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February 17, 2014 / Christian M.

Throw Away that 5-Year Plan & Other Advice


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As part of the Associate Fellowship curriculum, we had an “Administrator Views & Discussion” session with four staff who are Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs of two divisions within the National Library of Medicine. This was an opportunity to for us to ask questions about management issues, and to have an open conversation about their experiences. I really enjoyed this session and wanted to share some of the advice we received.

On motivating your employees:

  • Set expectations for job performance and provide additional training when needed. Be consistent as a manager and hold all employees to the same standard.
  • Communication is important. Let employees tell you what they need to be successful in their job.
  • Work can become repetitive. Managers need to make sure their employees have variety in their work to keep it engaging (special projects, working groups, etc.).
  • Don’t be afraid to push, even if staff are uncomfortable with changes. All jobs will change in some way over time (e.g. implementing automation tools).
  • Encourage employees to experiment and not be afraid of failure.
  • Know what is going on in other areas of an employee’s life that can take away their enthusiasm from work (personal health, family issues, etc.). Be understanding of those temporary situations that prevent them from giving 100% to their work.

On teaching staff to be problem-solvers:

  • Teach employees to not dump all the problems on their supervisors. First, have them define the problem, then list several solutions. Finally, go to supervisor with their recommended solution.
  • Learn how to ask good questions to help your staff work through a problem and solve it themselves. Let them own their solution. Be okay with different approaches. Your way is not the only right way.

On managing your friends & peers:

  • Be prepared for a grieving process when you are promoted into a position where you are managing your friends/peers. Sometimes these friendships will continue, sometimes they will not.
  • Don’t form any cliques.
  • Be aware that people are looking at you more closely (actions, behaviors, clothing, etc.).

On developing career goals:

  • Throw away those 2-year or 5-year career goals! (All four presenters agreed with this statement).
  • Go where your heart/head/interests take you. Be open to new opportunities.
  • It’s more important to know your motivation factor. What excites you about working?
  • (As a manager, you still need goals for you and your employees to work towards in accomplishing the organization’s mission. But personal long-term career goals, not so much).

What are some good tips that you have received about working in management?
Do you have a long-term career plan? Why or why not?


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