Library Leadership

102. Great Resignation Succession Planning with Carolyn Schubert

What does your organization need to do to prepare for succession planning? On this show Carolyn Schubert, Director of Research and Education Services at James Madison University Libraries, shares ways we can prepare for organizational change and why now is the time to begin thinking about this.

Transcript

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Adriane Herrick Juarez:

This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession.

What does your organization need to do to prepare for succession planning? On this show, Carolyn Schubert, Director of Research & Education Services at James Madison University Libraries, shares ways we can prepare for organizational change—and why now is the time to begin thinking about this.  Enjoy the show!

Carolyn, welcome to the show.

Carolyn Schubert:

Hi, it’s nice to be here.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #1: It’s nice to have you here, and we’re going to jump right in today talking about succession planning. Why is now an important time to be thinking about this?  01:20 

Carolyn Schubert:

Well in general, the American workforce has been seeing a large number of people leaving jobs, or changing jobs. You might have heard about it as The Great Resignation—and anecdotally, I’ve been seeing this same issue get discussed among librarians on Twitter—that some places have multiple vacancies. Depending on the funding situation, they may, or may not be able to fill these roles. So, succession planning is a process that aims to support navigating these staffing changes in a planful way.

To be honest even before now, I experienced regular staff rotations in our relatively big organization. I work on a team of about ten to fifteen people, so people can be out at various times, either because they’re leaving positions, they’re taking leave for an extended reason, etc. So, I got interested in this topic just because every time we went through a change like this, we felt like we were starting at square one. So, I wanted to find a way to make navigating these short-term and long-term transitions—in and out of roles easier. 

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #2: Easy is great. How can libraries start thinking about succession planning to prepare for organizational change?  02:33 

Carolyn Schubert:

I think the advice that Brianna Marshall, Dani Brecher Cook, and Cinthya Ippoliti offered in their work, Fostering Change  A Team-Based Guide, is a great resource to start with. Their work really focused on thinking about change management in general. But they offered it in a really accessible, actively engaging workbook sort of way. Their first steps are thinking about who you are as a change agent. What are your experiences that you bring from the past? What motivations do you have in this current change?

What is your leadership style? After acknowledging and recognizing your own perspectives, they walk you through—imagining what changes you want to make, identifying the problem, or the motivation for your change, scoping a project, identifying stakeholders, and thinking through what change can really look like. Thinking about this framing for change, and the reason behind to do a change, will really help with the later stages of implementing a change. 

I think the additional part unique for right now is that you have a chance—you have an opportunity to step back and really think about what is, or isn’t, working for us—and for whom. The ways we used to work didn’t actually work for everyone. So in this moment for resetting, rethinking—what could we do that could be more inclusive? What could we do better than, maybe, we did in the past? 

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #3: What does succession planning involve?  04:11 

Carolyn Schubert:

Succession planning involves a few different steps. Stepping back to review your organization, the needs of your staff, and library users is a good first place to start. With that snapshot of where you are, and where you want to go, then you can work to translate these goals into individual roles and responsibilities. 

Oftentimes these are described as competencies because competencies can help articulate, not just what does someone need to know to be successful at the job, but what are the skills they have, what are the attitudes or dispositions that are important for a position to be successful? 

And finally, then it’s taking these broader competency frames back to the people you actually work with. What do they already know, or do? What are their areas for potential growth? How can other experts on your team help support the growth of others, so you can achieve these goals together?

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #4: You mentioned competencies. How can we translate our organization’s vision into competencies needed to bring people into new roles?  05:09 

Carolyn Schubert:

One thing that I think is really important is getting the people who are involved brought into the conversation as soon as possible. Co-constructing the vision and competencies is one that’s going to be critical for buy-in, and success later on—but also a great way to bring out the realities of what doing this work looks like. 

A challenge I’ve seen with change management is that individuals, or groups, might come up with a plan, but that implementation is not necessarily fully thought out, or it might stall because of challenges, or disconnects along the way.

