How YOU Get Permission

Here’s my third post on Getting Permission. In the first post, I covered how I get permission. The second post asked for tips from you guys.

Here’s what you said (from my comments):

  • Chris Freeman: “selling the outcome of the idea as opposed to the “tool” that will create the outcome is helpful. What will be better about our services if we implement this idea rather than “hey, here’s a new idea for us to try”?”
  • Chris also said: “identify who the “informal power brokers” are in the organization. Having an influential person stating support for your plans goes a long way toward swaying those who control whatever resources you need to accomplish your goals.”
  • Michael Casey: “If you can plug your idea into the strategic plan and highlight any efficiencies the idea might offer — either direct financial savings or staff-time savings — then you’re off to a good start.”
  • Genesis Hansen: Don’t just ask for permission to do what you want, offer something in return. Our City Council was very squeamish about letting departments use social media. In order to get myself on our City’s social media policy committee and be allowed to participate in a social media pilot project I compiled a lot of research on social media policies, organized it and sent it to the Committee chair. I also offered to do social media and policy training for other departments in the City. As a result, I was included in the process, got to give input into policy formation (didn’t win every battle, but did win some important ones), and made some valuable contacts in other City departments. And now any department that wants to start using social media will go through training with library staff.
  • Genesis also said: “Always try to demonstrate the tangible benefits your project will offer. If you’re in a place where the powers that be are generally resistant, don’t phrase your request as “this is something cool I want to try” but “I think I know a way to help the library meet this particular service goal, and I’m happy to do the legwork to make it happen.” Make it as easy as possible for your boss to say yes.”
  • ananka: “talk to someone who supports me and my ideas first, bounce it off them. It helps if they have some weight behind them with admin. Sell it to them, work out some of the issues that might arise, then slowly (within reason, depending on the scope of your idea) begin telling others about it, working your way up. Pretty soon they will be asking when your program starts.”
  • David Whelan: “The most important element is to be willing to ask the question. Some of the projects I have started came about because I sat with the decision maker and said, here’s what I want to do, how can I do it? It engages them and it highlights where your plan may need work. So once you’ve asked, be prepared that you may need to ask again. Sometimes a decision maker just need to be asked and you’re good to go.”
  • Lori Reed: “start small. Starting with small projects allows you to prove yourself. So instead of a social media makeover maybe just start with a Facebook page for one branch.”
  • Lori also said: “Now for ideas…you can look outside your organization as a place to grow. The ALA Learning Round Table has allowed me to stretch my wings and gain experience with skills that I could not use (at least not initially) in my day job.”

I also received some great tips from some of you via Twitter, as well (for another post – yes, I set up a hashtag #getpremission. No, I didn’t save the thing anywhere. Yes, I forgot that tweets pretty much disappear after 1 1/2 weeks. Yes, I waited too long to post this – lesson learned. Drat).

Heather at i_librarian said this:

  • 1. Do your homework.Get evidence. Provide WHY it is valid and what it will do for your library. #getpermission @davidleeking (found here)
  • 2. Mock ups, mock ups, mock ups. People need to see what it will look and feel like. Be as concrete as you can. #getpermission @davidleeking (found here)
  • 3. Get buy-in from others who will be affected. 4. Spell out who and how the work will get done #getpermission @davidleeking (found here)

Laura J. Wilkinson said this:

  • Make it easy for your boss to say ‘yes’ to your idea – think it out and manage any risks #getpermission (found here)
  • Make the business case for your idea #getpermission (found here)
  • Identify success criteria and agree a trial period. Monitor, evaluate, review #getpermission (found here)
  • Be prepared to work on your idea on your own time #getpermission (found here)
  • Get the support of someone in authority. Give examples of what similar libraries have done (works well in Oxford!) #getpermission (found here)
  • Make it easy for your boss to say ‘yes’ to your idea – think it out and manage any risks #getpermission (found here)

Did we miss something? Some great tip on how YOU get permission that isn’t here? Please share!

Pic by JanneM

Getting Permission

Last week, Emily Lloyd at Shelf Check (very funny librarian comic strip and a fine blog, too) posted What would you do if you didn’t need the approval of 15 committees? And mentioned me. Here’s what she said (make sure to read the whole post AND comment on it. It’s good):

“I think of what, for ex, David Lee King does for Topeka & Shawnee. David has lots of talent; David has lots of gear…but a lot of folks who work in libraries have lots of talent and lots of gear. What ultimately matters most, it seems to me, is lots of permission. David has that, I think–at least it looks like it from here–and most of us don’t. Many of us don’t need to be told or taught at conferences how to engage with patrons via social media, how to market our libraries via YouTube or Facebook, etc–we need our administrators to be told or taught that they should allow us to do so … You can’t seize the moment; you can’t seize the day; you’re lucky if you can seize the year. Old Spice/New Spice practically seized the nanosecond.”

She’s right – I DO have a boatload of permission. How do I get that permission? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that, but I’ll try! Here’s what I do to get that permission:

  • Most importantly, I’m actually trusted to do the right thing … so I have permission in advance. That permission was granted through my original job description, and continues through a ton of talking with my peers and with administration.
  • Did I mention talking? Yes – I actually ask for permission. All the time. I asked for permission to do things at least three times last week – on two smaller things, and on one huge thing that won’t happen for 2-3 years (if at all).
  • I sometimes get permission without asking. I share ideas and direction with other managers and with administration, and back it up with stats, with outcomes, etc. If an idea takes off, I don’t have to ask for permission – instead, I’m asked “when are you going to start?”
  • I make sure everything I’m asking for relates to our strategic plan. Or at least to the goals of the project at hand. When I ask for permission to do something, I make sure it relates to one of our big strategic initiatives. Thankfully, that’s pretty easy for me, because building and growing the digital branch IS part of the plan. But only because a big strategic goal we have is to reach people in the county … digitally.

But I’d be lying if I said that’s ALL that happens. The organization plays a big part in my permission, too:

  • Administration is full of healthy, happy people that I love to work with! Gina and Rob, our director and deputy director, are great bosses (fun people to hang with, too). They know how to give people responsibility and let them run with it. Our other managers are the same way.
  • The library works hard to hire and train people we can trust (so I can get that permission in advance thing). But then, we go one step further – we actually let our staff “do stuff.”
  • My job is a manager-level job, so I have a say at the planning table (actually, everyone who works at my library has a say – mine’s maybe a bit more direct).
  • We have a strategic plan, and we actually follow it.

Not getting that permission? Here’s what might be going on:

  • You’re not working in a healthy organization. Your library director’s not effective, you have bosses that aren’t trusting or are control freaks (or simply don’t know how to manage people and projects).
  • Your library doesn’t have a strategic plan or goals. Or you DO have them, but aren’t really following them. Maybe someone’s scared to act on those plans.
  • The things you’re trying to get permission to do don’t align with the library’s (or your supervisor’s) goals.
  • Or … you’re simply not asking for permission. End all your meetings with some next steps and a timeline.

Something to think about – no, you can’t change administration. If you have a bad library director or bad managers, the only real way to change that is to find another job (or wait it out, if you’re extremely patient, I suppose). Sorry about that.

But did you notice? The other three points under “not getting that permission” are things you can change, or at least have a say in – even if you’re not a manager. Maybe your library doesn’t have a strategic plan – you can still set annual goals for your job with your supervisor, and start working on those things. You can focus on aligning your projects with the library’s strategic goals. And you can ask for permission.

OK – I’m sure I’m missing something here, but it’s a start!

Update – make sure to read the next post, Help Others Get Permission … and make a comment!

pic by Sean Dreilinger