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.

Eureka!: Pat Wagner, Leadership, and Projects

To talk with Infopeople instructor Pat Wagner is to realize that all the world is a project. And if you are not yet convinced, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience this for yourself when Wagner offers multiple sessions of “Building Leadership Skills: Developing and Leading Projects” throughout California in December 2008.
The workshop, part of Infopeople’s Eureka! Leadership Program series, is designed to help participants avoid common leadership mistakes which can derail projects. As is the case with any workshop which Wagner teaches, this involves plenty of interaction between the instructor and workshop participants, and focuses on some basic themes which transcend a one-day workshop: responsibility, communication, and accountability.
“A lot of people don’t understand that everything that everyone does is a project. Being good at project management solves most personnel problems… We’re talking about issues: ‘Are you able to hold them accountable? Are you able to fire people?’ I listen for words like ‘try’ and ‘struggle’—‘I’ve struggled to get this person to do their job,’” she explained during a recent conversation.
“It’s very interesting when you think about it,” she continued. “We make promises in the workplace and we keep those promises. Think about how when you walk into a store and buy something, there are promises made all the way down the line…Our library users count on us when we say we’re going to open at 9 am that we will open at 9 a.m. There are thousands of people keeping promises to each other. This is what adults do.”
Colleagues who are already working together are encouraged to attend together so they can use the classroom as a laboratory for completing projects while learning new ways to reach that goal.
“I get lots of compliments from people that it (the workshop) is easy to understand and it applies to everyday concepts. It’s like a crucible: it burns away all the nonsense. You get to see what all the problems are in personnel and management. They (participants) are going to leave feeling more resourceful and more confident that they can meet the challenge, the increased expectations, in the workplace. They’re going to have a better idea of how to do the work they do, whatever it is,” Wagner concluded.
N.B.: To enroll in “Developing and Leading Projects,” please visit Infopeople’s online registration site at http://infopeople.org/workshop/395. Registration for the latest offerings of other Eureka! workshops is continuing on the Infopeople website under the heading “Building Leadership Skills,” and a series discount is available. Instructors include Steve Albrecht; Stacey Aldrich; Joan Frye Williams and George Needham; Gail Griffith; Suzanne Merritt; Marie Radford; Andrew Sanderbeck; and Paula Singer.