Library Management Skills Institute – The Learning Organization

Just the phrase ‘Management Skills’ makes me feel a bit flustered. I remember clearly being a Faculty of Arts freshman at McGill and learning that right next door to the library was a school of management. A School of Management! There was a school where people chose to go to learn how to manage other people. To my roommate and I this seemed like the most arrogant, preposterous, and unnecessary discipline that had ever existed. We felt a mixture of contempt and embarrassment for all enrolled. How could they profess to want such a thing??

 

I’m six and a half years out of library school now, which I’m pretty sure makes me mid-career, and suddenly the idea of studying how to manage seems like a pretty excellent idea. Yes, eighteen year olds deciding they want to go to school to be managers is still kind of an embarrassing idea…but years of working in complex systems, juggling complicated relationships, and trying to negotiate all sorts of different partnerships has left me very convinced that everyone could use some help with this.*

 

photo of a printed journal article with notes and highlights scattered throughout the page.

Pre-course reading: Peter M. Senge. “The Leader’s New Work: Building Learning Organizations.” In Sloan Management Review 32(1), 1990

Anyone who’s had a conversation with me in the last three months knows that I’ve become a bit obsessed with the intertwined hot topics of mindfulness and intentionality. I think a lot of this comes from the panic I feel at the speed with which my tiny newborn son has turned into a robust, chunky, mobile human.  Was I standing on the sidelines as that time whizzed by? I know I was there for literally all of it, but now it’s gone, and I’m honestly frightened by the feeling of ephemerality I have around his literal whole life. And, of course, once I start thinking about his life I start thinking about my own: am I doing what I want to be doing? Am I building a life I will look back on proudly? Am I contributing to the kind of world I want to live in?

Intentionality in the workplace is hard, y’all. The deluge of email and metaphorical small fires and side conversations and meetings to plan meetings can quickly engulf whole days and weeks, and when you do manage to pull yourself up out of it, it’s 3 PM and you’re tired, right? And there’s some great ranting going on on Twitter against someone you always suspected was up to no good.  If I don’t have a plan, I can get lost. And now I have a kid to rush home to, I’m especially uninterested in staying late because of my own procrastination. A lot of things have coalesced for me recently around the idea of intentionality, of deciding purposefully how I want to live and work. Among the many bits and pieces that have helped are Cal Newport’s Deep Work, the Self Journal, a Mindfulness Without Borders course and, most recently, the Library Management Skills Institute.

I was fortunate enough to take LMSI1 last January, and to participate in LMSI2 two weeks ago, sponsored by OCUL and hosted by the University of Toronto. For those who haven’t heard of the course, each half of the institute is a three-day workshop facilitated by DeEtta Jones, of DeEtta Jones & Associates. In both cases when I took it, the course was co-facilitated by Trevor Dawes, vice provost at the University of Delaware, who brought a really useful boots-on-the-ground perspective to the scenarios and teachings. LMSI1 is focused on looking inward as a manager, while LMSI2 draws on the idea of the Learning Organization as a model for organizational success. The framework of the institute is a movement through each of these Peter Senge’s five disciplines (from The Fifth Discipline, which was references heavily, but which I have not read).

DeEtta and Trevor offered so much wisdom that was actionable. When discussing developing a Shared Vision, she emphasized: “It’s not just ‘what do we want to become?’ but ‘what are the behaviours and practices that will move us to where we want to be?’” This discussion was followed by a personal exercise where we laid out explicitly what those behaviours might look like in our own work environment. I came away with not just a list of big ideas, but a list of small things I could implement in meetings, phone calls, or just general office work.

DeEtta and Trevor also had us work through a series of personal and group exercises around our goals and aspirations, as well as current personal or organizational struggles. Again, these questions were broken down in such a way as to be exceptionally useful. I started a number of exercises thinking, “oh, this is a really hard problem and I don’t think I’ll be able to come to any breakthrough on a sheet of paper,” but I often did!

I frantically scribbled down a number of turns of phrase that DeEtta offered up. The phrase “be explicit” came up over and over again, and I really appreciated how much wording she put on the table. Some of my favourites include:

  • Be explicit about the values that are driving your position: “Here are some of the things that are guiding me right now. Here are the values behind my views.”
  • Give your group some working norms: “Let’s talk about how we want to work together.”
  • Be generous, because equity often lives in the process.
  • Don’t wait to give feedback: “Reinforce behaviours and articulate why they are helpful and valuable.” There was a lot of discussion about encouraging feedback from everyone, often, and on creating easy channels for people to do this, both formally and informally. “Feedback” didn’t mean “the following things are wrong,” and positive feedback was strongly emphasized as an essential component of healthy organizational culture.

