As it’s the first working day of 2014, I’m taking the opportunity to review how I did against my 2013 resolutions. They were:

  1. To write (and hopefully publish) a paper for a peer-reviewed journal
    Unfortunately this still hasn’t happened – it’s been on my resolutions for a while now, but the opportunity still hasn’t yet materialised. However I do have some plans for this so maybe 2014 will be the year.
  2. To embed current awareness into working routine (e.g. keeping up-to-date with RSS feeds)
    Yes, I’m much better at this now. I’ve cut down the number of RSS feeds I subscribe to so that’s it’s not so overwhelming, and check on a far more regular basis.
  3. To develop skills in training/coaching and put them into practice through workshops
    I successfully completed my ILM Award in Coaching, and have utilised these skills in a number of different situations, both one-to-one and in workshops. I’m much more confident in designing and developing workshops now and really enjoy delivering them.
  4. To continue to support other professionals via Twitter (by keeping an eye on the #chartership tweets, and joining in Twitter chats)
    I’ve been keeping an eye on the #chartership tweets, particularly during my CILIP secondment, and am planning to register as a mentor to continue supporting people in this way.
  5. To retain balance in life and ensure I continue to spend time away from the computer doing other things I enjoy and seeing family and friends
    Sort of. I’ve been much better at this, but there were still periods where I let work take over my free time – either in doing work during multiple consecutive evenings or weekends, or just through planning, worrying, and thinking about work to an extent where I struggle to switch off. I think this will always be a work in progress but I’m much more aware of it and have developed a few mechanisms to help.

So what about 2014? Well, I’m taking a different approach this year by not setting myself lots of goals. My one resolution across all areas of my life is to try to live for the present more than the future. I spend so much of my time planning for future and setting myself goals that I haven’t been enjoying things much as I’m constantly looking to the next thing and not appreciating the current situation. I’m not going to go completely cold turkey, as planning is of course important for some things, but I’m going to try to take a more balanced approach and think more about doing things I enjoy right now rather than doing things because one day a few months (or even years!) ago I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to do in future. So here’s to today! :)

Another year has flown past and it’s time for my annual review – you can see previous ones for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

2013 has been a funny old year; nothing particularly terrible has happened, but I haven’t felt as positive as I usually do and this has been reflected by a decrease in blogging and use of social media. It’s not all bad though, as another reason for this decrease is a continuation of what I mentioned last year as a major lesson – trying to achieve a more sustainable work-life balance. This year I’ve been doing a lot of other hobbies – for some months I was regularly running, I’ve been learning nail art (and building quite a large collection of nail polishes!), I’ve learnt to crochet, and I’ve been doing lots of knitting. Oh, and I’ve become a little addicted to Grey’s Anatomy. There have also been some professional achievements during the year, so I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight those as I have done in previous years.

2013 highlights

2013 highlights

Top left: Entering the CILIP offices for the final day of my secondment
Top right: Attendees at one of my CILIP Umbrella Conference breakout sessions
Bottom left: One of my CILIP Update columns
Bottom right: Lean In book by Sheryl Sandberg (image from Google Books)

One major thing this year has been my part-time secondment to CILIP for the Future Skills Project. Between May and November, two days of my working week were spent on the project along with another project worker, Julie Griffiths. Our focus was to work on the recommendations from the Future Skills project board to prepare for the launch of the new Professional Registration (previously referred to as CILIP Qualifications). We worked on the assessment criteria, the assessment process, the handbooks, and online support materials for Certification, Chartership, Fellowship, and Revalidation. For revalidation we reviewed the process and made it much more straight forward to submit on an annual basis, rather than a large portfolio every 3 years. We also provided training for a number of specific groups related to Professional Registration – the Professional Registration Assessment Board, Mentor Support Officers, and Candidate Support Officers. After a successful member vote in November, the new scheme has now launched and people are starting to use it. I hope they find it clearer than the previous system, and I know CILIP staff will be working hard to support everyone involved to make it a relatively smooth transition. The project was really interesting to work on, and totally different from my day job; the variety was good for me, and I enjoyed working with lots of different CILIP members. It was also really good to get to know more of the CILIP staff, who are lovely and made myself and Julie feel very welcome. I feel honoured to have been able to work on the project and the experience has certainly been a highlight of my year.

