Thursday’s Group

The Thursday group was a little more challenging than the Tuesday group.  Even still, they weren’t bad.  They just took a little bit more refocusing than the group on Tuesday.

I thought it was very interesting that both groups had so much overlap in their ideas for making the greeter desk work.  They both said that the desk works best when the library is busy and when there are two people on the membership desk.  This helps the person working the greeter feel better about “not working” (as they put it). They also suggested morphing the greeter desk into a new library card welcome center.

The current greeter desk is really more of a rolling kiosk.  When asked what they would do if money were no object, both groups said that they would purchase a more substantial desk.  The Tuesday group also said that they would hire additional reference staff because they don’t believe people feel welcomed by having to stand in line for answers to their reference questions.

Both groups felt strongly about the need for signage.  They included signage as something necessary for operations no matter how much money was being spent in our hypothetical situation.  They differed on what they thought the signs should say.  One group wanted a list of tasks that could be accomplished at the greeter desk, the other said that they just wanted something that said “welcome.”

The two groups disagreed on a couple of points.  The Thursday group said that they might be interested in having a receipt printer installed at the greeter desk.  The Tuesday group said that they were mostly against this option because they were concerned with the addition of a printer making the greeter desk into “just another membership desk.”

They also disagreed with staffing the desk when the library is quiet.  Tuesday’s group said that they thought it would be OK to staff the desk if it were changed into something like a “roving greeter.”  The explanation was that the roving greeter wouldn’t be tied to the desk, and could instead walk around the immediate area to greet people, offer assistance with the computers, answer the security alarms and handle other tasks as needed.  This way our branch would continue to be the most welcoming in the system.  Thursday’s group said that they would prefer to avoid staffing the desk during quiet times no matter what.

Both groups asked for increased communication about programs, meetings and events within the branch.  The Tuesday group wanted information so that they could tell our members where the programs are taking place.  The Thursday group wanted information so that they would know when to expect the library to be its busiest.

Overall, this was an interesting exercise.  I got some really great input from staff that I believe we can implement.  The key is to be nimble.  If something isn’t working, we need to scrap it and try something new.  Part of the challenge in that, is that we’re not used to doing things that way.  This will be a learning experience for all of us.  Now it’s time for us to come up with a plan and work to achieve it.

Attitudes are contagious.

“Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?”  -Dennis and Wendy Mannering

This is another quote I came across in the motivational quotes section of SparkPeople.  I happen to think that, in a lot of ways, this quote is pretty true.  You can see it in groups all the time.  If one person is always judgmental, rude, negative, or whatever, the rest of the group usually is too.  But when that person leaves it’s like the group’s dynamic changes.

I saw this a little bit at work on Tuesday, and I know I’ll see it today too.

In a previous post I talked about a book I’m reading for work called “Switch.”  We’ve been asked to find something in our library branches to which we can apply what we’ve learned in the first 98 pages.  I chose our greeter desk as the thing to work on with the tools we’ve picked up from the first section of reading. I’ve been asked to present on my “project” at an upcoming managers meeting.

The idea is that you want to “paint a picture postcard” so that everyone will have the same destination in mind for a particular project.  I actually have two for the greeter desk:

  1. BE the model that everyone else will copy (meaning: if we make it successful, other branches will have to copy us)
  2. The most welcoming library in our system (meaning: welcome everyone, make them feel good about using the library, keep them coming back for more)

With those two postcards in mind, I’m meeting with the staff who will be working at the greeter desk.  The problem is that the greeter desk is the least favorite desk to work at in my branch.  The staff has complained about it being boring, especially when the library is slow (my staff go a little stir crazy when they run out of things to do).  They’ve also said that they don’t like working at that desk when there’s so much work to be completed in the back and/or when there’s a long line at the membership desk (they don’t feel like team players when others are doing all the work).  Patrons don’t know what the desk is for.  Many of them try to come up and use the staff computer.  There isn’t a place for a chair.  The list goes on.

