Pat Wagner Revisited: Leadership, Leading Projects, and Learning

One of the best two-for-one deals for current and prospective library leaders is Pat Wagner’sBuilding Leadership Skills: Developing and Leading Projects” workshop. Part of the Infopeople Eureka! Leadership Program series, it will be offered in California libraries through December 17, 2008; remains available after that on a contract basis dependent on the instructor’s availability; and has materials already viewable online in the Infopeople past training materials archives.
Attending the session held in the main library in San Francisco earlier this week (Monday, December 1), I was struck not only by how much useful guidance Wagner packs into that one-day class about how to collaborate to create successful projects, but also by the way she transfers what she knows to those attending the workshop. There is almost an aesthetic pleasure in watching how, as a leader herself, she inspires the best in people who join her in the learning process. As a trainer and a leader, she facilitates an experience involving tremendous amounts of teamwork, with a fine combination of seriousness and humor, in a way which leads the observant participant to see the workshop itself as a successfully completed project.
Through exercises in which we discuss case studies examining problems which are common in the project management process—at every step combining what we learn from Wagner with what we already know, and adding in copious amounts of what we learn from each other’s experiences in a variety of library systems—we gain confidence. The understanding that we have the skills to be successful participants in developing and leading projects. And an appreciation for the idea that success comes from well defined processes rooted in realistic expectations. You don’t seek perfection, Wagner suggests, “you do what you can do. That’s life.”
The heart of the afternoon session is an extended period during which workshop participants assume and discuss roles played by people in a project where the final product is a printed budget request to be submitted to a governing body. As the discussion continues, the magic begins to happen: Wagner almost completely recedes from being the center of the learning process and each of us works through a series of questions which prompt us to consider not only what we would do in the roles we have assumed, but how what we do affects all others involved in the project.
Among the lessons learned intellectually as well as viscerally is one Wagner summarizes near the end of the day: “being a good project manager means that the people working for you make the right decisions.” And if, by the end of the day, we haven’t completely absorbed that lesson, it is not for lack of effort on the part of the instructor or the workshop participants. Which probably is the most memorable lesson of all.
N.B.: Registration for the remaining scheduled offerings of “Developing and Leading Projects” (Fresno, 12/10/2008; San Jose, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, 12/12/2008; San Diego County Library Headquarters, 12/16/2008; and Los Angeles Public Library, 12/17/2008) and other Eureka! Leadership Program offerings is continuing on the Infopeople website under the heading “Building Leadership Skills”; each workshop is priced at $75 per person.