Towards the end of last year, I made a conscious decision to not attend as many conferences in 2013 as I had in 2012. This was a tough decision; I absolutely love conferences and learn so much from them, both through the sessions I attend and the conversations I have with people I meet at conferences. However, I find them pretty draining, particularly when I have a presentation to prepare for and deliver (though I love doing it and it is a really important part of my role as a researcher). I knew though that attending too many conferences could reach a stage where it impacts on my work, as it’s not just the time out at the conference, but the preparation time before and reflection time after. I knew I needed to prioritise so that I wasn’t spending as much time outside working hours doing activities relating to conferences.

I decided to only submit proposals for CILIP Umbrella Conference, which is a conference I’ve never been able to attend previously. I was delighted to discover that both my proposals had been successful, though of course that meant quite a bit of work ahead of me. I was very fortunate to be working with two fantastic co-presenters who made the whole process enjoyable, and I really enjoyed the conference. The keynotes were excellent as no matter what sector you work in, there was something to take from them all. I also really enjoyed a leadership panel discussion I attended, and breakout sessions on continuing professional development.

I was invited to present at other events, and although I couldn’t fit them all into my schedule, I was able to accept some and really enjoyed the opportunity to speak about topics that interest me. I presented workshops on tools and techniques to improve productivity; getting the most out of professional development; using mobile technologies in libraries; and at Internet Librarian International I was invited to share my experiences as a learner on a MOOC (see my previous blog post for further information on MOOCs). You can see a full list of the presentations I gave in 2013 on my Presentations page.

Another highlight of 2013 for me has been writing a column for CILIP Update. This followed on from an article I wrote for the magazine in 2012 on the Getting Things Done methodology, and this year I have written tips and advice on a number of different themes to do with improving productivity. I received some really positive feedback on the column and know some people have found the ideas useful in changing their own practice. I’ve drafted a blog post to summarise the key points from the column and will share that soon – in the meantime, the columns are available from my Publications page.

Something else I’ve enjoyed in 2013 is the Library Leadership Reading Group (LLRG). I started this after the CILIP in Wales 2012 conference on leadership, and since then have hosted discussions on ten different readings relating to leadership. I’ve found the discussions really useful – sometimes I haven’t really enjoyed reading the book but after the discussion have taken more from it due to other people’s perspectives after reading it. I’ve been tending to create a Storify of each discussion and you can see them linked from the LLRG Google document. At the moment we’re reading a book on change management, Our Iceberg is Melting, which we’re likely to discuss in January. Keep an eye on the #llrg tag on Twitter if you’re interested in joining us, everyone is welcome. One particular highlight of LLRG for me this year has been reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I absolutely loved it and it has had a huge influence on my life. I’ve discussed parts of the book with so many different people, and continue to think about some of the things mentioned in the book when I have to make decisions. I’ve also become part of a Lean In circle which has been a very positive experience for me.

So there we go, my personal highlights for the year. I hope you have enjoyed 2013, and whether or not you celebrate New Year I hope you have the opportunity to mark the beginning of 2014 in some way. I’m looking forward to a fresh start, beginning with a potential break of tradition (something I very rarely do!). First though, I shall be trying some new cocktails tonight including the one below – cheers!

…here a MOOC, there a MOOC, everywhere a MOOC MOOC! That’s what it seems like at the moment anyway – everyone seems to be talking about MOOCs at the moment.

I was invited to give a presentation about MOOCs at Internet Librarian International 2013 Conference earlier this month. Since it might not be a familiar term to everyone, let’s backtrack a bit and cover some of the basics.

