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Written by Gail Madziar, MLA Executive Director   

Effective Succession Planning

Gail Madziar headshot

Succession planning continues to be a popular topic at the MLA office as we await the selection of a new executive director. In addition, I continue to observe a growing number of library director openings as well as several Coops in search of new leadership.

While change is always challenging and changing leadership can be downright scary, I remind my staff that everyone had to leave their job at some time for us to be in the position we’re in right now. When you can put it in perspective, it can be easier to appreciate the positive aspects of change.

Last Thursday’s MLA workshop on Human Resources highlighted the struggle libraries have with hiring, coaching, promoting and maintaining staff. There was also a session by a labor law attorney concerning the necessity to sometimes make a difficult choice and how to legally and compassionately let someone go.

We must understand that smaller libraries, much like smaller associations (MLA for example) are the farm teams for larger organizations. We find smart, ambitious and talented people. We give them a chance, we train and mentor them, and then we let them spread their wings and move on to a new and more challenging role. Unfortunately, that often means we lose them to another library or association. However, it also means we’ve done our jobs. We’ve helped them on their career path and at the same time we help other organizations by sending them our best and brightest. We give them the benefit of our hard work and training. If we’ve done our jobs right, they take with them expanded skills and an understanding of what good leadership and management looks like.

There is another important component that we instill in our staff that we hope they take away with them. They become advocates for libraries. Whether these folks stay in the library family or move on to something completely different, we know they have developed an appreciation for libraries, librarians and the crucial work they do every day. They can leave knowing that they contributed to this important mission.

This year’s MLA Executive Summit focuses on succession planning and how to help your library director and trustees identify and develop new leaders and other employees who can replace current leaders when they leave or retire. This workshop will help you learn how to build a robust succession planning program that aligns current talent development with future leadership needs. You will take away tools you can adapt to your workplace to create a documented approach for creating the leaders of tomorrow. Join presenter James Lewis, Michigan Business Consultants on May 31 at the Library of Michigan in Lansing.

In the afternoon the first panel discussion will cover the ins and outs of internal or external candidates and how to select the right person for the job. A team of new library directors will talk about their experiences and provide the pros and cons of hiring from within and being an outside candidate. You want to allow your current team to grow within your company, but when is it better to hire from elsewhere? Our second panel will cover strategies for finding the best candidates. These experienced professionals bring together a variety of ideas for finding the best candidates whether you are a large or small library. From recruiting to screening they will cover their experiences for attracting top talent and offer a variety of practices and pitfalls of the hiring process. Register soon, we expect a sellout crowd.

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