But the biggest take-away for me was simply: “Discuss your values.”

DeEtta and Trevor emphasized how important it was for people to explore their values, and to think about how those might look, behaviourally, in the workplace. And the first step in encouraging this in a team is to make your own values explicit, and to make sure your own behaviour reflects those values. It sounds like something that would happen naturally (if I believe X, I’ll act like this…), but my own reflections made it clear to me that I had a lot of work to do in this area, and it was the same for every colleague I spoke to who attended the three days.

I came away recognizing that the most important things to me in an organization were trust and mutual respect, a shared sense of responsibility, and clarity of purpose to the fullest extent possible.

It was a most excellent three days, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. As a challenge to myself, I’m going to blog the way I put these values into action over the next few months. And if I fail, I’m going to write about that too.

* To be clear, I use ‘manager’ loosely, and the Institute is not limited to people in a supervisory role.

Ever onward

The general tone of 2016 wrap-up-posts is pretty clear: this was a dumpster fire of a year, and no one will be sorry to see the end of it. Celebrities dying certainly stir up conversation, but I think it’s safe to say that 2016 will show up in the history books because of the Pulse nightclub shooting (among many, many other shootings), because of the fall of Aleppo, and because the most powerful country in the world chose to elect a xenophobic cheeto as its next president, instead of a competent woman.

So: yeah. A lot was pretty shitty in 2016, and I’m having trouble reconciling the deep horror and sadness I feel about the world with the absolute rapture I’ve felt this year as I became a parent. Y’all: motherhood is for me. I knew I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t imagine how deeply satisfied I would be with every single little aspect of it. I have been fulfilled, contented, and delighted by the life I’ve been living. This has been the best year of my life.

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I mean, lookit this sweet face!!

But events close to home and far afield have both left me with this: a longing for peace unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  It’s far away and insurmountable and so, so vague, but I want it for myself and for my son and for the whole dang world, which has been in so much pain.

So I’ll be figuring that out, nbd.

There are many more tangible things I want to accomplish in 2017, but with the major changes coming our way next week (back to work!), I’m pretty sure “surviving and adapting and adjusting” should be my main aim.

Still, I do love, on the brink of a new year, to imagine what that might look like. What would make me feel proud of our adjustment? How would I like us to be this year? January 1st isn’t some magical day that will change me, but it’s a welcome chance to think about the ways I’d like to focus my energies.

I’ve come up with the following:

putting family time first. I’m going to spend significantly less time with my family than I did in 2016. Ouch. It hurts to even write that, but it is absolutely going to be true. And this means it’s going to be really important to focus on the way that little things can mean a lot. I already fight the urge to hurry things up, to find little efficiencies, in so many of our daily rituals, and this is something I’ve got to work on calming. Eating breakfast, folding laundry, or taking a bath can be fun things when you slow them down and do them together. The walk to daycare is an opportunity, if we take the time for it. And in the evening, drinking a beer and sharing our days with my husband is exactly how I should spend my time. This all sounds obvious, but if I don’t keep it at the front of my consciousness, I fear I’ll forget.

working deeply, on the clock, and shutting off completely at the end of the day. I love my job, and I want to come in in the morning and be engaged and focused. And then I want to walk away from it. Hahahaha, right? I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this subject while on leave, and I’m ready to try out a few different things in the name of making this happen.

having time for myself. I didn’t do much running in 2016, and I’m not embarrassed or sad about it (I was doing other shit!), but I’m ready for 2017 to be different. Time to run and time to read are the two things I’d like most for myself. (LONG-FORM READING, JACQUELINE. NOT INTERNET READING.) See you on the trails!

Those three paragraphs are the dream, which I’m sure sounds naive to the seasoned working mums. But: I want to try! It’s not that I think I’m going to find a perfect balance, only that I want to be conscious of working towards it. And I’ve got the whole dang year (and, well, the year after that, and many more after that) to find ways and means of making it happen.

So: farewell 2016, the year my son was born, the year I became a mother. You were just wonderful and I wish I could stay in you, but 2017 is hurtling towards us with no regard for such wishes. How lucky to be here to face it.

Hello, world.

