In a fit of New Year’s reflection, I’ve been wrestling with how to make a more positive impact, you know, on the world. I’ve been a vegetarian (technically, a pescetarian—the fish-eating kind) for thirty years, because that diet is lower on the food chain and therefore better for the earth. So, I’m committed. But, I’m also an American and Americans use 25% of the world’s resources.
Possibly like you, I’ve been taking a few tentative steps to see what more I can do in terms of sustainability, but I’m nervous about the the guilty feelings of living in an oil-dependent world and having to adopt a reduce, reduce, reduce mantra. But the more I read about it, the more I see sustainability as an opportunity—with an upside for leadership, creativity, collaboration, and the economy. The gut-wrenching downside of our carbon-hungry world is still there, especially if we don’t act. I’m determined to participate—not just in awareness but in action—toward being part of the solution.
Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded states that “green is the new red, white and blue.” It’s a great turn of phrase that he uses to mean that the US has an opportunity to be a global leader in the green revolution. We CAN reduce the negative impact of our current culture. If we act, and start innovating, we can go a long way toward helping the US re-establish its leadership in the world.
To find out about local opportunities, I hooked up with Darcy Winslow, the principal of Design for Sustainable World Collective. She was previously the general manager of Sustainable Business Strategies for Nike, where I first met her. Darcy, in turn, pointed me to the Sustainable Enterprise Certificate at Willamette University that Anne Murray Allen directs.
And this is the stuff I really wanted to blog about! Anne and I talked about “creating a shared vision for people to enlist in.” Anne and two additional co-authors are working on a book about achieving phenomenal results. Phenomenal results—that’s what sustainability needs. Results that are “greater than the sum of our explanations.”
According to Anne, “we need to approach sustainability through first exploring how social well-being is created, supported and expanded.” Assessing and establishing social well-being precedes technological solutions. An increase in social well-being will lead to an increase in financial well-being.
Anne and I discussed how to gain momentum for the sustainable enterprise through the development of shared meaning and a shared point of view. People desire to belong and to contribute. In fact, the two feed on each other: the more people belong, the more they want to contribute; the more they contribute, the more they belong; etc. etc. Then, leadership emerges from contribution.
From that you have a collective wisdom that builds shared meaning that leads to coordinated action that moves mountains.
See what I mean about new opportunities in sustainability? This stuff is exciting!
First, I want to tell every one of you who voted “THANKS.” I’ll work hard to make sure the best interests of the association—and therefore your interests—remain front-and-center. And to those who didn’t vote, well…you get a wag of the finger and a stern look. And a polite, throat-clearing cough.
In many ways, the campaign served to prepare me for office. I’m a different person than the one who started the journey so long ago. (It was a long time ago, because “election months” are like dog years). Before I turn the page and take on this new role, I want to reflect on some things I learned as a candidate.
I learned to blog. It seems easy enough: write a bit about something that interests you, then post it. The hard part is looking at your interactions and activities as if they are something that someone else should be interested in. My constant debate with myself was whether or not what I thought was intriguing was blog-worthy. Reflecting on issues and events and how to share your thoughts on them is a good tool for your toolbox.
Be more extroverted than you are. Usually I just let life wash over me, but now I have to pick up the shiny things I see and show them to others. If you’re usually introverted, it takes a real effort to be extroverted. I’m still coming to grips with that, to be honest.
Use Web 2.0 tools. My blog automatically updates to my LinkedIn account and my Twitter account, enabling me to reach a lot of members at the same time. And my Twitter account updates to my Facebook site. Isn’t that cool!?!
Look for the spirit of generosity. I was constantly humbled at the idea of people believing in me enough to donate their time and energy to a fellow member. Our Association runs on good will and generous souls, and I didn’t always see the magnitude of that compassion before the campaign.
Others can rely on you and you won’t break. You can volunteer to do stuff that benefits others more than yourself and it feels good. It is enlightened self-interest—you get back more than you give. And you will have a new way to define “riches.”
I can rely on others. They won’t break, either. People came through; they care. They want me to carry their concerns forward.
You can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all yourself. Relying on others isn’t always easy. I’ve always been able to meet deadlines and check off tasks on my own. But running for office is not a solo effort. So I learned to collaborate better and to involve others by articulating a simple vision. They, in turn, spread the message further. I think if we can get this concept right, eventually we’ll be able to empower a movement.
It’s going to be tough. Not everyone agrees on the direction, the vehicle, or the speed we need to travel. Some people don’t think we need to go anywhere and some want to go twice as fast as we can safely manage. Balancing those demands will be tricky. My hope is that if I listen to as many members as I can, I’ll get good guidance about the best path forward. But make no mistake: we are moving forward.
It’s going to be the most fun we’ve had lately. I felt fantastic energy at some of the question-and-answer sessions. Members care deeply about our direction, and when they sense positive change is coming, they feel good about it. Strategizing about the future can be a lot of fun when you believe in the journey.
