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Written by Gail Madziar, MLA Executive Director   

Executive Director's Desk - January 10, 2019

Gail Madziar headshot

Leadership and Succession Planning

Leadership development and succession planning are common topics at the MLA office lately. Not only because they soon will directly impact our office when I retire in March but also because our 2019 MLA professional development lineup includes a growing assortment of opportunities to enhance these key factors for your library staff.

As we prepare for the transition to a new MLA executive director, I am encouraging staff to expand their thinking and attend professional development programs to learn new skills. I am delegating more to make sure everything continues to run smoothly as our very competent Director of Finance and Administration Romy Fitschen prepares to take over as interim director until a new director is identified. 

Change is hard, and it can be scary. I've encouraged staff to look at this as an opportunity for growth, reminding them that this is a good time to take risks and pitch new ideas. This is just one example of an opportunity to push employees to grow outside of their comfort zones and to innovate and experiment.

You can do the same at your library. Offer more than just words of support and get involved through direct mentorship and outlining milestones and paths to success for employees. Things like respect, honesty, support, and clear communication are the foundations here. But there's a lot more you can do to be a great leader and mentor. Consider the MLA mentoring program. There are openings for both mentors and mentees.

Succession planning and leadership development are often overlooked as we deal with daily issues, but it is critically important to the continued success of your library. The May 31, 2019, MLA Executive Summit focuses on succession planning. We're bringing in a professional on the subject and including librarian, trustee and coop director perspectives in a panel discussion. We'll be touching on the problems and solutions for libraries of all sizes.

The MLA New Director Academy is another opportunity to position your library for success. It could be the next step in your library's succession planning efforts. If you are a new director, an assistant director or on your way to the position, this is a chance to learn firsthand what it takes to thrive. You will also come away with a cohort of supporters to call on when you need assistance or just a listening ear from someone who understands.

If you are a small organization like MLA, you may not have a lot of room for direct upward mobility but consider taking advantage of cross training. If any employee expresses interest in additional skill sets, provide your encouragement. Cross-training can take place across various departments, sometimes with surprising results. While employees expect to self-learn on the job, they may feel lost about what to pursue. Cross-training can help raise team spirits and allow flexibility when employees need somebody to cover their responsibilities. It also gives employees more confidence to help their coworkers when they're stuck on a problem. Knowledge transfer proves intrinsic to success since employees learn from one another.

Making strategic investments in employee development is vital for strengthening teams and guaranteeing great service to your patrons. Deciding which investments are most vital and relevant has never been more difficult given the number of educational opportunities available coupled with tight budgets. However, it's essential to encourage continued learning to develop the potential of each employee further. 

Whatever path you take with staff development, make sure they know they are appreciated and trusted. We plan to continue our team building efforts at MLA. These dedicated professionals are eager and willing to do whatever is needed to make sure MLA is positioned to serve our library community. We are lucky to have them!

 

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