The Rookie Manager: Assessing the Me, the We, and the You

June 4, 2013

i have no idea what i'm doing dogI still don’t feel like I know how to assess myself as a supervisor. At first when I started this job, I felt like I didn’t know how to assess myself in my new role at all, but I’ve teased out some of the different aspects to my work now: I’m a librarian, I’m a department head, and I’m a supervisor.

I know how to assess myself as a librarian. I know when a program has gone well, if the collection is in good shape, if a reference transaction went well, or if I’m developing relationships with my patrons and making a difference in their lives. I know how to assess myself as a department head (mostly). I know when our overall statistics are headed in the right direction, I know if I’m coming up with successful new initiatives, I can assess the department with YALSA’s Teen Services Evaluation Tool, I can kind of get a sense for whether or not we’re making a difference in the community, and and I know when my vision meshes with what my patrons need and where I think we can go.

It’s the supervisory part I’m finding trickier.

Part of the equation is how good I am at helping my staff members develop their strengths and make progress in areas they need to improve, which I sort of have some nebulous ideas about how to assess. Part of it is maintaining departmental harmony. Part of it is getting people on board with my vision. But all of that is from the perspective of the manager rather than the managed.

If you were to ask someone, “Do you like your boss?” or “Is your supervisor a good supervisor?” they might talk about being coached or about feeling inspired, but I think they’re more likely to talk about things like communication, having clear and fair expectations, providing support, and quality of life stuff like creating compassionate schedules.

If you can’t actually get honest, open feedback from your staff members about how you’re doing, assessing this part is really tough. I’m not (yet?) good enough at reading people to be able to tell what they think of me when they’re not telling me directly or showing it really obviously, so I only have my own opinion of how I’m doing with these things, and that’s (1) potentially totally different from what my staff members think and (2) something that changes from day to day (or even hour to hour) based on how I feel about myself in general.

It sort of feels like my work involves me (being a librarian), we (our department), and you (my staff members plus how I interact with them). The “you” part is the part I find most challenging.

If you’re a manager, what kind of measures (either numerical or qualitative) do you use to assess yourself as a supervisor? How do you know when you’re doing a good job at your job? Are you able to get honest feedback from your staff?

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2 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Ariel Cummins  |  June 9, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    I’ll say that, as someone who has had my share of managers good and bad, the best way to get people to give you honest feedback is to 1) don’t freak out when people do give you feedback, even if it sucks and 2) admit when you’ve made a mistake. I *know* you do both those things, but those are definitely the keys to getting people to trust you enough to talk honestly. And time, of course.

  • 2. Gretchen  |  June 10, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    The time part is the hardest! I am SO impatient. But when I do start to hear from my staff, I’ll listen calmly and be sure to own up to my mistakes. Thanks. :)

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