Business savvy is key. We know our jobs and our tools, and we’re darn good at what we do. We satisfy customers every day, and we push ourselves to do it better. But knowing the ins and outs of the information landscape isn’t enough. For our profession, our association, and our careers, we need to get better at the business of business. Becoming fluent in “business speak” is crucial to making us Future Ready.
Don’t booby-trap yourself. Sometimes the crazy new idea you get late at night isn’t all that great when the sun comes up. My own natural exuberance can be a bit spontaneous. I’ve learned to fit myself with a restrictor valve in order to be critical and cautious. The stakes are higher now. Because of the office that you have entrusted to me, I face more scrutiny, and people will be holding me up to a higher standard.
At the same time, I have to be myself. Go figure!
I don’t know everything—and don’t have to. “WE are the smartest ones in the room,” as the saying goes. Figuring out how to use the strength of others is the hallmark of a leader. A strong rope is made up of many individual strands. My take is that the more voices we hear consistently, the better our Association gets.
I’ve got to go draw a new map now. I think it has your name on it!
The 2009 SLA Conference kept me far too busy to blog, but I’m finally catching my breath. I suppose I could have blogged every day and Twittered away to keep my peeps on the edge of their chairs, but I didn’t feel moved to stop and write things down until the crowning event at the Library of Congress.
Two nights ago, to celebrate the SLA’s 100th anniversary, the Awards Reception was held in the Great Hall. It was magical–and a very, very nice way to cap off the conference. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, spoke earlier in the day, and called librarianship a “sacred mission,” which touched everyone in the room. In the cathedral of the Library of Congress’ Great Hall, that mission becomes real.
I talked earlier in this blog about our “noble calling” so you know I’m a believer in the future of libraries. I interned at the Library of Congress in 1981, and I was entranced the whole night, going through my own personal way back machine. What will the next 100 years bring?
Meanwhile, the conference is over! And what a whirlwind; it was totally exhausting, but in a nice way. For SLA, it was a really good conference: lots and lots of people, plenty of attentive vendors, and no real problems. The sessions I attended were spot-on.
It was a totally different conference being a candidate for President-Elect. I was very busy trying to be in all the right places and to shake hands and share ideas with as many people as possible. I always wish I could go to more sessions.
Today, I’m so tired that I’m losing body parts—first my smile faded, then my eyes were shot, then my voice went, and finally my feet had to be wrapped in band-aids from all the walking around. But I feel cautiously optimistic that I have a done my best. I wanted to take advantage of this gathering of the tribe to meet as many members as I could, and to share ideas with them. People were very positive and supportive about my message: Future Ready.
What’s next? For now, I’ll visit my daughter in New York City and drop in on the SLA 100th Anniversary festivities there. It’s my next ticketed event!
When asked about her well-known affinity for SLA, long time member Barb Spiegelman told me that every year, when she enters the Info-Expo at the Annual Conference and looks around at the vendors, the buzz, and the attendees, she can’t help but smile. “These are my people,” she said happily.
I know what she means. I find it so energizing that almost every conversation at the Expo is about libraries, about advancing the profession, about how to deliver information at the right time. I’ve been looking forward to the 2009 Conference for a few weeks now. It’s my chance to talk to people with great ideas about the issues of the day, and to feel good about where I fit in. It’s nice to reconnect with the other members of our “tribe.”
One of the great things about the Internet is the way it pulls people together into self-directed groups. We can follow our favorite bloggers, join mailing lists, surf in web circles, and join Facebook groups, all at our leisure. My thinking is that we are searching for “our people” every time we join one of these electronic tribes.
For example, I recently signed up to join a “twibe.” Another tribe for librarians is on LinkedIn. And of course, there are several different communities at SLA. At every turn, I’ve met librarians who share some of my passions, and it feels great!
Seth Godin, marketing guru and keynote speaker at last year’s SLA Annual Conference, has a new book titled Tribes: We need You to Lead Us. He writes that being part of a tribe is something people hunger for. “Tribes are everywhere now, inside and outside of organizations, in public and in private, in nonprofits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of these tribes is yearning for leadership and connection.” (p. 8)
Godin says that great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate. “They establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to commanding people to follow them,” he tells us (p. 23). To me, making connections is a key part of leadership, because the more feedback we get from people we trust, the better the consensus we build.
We seem to be living in the Golden Age of Social Networking, where it is possible to search the entire planet for tribes we’d like to join. Of all the tribes that I am actively part of, my SLA membership is the biggest. Being part of the SLA tribe builds professional meaning, exposes us to new ideas and new trends, and challenges our tendency to settle for the status quo.
So my question for you is, what tribes are you a member of? Who are your people?
cindy dot romaine at gmail dot com