What on earth is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. The name is fairly explanatory but it’s useful to break that down a bit. In order to be classed as a MOOC, a course needs to be:

  • Online
  • Open to anyone to join
  • Able to handle a large number of participants

Most MOOCs are free for participants, though I’m hesitant to say they have to be free to be classed as a MOOC as there are likely to be some exceptions (though is it still open to all if there is a cost involved in addition to the cost of online access?).

Could you give me some examples of MOOCs?

Many MOOCs use a platform to deliver their material and this also helps participants to find them. Probably the most well known platform for MOOCs is Coursera, which has a number of universities signed up to provide courses. There’s also EdX (supported by Google), iversity, OpenupEd, and recently launched FutureLearn which is UK based (though also has international partners). Some providers opt to use their own system, or their own installation of another platform such as Blackboard CourseSites.

Who participates in MOOCs?

Well, they’re open to anyone, though in my experience it tends to be those looking for extra CPD opportunities and generally those who already have an educational background (i.e. have studied for a degree). Of course the nature of MOOCs means that they could be taken by those who may be interested in a subject but for whatever reason don’t want to (or can’t) study a traditional course in the subject, hence widening participation to education.

I’ve participated in a 23 Things course, is that a MOOC?

It could be, yes. In the case of 23 Things for Professional Development (CPD23) it was massive (though not as massive as some courses – I recently took one that had over 200,000 participants enrolled!), open, and online, and people completed the course at the same time (as cohorts) so I would class it as a MOOC.

So MOOCs have been growing with more platforms being launched and more institutions signing up to deliver them. I’ve been interested in them for a little while, partly to support my development, and partly because I was curious as to how they would work and how librarians could support them. I signed up for Coursera and have now completed two courses with them. I was invited to share my experiences as a learner at the Internet Librarian International pre-conference workshop and found it really useful to evaluate my experiences and think about what I’ve learnt from them and how I could apply this. In a nutshell, though I successfully completed both my courses, I much preferred one of them. The main reasons for this were:

  • I found the topic fascinating
  • I was able to apply what I had learnt in practice in work and social situations
  • The reading materials were provided as part of the course, and easily accessible
  • The combination of lectures, readings, documentaries and assignments helped to cement my new knowledge

A copy of my slides is embedded below – the first few slides are about my background to provide the context for the learner’s perspective (and the cat slide is *totally* relevant as I talked about how naturally curious I am!):

The discussions we had during the workshop were really interesting – we considered how libraries (predominantly academic) could support MOOCs, particularly for those whose institutions had already signed up to provide MOOCs or were planning to. We heard from Gavin Beattie from King’s College London who launch their first course on FutureLearn in January, and the group included people from a number of different organisations who were planning to provide MOOCs in future. Many of the ideas from the discussions were similar to the ways we can support other activities such as information literacy and mobile technologies in libraries, with suggestions such as:

  • Providing information to academics so they are aware how the library can help them with their MOOC
  • Getting involved with MOOC discussions with colleagues across your institution
  • Discussing ideas with other librarians and share best practice across the sector

It seems the skills required for these activities are essential for today’s librarians. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about MOOCs and libraries in future events, it certainly seemed to be a hot topic at Internet Librarian International, both in the pre-conference workshop and at the main conference (if the tweets are anything to go by anyway!).

Is your library involved in supporting MOOCs? Is there anything else we should be doing to support our institutions as they provide MOOCs?

productivity

Productivity by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

I’ve been writing my column on productivity for CILIP Update for almost a year now, and I’m really enjoying writing it and getting comments from people – it seems to be encouraging people to try new ways of working, sometimes with real day-to-day benefits for them. I’ve been getting really good feedback and I’m so pleased. My columns so far (also available on my Publications page) have included:

I’ve tried so many different tools and ways of working and am always interested in finding ways to improve, so I’m glad I can now use some of the things I have learnt to help others on their journeys to a more productive way of working. I came across a blog post from Lifehacker a little while ago inviting people to share their own techniques, and thought I’d take the opportunity to use their questions to share mine.

Location: West Midlands, UK.

