Image [cc] Cindy Funk

Last week we all held hands around the virtual campfire and sang a round of Kumbayas about what traits we think make for better lawyers, librarians, IT, KM, marketers, and so on. This week, we drop hands and start pointing out the traits that don’t necessarily make for great workers in our individual professions. (I bet many of you now wish you would have contributed now, don’t you??)

One of the traits that you hear about librarians is that we “love books.” Although that might be true, you really don’t have to love books to be a librarian. In fact, put down on your application that the reason you want to work in the library is because “you love to read books” and you will find your application is quickly placed in the “reject” stack. This may be a narrow view of “love,” but that’s okay, after all, we are just giving our opinions here, and the more narrow or broad the interpretation, the more that someone reading this is going to disagree with you. In my opinion, that’s when the fun begins!

Thanks to everyone that contributed to this week’s Elephant Post. We’ll do it all over again next week, so scroll down to the bottom of this post and take a look at next week’s question on “Telecommuting… Great Idea, Or Greatest Idea??”

Steven B. Levy
Author of Legal Project Management
Author, consultant, speaker
Prudence/Discretion: being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks 

All projects — indeed, all useful work in the business world — involves risk. While there are a few professions in which the absolute minimization of risk is essential, such as aircraft design,  most businesses and projects, and the legal world itself, revolve around finding a good balance between risk and reward. To take no risk is to gain no reward.

Catherine Deane
Law Librarian
Kindness: doing favors and good deeds for others; helping them; taking care of them

While much of Librarianship entails taking care of people, a recent blog post reminded me that actually experiencing empathy can lead to burn out.    Librarians are professionals, it is our job to take care of people and we need to do it whether or not we feel kind. It is not a favor or a good deed when I teach someone to use a resource or track down information, it is my job. Remembering this will keep you humble when people are raving about you, it will also remind you that you are selling your expertise for whatever your salary works out to per hour.   This also means that when it is time for me to knock off at the end of the day and get to the business of taking care of myself, I am not going to stay at the library and continue working out of kindness, I am going to be kind to myself and go do my laundry or hit the gym. Sometimes, the kindest think you can do is to take care of yourself and be a bit selfish so that in the long run, you can continue to do your job well.

Meredith Casteel
Research Librarian
Modesty: letting one’s victories speak for themselves; not seeking the spotlights 

If we remain too modest, we will no longer be employed.  Sing your (and your team’s) praises loud and proud when you have the opportunity!

Meredith Casteel 
Research Librarian
Curiosity: taking an interest in experience for its own sake; finding things fascinating 

Oops, I answered the first time without reading the full question.  Too much curiosity can be a problem because it leads to too many balls in the air, too many pots on the stove, too many projects for hours in the day.

Chuck Rothman 
Prudence/Discretion: being careful about one’s choices; not taking undue risks

I think all 24 traits are important, but when I rank them, prudence is at the bottom. Risk-taking is part of evolution. If the first arboreal hadn’t climbed down from the tree, we would be here now pondering these questions. Whether a risk is undue or not depends to a large part on whether the risk paid off (i.e. a lot of times, you just can’t tell if a risk is undue or not until it’s too late). As such, of all the traits, prudence is the one that might hold someone back. Of course, lack of prudence needs to be tempered by one of the other traits, wisdom.

Laura Suttell
Find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ 
Self-control: regulating what one feels and does; being self-disciplined

I chose self-control because the other traits are more important to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Toby Brown
Appreciation of beauty: noticing and appreciating all kinds of beauty and excellence

This was hard – since a broad range of traits has so much value these days. So I picked beauty.  But then maybe its time for the capable ones to take over – and let the attractive people take a break for a while.

Where’s Thorstein Veblen when you need him?

Next Elephant Post

What is the Biggest Hurdle to Telecommuting in Your Workplace?

It’s the year 2011… weren’t we supposed to achieve Telecommuting, and Flying Cars by now? (I’d settle for Personal Jet Packs if the Flying Cars idea is too 2051.) While I hear of anecdotal stories of how some people are allowed to telecommute to work, it just doesn’t seem to have caught on like many of us thought it would 10 years ago. In fact, I remember back in 1998 when I worked at the University of Oklahoma (as a mainframe monkey) and we connected a 28K modem to the mainframe and I could “remote in” and conduct an entire backup of the library catalog from the comfort of my living room, using my own phone and a 486 laptop. In the 14 years hence, everything has sped up and moved forward, with the exception of  telecommuting.

Perhaps you are one of the few that have the ability to telecommute. Perhaps you are an anti-telecommuter. Share with us your ideas or experiences of what telecommuting means to you, and how it could be a better (or even a worse) way of conducting business. Is telecommuting viable in 2011 in the legal industry? Are you allowed to telecommute (more than the occasional “I’m sick, but working from home” days)? Do you think you would be more productive if you did? Less productive?? Would you want your employees to telecommute, or do you like seeing their smiling faces each day? Let us know where you stand.