The Extra 2% (or what libraries can learn from the Tampa Bay Rays)

Picture courtesy Barnes & Noble

The Tampa Bay Rays were once the worst franchise in baseball.  They always finished last in their division, the AL East, very few fans would come to their games, and they didn’t make a lot of money.  They were the joke of baseball.  To make matters worse, any chance of becoming a winner and turning around their sorry franchise was next to impossible because they played in the same division as the two most powerful teams in baseball, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.  How do you compete against two teams that have some of the most loyal and rabid fans in all of baseball? How do you compete against two teams that generate nearly double and triple the money that you do? How do you compete against two teams that can afford to pay two underachieving pitchers $16.5 million per year and still have a boatload of money to go out and acquire any other player (or players) they desire? Easy, through effective leadership that was willing to analyze every aspect of the team’s operations and bring Wall Street strategies to the organization.  It is all covered in The Extra 2%. If you love baseball and business, The Extra 2% is a great read. Even if you aren’t interested, here are some points I took from the book that we all can apply to our libraries:

1) You need the right leader in place (with the right leadership style):

The first owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays was Vince Naimoli.  Naimoli was an extremely successful businessman and instrumental in bringing baseball to St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the book, he was known as a fixer, one of those guys that acquired failing businesses, turning them around during their time of crisis, and selling them for a nice profit. He did this by using a very coercive leadership style.  As you might remember from this post, coercive leadership is great during emergencies and when organizations are falling apart, but it isn’t an effective leadership style long-term.  When Stuart Sternberg bought the team, he put effective leaders in place, such as manager Joe Maddon, guys that knew the right kind of leadership styles to use and when to use them.

2) For that extra edge, wipe out your weaknesses:

When you have so many factors stacked against you, if you become at least average in your weak areas, you can gain that extra 2% edge that might make the difference between success and failure.  This is what the Tampa Bay Rays believe.  They do this across many areas, whether they are using the most cutting-edge statistical analysis to evaluate players, bringing in sports psychologists to work with players, or spending time doing drills on how to improve bad base running.  Many of these areas the Rays focus on are areas that other teams in baseball ignore.

3) If you use creative marketing, they will come:

One of the first things that Steinberg’s leadership team did was drop the “Devil” from the “Tampa Bay Devil Rays” to become the “Tampa Bay Rays”, complete with new colors and uniforms.  This was a great move as this allowed the organization a fresh start and a way to distance themselves from Naimoli’s Devil Rays.  The Rays’ also started to schedule big-name performers for postgame concerts in order to attract more fans to games.  Inspired by the popularity of SNL’s “More Cowbell” skit featuring Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken, Steinberg had the idea during the Rays’ 2009 postseason run to distribute cowbells at games. They completely caught on and became synonymous with the Rays.  Other quirky and creative ideas the Rays introduced to bring in fans included “Senior Prom of Senior Citizens” night and a “Friday Nightclub” complete with postgame dance music and indoor fireworks!

I really could relate to the Tampa Bay Rays as I read this book.  After all, they are facing some fierce competition, kind of like libraries! What do you think? Are there some other lessons we can learn from baseball’s worst to first franchise?

Photo credit: rzrxtion

Read More

Help, there’s a flood in the library! Leadership styles for every situation

What is your leadership style? Maybe you are a coercive, “my way or the highway” type of leader, or perhaps you are more of an authoritative leader, enthusiastic with a very clear vision of what you want your organization to accomplish.  Or maybe you have no idea what type of leader you are! That’s okay, because we are going to take a look at six different leadership styles, and talk about why you might want to consider utilizing all six leadership styles at some point depending on the situation.

In March of 2000, “Leadership That Gets Results” by Daniel Goleman was published in the Harvard Business Review.  In this article, Goleman identified six leadership styles, situations where they proved to be effective, and their overall impact on the climate of an organization. Here are the six styles and an idea of what they are in a nutshell:

1) Coercive style: My way or the highway! Listen to what I say and do it!

2) Authoritative style: I am excited and pumped up! Here is my vision of what we are going to do.  Am I being clear? Great, here’s the goal.  You have the freedom to do what you need to do to get us there…let’s just get it done!

3) Affiliative style: Let’s talk.  How are things going? We really need to go out to lunch this week.  What a great accomplishment…let’s get a cake and celebrate!

4) Democratic style: Here is the problem.  How do you guys think we should solve it? Let’s meet about this until we come to a consensus.