Current gig: Evidence Based Researcher for Evidence Base, Birmingham City University (also currently on part-time secondment to Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals as a Future Skills Project Worker).

Current mobile device: iPhone 4S and iPad (I also have a Nexus 7 but rarely use it).

Current computer: iMac at home (this is my main computer), PC at work.

One word that best describes how you work: Flexibly.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without: Omnifocus (to do list manager), Dropbox (to sync documents between devices), Google Drive (for collaboration), Evernote (for meeting notes and image capture).

What’s your workspace like? I work from a variety of different places, but my main workspace is at home in our spare room which is fitted as an office. I share it with my partner and have plenty of desk space (my space is to the left of the computer as I’m left handed), and a set of drawers. I don’t really need much physical space as most of my work is electronic, but I like to have clear space around me to help me work more productively (currently I have some tickets on my desk waiting for me to sort claims for and even just those are driving me mad!). Here’s what my desk looks like at the moment (mine is the computer to the left – spot the essential glass of Ribena!):

Home office

Home office

What’s your best time-saving trick? Inbox zero. Before I start working on anything each day, I sort through my inbox and move everything to the right place. That way I know my calendar and to-do list are completely up-to-date and I know exactly what tasks I have to do. Then as all my tasks are in one place I can focus on prioritising things to focus on based on importance and urgency, and won’t get distracted by looking through my inbox. It really helps me in terms of knowing what I should be working on, and now that I have a process in place for organising my emails it saves me lots of time.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager? Omnifocus. I particularly like the iPad app and am currently using the beta version of Omnifocus 2 for Mac. The one downside is that it’s Mac only so no good when I’m in my office at the university which has a PC. I always have my iPad with me though so access it from there. I live in the Forecast view so I can see at a glance what I have on that day – tasks and appointments in my calendar.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My iPad. I take it everywhere with me and use it at meetings, for working when away from home/office, and for keeping me connected (and able to work) whilst travelling. I seem to really enjoy writing on the iPad so often use my iPad to write blog posts and to transcribe interviews.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Within my team I’m the one who tests out new tools/software/techniques to see which might work for us and I often take on this sort of role in other projects I work on. I love trying out new things and figuring ways of using them to save me time or help me stay organised.

What are you currently reading? I’m reading Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? What it takes to be an authentic leader (for the Library Leadership Reading Group), and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

What do you listen to whilst you work? I listen to a variety of different playlists on Spotify. I use music most when I’m writing (e.g. research reports) and absolutely love this GTD playlist for when I need to focus. Instrumental soundtracks are perfect for this and I often end up looking up music I hear in films and TV documentaries.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Introvert. I need to have time to myself to recharge, and now always build time to do this during conferences.

What’s your sleep routine like? Not so good. At times I struggle to sleep at night and often spend a good 2-3 hours trying to get to sleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see __________ answer these same questions. Emma Cragg – I know she shares an interest in trying new tools and ways of working to improve productivity and I’d love to hear her tips.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? That you should stop beating yourself up about things because you can’t have it all. This blog post by Jenica Rogers is really excellent advice, and something I need to remind myself of often. There was a lot of great advice in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book too, much of which I think about regularly.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’d be really interested in other people’s response to these questions (partly maybe because I’m nosy, but also because I think there’s a lot we can learn from each other). If you decide to blog your own responses, you can get the questions from the blog post on Lifehacker, and please share a link in the comments on this blog post once you’ve published your own How I Work.

I'm not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion...

I’m not sure if this is really the best method of persuasion…

Earlier this week I attended a training session on persuasive speaking, hosted by Future Faces Birmingham. It was delivered by Mimi Hughes of Business Voice. I wasn’t too sure what to expect to be honest, but it proved to be an excellent workshop which I learnt a lot from, particularly about speaking skills.

Mimi began the event by getting us to think about what we mean by persuasive speaking and when we need to persuade. We concluded that in almost any working relationship, we need to utilise persuasion skills – to get people to listen to us, to work collaboratively, or to delegate work, as well as the more immediate examples such as selling, negotiating, or asking for a promotion/payrise.

