I was recently asked to describe my ideal job, and the first thing that came to mind was that I want to work somewhere that I can help support and promote and lift up others, but especially other library professionals. I was fortunate to work for some amazing library directors and with some truly supportive coworkers, so I know this isn't a unique perspective. I'll never forget the time my director at my immediate past job sat me down and said something like, "We've talked before about how I can help you do your job better, but today I'd like to ask you how I can help you progress in your career." It blew my mind, really. And that conversation was fortunately timed, because it was shortly after I'd started to get the inkling that I might want to be a library director myself. I confessed to that ambition and he responded along the lines of, "okay, let's get you ready to apply for those jobs," and gave me a specific lists of things I needed to cultivate. He even pulled me into meetings with vendors so I could get an idea of what to expect.
I've tried to live up to their examples as best I could, to support and build up the people who work for me and who turn to me for advice. I've always felt this was important, this is what we're supposed to do. This ideal is so much a part of my day to day that I frequently forget it's not everyone's ideal. I was abruptly reminded by a recent post from The Library Loon, "Building One Another Up." It's worth a read, but I think the most important passage is:
"It is so easy to tear people down. So easy. It is so hard to build them up, not least when that option hardly seems to be on the table."So let's do it. Let's put this option on the table. Let's talk about ways administration can support their staff:
- Making sure everyone has professional development opportunities, even if it means giving up our own opportunities on occasion.
- Not taking credit for the ideas of others when things go well.
- Taking some of the blame when things don't go well.
- Working to and with people's strengths.
Let's talk about ways to support coworkers:
- Offering help as often as we ask for it.
- Being open and friendly about things when we disagree.
- Concentrate on behaviors and not personality traits when things go wrong.
- Sharing the spotlight.
- Phrasing things kindly and honestly when giving feedback.
Am I always a paragon of these kinds of behaviors? No. I'll admit to that time I basically told a coworker to shut up. I'll also admit that communicating with different kinds of people within the realm of libraries was a learning curve for me. But my instincts are to be kind and supportive.
What are some ways you've built people up?