Leadership Challenge #6

Module 9 LdC reflection on provocative question #5

Provocative Question #5 (LdC)

As related to your job, how is change initiated in your organization? Do CoPs matter in the process … of initiating change?  … of operationalizing change efforts?  … of institutionalizing change?

Reflect on Module 9 LdC Step 3 – determine your leadership challenge

What behavior did you experiment with/try out for your leadership challenge last week?
I went to the Association of College and Research Libraries biennial meeting in Baltimore, MD, and particularly attended sessions on leadership, diversity, and space planning. My behavior was passive – information seeking and processing – rather than active, this cycle.

What did you end up doing for your leadership challenge last week?
I went to the conference, and as a follow up have been having conversations with my dean, fellow associate deans, direct reports. The primary change that came out of this has been a more vocal approach to supporting diversity in libraries.

Reflect on Module 9 LdC Step 4 – assess and reflect on your leadership challenge

How did your change in behavior affect others in your Community of Practice? Tell the story of what happened.  
One of the major behavioral changes that I’ve experienced has been around my role in championing diversity in the library community, both in hiring practices at my library and in supporting diversity conversations in my state professional association. I did three things, that have affected my different communities. First, I deliberately pushed to hire a woman of color to be our summer intern, largely because she is a woman of color and would bring more diversity to our faculty compared to the equally capable other candidate. Second, I have changed the qualifications for our new science librarian posting (going up next week, I hope) so that one of the three required qualifications is a statement on the importance of diversity in academia. Third, I participated in a heated discussion at our conference planning committee about promoting diversity in our conference, and argued (on the winning side!) for accepting significantly more sessions about racial/ethnic, age, and ability status diversity than we have ever done in the past.

Reflect on your experience with the Leadership Challenge for this module. 
I’m a white, heterosexual, middle-aged, upper-middleclass woman from an academic family. I have two children and a dog. I go to church (most Sundays; fewer since starting this program, since Sundays are a good day to get work done). On the outside, I’m about as majority as one can get, particularly in my discipline (I’m actually about 10 years too young for the average librarian). The things that make me “diverse” are pretty well hidden from general view, and I like keeping them that way. However, I am fully committed to supporting a diverse community in all of its forms – probably this is shaped by my experiences living in highly diverse college towns and overseas, paired with my background in biology (in which genetic diversity is necessary for continued species and ecosystem survival). However, I have never felt comfortable pushing these topics because I was scared of doing something wrong.

Thinking about change initiation and management from a Community of Practice standpoint, however, made me realize that I was relying on people who by the nature of their minority statuses have less power in the community – and thus less reach or ability to influence the community – than I have. Although these people are boundary-crossers in the sense that they can connect our professional community in the library with communities based more in social identities, they are fighting against a very strong tradition of continuity in our practices that is rooted in identities that they do not – and by definition cannot – hold. I came to a conclusion this week that I, as an “old-timer”, had to help by being more than a passive supporter of change, and go out and actually effect a change.

The first thing I did was on a very small scale, though it terrified me to do so. We are in the second year of a new program that brings library school graduate students to JMU for a summer internship. There’s no library school within three hours of us, so I started this program with some colleagues as a means of letting JMU be part of the training of new librarians (and to get some summer help). We had two finalists for our position, one of whom came from a pretty traditional pathway and has done a lot of internships (and is white), and the second spent a while getting a doctorate in music before enrolling in an online MSLS program (and is Asian). If I could, I would have hired both. However, I decided that the second student would both benefit more from our program than the first and would bring more diversity to our workforce this summer than the first. After talking with a colleague at the ACRL conference, I advocated for her with the hiring committee – and won. Now, it’s entirely possible that I won because I outrank everyone else on the committee.

At ACRL I went to a lot of very good sessions on supporting diversity (mainly racial/ethnic) in hiring and retention practices. One in particular was very interesting. This session suggested specifically requiring a statement or other discussion of every candidate’s approach to supporting diversity in librarianship and student development. I turned to my dean (who was sitting next to me) and said, “we should do this.” He said, “yup.” So, when I got home I drafted a position announcement for our next science librarian (to be posted hopefully this week) that includes just that. I have shared it with the other associate deans and with the chair of our diversity council, and everyone is happy with it. The nice thing about making changes to position announcements is that once a change is made it tends to stick – people  don’t much like writing those so we tend to replicate what we’ve done last. Reification at play!

