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It Takes More Than a Trust Fall: Establishing a Great Management Team

by on August 10, 2015

Management is hard. Management in public libraries is really hard. Most librarians didn’t head to the field to become managers and burn-out can hit hard and fast. Fortunately, we’re all in this together, and we can and should talk about our struggles as a community. My next few blog posts are intended to provide quick development opportunities by taking popular business books and relating them back to library-land. While they are designed for management and leadership staff, I hope all librarians can learn something new in this process.

For this first blog post I want to focus on the issue of building trust. Patrick Lencioni addresses this in his book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in BusinessAccording to Lencioni, before you can get healthy as an organization, you need to establish a strong team. To establish a strong team, you must establish trust.

Building Trust

What is trust? We aren’t talking about trust in the way you trust your partner to tell the truth, or you trust a friend to follow through on promises. Lencioni calls it vulnerability-based trust. Be vulnerable in front of your management team. Tell them when you screw up, tell them when you struggle, and tell them when you’re sorry. In general, be vulnerable. If everyone on the team does this you avoid a lot of issues. One, everyone is speaking freely which can lead to breakthroughs. Two, you get to the heart of issues much faster. Fear takes a back seat as you express your vulnerable side more often.


Librarians like to know everything, and rarely admit to not knowing something or not having thought something out. It goes against our nature to admit we don’t know. This is why you have to be the example. Truly, it should begin with the leader, but it can begin with anyone at the table. Next time you find yourself feeling defensive, take a moment and explore what you are feeling, and say it! I’m feeling overwhelmed, I messed up, I need help. Start building the trust by being honest.

Practical Steps to Building the Trusting Team

Lencioni shares two steps that essentially do the same thing: force you to get to know yourself and your team members.

  • Share Personal Stories – Talk about yourself, your personal history. He suggests answering the question: what was the most difficult or interesting challenge you overcame as a child? This allows you to get to know each other’s motivations. Someone may micromanage out of fear, and another might be tight with money because he/she grew up in a certain environment.
  • Take a Personality Test – I love this! I prefer Myers-Briggs, but there are others (see below). Yes, they can feel awkward to take and share but, man, I have learned a lot about myself this way. Take the test, share with others, and see how it will help your organization in the long run.


We have been a team forever, this seems a little late in the game. It’s never too late. Tell your team you want to try something new. Use a consultant as a catalyst. Many local consultants will come in for just a few hours to help with something like this and it won’t cost you much money at all! But please understand it is a culture change, and it won’t happen offsite in a day-long session. This is skimming the surface to deeper cultural behaviors.

The rest of the book is really great. I recommend you read and marinate on it, then go back and read the sections that stuck out the first time.

Take some time to explore these resources as you start to build your team:

Personality Tests:


Lencioni, P. (2012). The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. Wiley.

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