10
Jul
13

2013 Archives Leadership Institute: takeaways

Most of this piece is cross-posted to my Library’s blog, The Learning Library.

From June 16 – 23, I had the privilege of attending the Archives Leadership Institute, a selective, weeklong immersion program in Decorah, Iowa for emerging archival leaders to learn and develop theories, skills, and knowledge for effective leadership. The program is funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), hosted at Luther College for the years 2013-2015.

This year represented a complete re-visioning of the program, which featured 5 daylong sessions: New Leadership Thinking and Methods (with Luther Snow), Project Management (with Sharon Leon, The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University), Human Resource Development (with Christopher Barth, The United States Military Academy at West Point), Strategies for Born Digital Resources (with Daniel Noonan, The Ohio State University), and Advocacy and Outreach (with Kathleen Roe, New York State Archives).

ALI has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my career. So much of this program related directly to my work and current role — but more importantly, much of it could be applied more broadly. Enthusiastic participant responses and notes are captured in this Storify story from ALI and also this excellent recap by a fellow participant, but I will attempt to illustrate what I see as the biggest takeaways from the program that could relate to my colleagues.

Each day of the program included introductions and wrap-up by Luther Snow, an expert consultant/facilitator who originated the concept of “Asset Mapping.” Luther’s background as a community organizer provided a solid foundation for his positive leadership strategy, which emphasizes networked, or “generative” methods of getting things done. There are several principles that I took away from this:

  • Leadership is impact without control. We cannot force people to contribute or participate; the goal is to get people to do things voluntarily by allowing people to contribute with their own strengths.
  • Generative leadership is about asset thinking. The key to creating impact is in starting by thinking of what we actually have: our assets. Focus on talent and areas of strength instead of “needs” and problems — avoid focusing on scarcity or pity.
  • Look for affinities. How can our self-interests overlap? Asset thinking helps us find common interests and mutual benefit — we can connect what we have to get more done than we could on our own.
  • Be part of the larger whole. By emphasizing abundance, we can create affinities, which leads to a sense that “my gain is your gain is our gain.” This sets up a virtuous cycle based on an open-sum (think: potluck; network) instead of a closed-sum (think: slices of pie; gatekeeping) environment.

Of particular importance to generative thinking is the fact that semantics matter. In one activity, participants took turns making “need statements” and then turning them into “asset statements.” One example? Time. Instead of saying “time is scarce,” consider saying “time is valuable.” Instead of “we need more staff,” say “we have lots of great projects and so much enthusiasm from our users. How can we continue to provide these services?” Some more examples of language choices were included in Luther’s (copyrighted) handouts.

Building affinity can be difficult, since it is based on trust and recognizing likeness. We can build affinity with stakeholders connected to our assets — emphasize what you have in common, or talk about how your differences complement each other. Relate to stakeholders by focusing on mutual interests, and try to create opportunities to do a project together. Keep in mind: we can do more together than we can on our own.

And now for some highlights from the daylong sessions…

Strategies for Born Digital Resources (with Daniel Noonan, The Ohio State University)

Project Management (with Sharon Leon, The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University)

  • Historical Thinking Matters, a resource for teaching students how to engage critically with primary sources
  • Consider collaborative, flexible workspaces that increase staff productivity: moveable tables, whiteboards, a staff candy drawer
  • Articulating the Idea, worksheets for project planning from WebWise, IMLS, and the CHNM at GMU
  • Leon’s presentation from a different workshop on project management, including guidelines for creating “project charters” that include a scope statement, deliverables, and milestones
  • Share full text of grant projects and proposals with your staff for learning purposes!
  • Recommended PM tools: Basecamp and Asana; deltek.com/products/kona.aspx … https://podio.com/  http://basecamp.com/  http://asana.com/  https://trello.com/ (we are using Trello with some projects in collaboration with IT) — trick is to use these tools yourself to get team buy-in
  • Example from my former institution on positive reinforcement: Dedicated Deacon, which sends automatically to supervisor of person recognized; weekly drawing for prizes

Strategic Visioning and Team Development (with Christopher Barth, The United States Military Academy at West Point)

Advocacy and Outreach (with Kathleen Roe, New York State Archives)

The next phase of my ALI experience includes a practicum, workshop, and group project. I plan to focus my practicum on building and empowering a new team — my current focus as Acting Head of Special Collections & Archives — by integrating asset-based thinking into our projects and strategic planning. Looking forward to continued growth both through my ALI cohort and the valuable leadership tools and resources I gathered from the intensive in June.


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