We were then introduced to the three main components of persuasiveness:

  1. Presence
  2. Message
  3. Mechanism

We also discussed personal impact and presentation skills which are important in all three components.

Mimi then asked some very brave volunteers (she referred to them as ‘Have a go heroes’ which I liked as a term) to come to the front and speak to the rest of the room about their organisation. They only had a minute to speak and they were recorded, and then we all watched them back (see what I mean when I said they were very brave! In return they got some really useful feedback). This exercise was all about presence and the following tips were shared with us to help improve:

  • Opening lines and the way you start are key. Your audience makes a subconscious judgment before you have even spoken
  • Body language very important – stand squarely on to people and straight (keep confident)
  • Don’t stand behind desks or flip charts – need to show your presence
  • Your voice needs to reach out to people furthest away from you (you can practice this by projecting your voice against a wall and gradually moving further back)
  • Need to pause between key points – pausing is key in persuasion
  • Don’t use preparation words before each sentence (Ok, Right, Um) – know what you’re going to say and start on the positive words
  • Look like you’re interested in what you are saying in order to be interesting to others
  • Let your hands move if they want to – good to use your hands as they give out energy
  • Settle your hands in a comfortable middle position where they can move easily from (ideal position is joined together at the waist, not too low or behind you)
  • Movement is good as it adds energy – though needs to be definite, not just shuffling from side to side
  • Moving the face also important to show enthusiasm
  • Um and err are not too intrusive as long as they are not used excessively, though pausing is better
  • If you want to move when you start speaking, take a step forward not backwards
  • It’s good practice to engage with people as they enter the room and encourage people to respond to your greeting (ask for their name and what they do/how they are) as it helps breaks down barriers
  • Shaking hands and making positive eye contact is also good as again helps break down barriers
  • Good to tap into something your audience are familiar with and tap into their emotions

We then focused on the message element and how to tailor the message to maximise its effectiveness. Mimi emphasised the importance of focusing on the key idea(s) you are trying to get across, and considering how to ensure the audience (in broad terms, this could be just a one-to-one conversation) will take that away. In order to achieve this, the audience needs to be able to repeat the message and the best way to get to this is to keep the message clear and brief. In presentations, Mim recommended only aiming to talk for around 10 minutes, and dedicate longer time to Q&A to extend the dialogue and cement the message. We then completed an exercise preparing the key messages about our organisation using the following model:

Model for constructing message

Model for constructing message

In the model, the roof is the conclusion you want people to walk away with (you may mention what this is, but you may not). You want the audience to walk away with the conclusion based on the evidence you provide them with through the three pillars, which act as the different messages you deliver. Three is an ideal number, though you can manage with 2-4 (as can a building). 1 isn’t really enough to get them to believe in the conclusion, whilst too many will make the messages less memorable and weaken the argument. We did this as an activity with our own organisations and two more ‘Have a go heroes’ presented about their organisations using this model. You’ll probably also have noticed that Mimi practices what she preaches as our whole workshop was based on this model with the three components of persuasion as the three key messages.

We also discussed how to handle questions, which is a key part of helping get your message across. The main things here were to listen very carefully to the questions, and think about the answer you are going to give before speaking. You want to aim to “build, bridge, and reinforce” in your response so that you bring it back to your key messages and help cement that in their minds. You’ll also need to stay focused and keep it brief but tailored to the audience. If you don’t know the answer to the question, be cautious about winging it – if you don’t know enough to do so, be honest and tell the person you’ll find out and get back to them (and make sure you do). We also discussed hostility and Mimi warned us to be careful as we may be seeing nervousness and recognising it as hostility – generally, people won’t be hostile, and if they are, let it wash over you.

We briefly discussed the mechanics, such as using presentation slides only to illustrate the key messages but keeping the focus on what you’re going to say; making sure you have the right people for group presentations (some may need to be there to respond to questions but don’t need to present as too many can dilute the message); not leaning on lecturns or tables when speaking as this comes across as too relaxed and like you’re not really interested; and listen carefully in two-way conversations and again try to link what they are saying back to your key messages.