I wanted to get some input from my staff on what they think would make the greeter desk work best to meet the two postcards above.  The branch can’t operate if we’re all at a meeting, so I’ve split my circulation clerks up into two meetings.  The first group met on Tuesday.  The other group meets today.

I was/am actually nervous about meeting in these groups.  Some of my staff can be negative and will tell me all the reasons why something isn’t working or won’t work.  They are reluctant to give options a chance before negating them.  Tuesday’s group only had one negative person, but it seemed to work out OK.  I did my best to maintain control of the meeting/brainstorm.  I kept bringing the group back to the biggest questions:

  • When does this desk work best? (looking for the bright spot!)
  • What would you do with unlimited money to make the desk work better?
  • What would you do with minimal money to make the desk work better?

The other group members helped refocus the negative person with their positivity.  Eventually he came on board with looking for solutions and actually offered one of the best solutions from that meeting.  Getting back to the quote that started this blog: The group’s attitude was contagious, and it was worth catching.  They came up with some great solutions they could all agree on.

Today’s group has 2 people that tend to be more negative.  They’re also very vocal.  I’m hoping they won’t be too much of a challenge.  And if they are then I hope their attitude is not contagious.  We need solutions and ideas of the ways we can meet the destination postcards – not more reasons why one desk doesn’t work and resistance against making it work.

So, wish me luck!  It’ll be interesting to see what solutions today’s group comes up with for our desk.  I wonder if they’ll be along the same lines as Tuesday’s group.  I guess we’ll see!

My Offensive (?) Obesity Post

I’ve been thinking about a few things for awhile now.  Most of my conclusions are probably pretty controversial on these topics, but they make the most sense to me.  They do not reflect the views of my employer and may not necessarily reflect the views of my family/friends.  I apologize if the following post offends anyone.


As a fat woman, I’ve heard/read many things by self-help and self-esteem gurus.  They usually say something along the lines of “Love yourself – embrace that beautiful (overweight) body.  There’s nothing wrong with obesity.”

I hate to break it to them, but there is something wrong with obesity.  We all know that obesity is a fully preventable and treatable problem (in most cases) that can be linked to major conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  These are all things that can lead to disabilities and early death.  Obesity costs this country and its citizens a lot of money in rising health care costs.  It also costs us in emotional damage when we can no longer fit on amusement park rides, when we become the butt of jokes, and when we feel as though we’re facing our personal demons all alone.

Please don’t tell me to embrace and love my fat.  Don’t tell my overweight neice and nephew to love theirs.  Don’t tell my brother that it’s OK for his dog to be overweight. Don’t tell me that my obesity is not my fault even as I make the choice to eat poorly and lead a sedentary lifestyle.  Stop offering the “magic pill” of gastric bypass and/or lapbanding when you know that patients see it as a magic pill.

I’m not condoning bullying by any means.  I do think, though, that there should be a stigma attached to obesity, just as there’s a stigma attached to alcoholism, drug use, and tobacco use.  If there were a way to tax obesity I’d probably support that too, so that at least we could recoup some of the money it costs this country to medicate these people. 

I know I sound harsh, but I’m coming from the position that our children learn what they see.  If mom and dad buy fast food every night and sit in front of the TV for hours on end, the kids will think that this is OK.  If mom and dad are obese, the kids will think obesity is OK.  Trust me, I know from experience!  My mom was obese.  Most of the food choices in our house were unhealthy.  We sat and watched TV.  And before I said “enough is enough” I was almost 200 pounds with joints that ached and problems sleeping because of my weight.  I learned how to be obese as a child and I accepted it as normal.  I didn’t learn how to be healthier until I was an adult and looked at my lifestyle objectively to see that it wasn’t (and should never be) normal.

I’m reading the book “Switch” by the Heath brothers.  One of the vignettes in the book talks about being specific when seeking change.  We can tell people over and over to “eat healthy” but most people only have a vague understanding of what healthy eating entails.  So instead, you need to be specific.  Community leaders in one city focused on getting people to switch from whole milk to 2% milk.  They showed the community how much fat and saturated fat is in whole milk, and told the community what ingesting all that extra fat could do to them.  They illustrated the problem, and then told the community they should switch to buying 2% milk to avoid these problems.  It worked. 