Finally, the other thing I really liked about ACRL was the large number of sessions that talked about diversity. This week the conference committee for the Virginia Library Association got together for our marathon session selection meeting. Now, clearly good ground had been sown before this meeting; we had a large number of quality submissions on many topics, including a wide range of what I’d generally categorize as “library services for diverse communities” ones. This brought up a relatively heated discussion about how we support diversity in the association (as well as the conference), in which I suggested that we had to make the deliberate decision to do this, or it wouldn’t happen. So we did, and it did, and I’m so excited to see the sessions in the fall.

On reflection, I think part of what happened this week is that I found my voice, and figured out how to use it, as a part of two communities that I think could be better. If change in a Community of Practice involves not just the development of new reification and participation practices, but also in the development of new identities, then this makes sense. Support for diversity in our CoP means expanding our acceptable and included identities to be broader than the current majority – but understanding that identity shift can’t just be led by people with the different identity. I, with my visible identity about as centric as it can be, can lead this change. The challenge will be to do so in a way that is itself sensitive.

My hope is that with sustained focus on hiring, and then additional work on retention, we can shift the current largely homogeneous population of librarians and library staff to be much more in a healthy heterogeneity. We were successful in doing so with regards to the gender imbalance, though now we have problems associated with male social dominance and female leadership (I got mansplained in a committee by one of my subordinates! It was uncomfortable!). This is a wicked problem if ever there was one!

Module 11 LdC Steps 1, 2 and 3 on provocative question #6

Provocative Question #6 (LdC)

As your identity changes, what can you do to foster continued connections and even grow your engagement in COPs that can influence your ability to innovate?

Step 1. Prepare for an on-line Conversation

Quote/ideas from the book/video Page number/ timestamp
We can participate in multiple communities of practice at once… Whether or not we are actively trying to sustain connections among the practices involved, our experience of multi-membership always has the potential of creating various forms of continuity among them. W p. 105
Even though issues of identity as a focus of overt concern may become more salient at certain times than at others, our identity is something we constantly renegotiate during the course of our lives. As we go through a succession of forms of participation, our identities form trajectories, both within and across communities of practice. [then follows a short discussion of types of trajectories: peripheral, inbound, insider, boundary, outbound, all of which discuss the nature of identity in the context of the person’s “place” in the community] W pp. 153-154
An identity is thus more than just a single trajectory; instead, it should be viewed as a nexus of multimembership. As such a nexus, identity is not a unity but neither is it simply fragmented. On the one hand, we engage in different practices in each of the communities of practice to which we belong… On the other hand, considering a person as having multiple identities would miss all the subtle ways in which our various forms of participation, no matter how distinct, can interact, influence each other, and require coordination. W p. 159
Multimembership and the work of reconciliation are intrinsic to the very concept of identity. W p. 160
Learning means dealing with boundaries: it creates and bridges boundaries; it involves multimembership in the constitution of our identities, thus connecting – through the work of reconciliation – our multiple forms of participation as well as our various communities. W pp. 226-227
The inspired leaders… all think, act, and communicate from the inside out. S approx. 3:03
 People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. S approx 4:40 (and repeated often)
The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, it’s to hire people who believe what you believe. I always say that… if you… hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if you hire people who believe what you believe they work for you with their blood, and sweat, and tears. S approx 7:52
If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe. S approx 11:00
Leaders hold a position of power or authority. But those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them, or find others who inspire them. S approx 17:21

Applications from workplace setting:
The idea of different trajectories attached to different identities is a very interesting one, and definitely something that I can see in my workplace. I would also argue that there are different trajectories for the same person in the same CoP, depending on the topic at hand and how their identity is changing. I am in the middle of a major change in formal identity (from department head to associate dean) that will require me to reconsider my different trajectories in my different Cs of P – for instance, I need to be outbound from the department while being inbound to the “A-Team” of associate deans across the university. This means I may have to let go of connections in the one community in order to make space to build connections in the other. The trick will be identifying which ones need to be continued in order to maintain my membership, even if it becomes more peripheral.

