Tasks for Modern Info Pros: Build Relationships
In November 2013, SLA published The Evolving Value of Information Management, a report summarizing the results of research commissioned by SLA and the Financial Times. The report, which was based on surveys of and interviews with information professionals and senior information users, identified 5 essential attributes of modern information professionals and set forth 12 key tasks they must perform.
Several SLA members have agreed to share their thoughts about the 12 tasks. In this post, Dee Magnoni says the key to building relationships begins with understanding your organization’s mission and values.
Building relationships at work begins with a deep understanding of your organization. Don’t just know the corporate mission and vision; understand the values in which these statements are grounded and how the community lives these values.
For example, the mission of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is “to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.” What does this mean, and how does it affect my work and my relationships? The LANL’s vision and values provide context for the mission. Together, these three statements help me understand what is important.
Understanding what is important helps you identify your stakeholders. Think broadly here. Your internal stakeholders include key customers, peers who help move your work forward, and leaders who will support and enable your initiatives. Your external stakeholders include business partners, other information centers, and vendors who can help build and deliver tools and services.
Identifying your stakeholders is just one step. You must then reach out and build relationships with them. As Dale Carnegie emphasized in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Be genuinely interested in other people.”
When I first arrived at LANL a year ago, I knew a handful of my staff members and my manager from my interview process. I began building relationships internally, meeting with each of my 35 staff members individually. During these meetings, I listened and learned about their backgrounds, projects, skills, current teams, and desired paths. I also met with my manager and with my Library Advisory Board. My board members have diverse backgrounds and work across the lab, so they help me identify issues and provide feedback on projects and initiatives. Beyond the lab, I’ve met people from the Department of Energy, other labs, and business partners.
By leveraging my knowledge of the lab and my relationships with library staff, management, advisory board members, and external stakeholders, I developed an understanding of customer needs. You can apply this approach in your own organization. To deepen your understanding and fill in gaps, turn to outreach tools—customer surveys and presentations enable you to cast a broader net and create new relationships. Keep a pulse on external trends, legislation, news and other forces to help provide context to customer needs.
Once you have built relationships with key stakeholders and developed an internal and external perspective on impacts and trends, turn to solutions. Use your strengths to build tools and services. Begin organization-wide conversations on challenges facing the community. At LANL, for example, I chair the Data Working Group to address data management and sharing at the lab.
What key challenges does your organization face? How can you leverage your existing and emerging relationships to address those challenges?
Integrating yourself into your organization highlights the strengths you and your center bring to the table. Building relationships is a constant cycle of listening, understanding, and communicating. Be a connector. Solve problems. Develop strong, win-win relationships.
- Understand your organization’s mission, vision and values to internalize what is important.
- Identify your stakeholders. Think 360: relationships with customers, peers, leadership, business partners, other information centers and vendors. (If you don’t have one, consider establishing a Library Advisory Board.)
- Understand customer needs through formal and informal channels. On the customer level, try surveying, presenting, sharing coffee and lunch. For global context, follow industry news, legal requirements and relevant trends.
Leverage your strengths. Reach out with solutions. Offer to begin conversations. Lead initiatives. Integrate.
—Dee Magnoni is director of the research library at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
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