Executives often face the difficulty of managing their company’s revenue, and Patrick Losinski is no stranger to the challenge.
His organization’s funding depends largely on tax resources, and the executive director operates the Columbus Metropolitan
Library on an annual budget of $50 million. As the leader of one of the top circulating library systems in the United States and
the employer of more than 800 staff members, Losinski has found innovative and efficient ways to operate the institution,
including implementing new technology and a successful Lean Six Sigma program. Smart Business spoke with Losinski on how
he manages his strategic plan and leads his organization into the future.
Be a committed planner. Planning is so critical
for public institutions and every institution.
You really have to have a clear plan, where
you and your employees understand your
mission, your vision, your strategies and
your desired outcomes. That has enabled
us to develop annual tactical plans that support the strategic plan. It allows you to not
only tell the story to all of your stakeholders
beginning with your employees but it
also drives the work of the organization.
Without that plan, I feel rudderless. I can’t
imagine leading an organization of this size
without being disciplined to a planning
process. It’s a way to keep 800-plus people
on the same page.
The plan gives you the framework, and
individuals can be empowered within that
framework to help you achieve your
Stress the importance of transparent communications. Do everything that you possibly can
to make sure that your employees have
access to information. Twenty years ago,
you had a weekly employee newsletter.
Today, with voice mail, e-mail, blogs and
staff intranets, it’s not a matter of having
access to information; it’s trying to manage
the flow of information to make sure that
we get key strategic messages in front of
A while back, someone gave me an article
that talked about the challenges of being a
CEO. It said to remember that a CEO’s
microphone is always on, and it’s always
amplified. It’s not about being guarded or
being measured, but it’s always being aware
that employees are listening to what you’re
saying, and they’re trying to understand.
They may have just five or 10 minutes to
talk to you, and what you might convey in
that five or 10 minutes is the most important
thing they’ll hear from you over a period of
time. It’s being aware and making sure you’re
always delivering the important messages.
Shake up your staff members. I like to take situations where we have someone in a leadership position at the library who has been
there for a number of years, and we actually put them in a new leadership position that
allows them to see this large institution
from another vantage point.
Really smart people and really talented
people are able to apply their knowledge
from another area of our library in a new
area, and they do it in a way that adds so
much value to us. It can be a little bit unsettling, I certainly acknowledge that, but
again, really smart people, who understand
that this world is moving at a pretty rapid
pace, see it as an opportunity to learn and
contribute in new ways.
Every time that has happened, the benefits have far outweighed any negatives. I’ve
been able to do that at various levels in the
organization, all the way up to the leadership team level. It makes for a dynamic
Understand management versus leadership. I
can remember a quote: ‘Which is more
important: management or leadership?’
The response was, ‘That’s sort of like asking, Is it more important to inhale or
exhale?’ They’re both important, and
they’re both different.
As you become a CEO or an executive
director, it’s more about leadership, but
it’s also being aware of the importance of management structures through your
organization. It’s still your responsibility to
make sure that things are actually managed
properly and executed efficiently. Having
an eye on both remains very important to
Create your own networking opportunities. I try
to invite different CEOs to my office three
to four times a month to have lunch with
me. I send them our strategic overview
ahead of time and say, ‘I’d like you to look
at this, to think about it, and to come in and
give me your reactions to our strategy.’
Then we talk about their perceived
strengths and weaknesses of our organization and just have lunch. These, for me,
have turned into Harvard-level consulting
sessions for the cost of a turkey sandwich.
I have learned so much from listening to
the CEOs in this community talk, not only
about our institution but some of the challenges that they face. It’s not only helping
to critique what we’re doing in the library;
it’s helping me critique my own leadership
style (when) I speak to these CEOs.
It frequently ends with a tour of the
library, and in the course of an hour-and-a-half lunch visit, they become an ongoing
advocate for what we’re all about.
I heard about one leader’s style. I called
him up and said, ‘I don’t know you, but I’d
like to have lunch with you.’ Now, that
leader’s company has used our library for
its annual retreat for its leadership team,
and that’s great for us to have people utilizing our resources.
It’s been very effective for us on so many
different levels on building support for
the institution, on building knowledge
about our strategy and our vision, and on
helping me personally as a fellow executive in listening to the various leadership
styles and challenges faced by others in the
community. When people are invited to critique what you’re doing, suddenly they
have a shared ownership of the institution
as well. It’s very healthy.
HOW TO REACH: Columbus Metropolitan Library, (614) 645-2275, (614) 849-1000 or www.columbuslibrary.org