The Rookie Manager: Team in Transition

November 6, 2013

by George Thomas (cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

by George Thomas (cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

This week is my part-time staff member’s penultimate week. He’s still going to be with the library, he’ll still be working with teens, and he’ll likely still be working out of our branch, but he’s moving into a new role as a fellow in BridgeUp, an intensive mentoring and college-prep program. I am really psyched for him, I’m really psyched for the kids he’ll work with (he’s going to be phenomenal at this), and I’m really psyched for the library — but it means that my team is going to go through a transition, and I have to lead through that time of change!

Since finding out this staff member is leaving, my focus has been threefold:

  1. Working with my departing staff member to figure out what he can complete in the time he has left with us, what he can’t complete but would like to see continued, and what we’re going to do with the programs he’s been leading
  2. Working with my other two staff members (and someone from the reference team that we’re borrowing until we hire our new person) to make sure they’re still feeling good about their work and our team, to reassign tasks and rearrange schedules, and to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible
  3. Figuring out what we (me, my staff, and my teens) want in our new team member and working with my manager and human resources to find the best person

That third point has led to some interesting conversations with our patrons: when I ask what they want the new person to be like, the universal response has been, “someone cool.” When I press them for details, they say all sorts of things, but what it all has in common is that they want someone who’s going to take an interest in them. They want someone who’s going to work to understand their interests and who they are and who will treat them with respect. It breaks my heart a little bit that they apparently get so little of that in their lives, or that that’s not the default with the adults they encounter in their daily lives, but I’m determined to find someone like that for them.

Since this is the first time I’ve been a department head, this will be my first experience managing a transition from a departing staff member to a new one that I’ll help hire. I asked for advice on Twitter (both from managers and from front-line staff who’ve started new jobs, left current ones, or been on a team when a new person is hired or leaves) and was impressed and touched by how many people had suggestions and by how good they were. Here’s a sample:

Any other advice for someone leading a team through a staffing transition? Let me know in the comments!

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