Anyone here play sports growing up?    Yeah?   Well, I did too.

When I was young and growing up in Minnesota, I was big into sports. I played on all kinds of teams – volleyball, basketball, tennis. But softball was my summer sport. I remember one year – the summer of 1995 – when our team was crushing it on the field. When we threw balls to each other, it was sudden and we were so responsive – it was like we were reading each other’s minds and knew exactly when to turn, catch, swivel and throw. It was beautiful.

andreaAnd then – tragedy struck. In the space of a week, 3 members of our team were suddenly not there – I broke my foot, a 2nd member of our team left on a long family vacation, and a 3rd had such bad allergies that she had to take the rest of the summer off. Suddenly, our incredibly successful softball team started losing. Game after game, I sat on the sidelines with my big purple cast watching in dismay as our team was defeated. We ended up completing the season almost last in our league.

This was an early lesson for me on the power of teams. When a team is functioning well together, you can achieve things that you never could on your own. Each member is pulling their weight, actions are synchronized and communicated, and the results are breathtaking. Even more, you feel like a valued member of your team, recognized and celebrated for your contributions, which makes you want to work even harder.

And, as I also learned in softball, when members of your team disappear, the high functioning aspect changes instantly.

When I joined NVDPL in the fall of 2014, I was the last manager to join a newly formed “integrated management team.”

What does “integrated management team” mean exactly? Essentially, it’s like my softball team – we each play a role and we have to play together in order to achieve our strategic outcomes, and ultimately the “bold, innovative culture change” that Jacqueline envisioned. Each of us managers oversees a portfolio area that spans the system, and we work together in various combinations on all of our projects and initiatives.


And also like my softball team, we’ve experienced set-backs like when members of our management team left, and new ones joined.

So what I want to share with you in the next few minutes is 3 things I’ve learned over this past year and a half about what helps to create and support an integrated management team.

#1: Be intentional about the way you want to work together. Early on in our management team, we spent time talking about HOW we want to work together.  Through these conversations, we came up with a list of words that we felt really captured our team values. (SLIDE of INFOGRAPHIC) Words like “engaged,” “trustworthy,” “compassionate” and “fun.”

It’s a beautiful intention of how we want to be. And like all intentions, it doesn’t mean we hit the mark 100% of the time, but it does mean we have a shared commitment to try.

I’ve found that when conversations are going smoothly and we’re all on the same page, we don’t really need a document like this. But when conversations get heated and differences of opinions rear their head, it’s really helpful to remember our commitment.

#2: be social together! In the past 6 months, we’ve started spending time with each other outside of work. We go for sushi lunches, we have Friday social hour at the pub, and with the nice weather, we’ve started going for lunchtime walks. Some of our most “integrated” conversations have happened over California and Dynamite rolls. And besides work talk, spending time together in this way is a chance to get to know each other as people, and share about our personal lives. I’ve found that the more we genuinely know and like each other, the more comfortable we feel to reach out at work, to ask for help, and to voice when we disagree.

And the 3rd thing I’ve learned is to

#3: be transparent about your learning process. It’s tempting to want to show that you “know all the answers” but in reality, we don’t! In our latest configuration of managers, we’re still in the midst of figuring out what “integrated” looks like for us. I talk openly about this learning process, and include the stuff that works and doesn’t work. This infographic hangs on the outside of my office door. It’s a conversation starter with staff, and invites them in to the learning process with us.

I’ve learned that – as a management team, we are living and leading by example, and the culture shift happening in the organisation cannot happen without an identical transformation in the management team.

Luckily for us, there are no winners and losers in the “league of public libraries.” But there are teams that consistently hit home runs – and I believe we all have the capacity to become like this.

Thank you

Return to Under the Hood

Links to panelist speaking notes:

Jennifer O’Donnell, Digital Services & Resources Librarian

Sabina Burnett, Circulation Assistant, Capilano Library

Ashika Debba, Circulation Supervisor, Lynn Valley Library

Krista Scanlon, Collection Services and Evaluation Librarian

Paul Taylor, Branch Librarian, Parkgate Library

Jacqui Jones-Cox, Branch Librarian, Lynn Valley Library

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