Volume 25, Number 3, 2003

Coaching as Leadership Training

by: Connie Paul, Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative

New Jersey has two active leadership training programs. The New Jersey Library Association sponsors "Emerging Leaders" for librarians with less than four years of library experience and the state library funds the "NJ Academy of Library Leadership" (NJALL) for mid-career librarians. Forty-four "emerging leaders" have received training in the past two years, and forty-nine librarians have completed NJALL in the past two years. Then what? Then coaching!

Both programs have been my responsibility, as Executive Director of the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, one of New Jersey’s four multi-type library cooperatives. Different committees have helped plan and carry out the training of the two programs. Having the same coordinator made it easy to affect some joint activities. And there was concern that both programs not end for the participants with the completion of the formal sessions.

In the late eighties leadership training had been offered by the New Jwesey State Library. The graduates of those two sessions are the "who’s who" of current New Jersey library leadership, so, overall, the program was very successful. Less successful was the mentoring component which had been built in. Evaluations showed that a few trainees and their mentors clicked and formed long-term relationships. Most did not. We wanted a different model this time to support graduates of the training sessions. We wanted a method to provide individualized help in setting goals and working through problems that did not depend so much on the personalities of the persons involved.

In December, 2001, the Princeton-Trenton Chapter of SLA sponsored a program on coaching; the speaker was Sandy Newman, then president of the New Jersey Professional Coaches Association. I attended the program and immediately saw coaching as a possible extension of the two leadership training programs.

What particularly appealed to me was the definition of the coaching contract as a time-limited, goal-oriented, relationship which was based on weekly phone calls. The coach helps the client to set short term and longer term goals, helps to break those goals into small steps, and holds the client accountable for achieving them.

I also thought that many of New Jersey’s library leaders would be willing to become coaches, since the parameters of the program were limited and known. In addition, those willing to become coaches would receive free training that would be useful to them in their professional and personal lives. In return, they would be available over the next two years to coach up to three leadership graduates.

In January 2003, twenty experienced New Jersey library leaders began training with Sandy Newman. Not only did the state library pay for the training as part of the leadership grant to CJRLC, but State Librarian Norma Blake and Director of Library Development Carol Nersinger were two of the first to sign up to participate. Three of the Regional Cooperative Directors, Karen Hyman (SJRLC), Cheryl O’Connor (Infolink), Connie Paul (CJRLC), and Pat Tumulty (Executive Director of the New Jersey Library Association), were part of the group. Ocean County Public Library sent five of their senior staff, including Director Elaine McConnell, Assistant Director Mark Titus, Training Director Faith Lundgren, and two branch heads, John Glace and Jeff Kesper. Other trainees included Karen Avenick, Assistant Director of Camden County Library; Marianne Avery, Assistant Director of Newark Public Library; Susan Pike, Director of Matawan Aberdeen PL; Margie Cyr, Director of Old Bridge PL; Mark Bennett, Burlington County Library; Nancy Bennett, Camden County Library; Michelle Reutty, Director of Hasbrouck Heights PL; Janet Williams, Director of the Educational Testing Service Libraries; and Patti McMacken, Educational Media Specialist at Rumson Fair Haven HS.

Three training sessions were offered with readings and online work available in the intervals. Participants, all veterans of hundreds of training programs and conferences over the years, are enthusiastic about this opportunity.

Janet Williams believes that coaching is a positive experience for both coach and client: “A coach helps people realize that they already know how to solve their problems. Coaching helps provide an opportunity for self-awareness, and people are really grateful for the insight. The most helpful steps are often little things that can make a big difference—such as reviewing a resume or finding some job leads or understanding that volunteering in professional activities can be job training.”

Carol Nersinger differentiates coaching from mentoring programs she has been part of. “Coaching lets the clients set the agenda and provide the wisdom. It is empowering for clients to realize they can solve their own problems.”

Karen Hyman noted: “Sandy provided information I could use, and I do use it all the time. The concepts around setting boundaries were especially interesting: first communicate, then request, then insist.” She also noted that this program is a great example of what a regional cooperative is positioned to do well: “CJRLC saw a need and an opportunity and ran with it.”

Currently eleven graduates are being coached. One graduate used her coach to help her prepare for a promotion interview. She got the two-step promotion and she credits both the training and the coaching for her success. Now her coach is helping her make the transition into the new position.

New Jersey’s coaching program ensures that leadership training participants receive on-going support, and it utilizes the talents of our best library leaders.

Resources for Coaches

Take Yourself to the Top, by Laura Berman Fortgang
Coach Yourself to Success, by Talane Miedaner
Living Your Best Life, by Laura Berman Fortgang
Unlimited Power, by Anthony Robbins
Live The Life You Love, by Barbara Sher
Co-Active Coaching, by Laura Whitworth

Web Sites
International Coach Federation
Coach U