Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Moving Into Management

I've written before about my desire to go into management and the difficulties I've had getting there. In the last couple of months I've been lucky enough to get a (temporary) promotion to a management role and complete some long awaited training with the ILM. My current role is Deputy Team Leader at the Reader Services Desk at Cambridge University Library and I have daily management responsibility for ten staff who work on the main issue desk at the library. We manage the circulation of materials, the admissions process and assist the roughly one thousand people that come into the library everyday. It's been a steep learning curve but I'm really enjoying the challenge. Management is not something I've always aspired to and if you has asked me a few years ago where I saw myself in the future the answer would definitely not have been managing people! However this has changed over the past couple of years and now seems like a natural next step in my career.

When I saw that CILIP ARLG Eastern was hosting an event called Moving Into Management I signed up as it was exactly the sort of day where I could pick up a few tips. Unfortunately one of the scheduled speakers became ill a couple of days before the event and I was asked to fill in with a short presentation (which can be found below).


One of the things I was asked to talk about was the change involved with moving from being managed to being a manager. This is something I've struggled to get my head around since starting my new position so I was glad of the opportunity to reflect on my experiences. I wanted to expand a little bit on this area in this post.

In my previous role I actively managed people but not in a way that was formally recognized. Working as a Senior Library Assistant meant that I was the first port of call for questions from junior staff in the department. I also provided a lot of mentoring advice - something which I really enjoyed. When my manager(s) were away I often stepped in if there were any problems, such as something that needed to be done urgently for another department. Of course there were some things that were beyond my grade but I pitched in where I could. I really enjoyed doing this as I saw it as good training for future roles (although it was beyond frustrating not to be recognized for it!). 

This was what I would call the 'fun' part of management - the bit that lets you practice management skills but means that you don't have any actual responsibility. If something went wrong then I didn't have to step in and solve it and if there was a tough question I could just pass it off to someone higher up. When I moved into a management role this all became my actual responsibility and that was a big change for me. I'm responsible for ensuring that things get done, that my staff are happy in their work and that any problems get sorted out quickly with the minimum of fuss. Having experienced some bad management from other people in the past has made getting this balance right very important to me.

One thing I've not given new managers enough credit for in the past is the fact that they are essentially learning two jobs at the same time. This is especially true if they have moved into a new workplace or department. I've moved from a back office role to a front facing role and am having to learn how to operate our circulation system, the admissions categories for the library and about a million other tiny procedures which make up my new job. At the same time I'm learning how to be a manager and building on the skills I developed in my previous role. I came to the realization fairly quickly that I just had to get on with it and learn what I could. If you have a new boss in this situation then cut them some slack, they're trying their best. And if you are the boss then give yourself some credit because this is a lot of pressure and you're coping!

On a related note I just wanted to say that if you are feeling overwhelmed there are places you can turn to for help. Even managers have managers so make use of them. Good managers will sit down with you and see how you're getting on so use this opportunity to ask questions and get some advice. There will also be others out there in the same situation so make use of social media and professional associations to get in contact with them. Finally there may be management training available, either generic or specific to your organisation. I've just completed the ILM Level Three Award and this has given me some great tips to build on. There is also plenty of information available in books and online so get reading. Even if it only confirms that what you're doing is right it will increase your confidence.

Even if you think that management isn't for you it wouldn't hurt to brush up on your knowledge of it. You may change your mind in future or the future may change it for you. At the very least it may give you some insight into why you boss is the way they are!

Image credit: Peter Miller via Flickr

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