Getting better by building on strength

Most of us are pretty good at identifying our weaknesses in vivid detail, but we tend to examine and reflect on our successes less. Sometimes this results in attributing a success to the wrong factors or situational ingredients.

Generally, I have found that passionate people who care about the project is the crucial ingredient, even if everything else seems to be working against progress. Personally, I have also realized that my best successes are when I stretched myself to try something new, but kept it reasonable. When a new project is tied to something I already do fairly well, rather than an area of weakness that I’m trying to improve, things go better. As I map out my goals for 2014 and the spring semester in particular, I am identifying areas of strength on which I can build, rather identifying gaps in my knowledge that are simply not feasible to fill in a single semester or year.

Personal strengths

  • Curious and self-motivated – to the point of being a workaholic (when other obligations don’t limit this tendency).
  • Organized  – able to coordinate and complete complex, long-term projects. (Confession: Some days this leads me to add small tasks to my to-do list, just so I can cross something off!)
  • Good at active listening – Typically, I am good at getting people to talk about themselves and their projects, which is crucial for my job. (Well, most of the time. Sometimes I get so excited about a topic that I jump in too quickly.)
  • Pattern recognition – This typically translates into diagnosing causes of larger issues, whether they are in conceptual, workflow, or team problems. Intellectually, this is crucial for working in fields where many disciplines intersect, or where the knowledge is still being developed and codified. I am a big fan of concept maps, although these days I use them in practice less than I would like.

Team & Library strengths

  • A Dean who encourages us to try new things, particularly in my unit, and who thinks hard about the future of libraries generally, and our library in particular.
  • A team leader who allows each of us to explore our interests without standing over our shoulder waiting for results. I especially appreciate the latitude to explore and try out new things without pressure for everything to succeed.
  • The opportunity to do something new and challenging (develop a data services program) while also serving in a more traditional capacity (subject liaison). As a liaison serving a new and growing school, I get to be the librarian who evolves and grows with them.
  • A library-based IT team who understands technology in libraries, are fantastically creative, and who have worked together for a long time.
  • Colleagues who are truly supportive and kind, several of whom are innovative thinkers willing to try new things.
  • Being part of a campus that is young, striving, eager to become better, and part of a larger city of which we are only one component. I also appreciate the explicit commitment to this community, which has not been present in the two residential college towns that I lived in prior to coming here.



By Heather L. Coates

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