There are some examples of competencies that are out there. The Ohio Library System is one good example. The University of California also has provided some broad competencies for faculty in their systems. So, it may be worth taking a look at seeing how other places fleshed out the idea of customer service into what knowledge, what skills, and what attitudes, or behaviors demonstrate someone who is successful at customer service? 

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #5: And what should leaders consider in creating plans that include the development of people who are already inside our organizations?  06:20 

Carolyn Schubert:

I think one of the biggest challenges is that people carry a lot of emotions around change. Many of them are negative. Starting and meeting people where they are, fostering trust, and developing psychological safety are critical foundational pieces before starting or establishing any plans.

Once you have that trust, and safety for re-envisioning, or rethinking—tapping into people’s internal motivations and interests, I find, will take you further than any external motivation you may offer. I think an additional part that is unique to consider as a leader is that you have a special position. You see a broader picture, and have access to more, or different, information than maybe, some of the people you supervise, or collaborate with. Trying to find the ways to bring the different perspectives, the different information, the different skills across your team together, to complement each other is going to be really important— and will be less of a goal, necessarily, to conform to each other, or to conform to a general competency.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #6: Are there ways we can integrate small components of succession planning for continuous success?  07:32 

Carolyn Schubert:

My experience is that we’re constantly going through changes. On the broad scale—yes, it would be nice to have a perfectly laid out plan of transferring knowledge, building people up to move into positions, or move, or evolve into positions over a long period of time, but sometimes we’re dealing with the day-to-day.

So being able to pilot, or try out some of these steps for succession planning, or create opportunities such as cross-training people—as you experience vacancies, or changes in staffing, and prioritizing, How do we maintain consistency? Are there more everyday, sort of, opportunities to at least start building in some pieces of this along the way? 

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #7: Is there anything else you’d like to share?  08:18 

Carolyn Schubert:

Primarily a thank you to many friends, mentors, colleagues who have shaped my journey. The comments I’ve shared here are not just thoughts out of my own head, but have come from working with some very, very smart people who have supported and encouraged me along the way.   

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #8: Do you have any favorite management, or leadership books, or resources, and why?  08:33  

Carolyn Schubert:

I’ll highlight three. I’m constantly looking for more, but these are three that stand out to me at this moment. The first is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, which is a book by Chip and Dan Heath. This book was particularly helpful because it uses a consistent metaphor about the different behavioral elements that are involved around change. And, it tries to address different strategies about how to engage them positively.

The second resource is the Dare to Lead podcast by Brené Brown. This series is really helpful, because unlike a book it’s kind of constantly ongoing. So there’s new speakers, and new topics, and she’s navigated a lot of these areas such as: the pandemic; remote teams; bringing teams back to work together that have helped with some of my day-to-day realities.

The third item addressed a little bit more of my identity and the way I’ve been thinking about myself as a leader. It’s called Feminists Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership, by Shirley Lew. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to think what type of leader I am. Servant leadership never felt like the right fit, but feminist leadership was much more affirming, and much more authentic. So, I found myself really, clearly articulated in the stories and examples shared in this book.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #9: Carolyn, in closing, what do libraries mean to you personally?  09:59 

Carolyn Schubert:

Personally, they are a space of serendipity. No two years have I had really the same job, even though my title is the same. The work is constantly evolving as libraries change, as the way information changes, the way for my context higher education changes. So, I’m excited by the way that libraries continue to evolve with these different opportunities.

Adriane Herrick Juarez:

Question #10: You’re so right about libraries evolving and new opportunities are rising, which is why I’m so pleased that we got to talk about succession planning today. There are always new people coming into the profession, and we want to leave our work in a great place no matter what the changes bring. So thank you for talking with me about this today.  10:31 

Carolyn Schubert:

Thank you so much for taking the time.

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. For more episodes tune into LibraryLeadershipPodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to get episodes delivered right into your email inbox. Our producer is Nathan Sinclair Vineyard. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.

We would like to thank the Park City Library for their dedicated support of this show. The opinions expressed on this show are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of Library Leadership Podcast, or our sponsors.

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