Learning how to be a good manager

by Gabrielle Spiers, Head Editor, INALJ Montana

Learning how to be a good manager

gabriellespiersI must admit that managing others was never something that I particularly wanted to do but as sometimes happens in life it is something that I have been doing for quite awhile now. Like many other things it is something that I think you get better at the longer you are at it. I do remember taking the required library management class in library school and I think that I managed to pick up some things from it.

One of the most difficult things that I have learned is that it is important to keep emotion out of it. It can be hard when you are upset about something to keep your emotions out of it. A few years ago I was in a situation where I was the person in charge and two of my subordinates really did not get along. Things got very nasty between them and I am not sure that I handled it as well as I should have. I felt more sympathy for one of the parties than for the other and looking back I think that was fairly obvious. This was the first time that I had been put in that situation and I was really not sure what to do.

Delegating is something that I have slowly learned to do. It is not easy for me because I tend to feel that it is easier and faster if I just do the thing that I am delegating especially if I have to teach the people I am delegating to which is usually the case. However I have come to realize that it is more useful for me in the long- term if I take the time to teach others how to do something then the next time it is faster for everyone because I should hopefully only have to teach them once and just get able to go through it fast next time.

This brings me to the next thing that I just learned and that is that sometimes you will make hiring errors. Since I am the person in charge of hiring as well as training this has been something that I have been trying to come to terms with. I have had some fairly bad luck in that area recently. One of my new hires was routinely turning up late and then got another job and informed me of this via email. Almost immediately after I had someone quit two hours in on day one. That was very hard to not take personally but at the end of the day if you decide that you really don’t want to work for me then it is probably better to discover that on the first day than any later. However it would have been easier for all of us had she discovered this before she started work.

Respect is more important than friendship. I do want people to like me but in a workplace environment it is more important to be respected than it is to be friends with someone. It is not that you can’t be friendly with someone you work with but if you are actually someone’s supervisor then friendship at work can be tricky. There can be a blurring of lines there which can be difficult to navigate.

Finally I think the most important thing that I have learned is that it is okay to ask for help. I am very lucky because I have a group of people that I can turn to and for advice when I need advice. It is also important to ask for advice from people who can give you good and relevant advice.

  3 comments for “Learning how to be a good manager

  1. Cindy
    June 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    I just received a promotion about a month ago. I am a librarian at a large regional public library and will be supervising the circulation department. I just completed a 10 day supervisor program sponsored by the county that took 10 weeks to complete. I wish I’d been able to take this training sooner. In my prior position, I supervised a smaller staff. My manager was resistant to me taking the supervisor training because it meant taking me away from my position and we were short staffed. We are always short staffed. The attrition rate for part time employees is high and now that the economy is a bit better, some seasoned managers are leaving because of burn out and frustration. I fought to have the training and finally got my manger’s approval. While the training wasn’t perfect, I feel better prepared to be a manager. The one management class I took in school did not prepare me to be a manager. I think it is important to get as much additional training in this area as you can. Managing is complex and as many of us have experienced can be done quite badly. Experience is the other piece. You have to do the job, make mistakes, learn from them and move forward. I try to treat everyone the way I want to be treated – with respect, patience and when needed constructive criticism. I know challenges are ahead of me, but I look forward to trying to get it right.

  2. Elizabeth
    June 8, 2014 at 2:11 am

    I am about to become the Head of services and will be managing colleagues who have been friends of mine for years. I am a little scared of how this will change and can’t say that I’m looking forward to it. I am too going to find it very difficult to delegate as I have loved the job I have been doing and no-one could possibly do it as well as I have, could they? I am frightened that they will probably to it better…

    Looking forward to the challenges ahead but I’m sure it is not going to be easy!

  3. Cynthia Robbins
    June 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I have been a manager (not in a library yet) and have been managed by bad managers. You make some very good points here, particularly about respect. It is much more important than being liked or friendship. A manger should always look for respect and return that favor. Sometimes situations are hard and you just do your best.

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