For years we’ve talked about the importance of having our “elevator speech” ready so that when we encounter a decision-maker or influencer in an elevator, at a function, or wherever, we can quickly articulate what we do and how we contribute. While it’s important to be clear on our role & contribution, a chance encounter with a decision-maker is a fantastic opportunity to hear about them — what are they working on? where are they headed today? have they ever heard of the information centre? You don’t have to stick a mike in their face & pepper them with questions, but showing interest in people — finding out about their work — is the basis for all good relationships not to mention the foundation of “service excellence.”
I’m regularly in meetings with information professionals discussing their positioning within a community, the university or organization. Inevitably the conversation turns to ways & means of taking the information centre or library message to those who are new — the orientation of what the library can do for them. In the same way that the elevator encounter shouldn’t be our chance to speak but rather to ask and listen, orientation sessions are our chance to meet & listen to the newbies. Especially if you are meeting one-on-one with a new faculty member or employee, welcome them — take them a coffee, or better yet, take them a voucher for a coffee to use for your next conversation — & find out where they’ve come from, what their new role is, etc. and set up the next quick conversation for that coffee. At the next conversation, you can start to align the library’s services with their role, their experiences, etc. Position the information services with their work in a meaningful way — a way that has meaning for them because it fits with what they are doing.
Listening isn’t about waiting to speak. Listening is taking in what people are saying and not saying. The next time you have a chance to chat with an influencer, use the “elevator listen” technique; curiousity has initiated many longer conversations and led to many service innovations. And that service excellence we are always aiming for? Well, since excellence is in determined by the individuals’ experiences, listen to how they’ll determine that excellence, be curious as to who they are & what they are doing, & they’ll be much more open to listening to you.