 

 

The first year

Just like that, I’ve been a married person for a year. And I never even shared any wedding photos on here! Indulge me, or look away. I can’t help it. It was such a fun day, and it really set the tone for an even, peaceful year. We didn’t have a theme per se, but our love of Toronto,  of cycling and transit, of music and books, fed into many of the decision we made for the day. Thanks to Frances Beatty for capturing the magic!

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Two adults. One female, dressed in a white dress and holding a bouquet of flowers. The other, male, has his arm around her and is wearing a suit.

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I can’t pretend to have any special wisdom after a year, but I really, really like being married. I like the stability and certainty of it. I like that energy I might once have put into the terrifying “what is our future?” question has been reassigned to making our future as solid as it can be.

Sooo…how’s your #CLEmarathon training going?

It’s been awhile, huh? Remember when I was diligently writing up every run I did? Me neither, it’s been that long.

It’s only four days until Jonathan and I run the Cleveland half marathon and, well, I’m undertrained. I’ve been running, I swear! I even ran a 10k race! But I haven’t been running as much as I should have been, or as far as it would have been smart to, and now I’m getting nervous.

I’ve got some pretty good excuses, I swear! But my body is not going to take those into consideration when it’s yowling to quit on Sunday. I’m anxious. I peaked at 15 km. I missed a full long run. It’s supposed to be 25 degrees celsius on Sunday and I’ve never run more than a 5k in heat. What if I wear the wrong thing? What if I get dehydrated? As a beginner, so many runs feel like a test, but this will be a big one, both physically and mentally. A tiny voice says, “yeah, you probably can’t do this.”

But dang it, I worked for months! From icy, slippery February nights in Toronto to sunny morning hill climbs in California, I ran a lot, and I want to run this race!
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This is especially the case because we’ve decided to use the race to fundraise for Ten Oaks. (Hey, how about a dollar for each excruciating mile? Every little bit helps, friends!)

Anyway, stuff that voice. I couldn’t run a mile this time last year. I finished my 10k race in under 56 minutes feeling great. If I really, truly can’t do it, I want to find that out on Sunday at mile 12. I want to puke and have to sit down on the road, and to walk to the side of the road in embarrassment while people call “you can do it Jacqueline!,” as they always do to the saddest looking runner with their name on their bib. I’ll be really, really sorry if that happens, but at least I’ll know it’s really true.

But I hope that doesn’t happen! See you soon, Cleveland!

#CLEmarathon half training – weeks 3 & 4

I had my first fall-off-the-wagon day (i.e. didn’t do the training I was supposed to do). I dreaded this happening, because I worried it might be a slippery slope. Welp, it happened, and it wasn’t. I sucked at training for a little while, and then I got the motivation to stop sucking, and I’m back at it.

Week 3 (March 8-14)

Sunday (March 8) – 7.5 km – I was worried about how my legs would feel the day after my first ski of the season and, well, yup. They hurt. But the weather was glorious and I had a very exciting destination in mind (Nadege for Croissunday!), so once I loosened up, around the start of kilometre 4, this was a great run.

 

Photo of two white women in black tank tops. They are looking a bit smugly at the camera. The one on the left Ainsley) has red hair and wears a pink toque. The one on the right, me, has long hair and a yellow toque.

What I wish we wore to the gym.

Monday – gym night – My friend Ainsley has almost the exact combination of determination and blase distaste for the gym. We got married within a month of each other and did a lot of planning (and bitching and moaning) on the JCC elliptical trainers in the months leading up to our big days. Now that we’re wives on budgets, we hang out at the Planet Fitness in Galleria Mall. I am lucky to have her in my workout corner.

Tuesday – morning 5km – This was less brutal than last week, but still a fairly miserable slog. Given my Sunday long run/Monday night gym combo, I would definitely benefit from pushing this to the evening, but choir calls! I just…I hate running in the morning. I never warm up, and running on empty just feels like crap.

Wednesday – …. – Whoops. If I wanted to really stretch the definition of cross-training, I’d say I took a half hour walk and a 15 minute bike ride. An 8 PM meeting (over drinks!) put the lid on an evening run.

Thursday – 6.7 km – I didn’t get home from work til 7, but I still managed to watch the glorious sky change colour along St. Clair during this run. The week after daylight savings time is rough, but the longer evening is such a gift.

Friday and Saturday were flops, and that’s all there is to say about that. Friday’s excuses were pretty stacked and buyable. I’ve got nothing but an embarrassed shrug for Saturday.

