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Middle Manager Interest Group meeting notes Annual 2009

LLAMA Middle Management Interest Group

July 11, 2009

10:30 – 12:00


1)      Chair Nancy Kress welcomed the group. 11 ALA members attended the session. I attribute the lower attendance to a session held earlier in the morning, “I’m a Leader, I’m a Follower” by LLAMA LOMS Organizational Theory and Practice Committee which was at the McCormick convention center and ended at 10:00 AM, leaving little time to travel to the Hilton.


How might we act as resources for one another? Benefit I have gotten from this group is contacts with others. How about people buddy up? Take someone’s card and contact them. If someone says something that resonates with you during the discussion, trade cards at the end of the meeting.

2)      Some meeting attendees had been to the LLAMA LOMS session, so I asked them to provide highlights for those who didn’t attend. To build on this theme, I asked the group several questions:

Do you believe the idea that supervisors, managers and leaders are different people?

What is the difference?

How do middle managers see that all three activities are being met in their areas of responsibility?

What is the most important role for middle managers?

Here are highlights and points from the discussion:

  • You can supervise and manage without being a leader; you can be a leader without being a supervisor or manager.
  • What makes you a leader is that you have followers.
  • Leaders have VISION.
  • Middle managers have a wide vision up and down in the organization.
  • Communication gaps often present between upper and middle management.
  • Middle managers are trans-leaders (not sure what this meant).
  • The upper level doesn’t have front line vision. The middle manager acts as an advocate for front line staff.
  • The middle manager can’t use the same language with direct reports as they use with upper management. Middle manager acts as translator and makes the message palatable to both sides.
  • Middle manager has to translate solutions from upper management.
  • Motivation at the upper level often isn’t clear (to middle managers).
  • Concept of being a supervisor, manager, leader is totally different from concept of administrator.
  • Don’t wait for someone to ask you to lead. Don’t expect leadership from the top.
  • Recognize and understand the structure of the organization, the unofficial and the invisible leaders.


3)      Following up on the idea that we can act as resources for one another, I asked:

Does anyone have specific issues regarding elements of the three they would like the group to assist with? Here are some of the issues and feedback:

  • The “vision thing” – how do you build a vision, and how do you look for something that’s not there?
  • What happens when the leader says “no.” How do you (as middle manager) keep everyone on course? The middle manager has to be able to say “no” as well.
  • How do you explain budget issues? How can ALL find solutions and not be afraid of the situation?
  • Someone has to be a decider and take on the leadership of the job (and that person is you).
  • The vision keeps changing in light of budget crisis.
  • Make solutions work for yourself first before communicating to staff.
  • Send “we” emails to staff, not “I” emails.

4)      Chair follow up. There was confusion over length of term, which is one year so next ALA Midwinter we will select a new chair. The group would like to see more programming for middle managers, but the attendance at the Interest Group is too varied to put together a program. The chair will contact LLAMA LOMS (Library Organization and Management Section) chair for ideas on how to work with this group to develop programming. At the meeting those attending expressed interest in continuing the interest group.

5)      Addendum to notes 9/18/09: after contacting LLAMA LOMS Executive Committee Chair, N. Kress recommends that current Middle Manager Interest Group chair attend the LLAMA LOMS all-committee meeting to bring middle manager issues to group and promote possible programming ideas.

Submitted by Nancy Kress