I know that the answer isn’t for someone to tell me (or anyone else) to love their fat.  And the answer may not be taxing obesity.  And telling people to make healthy choices is too ambiguous.  So maybe, instead, we should focus on one food choice and one activity choice each year.  This year we’ll focus on replacing sweets with fruit, and walking around the block as a family after dinner instead of turning on the TV.  Those goals are specific and doable first steps for most people. 

I’m not sure what’s bringing out this tirade.  Maybe I’m just tired of the campaign to make obesity acceptable.  Maybe I’m tired of hearing people make excuses  for their obesity.  Maybe I’m tired of going out to eat on a date with my husband and trying to make a healthy choice only to find that the healthiest thing on a menu is onion rings.  Seriously – ONION RINGS!  It’s just so disheartening to believe with every fiber of my being that it is within my power to be healthier only to find that the media, my family, and even date night restaurants are against me making the best decisions for my health.


Switch (Click the cover to buy the book)

My library system recently hired a new Deputy County Librarian.  One of the first things she’s done is lead a focused training for managers that’s based on the book Switch by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.  I think the idea behind this training is that we’ll need to make changes system-wide if we’re to avoid making incredibly painful cuts.  Since making change is often very difficult, we need to be able to lead our staff when the time to act comes.

Our first reading assignment was to read the first 98 pages.  This section of the book focuses on surprising information about change, and “directing the rider.”  For those not in the know: the prevailing metaphor in this book is the idea of an elephant, a rider, and a path.  The elephant represents our emotional side, the rider is the intellectual side, and the path is the path they’re on.  The rider can control the elephant for a while, but he cannot keep it up indefinitely.  And really, if the elephant truly wants to do something, the rider cannot really stop him.  So, to effect change, you must appeal to both the rider and the elephant while shaping the path that they’re on.

Sounds simple enough, right?  I can see how simple it is.  I can also see how it might be difficult to do.

OK, so think about the times when you’ve successfully made changes in your life.  One of the biggest changes in my life has to do with my health.  You’re all familiar with the story that my mom had a really bad stroke in November 2008.  That was also the month that the County hosted a health fair, where employees could get cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI screenings and more.  I was already devastated by my mom’s stroke.  I could see myself heading down that same path.  I didn’t know where to start to make the changes necessary, but I figured the health fair was a good place to get an idea.  The people at the health fair said that my numbers were all really good except for my BMI.  All I really had to do was improve my BMI and then I’d be the picture of health.  That was my switch.

  • Elephant – Scared of being like mom, scared of being unhealthy, really wants to do something to fix it
  • Rider – Initially paralyzed by too many options, but later given a doable goal (healthy BMI)
  • Path – Keep good numbers –> lose weight –> avoid being like mom

So far it’s been pretty good.  Of course there are ups and downs, but the switch has worked well overall.

Other things from the section I’ve read so far:

  • Laziness is often exhaustion – the rider has focused so hard on controlling the elephant that they can’t do it any more.
  • Resistance is often due to a lack of clarity – Be specific about what you’re changing and why the change is necessary
  • Focus on the bright spots (successful efforts worth emulating) and find out why it’s working there.  Replicate it elsewhere.
  • Big problems don’t need big solutions
  • Make a template for needed activities; script the critical moves
  • Too many choices create decision paralysis – people will almost always retreat to the most familiar habit
  • Focus on what you CAN change with the resources available – all other problems are TBU (true, but useless)
  • People want to fit in with each other – behavior is contagious; change the behavior change the people
  • Script the beginning and the end; the middle will shape itself
  • Create a “destination postcard” – a vivid picture of the goal for the near-future

I don’t really have a specific reason for writing this post.  I think it’s acting more as a brain dump for me.  These kinds of books are often interesting but I don’t tend to read them unless someone “makes” me.

Do you have any “must reads” for change management and/or self improvement?  Why do you like those particular titles so much?

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