Ken Haycock has a new blog! YES! I’ve subscribed & I suggest you do as well. Ken has an incredible wealth of experience to share as a manager (both a dean and a director of education), researcher, teacher, working with boards, leading in tough situations, and moving innovative ideas forward to fruition.  So, when Ken speaks I listen; when Ken writes I read.

His blog post today refers to Google’s study of their own performance appraisal and HR data to determine what makes good Google managers; they identified these 8 behaviours:

1. Be a good coach. Provide specific, constructive feedback; Have regular, one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths.

2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage. Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice.

3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being. Get to know your employees as peoples with lives outside work.

4. Don’t be a sissy. Be produce and results-oriented. Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team. Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information.  Help the team connect the dots.

6. Help your employees with career development.

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.

8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.

And these common pitfalls:

Have trouble making a transition to the team. Sometimes fantastic individual contributors are promoted to managers without the necessary skills to lead people. People hired from outside the organization don’t always understand the unique aspects of managing at your agency.

Lack a consistent approach to performance management and career development. Don’t help employees understand how these work at your organization and doesn’t coach them on their options to develop end stretch. Not proactive. Wait for employee to come to them.

Spend too little time managing and communicating.

Ken suggests it’s time for systematic study of what it takes to be a good manager in public libraries. I couldn’t agree more; we have so little research into good management – and, more importantly, good leadership in the library profession.  We supervise tasks; we manage projects and process; we lead people.

Google’s findings aren’t surprising; the 8 behaviours they’ve identified have been identified time and time again in other types of organizations.  They also found, again, that technical expertise really doesn’t matter. What matters most, IMHO, are the behaviours regarding clarity — being clear about your role, the unit or department’s vision, and being clear with people about your expectations of them. And sissy’s aren’t clear!!! Sissy’s are too sissy to be clear because to be clear is to make decisions & possible tick someone off. (Colin Powell’s quote about “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off” always rings in my ears; too true.)

Not only do I agree with Ken about the need for systematic studies, I feel very strongly that an issue we, as a profession, need to address is that our organizations — our libraries — are too insular; we promote from within & rarely do librarians gain experience in other service organizations. Once in a library we tend to stay in libraries & have few, if any, other perspectives and experiences to bring to a leadership position.

I also wanted to add to the common pitfalls Google found; over the years I’ve interviewed and talked with many CEO’s asking them for advise for those new to leadership roles.  Here’s some of that advice:

1. Promote yourself mentally: if you are promoted to management within a library, form new relationships with your boss & your colleagues; you, your boss & your colleagues will still “see” you in your former role and you need to clarify, for everyone – including yourself – what your new role is, and reshape your relationships.

2. The world won’t end if you delegate: in fact, your job might end if you don’t delegate. And delegating isn’t dumping tasks on others — it is much more about helping people grow their capabilities.

3. Manage up; it is much more important that you understand how to understand your boss than vice-versa.

Thanks, Ken – great post – and we look forward to many more from you!