Career Strategies for Librarians
Supervisor Boot Camp: Survival Skills Guaranteed to Get New Managers Through Basic Training
by Veronica L. C. Stevenson-Moudamane

Congratulations! If you’re reading this article it means that you’ve either recently accepted a supervisory
and/or management level position or you’re contemplating whether or not to assume the responsibility
of becoming a manager.  Well, regardless of which option applies, the more important question is: are
you trained and prepared for the new intellectual and emotional challenges that wait ahead? Managers
must represent administration to their subordinates, and their subordinates to administration.  Moving
into a management role can be a stressful time, especially for those who have never worked in this type
of capacity before. Suddenly being responsible for other people and making major decisions can be a
daunting task. Too often, employees are placed into or accept the role of manager with little or no
management training or skills.

If this assessment matches you, it's important that you spend time thinking about your particular
management style and your plan for success because, if you don't know it already, managing people will
most probably be the hardest part of your job. And the efforts you make when you start in your new role
will, undoubtedly, set the tone of your style (even perceived style) for months and years to come. To
assist you along this process, I’ve developed a few pointers to consider as you embark upon your new
role as a manager.  Here are a few ideas from my “Tool Kit” of tips and techniques designed to assuage
your fears and get you through the toughest part of your “new to management” experience.

Identify and Develop Your Personal Management Style

There are a number of management styles and each contains distinct advantages and disadvantages.  
Use your personality type, organizational skills, your tendencies towards networking and your feelings of
being “one of the gang” as your guide in determining what the "best" management style is for you. It
should definitely be a style that comes easily and one that you are comfortable with.   Your “self
discovery” process should also focus on the quality of your communications, the frequency of your
interactions, and your accessibility as a manager. If you discover that you’re not much of “team oriented”
supervisor/manager, you’ll definitely want to reassess your efforts here so that you, along with your team,
can learn and grow together.  With any luck, you’ll have employees who are sharp and “on-point” and are
deeply familiar and passionate about their positions and responsibilities. Recognize that whatever
management style and strategy you pursue, you and your staff will need to depend upon one another
and will most likely continuously learn from each other throughout your professional relationships.

Additionally, while there are any number of supervisory/managerial styles, there’s one trait that is
prevalent amongst them—the ability to bring people together to accomplish a task! While the
authoritarian management style had its place in history, the employees of today tend to respond more
enthusiastically and produce better results when supervisors/managers employ more of a coaching and
inclusive approach to their management style. This can be done by:

  • Empowering others -- involve employees in decision making
  • Encouraging two-way communication
  • Sharing power
  • Being flexible

Communication, Communication, Communication!

Aside from your increased work responsibilities, establishing an effective and regular means of
communication with your staff must be a priority. Employees respect a manager who will communicate
with them and listen to what they have to say as well.  Be honest with your employees.  Staff tend to be
suspicious of managers who hide things, so whenever possible, share organizational news and
information  with your employees. Being open and honest about policy changes, budget cuts, and other
things that might affect your staff members' jobs and/or lives will help them to develop a higher level of
respect and trust in your supervisory relationship.

Get To Know Your Staff and Your Peers

Regular staff meetings, as well as individual meetings with each employee, are great opportunities to
interact with your staff.  What do they want and need in a job?  What motivates them?  What are their
future career aspirations?  What skills dare strengths and what do they need to develop?  Regular
meetings also lend support for open and continuous communication among colleagues so everyone is
aware, as much as possible, of projects currently in progress, as well as impending departmental
goals.  Regular meetings also provide the manager with valuable insights to the group’s working
dynamics and to any underlying conflicts.

Additionally, by establishing a routine to meet with staff members individually you are able to discuss
their work, get their view of the department’s strengths and weaknesses, and find out what they need
from you.  You’ll find some staff may prefer the one-to-one environment and may feel freer to openly
discuss issues that they would not normally discuss in larger groups.

You should also do the same with your new peer group.  As a member of the Management Team, you
should meet regularly with your peers which will facilitate working collaboratively and across
departmental divisions with your fellow managers.

Remember, You Are The Manager

As a manger, it is important that you demonstrate a level of credibility and comfort with the power you
now have.  So when hard decisions need to be made (and they will), you will be prepared to stand up for
your staff, assess the situation, and be willing to address unfavorable situations when necessary.  You
must also be prepared to take responsibility for your own actions.  When you expect your staff to take the
responsibility for their own actions, it is equally important that you do the same. Always step-up and
admit your mistakes and take the necessary steps to correct them. Being fair and transparent in your
actions will contribute to your reputation as an open and honest person among those you are leading.

Manage your Stress

A new management position will undoubtedly be stressful for awhile.  Pressures, long hours, and
learning curves associated with your new position can take its toll.  As a result, many first-time
managers often wind up working excessive hours.  It’s important to recognize the impact of stress.  If you’
re feeling frazzled, seek out stress management tips and put them into practice.  This is very important
as your staff may be observing your work/life balance behaviors for possible emulation.  Another helpful
hint is to seek a mentor, coach, or trusted friend outside of your work environment to talk to about your
new position and how you’re adjusting to the transition.  Regular communication with a trusted source
can be a good sounding board and stress reducer.

In closing...

As a new manager, leadership tips and techniques like these can help you to settle into your new role.
Developing into a more confident manager and an effective leader is about trial, error, practice and
training, so don't expect perfection from the start. Learn from those around you and be open to new ideas
and outside guidance as you learn the ropes of your management position.

Additional Resources:

  • Management Skills for New Managers by Carol W. Ellis; AMACOM; July 2004
  • The New Manager’s Tool Kit: 21 Things You Need to Know to Hit the Ground Running by Don
    Grimme; AMACOM; November 2008
  • Simple Solutions: Harness the Power of Passion and Simplicity to Get Results by Thomas
    Schmitt and Arnold Perl; Wiley; December 2006

About the Author:

Veronica L.C. Stevenson-Moudamane is President and CEO of VLCS Consulting, LLC, a
telecommunications company she owns in partnership with her husband and has worked as a library
professional for over 20 years. In her career, Ms. Stevenson-Moudamane has served as Supervising
Librarian for The City of Palo Alto in California (USA), as The Junior Services Librarian for the City of
Danbury in Connecticut (USA), as Acting Head of Children’s Services for Mount Vernon Public Library in
New York (USA), and as Reference and Bibliographic Instruction Librarian for Mercy College in Dobbs
Ferry, New York (USA).  Additionally, Ms. Stevenson-Moudamane has worked as an Associate Editor for
Black Issues Book Review in New York (USA); as an Adjunct Professor of Library skills at Manhattanville
College in New York (USA); as an Adjunct Librarian for Greenburgh Public Library in New York (USA) and
Greenwich Library in Connecticut (USA); and as a Book Reviewer of children’s, young adult, and adult
literature for both ForeWord Magazine (Michigan USA) and School Library Journal (New York USA). Ms.
Stevenson-Moudamane has served the library profession through numerous committee memberships
and elected positions.  The tips offered in this article are tried and true experiences.

Article published August 2010

Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily
represent the views of the LIScareer editors.