Monday, 27 February 2012

Appraisals and the art of delegation....

So suddenly a couple of weeks have flown by since my last post - I still can't quite believe we're hitting March this week! It's been a hectic time in the law library - enquiries flying in left right and centre, and coupled with my extra responsibilities I have taken on since we had our appraisals, to say I have been a bit stressed is a serious understatement!

One of the main responsibilities I have taken on is a lot more delegation. This is not something that comes easy to me either. In all honesty I often find it easier to just do something myself than ask someone to do it for me. But one of my managers explained to me that part of learning how to be a good manager, is developing your ability to pass on and manage tasks, as opposed to just getting them done yourself. Teaching someone else how to go about a particular piece of work, and then ensuring that they do it within the alotted time frame and to a sufficiently high standard is a skill in itself.

When my managers are out of the office at the same time (one is part time so this does happen from time to time every month), and it is only the team Director, me and our 2 junior staff members, responsibility to allocate enquiries and act as the first point of assistance has moved from the Director to me. I would be lying if I said I don't find this daunting; I hope it's something I shall just become accustomed to and therfore more comfortable with, but at present, it's been a nerve racking couple of weeks as I have had to step in 3 times already! I think the most difficult part of delegation is knowing when and what to allocate to particular individuals! I am always wary of overloading the others in my team, or giving them something that perhaps is above or below their skillset. However, the only thing that will really help me to get over this is practice, so that's what I am doing. Let's call it a work in progress...

The appraisal process has always been fundamentally the same in every law firm I have worked in, and it's certainly useful from a Chartership point of view to have a chance to reflect on what I have achieved in the last year, and illustrate how I have gone about meeting the objectives we set last year. It's also helpful to get feedback from fee-earners and team members - it definitely makes you feel more appreciated!!

One thing that I did speak about during the appraisal once again was to what extent I can specialise in a particular practice area (mine being IP) - and again it's a tricky one. One of my goals this year is to help the other junior team members become more au fait with this practice area. One of them is going to be working with me on my Bulletin, for example. This will involve me coaching him in the various topics that are covered in the Bulletin, showing him how to pick out stories of interest from the various news sources I follow, and how to summarise and edit them for our Bulletin. The idea is that while I maintain editorial control, so to speak, I am sharing the knowledge that I have acquired with at least one other team member. It definitely makes sense, although again, I find it difficult at times to let things like this go, as I Really enjoy working on them! However, it's a good opportunity for me to work with one of the others on a one-to-one basis - it's good practice for me also in terms of taking control of tasks and delegation.

I am not sure if delegation comes naturally to some more than others - I suspect it does, to an extent, but I wonder if it really is just something you can become more comfortable with over time, or if it is either something you like or you don't like. I'd be interested to hear from anyone else on this kind of thing....

Image courtesy of: photostock /

Sunday, 12 February 2012

CILIP London AGM Feb 2012

I attended my first ever CILIP branch AGM on 8th Feb 2012. I decided to go along because I want to understand a bit more about how the branch works and what the committee members do and so on. The AGM was also followed by a talk by CILIP's President titled 'Around the world twice on a library degree'.

The AGM itself was very straightforward, going through last year's minutes, looking at the annual report and latest accounts, formally agreeing these and outlining CILIP London's plans for 2012. The one very positive thing is that the branch is in a much better financial position now than it was at the start of 2012. They are hoping to run a program of events similar to those in 2011 (although these events won't be held at the Sekforde Arms anymore).

Phil Bradley gave a very thought provoking talk on how CILIP is involved with the library community all over the world. I had no idea as to how 'global' CILIP actually was. Bradley spoke about how as the President, he is the 'face' for media outlets of the library community. He also speaks at library conferences around the world in this capacity.

It was also interesting to hear about CILIP's work in relation to the 'big' global issues affecting librarianship: copyright, information literacy to name but a few. In terms of copyright, there is legislation pending that will change how all kinds of works are regulated in future. Information literacy focuses on ensuring the internet is used responsibly, but at the same time maintaining a 'free', uncensored internet as well.