Mimi ended the workshop by sharing some exercises of things we can do to help improve our persuasive skills by improving our presence, message and mechanism. Some of them may seem a little silly at first (she got us up on our feet flopping our bodies over to help our posture, and reading stories aloud to practice our pitch and pausing), but I really think they’re going to be useful tools in helping improve my skills.

What next?

I’m currently preparing some conference presentations and webinars and found this workshop really useful for helping me plan these further. It’s caused me to reflect on the best way to use my allotted time, the materials I develop to support what I’m going to say, and the way I hope to present myself. I was really pleased to learn that it’s OK to use your hands when you talk as I naturally do this a lot and was worried it came across as too much arm flailing. Mimi reassured us that as long as it is natural, it’s very rare for it to come across as too much. One thing I know I need to work on is pausing. I tend to speak very quickly in normal conversation, and even moreso when the adrenaline is pumping and I’m giving presentations. I fill what little thinking time I allow myself with ‘um’ as well, so I’m hoping to practice talking more clearly and pausing when presenting key points to help them stand out.

I also have a training session next week on making presentations and giving briefings, so I’m hoping some of what I learnt in this workshop will be repeated and it might help it stick!

Running woman

I look just like this when I run – happy, relaxed, no hint of tomato face, flyaway hair or flailing limbs (clearly a lie)

This weekend I ran 5k. Believe me, no one is more surprised about this than I am. I’m not a runner. At all. Eight weeks ago I struggled to run for 3 minutes, but now I can keep going for more than 30 minutes. One day I decided I wanted to improve my fitness so I thought I’d go out for a jog, and decided to give the Couch to 5K (C25K) programme a go – I used a C25K mobile app. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do the full programme but out I went and I actually quite enjoyed it. I went out three times a week, stuck to the programme, trusted it and made progress. And this weekend, at the end of my eight weeks, I ran the full 5k. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fast, but I did it. The process has taught me so much about myself and I wanted to share that. This blog post isn’t about telling everyone to get out there and run (though it is surprisingly enjoyable), but what I learnt during this process applies to so many things in life and it was good to have those reminders.

  1. If you set your mind to doing something, and it’s a realistic goal, you can do it

I honestly didn’t think I was ever likely to be able to run for over 30 minutes, but I believed the c25k programme and stuck to it. Each time it got a little harder, I went out with part of me thinking I couldn’t do it, but I went out regardless, put my trust in the programme and my body, and I managed to complete every single one of the training days.

  1. Sometimes, having people who don’t think you can do it can be a really useful thing

After my second run (where the majority is still walking rather than running), I got back and my partner joked, “Well you’ve done it twice now, is that it?”. I do go through fads so it was a valid comment (and also to be fair to him he is incredibly supportive of anything he knows I want to achieve). That comment however seemed to change my blasé approach to the programme. Suddenly I had a challenge; to prove to him, and myself, that I can stick to things and can improve my fitness. IT IS ON!

  1. You’re probably more capable than you think

How often do you think you’d like to do something but decide not to try because you don’t think you’d be able to do it. Next time you find yourself in that situation, I urge you to commit to trying. I bet you can do a lot more than you think. I honestly never thought I’d be able to keep running for that time or distance, but it actually only took 8 weeks. You won’t know if you don’t try so give it a go, and believe in yourself.

  1. Lots of small, incremental developments can lead to much greater progress

Common sense, I know, but sometimes it just seems like a goal is so far away, yet if you break it down into tiny progressive steps, you’ll have achieved the larger goal before you know it. I take this approach with many things – I have a number of large projects on the go but I break each of them down into smaller tasks which help get me towards the bigger goal.

  1. Learning a new skill or achieving a goal is incredibly fulfilling

I love learning new things. Over the past year or so, I’ve taken up a few different hobbies, and the one thing they all have in common is learning new skills. Every knitting project I do for example, I learn how to do something new, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Running has taught me a lot about myself – mind and body – and getting to the goal of being able to run 5k was a fantastic feeling.

