Professional Development

In the 'Professional Development Center' Category...

Erik learns team building @ PDC

Thursday, June 24, 2010 5:44 pm

On Wednesday I attended a PDC event on teambuilding. The second part of a three part series, this workshop focused on differentiating a team from a group, went through the stages of team building (Form, Storm, Norm, Perform), and included an interesting discussion on the benefits and perils of generalizing behaviors by generation.

As a Gen Xer (yes. . I know) I found the characterization of my generation as callous, informal, career driven, and suspicious of authority to be just about on target :). I had always wanted to write the book ‘Everything I need to know about management I learned by watching the Breakfast Club‘ and I think that I finally have the inspiration to make that happen.

As is common with these workshops the most interesting part was the stories people told. There was an interesting discussion about the role of different communication methods (email, f2f, phone, texting, .. . ) and some group sharing about what these different methods added or subtracted from the message being communicated.

There was lots more and I have some interesting worksheets, models, graphs, and other stuff in a handout so stop by if you want to see more!

PDC Workshop: Managing Upward

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 9:48 pm

When I saw the PDC posting for a seminar on “Managing Upward” I was attracted by the possibilities! In my position as Director of RITS, one of my most important responsibilities is to act as an advocate for my 14 team members and do my best to secure the resources they need to advance the mission of the library and to implement new ideas and programs. Often it is not only a question of “selling” to the Library Dean (AKA Lynn), but to influence other departments (for instance, IS) that an idea or proposal is desirable. The objectives of the workshop touched on some of the skills that are important to success in this area: identifying my influence style, finding how to leverage different types of “power”, how to build trust, and identifying tactics to align with my boss and enhance our working relationship.

I was joined at the workshop by others from ZSR Library (Leslie, Steve and Chris) who had their own objectives for the morning, so you may hear a different take on some of the ideas presented and discussed.

The first part of the day was spent exploring the idea of influence. Influence was defined as “the power and ability to effect the actions, behavior and/or the opinions of others.” It is important to recognize your “natural” influencing style, but just as important to understand the type of style is preferred by those you need to influence! Four different types of influencing techniques were identified, each with different “buckets”:

  • Reasoning (buckets: Rational Persuasion, Legitimizing). Using logical arguments and evidence or using your authority can be useful when there is not a lot of time and there is need for quick decision making.
  • Participating (buckets: Collaboration, Consultation Building, Alliance Building). This is a technique that we use often in the library where we seek buy-in to move an initiative forward. It also is a viable approach when you don’t know the answer and need input, or when you have an idea but can’t pull it off alone!
  • Reciprocating (buckets: Exchange, Pressure). This one was described by a participant as the “carrot or stick” approach. You can exchange support for your needs by promising support for theirs. This approach is also the only where you can put pressure on through such techniques as persistent reminders.
  • Relating (buckets: Personal Appeal, Inspirational Appeal, Ingratiating). This the the type of influence where you appeal to loyalty, values and ideals, or use compliments to gain support.

Next, we talked briefly about bases of power that each person may have: Reward (Do you have the power to reward the person who you are trying to influence?), Coercive ( Do you have the ability to withhold from or punish the person?), Referent (Do you have the ability to influence based on your personal attributes?), Expert (Are you the subject expert?), and Legitimate (Is your ability to influence due to your formal role and responsibilities?). When talking about having personal power to influence, we are talking about referent power and it is based totally on trust.

How do we become trusted? The discussion of trust was broken down into two major components: personal capacity for trust and transactional trust. All of us have some kind of foundation for how we think about trust. It is usually shaped at an early age by such things as family stability, loss and feeling trusted by others. I might be a person who presumes trust until someone proves they don’t deserve it. Or I may be a skeptic who requires a person to prove they are trustworthy. This shapes how we think about trust but it’s helpful to understand how the people we want to influence feel personally about trust as well. Additionally, we build trust through transactions and every one of these transactions either builds or erodes trust. Transactional trust is broken into three areas and each of us has one that is our “trust” strength: communication, contractual and competence.

  • Communication Trust is fostered by openly sharing information, not surprising people at the last minute, being candid about your own feelings and asking or and being receptive to feedback without defensiveness.
  • Contractual Trust is fostered by making and keeping agreements, doing what you say you are going to do, not over-promising/under-delivering, making it right when you’re wrong, holding others accountable for their agreements and being willing to make a commitment.
  • Competence Trust is fostered by demonstrating respect for people’s skills, supporting acquisition of new skills, providing a safe place for people to learn from mistakes, not micro0managing, providing whole projects (not just tasks), and giving challenging assignments outside a person’s safe zone.

We were asked to pick which one of these was our natural tendency. Most of us chose “contractual” but I must report Steve’s strength was “communication” and Chris was the lone person to self-select “competence.” The interesting part of this exercise was the instructor’s premise that whichever of these is your primary strength is probably the one for which you set the highest standards for others. So if I am contractual and my boss isn’t, I will have difficulty if she doesn’t value meeting deadlines (no worries there!). Again, understanding how the people you want to influence value the different transactional trusts can help inform how you approach them.

