Book by Larry D. Roper
Review by Laurie Roberson
College of Architecture & Design
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

At some point in their career, academic advisors will likely find themselves at mid-level in their profession and in need of what it takes to be a good supervisor.  Larry D. Roper, editor of Supporting and Supervising Mid-Level Professionals, lays the groundwork in his book for advisors to develop, learn from, reflect on and implement the skill set needed to be an excellent supervisor.   There is a strong emphasis in the book pointing to the fact the mid-level supervisory position provides excellent training for leadership at the next level.  Each chapter features a different writer with chapter 7 written by Roper whom addresses the importance of diversity and multiculturalism.

 Academic advisors are often asked about their advising philosophy and likewise the importance of a supervisory philosophy will be needed as the advisor begins to supervise employees.  Delores E. McNair , the author, of chapter 3, Developing a Philosophy of Supervision:  One Step Toward Self-Authorship, leads the reader to crafting a philosophy for supervision (p. 33).  Also, explained in this chapter is how one’s philosophy can change overtime as lessons in life mold a supervisor.  This is an effective chapter in helping a beginner understand the process of supervision.

Very timely are the effective strategies for virtual supervision addressed in chapter 6, which is devoted to electronic communication and how to get up to speed in an ever changing digital world as a supervisor.  Three very important tenets supervisors will need to have are: the importance of relationships; the value of teamwork; and a mission-centered effectiveness (p. 57-60).  These three principles of supervision are core in mid-level supervision competency in student affairs.

Chapter 4, Managing Conflict from the Middle, would serve the mid-level supervisor better if strategies on conflict with their own supervisor had been included.  In this chapter, authors Cooper and Boice-Pardee cite (Mills, 2000) middle managers must communicate both up and down the organizational ladder, often representing their own functional area, while also being versed in institutional vision and perspectives. Inevitability mid-level supervisors will find themselves in conflict with their own supervisor, up the ladder, at some point in their career.  This conflict can possibly affect the supervisees of the mid-level professional.  A Gallup study surveyed two million people at 700 organizations and found that dissatisfaction with one’s immediate supervisor is the number one reason why employees leave organizations (Zipkin 2000). The mid-level supervisor may begin seeking employment elsewhere if the conflict originates with their immediate supervisor. Mentioned in chapter 4, is the need for senior level management to provide clear expectations and communication to mid-level managers (p. 36).  If this is not provided, where does the mid-level supervisor turn when the conflict is with a senior level management supervisor? 

This book is a recommended read for mid-level advising professionals and those advisors aspiring to become supervisors as it is an excellent resource guide when seeking help with supervision development and issues.

Mills, D. B.   “The Role of the Middle Manager,”  In M.J. Barr, M.K. Desler, and Associates (eds), The Handbook of Student Affairs Adminstration. San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Zipkin, A.  (2000). The wisdom of thoughtfulness.  The New York Times.  From the issues dated May 31, 2000.

Directions for Supporting and Supervising Mid-Level Professionals. Book by Larry D. Roper. Review by Laurie Roberson. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.  88 pp,. $29.00. ISBN # 978-1-1182-3145-6

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