Confessions of a Semi-Reluctant Supervisor

I love my job. Really, I do. As a manager in a mid-size public library system, my days are busy and full of variety, but I must confess that the most challenging – even daunting – part of my job is supervising!

I have a great group of creative, hard-working, and talented people that report to me, but, let’s face it, they are human (me, too). There are days when I feel like an amateur psychologist, and I often use my commute time wrestling with how best to handle some issue. After four years in this position, I’m certainly not an expert, but here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. Focus on what’s important. Always keeping the library’s mission foremost in my mind helps me make better decisions, but it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in the midst of juggling staff concerns, personality conflicts, complaints, what have you! Make the decision that is best for your department and library, even when it doesn’t make you popular.
  2. Set the tone. Others will respect you when you show respect for their work. I try to make sure my staff members feel valued and know that I consider the work they do to be important to the success of our department. They also know there isn’t anything I ask them to do that I haven’t done myself in the past or that I am not willing to do now if needed. I let them know tactfully when they’ve erred, and I sing their praises when they succeed (and I try to do so in a timely manner).
  3. Trust your people. While I’m willing to do any task, I’ve had to learn to delegate appropriately. You probably got to be a supervisor because you were good at your previous job, and it can be difficult to let go of those responsibilities at which you excelled. My role as a supervisor is to let others take on those responsibilities, guiding them as necessary. (Oh, how I miss story time!)
  4. Listen. Building relationships is an important part of the job. I always have a long to-do list, so I have to remind myself that time spent chatting with my staff is not “wasted” time but time well spent!  This is even more difficult when you supervise people that work at other locations than your own. I try to build time into my schedule for regular phone calls, emails, and visits with my off-site staff.
  5. Get organized. I keep a folder on each staff member in which I save emails, work samples, etc. I also make notes on performance in a Word document. This helps me interact and communicate more effectively (since I don’t have to rely on memory alone), and it also makes writing annual evaluations much easier.
  6. Look to the future. Learn your staff members’ strengths and weaknesses. Look for training opportunities to address the weaknesses, and tailor assignments to the strengths when possible. Find out what your staff members’ career development aspirations are and keep an eye out for ways to help them work toward those goals.

When I can keep all of this in mind and wrap it in a positive attitude, I feel energized rather than daunted, and I think my staff does, too!

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Our guest blogger today is Lori Faust, who wrote this piece as a member of the Managing Children’s Services Committee. Lori is a Youth Services Manager at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library in Warren, Ohio.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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