We all know that no project or relationship is perfect. A mark of leadership is your ability to foresee potential problems and react to them, as well as to take responsibility when things aren’t going well.
Some normal problems you can expect are as follows:
Lack of time
You may have agreed to chair a committee without understanding the time involved. Or, maybe something changed at your job. Maybe you had a family emergency. For whatever reason, you are falling behind.
As you probably know, “I’m busy” is not an excuse. When you say this to other people, they hear “I didn’t care enough about this to manage my time effectively.” That may not seem fair, but you agreed to be chair. There are probably other people in LITA who would welcome the leadership opportunity and are less “busy.” Make sure that you don’t wait until it’s too late to complete something. Be honest as soon as you start to feel swamped. Set up a discussion with your members to delegate work. More often than not, members feel that their skills and talents are not being used to their full potential. You as the chair should manage the work, not do it all yourself. Divide up work into very small chunks. Rather than trying to complete everything in one three hour call, could you have one hour calls once a week?
If you have a genuine emergency (family member in hospital, library building flooded, etc.) make sure to let your committee, the LITA staff and board know as soon as possible, particularly if there are deadlines to be met. You will probably want to hand over your responsibilities to someone else.
As above, the charge for your committee may be unclear to you. You may discover that your committee members, past committee chair, or the LITA board have a very different set of priorities in mind than you do. Changes within ALA or the library world at large may change your vision while you are in the middle of working on it.
Change is a reality of life, and keeps things interesting. Strong leaders welcome change and are able to be flexible to change courses in the middle. But this is sometimes easier said than done. Periodically review your plans for your committee. What no longer rings true? Discuss potential problems with your committee and with LITA leadership sooner rather than later. Drop things that are no longer working, and try something new in their place.
Committee members not participating
People join ALA committees for all sorts of reasons, some more noble than others. Some may truly believe in the charge of your committee and want to effect change in ALA and the library world as a whole. Some may be looking for a line on their CV for the promotion and tenure committee. Most people are probably somewhere in the middle. From time to time, you may feel that your committee is not helping you accomplish anything, either by apathy or by not staying focused on the business at hand.
Consider first if you have provided a good framework for your committee members to participate. Do you have a schedule for regular check-ins on ALA connect or your committee mailing list? Do you have clear guidelines and plans about what work is to be done by whom? As chair, it is your responsibility to set the agenda and start the conversation.
If certain committee members never speak up in meetings, add their thoughts to a mailing list thread, or volunteer to do something, get in touch with them personally. Is there something you could do to make them more comfortable? Are they confused about what to do? Is there something you could do better? As professionals, LITA committee chairs and members should be able to give and take constructive criticism, and it is important to not let someone’s talents go to waste because of a misunderstanding.
If someone is genuinely not participating in the work of a committee and none of the above works, make sure that you communicate this to the appropriate people. If a member misses two meetings without explanation, they should be removed from the committee (see the LITA Manual for procedures). If someone is consistently apathetic or disruptive, make sure you have discussed this with the LITA President-Elect and President.
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