So what aims do you have? How are you going to get there? You can do it, I know you can!

Closing the contract

Closing the contract

Yesterday evening I attended a Future Faces event on negotiation skills. We received a brief presentation and then had chance to do a group challenge based on a case study. I found some of the things covered in the presentation really useful so though I would share them.

I’ve got to be honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this joint event with CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) – I’m not involved in sales or purchasing, and I’m not in a position to be able to negotiate my salary (two of the examples on the event blurb) but I hoped it might give me some tips and develop some generic skills which I might be able to apply to other contexts. I was therefore very glad that the event started with an overview of how we might be able to use the tips and techniques from the session in other contexts in both our work life (such as negotiating better deals/terms, not just financial negotiation) and our personal life (for all purchases and agreements).

The presentation from Jo McDowall from CIPS on negotiating took us through the phases of negotiation:

  1. Preparation and planning
  2. Opening
  3. Testing
  4. Movement
  5. Closing

She then gave us some tips on how to prepare and plan for negotiation. This included understanding your own requirements (what you need, not what you want), researching the other party to understand potential negotiation points, deciding on your targets (what you would like in an ideal situation, your realistic expectations, and what you would accept as a fallback i.e. minimum), and recognising any assumptions. Again it was highlighted that you need to consider all aspects of the deal, not just price. Using the example of buying a car, you might want to consider your ideal, realistic and fallback options for things like servicing, warrantee, accessories, full tank of fuel, payment terms etc. Jo highlighted the importance of beginning negotiations with your ideal situation, and shared an anecdote with us;

If you don’t feel embarrassed by what you ask for, you are not asking for enough

I can certainly see the logic behind this (after all, sometimes you might get what you want!), though in reality I know I’m far more likely to go in with a realistic negotiation rather than an ideal one as I feel really uncomfortable asking for too much. Definitely something to consider though – what are you willing to sacrifice and what are you not willing to budge on?

We were also taken through the planning process for the stages of negotiation:

  • Opening – The more you ask for, the more you get
  • Testing – Never accept the first offer
  • Movement – Aim to get maximum wish list whilst giving away little
  • Closing – Don’t take no for an answer

The group challenge got us to apply this learning into a real life example. It was an interesting task though sadly there wasn’t much time to discuss it in detail. I was glad we had the opportunity to consider how to apply what we had learnt though, and consider how the ideal, realistic and fallback situations could work in practice.

Do you have any tips for successful negotiation or additional things to bear in mind?

My three year term on the CILIP West Midlands committee has come to an end (two years as Marketing Officer, one year as Chair), and I only have a few months left chairing the ALA NMRT Online Discussion Forum committee, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my experiences and dispel some myths about chairing committees I’ve come across during my time as chair.


Only men over 50 can join committees

Only businessmen over 50 can join committees

Myth 1: You have to have X years of experience within the profession to chair a committee

Until I joined a committee I had assumed that everyone on the committee, and particularly the chair, secretary and treasurer, must have worked in the profession for a long time in order to know things inside out. What I have since realised is that though there is definitely value in having people on the committee who do have this extensive knowledge and experience, it’s not essential for each individual member to have that. In fact, those new to the profession have just as much to contribute as they are likely to have fresh ideas and suggestions for new ways of doing things – and they can take on roles such as chair, secretary and treasurer to possibly challenge the way things are done and make some changes. And that’s most definitely a good thing.

Myth 2: You have to know the committee and wider organisation inside out to chair a committee

Again, not necessarily true. All you need is a willingness to learn – coming to a committee afresh is of course likely to mean more time invested at the beginning to understand how things work. Experiences here may well differ depending on the organisation and committee, but there is often guidance for new committee members. In ALA New Members Round Table (NMRT) for example, there is a handbook wiki which contains all the information each committee needs. It includes details on the remit of the committee, key responsibilities and milestones for the year, reporting mechanisms, and who to go to for help. In addition, each committee is overseen by a member of the NMRT board so you always have people to turn to if you need further help.

