This past spring I was lucky to be a participant in the Minnesota Institute for Leadership Excellence (MILE) with the Minnesota Library Association. Myself and another twenty five librarians drove up to Cragun's in Brainerd for 4 days of professional development.
Getting to know you was the theme for the first day and a half. Comedy Sportz led us in numerous icebreakers and improv games, breaking even this introvert out of her shell. Nothing too scary thankfully. Comedy Sportz also introduced us to elevator speeches, by writing one for an animal we drew out of a bag, for a family member or friend, etc. This was a great way to start to think about delivering a succinct message quickly. We then worked on our own for a program/service/ resource etc. and then shared it with our partner at our table. This portion of MILE I wish we would have spent more time on; I have some great resources on elevator speeches and I felt this session lacked a bit of guidance. Even though I am a bit of an introvert I also wish the next day we had to share our elevator speech with the whole group to get more feedback. [Idea for MILE 2013] Mine is still a work in process about co-teaching and observations, but I will share it once it is more polished.
One of the highlights of the institute was the leadership panel with Karen Hogan, Chad Lubbers, Dan Marou and Jocelyn Hale. Each of them highlighted what they thought a good leader was; a few of the themes include: good with people, good with ideas along with advocating, empowering and innovating. All panelists discussed the importance of networking and collecting stories. Complacency and rigidity need not apply! Chad also explained the importance of when meeting with community members and organizations to always ask for something. By asking for volunteer hours he increased his libraries from 900 hours to 4,700 hours! Then, when you have a media inquiry rather than hearing an anecdote yet again from the librarian, they can interview those community members about their volunteer experience. The leaders also discussed elevator speeches and the importance of having some quick facts and themes you can pull out anytime, such as there are more libraries than McDonald's in the US, and in Washington County Libraries the number of patrons through the front door in a year could fill up the Twins stadium 7 times. Put numbers within context of your audience; something they can relate to!
Prior to MILE we each took the StengthsFinder 2.0
inventory. This was fascinating; each of
my 5 strengths describes me to a tee: adaptability, connectedness, empathy,
harmony, and woo! Four of these fall
within the category of relationship building.
The whole time I looked at the other three categories and longed to have
strength in executing and strategic thinking.
I always wanted to develop skills in these areas. However, through our discussions I became
more comfortable with being a people-person and okay with not having that
analytical brain. I just need to find
those people that do and collaborate with them!
[Afterwards I had my husband take the StrengthsFinder and he was almost
all in the analytical thinking category, not a shock, but we both did have Woo.
I guess opposites do attract.] :)
Being a library advocate was an embarrassing and excellent session. I realized I couldn't name all my representatives of the top of my head. Though the session was more public library focus, being an academic it was easy to translate these themes to talking with a Dean or Vice Provost, and even writing my legislatures to not cut UMN funding. The highlight session for me was at the end and it was way too short: "What Libraries Can Learn from the NFL." This would be a great MLA or ALA Conference presentation and it was led by MLA President Robin Ewing and MILE graduate Amy Springer. They took a few well-known NFL instances and asked us to relate them to the Libraries: Randy Moss' legal issues, Jake Culter injury and the Metrodome collapse media flub. This was entertaining, educational, and very applicable. This is how we need to teach: more scenarios and using pop culture to relate to students. Great job library pop queen Amy Springer!
Finally, I came to MILE to become a better leader within the University of Minnesota Libraries. To learn my strengths and how to capitalize on them to better direct the working groups I am on. As being a MILE graduate you are encouraged to be active within MLA; since I am rotating off as ARLD Past-Chair, what's next? Well, surprisingly enough 4 different attendees asked me during MILE when I would run for MLA President. Serendipitously, when I returned from MILE the MLA nominations committee approached me to run for MLA President. So, here it goes... I am running for MLA President this fall. So the journey within MLA hopefully continues...