
so that you don’t overlook a high priority while focusing on the immaterial challenge of the moment. With
the list in front of you (I keep mine center-rear on my desk), it is easier to avoid getting caught up in the
e-mail or text of the moment. Checking off items you’ve done gives you a sense of accomplishment. Save
those lists for drafting self-evaluations or writing annual reports.
Focus initial energies and attention on people who will help you succeed. When you come into a new
position, 20% of your new staff will support you whatever you do, a few will oppose you whatever you
do, and the rest will watch to see who prevails. Focus your initial efforts on the 20% and address the
resisters later. In time, you may create a tsunami that sweeps resisters along. Or makes them stand out in
bold relief. That is the time to take them on.
Know your people. Recently at a staff party I was talking with several long-term employees. One
mentioned coming to my office when I first arrived more than two decades ago. The second said, “Yes,
I remember my meeting, too. You asked me if there was anything I needed. I told you I needed my own
computer. And, I got one.”
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