Friday, July 08, 2011

Tall Texans 2011

I recently participated in TLA’s TALL (Texas Accelerated Library Leaders) Texans Leadership Institute. The Institute took place at the Montserrat Retreat Center in Lake Dallas, Texas.
Maureen Sullivan, recently elected ALA President-elect, and Jack Siggins, University Librarian and George Washington University, facilitated the institute. Six of Texas’ established library leaders served as mentors: TLA President Jerilynn Williams, director of the Montgomery County Memorial Library System; TLA President Elect Sherilynn Bird, director of libraries at Texas Woman's University; Cindy Buchanan, systems administrator of library media services at Aldine Independent School District; Dr. Ling Hwey Jeng, director of the school of library and information studies at Texas Woman's University; Dr. Rhea Lawson, director of Houston Public Library; and Darryl Tocker, executive director of the Tocker Foundation.
What happens at TALL Texans?
We covered roughly 4 topics a day. Sessions were led by either Maureen or Jack. I will be posting my notes from many of these sessions. Most days also included Mentor Discussions, in which the mentors shared an experience related to a selected topic and answered participant questions. Each day ended with personal reflection, time we could use to reflect on and process the day’s learning. The next day began with a community review, a review of the previous day’s topics. Optional events were planned for each evening: Evening 1 – game night; Evening 2 – discussion of the shared reading*; Evening 3 – book discussion.
Learning Partners
On the first full-day, we formed learning partners, providing us each with somebody to discuss what we were learning and how we might use the new knowledge. Learning partners were expected to daily check-in with each other.
Personal Action Agendas
Each participant left the institute with 2 action agendas, an action for within TLA and a workplace action. There are really no restrictions or requirements for defining an action agenda. It can be as ambitious or as modest as you like. Example TLA Action Agendas are service on a TLA committee or presenting at a district meeting.
Scrapbook and T-shirt
Extra-curricular activities included the creation of a class scrapbook and the design of a class T-shirt.
Guidelines for learning

During the first session, Maureen introduced us to these guidelines to enhance learning:
  • Participate and contribute
  • Practice active listening
  • Expect, respect and work with differences
  • Venture out of your comfort zone
  • Question and test assumptions
  • Assume self-responsibility
  • Offer timely feedback
  • Maintain confidentiality
2011 Themes
A different participant will give you a different list of themes, but here are a few ideas that I saw pop up in multiple sessions.
Trust: It is the key to communication, relationships, collaboration, leadership, and influence.
Active Listening: Give the speaker your undivided attention. Don’t start forming your own response until the speaker is done talking. Confirm your understanding by paraphrasing what the speaker said.
Involve the naysayers: Really listen to their concerns and try to understand where they are coming from.
Overall, it was a rewarding experience. I encourage all Texas library employees and advocates to apply for the class of 2012!

*The shared reading was "Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis" by Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky from the July/Aug 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review. The article full-text is available in Business Source Complete.