Finally, we quickly covered the ways to align with your boss. These were all things that (in my opinion) are basic common sense things (but important):

  • Know what your boss cares about
  • Make the most of time with your boss
  • Help your boss be successful
  • Don’t surprise your boss (I can vouch for that one!)
  • Don’t approach your boss with only problems
  • Clarify mutual expectations early and often
  • Admit mistakes
  • Take 100% responsibility for the relationship with your boss

I found the workshop to be useful in that it validated many things I intrinsically know, but it was good reinforcement to hear it articulated in a formal presentation!

The Art of Feedback

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 5:56 pm

Those of you who know me and love me might ask “Whatever could Susan hope to gain from a feedback workshop”? Well, actually, all of you know that I don’t particularly shy away from giving feedback, but that sometimes I might not be particularly artful in how I do it. I also, like many others, have mixed feelings about how to receive feedback, both good and bad. So my goal was to find some nuggets of gold that would help me become better at both giving and receiving feedback to/from peers, direct reports, superiors (and on the domestic front!).

This PDC-sponsored workshop was held for the first time and the subject must be one that resonates with many as there were over 20 participants from many areas of the University. I was joined by ZSR colleagues Steve Kelley, Mary Beth Lock and Heather Gillette.

During the 3.5 hour session, we learned to:

  • recognize the role of feedback in improving performance
  • construct feedback messages that meet certain criteria
  • practice the skillful delivery of feedback
  • practice receiving feedback with grace

It actually was one of the more engaging workshops of this type I’ve attended in years. All of the participants were very open about sharing their fears and hesitations when confronted with giving or receiving feedback. We all knew that it is an important communication tool to enhance performance but it is usually anxiety creating and can damage relationships when not done correctly. You don’t need to be a manager to benefit from improving your feedback techniques – they are useful when communicating with colleagues, friends, and family!

Some of the tips for constructing feedback messages were divided into specific areas:


  • Recognize that it is your job to provide feedback, positive and negative
  • Assume the other’s positive intention
  • Consider your motives before you speak
  • Consider the effect of your “filters”


  • Strive for right: right moment (usually soon), right place, right style
  • Be sure you have your facts straight: verify your accuracy


  • Focus on specific behavior, not on character or motive
  • Use “I” rather than “you” statement to cut down on defensiveness
  • Focus on key issues – top 1 or 2, not many
  • Include how you feel about it
  • Don’t give away your power by talking too much


  • Get a response
  • Give time to absorb/react (sometimes this means tomorrow)
  • Verify that what they heard = what you meant

Future Focus

  • Agree on action steps
  • End on an encouraging note
  • Follow up

Although all situations are different, the facilitator, Linda Smith, provided a basic formula to help us thoughtfully construct feedback messages:

  1. WHAT: Identify a specific behavior
  2. SO WHAT: Name the tangible effect or outcome and/or describe your feelings
  3. (Pause for reaction)
  4. NOW WHAT: Action steps/future focus

Then we practiced with each other. Yes, we did scenarios and role playing, but people appeared to really get invested in the process and many good conversations came as we worked with our groups. And that was actually one of my main take-aways from the session: Constructing a good feedback technique is actually a way to create space for conversations that then become ongoing and a natural part of interacting in a positive way.

Watch out ZSR and RITS, I’m going to start practicing tomorrow :-)

Public Speaking & Presentations

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 2:36 pm

Last Thursday, Mary Beth and I attended the first of 6 sessions offered by the PDC on preparing and presenting speeches and presentations. The class is taught by Dr. Dee Oseroff-Varnell from the Communications Dept.. There are 15 WFU employees in the class with as many objectives for taking the course. In our first class we were given a basic outline of elements to include in a speech and discussed mannerisms to avoid. Next we were given a randomly assigned topic and 5 minutes to prepare a speech using the elements. Our gracious and sympathetic classmates critiqued our presentations. Next week we continue to face our fear of public speaking with more immersion therapy.

Erik, Leslie, Linda E attend Change management workshop

Thursday, February 12, 2009 4:01 pm

This morning, Leslie, Linda E. and Erik attended a change management workshop offered through the professional development center. The workshop touched on a variety of issues surrounding approaching change, managing change in work settings, and working with colleagues to address issues surrounding change in the workplace.

From the initial discussion of participants it was clear that change is a popular theme at Wake Forest right now and we spent a considerable amount of time talking about seeing an organization through both anticipated and unanticipated change.

A few of the strategies included bringing more people into the process of analyzing and problem solving, using extensive communication to make sure that everyone is informed about what is going on, anticipating reactions to change and planning for alternatives, and making sure that everyone had a shared concept of the ‘big picture.’

Erik and Roz attend PDC sponsored management class

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 9:07 pm

Today, Roz and I attended a management class offered through the Professional Development Center titled “Moving from Boss to Coach.” The session provided an interesting overview of the perspectives typically associated with “bosses” versus “coaches” and discussed the utility of these perspectives in different environments.

During the course, many of us got to share an experience which we considered to be a particularly good example of coaching. Hearing these stories really underscored for me the role that we all play in both our work and academic roles here at the univeristy. While the course offered some interesting content, perhaps the most interesting thing for me was the wide range of people in attendance. The session included folks from the library, facilities, information systems, and a host of other departments.

The facilitator was very good and if you have interest and opportunity I would encourage you to sign up for one of the upcoming sessions.

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