5) Pacesetting style: I am the best and the brightest.  You need to keep up and do things as well as I do.  Not getting it? *Sigh* Here, let me take it over.

6) Coaching style: Let’s work closely together to develop your skills and abilities.  Don’t worry about failing at that task, as you will learn from it and I will guide you to do better next time.

Any idea what the best leadership style might be according to Goleman? Well, four of the styles have a positive impact on an organization’s climate: authoritative, affiliative, democratic, and coaching.  The authoritative style is the most strongly positive.  As I am sure your probably guessed, the coercive and pacesetting styles have a negative impact. So, we should all adopt authoritative styles and our libraries will run extremely efficiently, right? As Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast my friends!”

According to Goleman, the most effective leaders combine two or more of the positive impact leadership styles, as each style has weaknesses.  For example, the affiliative style is great for motivating people in stressful situations, but it is ineffective in that it often gives individuals the impression that they can get away with average and even poor performance. And in certain situations, those negative impact leadership styles might be extremely effective.  For example, if you are experiencing an emergency at your library, like a flood in your Children’s department (of this I can speak from experience), the coercive style is the only way to go.

Goleman explains how Joe Torre combined the affiliative and authoritative leadership styles to become one of baseball's great managers.

I highly recommend reading Goleman’s complete article here.  In addition to providing detailed explanations on the six leadership styles discussed above, he also writes about how you can go about expanding your leadership style repertoire.

Photo credits: doverlibrarians and mrjerz

Read More

David Rothman’s “Common Sense Librarianship: An Ordered List Manifesto”

When I first started thinking about launching this blog, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.  I definitely wanted to write about leadership, I definitely wanted to write about mobile technology, and I definitely wanted to write about my “brand” of librarianship.  But what exactly was this brand called? 21st Century Librarianship? No, that didn’t sound quite right.  Progressive Librarianship? No, sounded way too political, and besides, I didn’t want to accidentally get associated with an insurance company.  And as much as I love Flo, I didn’t really think being associated with her would do me any favors either.

Sure, she can save you money on car insurance, but can she teach a senior how use a Kindle like I can?

Later, after much thought, I finally figured it out…Common Sense Librarianship! Perfect! And then, much to my delight, I discovered David Rothman’s “Common Sense Librarianship: An Ordered List Manifesto”! If you haven’t checked it out yet, you absolutely must!  To quickly summarize, Rothman writes that information professionals and their institutions should adapt to the changing world of information (that is caused by technology) or perish.  Information professionals should be flexible, creative, and passionate about solving problems. Libraries should measure user needs whenever possible and keep these needs the number one priority above all else.  Barriers between users and information should be removed, and information should be delivered to users as clearly and concisely as possible.

What do I take from Rothman’s “Common Sense Librarianship: An Ordered List Manifesto”? We need to adapt not only to thrive, but to survive.  We need to be open to new ideas and be completely flexible when approaching problems.  We need to make sure customer service is a top priority.  We need to eliminate library jargon like “periodicals” and “OPAC” and “neutrino displacement grid” (that last one might not exactly be library jargon, but even I get confused by library jargon myself sometimes!) and deliver information to users wherever they are, at any time of day, on their device of choice.

See, all common sense, right? So what do you think? Is Rothman‘s “Common Sense Librarianship: An Ordered List Manifesto” something you can get behind?

Photo credit: Rob Speed

Read More

Sometimes failure is an option

I love TED Talks.  If you aren’t familiar with TED, I encourage you to learn more about this non-profit organization.  I noticed the other day on TED the following talk by former General Stanley McChrystal, and this really surprised me as I didn’t think former military leaders fit the profile nor the politics of your typical TED Talk presenter.  If you look at the comments, apparently a lot of people feel this way. However, regardless of your politics, I think this is a good talk on leadership in today’s world, and the difficulties that come with it:

I think why I appreciate this talk is that it addresses the issue of failure, and I believe that one of the major reasons many libraries don’t adapt to provide the best possible service to their users is because they are afraid to fail.  According to McChrystal, “leaders can let you fail, and yet not let you be a failure”.  I have worked in environments where failure was “not an option” and I have worked in environments where I was encouraged to try new things (and, if a new program or idea didn’t succeed, it was a learning experience for all, and not a personal failure).  What about you? What is your work environment like? Is failure acceptable?


Read More