Week 4 (March 15-21)

Sunday – 8.6 km & gym – Back on my A game. Breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, then a long run at a fairly even pace. Home for a smoothie and some kale salad, laundry, trip prep (10 days to go!). Then an evening at the gym on the weight machines. Lots of abs.

A photo of a road next to railway tracks. On the right of the road is a factory. To the left of the road and further away are two tall apartment towers. The sky takes up two thirds of this photo and is very blue, with white clouds.

Sunday run along the West Toronto Railpath

 

Monday – 7 km – This was one of those runs that just felt great. I was properly fueled, it was raining but not too hard, I had a lot on my mind, and I just ran and thought and planned and it was three quarters of an hour of perfect simplicity. It was a “why I run” run. Coming home to find my husband had opened a bottle of wine and put on some oxtail stew and gnocci didn’t hurt my vibe either.

An overhead photo of a bowl of pasta, with a glass of wine next to it.

Points for taste and presentation to Jonathan.

Tuesday – rest

Wednesday – gym night – Ainsley and I did some stretching and sit-ups, then a medium-intense 30 minute bicycle (non-recumbent–is that what spinning is?)

Thursday – 6 km –  Absolutely miserable. The opposite of Monday— a run where nothing felt good at all the entire time. I’m proud of myself for not quitting, because I really, really wanted to. I’m not sure what was up—a bit of PMS, legs tired from cycling, improper fueling (though I felt I had some good snacks!), maybe just one of those random off-nights. Anyway, I got home and felt very glad I had a couple of easy days ahead.

Self-taken photo of me in a long mirror. I am dressed up to run, but frowning.

Don’t wanna run

Friday – rest – Did 45 minutes of walking. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Saturday – 8.4 km –  Decided to do my long run a day early, as we’re having overnight guests whose presence…erm…probably won’t encourage going to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. I wasn’t super in the mood so I listened to music, a rarity, and set a destination (the city’s best liquor store, wahoo!). And then the sun came out and everything felt great, except I had to pee the whole damn time.

I made pretty good time (for me), with an average pace of 6:34/km! I’m realizing  I need a lot of warm-up to feel good while I’m out.

I’m heading to Portland on Wednesday for a week, then two weeks of vacation in California. I’m really, truly planning to keep this schedule up while we’re out west, but nervous I might have too good a time…

 

#CLEmarathon half training – week 2

Nothing exciting over here, though it’s sunny and maybe only minus 2 today. It’s a lot of exercise, but so far it hasn’t been hard to fit in.

Sunday – long run –  The long, slow, run that wasn’t slow (in an elated state, I wrote about it here).

Monday – gym night

Tuesday – 5 km – An incredibly slow and painful morning venture. I felt the opposite of everything I felt on Sunday. I’m not a great morning runner, and some combo of that, weakness after Sunday’s enthusiasm, and the gym the night before made this a truly unrewarding slog.

Wednesday – 4.5 km – Evening runs are always better. And I managed to work an errand and a quick visit to a friend into the route. A destination sure helps!

Thursday – 5.8 km –  Average pace of 6:47/km a little faster than I’ve been, though still not very consistent.

Screenshot of my running app's timing. Six blue bars represent the pace of each kilometer. The blue bars are different lengths, signaling that I did not run at a consistent pace.

Then again, the only kilometre that’s a real outlier  is the one down a hill—so perhaps I’m not so far off?

Friday – Rest – And lo, not a kilometre was run that night.

Saturday – Cross training – My mom and her partner invited us to go skiing with them at Horseshoe Valley. Umm, yes! It was sunny and not too crowded when we got there, and only about -4. Perhaps unsurprisingly, towards the afternoon my glute started hurting. Oh, and also everything else.

A close-up shot of two people (myself and my husband) on a chair lift. We are both smiling at the camera, wearing oversized goggles and helmets.

Wrapping up week 2 on the slopes!

 

I’m coming for you, March!

I love new beginnings of any and all sorts (well, except birthdays). When a new week and a new month start together, I get especially excited about the possibilities. Hello, March!

Today I only wanted to stay inside and look at the internet, but I kicked myself out the door, and found that my legs had never felt more ready. For the first time since I was on Couch to 5k, it was my lungs holding me back, rather than my muscles. And in the end, I had three astonishing new records!

Screenshot of a watch face. It reads: "Records: 1 km 4:53.86 Today"

wow, Jacqueline, how did you do this!?

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