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10 Years of MOR: What Are You Still Serving?

Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Debra Howell, Director of IT Operations at the Cornell University Library. She is a 2013 MOR program graduate.  Debra may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

I realized I have been a MOR graduate for ten years in 2023! For our graduation, my cohort created a menu. I started reflecting on what I still serve off that menu ten years later:

(picture of “MOR Menu” produced by Debra’s MOR graduation cohort)

Reflecting on my 10-year journey since completing my MOR IT Leadership Program, I realize many “dishes” from our menu have helped shape my leadership style and achievements.

1. Be Intentional About Resource Management: This menu category has enabled me to optimize the allocation of people, time, and budget within my organization, improving productivity, streamlining processes, and achieving better outcomes. The dishes I serve in rotation are:

  • Defensive Calendaring: 10 years later, I still have the first hour on Monday morning and the last 2-3 hours on Friday blocked off on my calendar. Monday is prioritizing my week, and Friday is wrapping up loose ends and spending time on strategy. This approach has helped me focus on critical tasks, reduce interruptions, and spend time on activities that align with our goals and priorities.
  • Delegation: Delegation enables me to focus on higher-level responsibilities. By effectively delegating tasks and responsibilities, I have built a capable and motivated team, enhanced their skills, and created opportunities for them to shine. I took my first vacation this past summer since the pandemic: 3 weeks in Italy! People kept asking me, “How can you take three weeks off?!” like it was impossible. I always respond, “If my team can’t survive without me, then I am not doing my job.” One of the keys to doing my job is effective delegation so that my team can step in when I am not there and vice versa. I had a blissful vacation, and while they were happy to have me back, my team had an opportunity to showcase everything they knew!
  • Coaching: I’m always looking for an opportunity to have a good coaching conversation, and I routinely seek coaching from people I respect. I value coaching so much that I am about to embark on the 60-credit International Coaching Federation (ICF) certification course to continue to hone my skills.

2. Be Intentional About Your Image & Presence: Developing a strong presence as a leader involves projecting confidence, authenticity, and credibility. My most influential dishes?

  • 4 I’s: Utilizing the 4 I’s has significantly impacted my ability to build relationships and influence others. I eat this every day!
  • Improv: Leadership as improv is my absolute wheelhouse. I can’t get enough. Yes, and! I find this especially useful when my team responds to a crisis or is resistant to change. I start with the phrase, “How might we…” For example, “How might we explore AI usage in IT and our unit?” This gentle phrasing takes some of the edge off. Then, as ideas bubble up, I say “Yes, and!” to get things going. This example resulted in a partnership with Amazon to host an AI showcase of how libraries use AI to support their missions. It’s an exciting outcome of a topic that initially generated fear.

3. Be Intentionally Strategic & Culturally Aware: Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Let’s eat! Menu highlights:

  • Lenses & Strategy: Engaging people involves creating an inclusive and motivating environment where individuals feel valued, heard, and inspired. By adopting strategies to engage my team members, I have fostered a sense of ownership, increased morale, and cultivated a high-performing team committed to achieving shared goals. Recently, with a new University Librarian, we have been undergoing a strategic planning process. This began with creating individual unit plans. Since we routinely snack on lenses and strategy, my team dove into this exercise with pride and ownership. The resulting unit plan, which I initially thought would be a heavy lift for me, was created collaboratively and is a much better product than any I would have created solo.
  • Relationship Building & Networking: Building and nurturing a solid professional network has significantly impacted my leadership journey. By actively engaging with colleagues, peers, mentors, and other professionals, I have expanded my sphere of influence and gained access to diverse perspectives and opportunities. Building relationships allows me to exchange knowledge, seek advice, collaborate on projects, and stay updated on industry trends. It has also opened doors for new partnerships, career advancements, and personal growth.

4. Be Intentional Emotionally Intelligent: Emotional intelligence has often been a challenging dish for me to swallow! MOR emphasized the importance of emotional intelligence in building solid relationships, managing conflicts, and fostering a positive work environment. Now, like dessert, I often eat emotional intelligence first!

  • Self-Awareness: Self-awareness has enabled me to lead authentically, make sound decisions, and adapt my leadership style to different situations.
  • Self-Management: Effective self-management allows me to stay composed, focused, and resilient in challenging situations. This area of emotional intelligence has always been the most difficult for me. I was struggling with building and maintaining relationships, especially with peers. My MOR coach recommended the book Crucial Conversations, and I read it on the plane to one of our cohort sessions. I had one of those moments where I’d been struggling with a problem, getting coaching on an issue, asking for help with the problem, and then I realized I was the problem. Ouch. But, it was a breakthrough in how my self-management weakness impacted my relationships with others. It profoundly changed my approach and helped me embrace the power of emotional intelligence.
  • Habits: I have integrated practices like goal setting, time management, continuous learning, and self-reflection into my routine. I evaluate the impact of these habits on my productivity, well-being, and overall effectiveness as a leader.
  • Feedback: It’s like eating your vegetables. You have to do it.

In the ten years since I graduated, I have been through several significant organizational changes, and through it all, I could hear Brian in my head saying, “Don’t run from something. Deliberately move towards your next best step/thing.” This coaching and the dishes on this menu have served me well. Thank you MOR Associates!

Whether you’re in your MOR experience now or you’ve been a graduate for ten years or more, what dish do you order most from the MOR menu?

Two weeks ago we asked how willing you are to move out of your comfort zone. Results from this Tuesday Reading audience, largely MOR program alumni, was:

·       11%, I’d rather not.

·       31%, I’m willing.

·       58%, No pain, no gain

We ask this same question on the front end of a MOR program, as part of the registration process to better understand one’s starting point. What we found interesting is the difference in scoring:

·       4%, I’d rather not.

·       76%, I’m willing.

·       20%, No pain, no gain.

These are meaningful shifts in the data. For our readers, it may be useful to reflect on how your MOR program experience supported you in testing the edges of your comfort zone in pursuit of further growth. We suspect there was some combination of Crossing the Bridge of Readiness, Taking a First Action, and being part of a Supportive Community that aided this evolution. It could be beneficial to periodically assess your leadership mindset, skillset, and toolset to ensure sustained intentionality in this area.