Both CILIP and ALA are complex organisations and I’m willing to bet that the majority of committee members and chairs only know about a very small section of the organisation. A willingness to learn is again all that is needed here, and both organisations have council members who are incredibly helpful if you have any questions. They’ll also welcome new ideas so if it seems strange that something is done a certain way, ask the question and see if it can be improved.

This was the top image search for committee - not like any I've ever been on

This was the top result for a stock image search for committee – it’s not like any I’ve ever been on!

Myth 3: You have to be in a management role (or have held one previously) to chair a committee

Chairing a committee is a form of managing people, so any experience in this area helps, but it’s not essential – everyone has to start somewhere! I’m told it’s a very different experience to line management and I can definitely see that would be the case. It’s not a daily demand (for most committees anyway!), and committee members are usually volunteers so it’s a different type of situation, which of course has its pros and cons. Chairing a committee could be a useful way to get experience managing people if you don’t get the opportunity to do so in your job but would like to in future. As long as you’re willing to chair meetings and provide support for managing the work of your committee members, that’s all you really need.

Myth 4: You have to hold and attend a lot of face-to-face meetings to chair a committee

The number of meetings will vary depending on the remit and responsibilities of the committee, but sometimes these can be held virtually and for some committees no meetings are necessary at all. For most CILIP committees there seems to be a general acceptance that committees should meet face to face at least 4 times per year, however according to the current branch rules it is recommended that the committee meets as many times as is deemed necessary (which could of course be only once for the Annual General Meeting). Some committees never meet in person (this is the case for the NMRT committee I chair), whilst others meet regularly but rely mainly on virtual rather than physical meetings. Of course it’s still important for the chair to be comfortable to chair the meeting(s) and conversations however they occur, but I wanted to highlight the fact that his doesn’t necessarily mean numerous physical meetings. If you can’t commit to that, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t chair a committee.

Myth 5: You have to dedicate your life to a committee to act as chair

Well I didn’t, though I confess there were busy periods where a lot of my time was taken up with committee work (though I was on three committees, two of which I chaired). It doesn’t have to be a massive commitment though. You’re there to help steer and direct the committee, not do all the work. This was initially a difficult lesson to learn for me, but essential both for my well-being and for the sustainability of the committees. Clearly, you need to care about the core values of the committee to enable it to succeed, but if you can only give a limited amount of time, that’s absolutely fine – just choose a committee that suits. I would estimate that chairing CILIP West Midlands took on average around 1-2hrs of my time per week, whereas chairing the NMRT Online Discussion Forum Committee takes around 1-2hrs of my time per month. Committees vary hugely in this and depend on the type of committee – those with a specific purpose often have key periods of time that are particularly busy (e.g. conference organising committees) so you’ll need to take that into consideration.


So, that doesn’t sound so bad really does it? I’ve really enjoyed my time on both committees (and the CILIP Career Development Group West Midlands division committee which I was part of from 2009 to 2012). I can’t quite believe how much I’ve learnt in that time – about the organisations, about other people, and about myself. There have been highs, there have been lows, there have been lots of discussions and emails, and some fun and silliness thrown in too. Overall, it’s been a great experience and one I’d encourage people to participate in to help develop their skills and support their professional organisations (being involved in making it happen is one of the best ways to make sure the organisation is meeting your needs).

For both ALA and CILIP most chair roles are one year terms, with general committee terms for CILIP lasting three years. I recommend finding committees that interest you and seeing if you can get involved. Unless there are confidentiality issues, most meetings will be open so you can go along and see what the committee does – or just reach out to the current chair to get information. If you’re an ALA member, many of the divisions and round tables have volunteer forms for getting involved in committees (such as the NMRT volunteer form which I believe is still currently accepting applications). If you do become a committee chair, you might be interested in my earlier blog post on tips for chairing meetings.