In my talk on my interview day (a few weeks ago), I used the Sinek golden circle as my theoretical frame, both to talk about why I do what I do (personal values) and why LET should be doing what we do corporately (institutional values). There were some people who thought this was hokey, and who made fun of my focus on values (not to my face), but a lot of other people have written me to compliment me on how inspiring the talk was to them personally. A number of these are people who I don’t necessarily lead directly – they’re not in my unit and don’t report to me. At least for now, my leading from my “why” appears to have formed or strengthened connections with people in the greater constellation of Cs of P that constitute LET.


Step 2. Hold an on-line Conversation

Notes from fishbowl (Group 1: Christy, Lisa, JonL, Aaron, Kristi)

  • Christy – focused on innovation part of question. Wenger’s ideas of boundaries as productive & innovative spaces – “likely locus of radically new knowledge.” Can get comfy in CoP as safe spaces, but these may not foster innovation, so maybe boundaries are liminal space that do.
  • Lisa – focused on work part of question. Idea that change happens slowly and many times in invisible ways. Wp94 – “practice must be constantly reinvented.” Invisible work that happens and noticing what others bring to the table (first follower/positive deviance?) in order to foster long term change. Christy – reminded about mutual engagement and community maintenance (Roberta’s snacks) – this is outside the work of the community.
  • Aaron – Like the idea of collaboration as a key part of keeping things moving along. Wp76 – “mutual engagement involves not only our competence but also the competence of others.” Have to engage people in order to still be a part of the “we”
  • Jon – focused on the idea of engagement as a way of creating alignment. Wp186 – “alignment requires the ability to coordinate perspectives.” Common purpose gives people a sense of ownership & community as grow alongside each other.
  • Kristi – Wp160 – multimembership and tension in trying to maintain lots of communities is hard, but allows for boundaries to connect. Have to remember that multiple identities require balance and is frustrating, but also brings lots of communities together for learning. Lisa – love this idea! Wp192 – “engagement and practice is a double source of identification.” Invest selves in both what we do and in the relationship with others.
  • Jon – S10:58 – “why is it important to attract those who believe what you believe” then quick overview of diffusion of innovation. Important because we’ll see these different stages as we work through our innovations in this program. This brings multiple dimensions and questions of alignment to our work.
  • Aaron – Wp237 – “supporting engagement is supporting the formation of communities of practice” – this gets to what we’re doing in trying to make these communities real.
  • Christy – S10:50 – “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Is the message/communication plan necessary to fuel the innovation, and should that focus on the why we should adopt it? Lisa – metacognitive language to bring in the larger picture helps learners understand. Transparency is important because it brings in a sense of purpose. Aaron – this quote is also in last semester’s book Scaling Up Excellence.

Thoughts on the fishbowl:
Interestingly, this week more than past ones the group and I were really not on the same page with our quotations from Wenger (though we were with Sinek). I focused in on the idea of multiple identities as facilitating boundary-spanning work (which I guess came up some in the fishbowl), and the idea of trajectories as describing the process of change in identity. I’m interested that my colleagues also pulled out the ideas of collaboration and community development, alignment of practices and purposes, and mutual engagement, which I had not considered in my selection of quotations.

I’m also interested that they mainly focused on the innovation aspect of Sinek’s video. Honestly, by this point I’ve watched that talk so many times that I could basically give it myself (and sort of did, in my job talk), so I feel like it’s simultaneously lost its luster and is radically transformative in my own practice. Clearly the group wasn’t as excited about the video, since even when Christy tried to steer the conversation in that direction they veered back to Wenger. Interesting. I did really like how Aaron pulled in Sutton & Rao, a connection I hadn’t made myself.

Step 3. Determine your Leadership Challenge/new leadership challenge

My professional identity is changing rapidly, and not necessarily only via learning, but also because of my promotion to Associate Dean at the end of last month. I need to do a political map that identifies the different Communities of Practice to which I belong, the identities I hold in them, and how they may relate to each other. This will help me see the gaps in my connections as well as ones that I may need to let go of, given my new role.

Step 4. Implement and Reflect

Module 11 LdC – Reported in the next report.


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