The last part of Phil's talk considered the 'globalness' of librarianship, looking at all the many Google+ library pages, and highlighting the importance of CILIP as an organisation within all this. The library community spans the world and this can be seen on Facebook, LinkedIn and every other social network out there.

What I found particularly interesting was the realisation that CILIP qualifications are recognised internationally. I don't think that I quite realised the importance of CILIP to the library community worldwide. Attending this kind of event and listening to Phil's talk was definitely motivating when it comes to completing my Chartership portfolio!

It was also really interesting to actually be present for the branch AGM and learn more about the branch committee and what ways CILIP members can get involved.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Training team members - what works, what doesn't?

One thing that I am always trying to learn more about is the best ways of training a fellow colleague. This is a part of my job that has become pretty significant and looks set to only continue in this way, as one of the aims of 2012 is for me to take on a bit more of this side of things in order to free up my managers a bit.

In the last couple of years, I have attended more than one seminar and training course focusing on the best ways to train, training methods, how to be engaging....and so on. One thing that always concerns me is: can you really be taught how to train? Or is a big part of being able to 'train' successfully down to an inherent skill that you either have or you haven't?

I would say that while you can definitely improve your training methods and techniques, there is a certain something that you've either got or not got...that quality that makes you engage with the person or people you're training and that makes you explain things in a logical and easy to follow fashion, and that makes you approachable and easy to ask questions of. 

I'm still trying to discover if I have that certain something, but in the meantime, let's have a look at what's important when, say, you are training a fellow team member on something.

Having been party to many training sessions over the years, I am certainly well enough equipped to know what makes a one-to-one training session a successful one from the point of the 'trainee'. At times like this I always use my 'unofficial' mentor as my role model (regular readers will remember me waxing lyrical about this lady from a post in 2011) - now if anyone could make a training session engaging, it is this lady. I had many one-to-one sessions with her over the years we worked together, and the things I remember being most helpful were a) she never patronised me or made me feel stupid. b) she was patient to a fault and made herself available for endless questions during and after the session and c) no matter what the topic was, she always managed to make me laugh, even when I was very stressed out or upset because I didn't understand something. 

Believe me, having now been in the shoes of the trainer, as opposed to the trainee, to be able to do all of the above is no mean feat! Let's look at each point in turn:

1) Don't patronise

Unless you've made a real error in the recruitment process, chances are that you are not dealing with an idiot - you're just dealing with someone who is new to a role, or a particular procedure. So while you want to make every step abundantly clear, don't talk down to them as if they are a child. I have had that done to me and believe me, it's inufriating, even if well-meant!

 2) Don't tell - show

This is one of the key pointers given by The Harvard Business Review Management blog

and it's definitely one of the most important. It is much easier to teach people something with a real life example, rather than just explaining in the abstract. Find an example of how what you're showing can be applied to their daily job. Talk them through each step and explain why you are doing something.

3) Allow your colleague to ask questions

Asking questions is often how we learn the most, because only after we have been shown something, and we have tried to replicate the task ourselves, do we realise what makes sense and what didn't. It is impossible to know if you will be able to carry out a task you have just been shown, on your own, until you physically sit down and try. It is only then that you sometimes realise your three pages of scrawled notes are not quite as helpful as you thought! So make sure as a trainer you make yourself available for questions, not just in the hour following the session, but days and weeks after it too. It may be that they don't need to carry out the task until some time in the future, by which time the notes they took will be virtually meaningless. It's important to ensure that you foster an environment in which they feel they can approach you at any time, even if it means you need to go through the same thing all over again. 

4) Don't be too serious

As I mentioned earlier, some of the best training sessions I have had are ones in which the trainer has been laid back and displayed a sense of humour! There is nothing more off-putting or guaranteed to make you make mistakes out of sheer nervousness, than being in the company of a po-faced trainer. If you are relaxed, your colleague will relax too and consequently take in more as a result. You don't have to be a stand-up comedian - just try and put them at ease, and then if they are doing something while you watch, they're less likely to make silly mistakes out of nervousness.

Image courtesy of: Stuart Miles /