Directed Field Study – Week 7

Time spent this week: 7 hours, bringing my total to date to 40 hours.

Activities this week: This week I finished reading several Catalyst reports, completed notes in the Google sheet for the articles and reports, and typed in my notes and quotations from the Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor book to a Google doc. This work constituted the majority of my time. I also had some email conversations with Lisa Varga, executive director of the Virginia Library Association, Randall Gust, my mentee at East LA College, and Art Dean, Executive Director of Access & Inclusion for JMU (who I am hoping to develop as a sponsor). I also had a conversation with my dean, Adam Murray, about his experience being sponsored as a young dean at Murray State University. Unfortunately Jennifer Campfield, my mentor, was not available to meet this week due to a death in the family; I do not think we’ll make our full eight hours as a result.

Skill development this week: I wish I had started my reading with the Catalyst reports – so much of what I read in the popular articles was related to these or to the HBR reports that I haven’t been able to get my hands on (though Jennifer might). In addition, going back through the flags I had placed in Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor was very helpful in remembering the overall themes of all the readings. This week I’ll be manipulating my notes along three themes: why and how to be a protege, why and how to be a sponsor, and why nurturing a culture of sponsorship is good for the organization as a whole. I’ll share these themes with Jennifer, of course, as my outcome to date for this project (which we intend to continue for a while longer), but also with my organizational learning coordinator in LET. We are trying to put together a training program for supervisors, for which I think a discussion of the mentoring/sponsoring roles would be very helpful.

My email exchange with Randall was surprisingly enlightening. Randall and I were matched through a mentoring program with the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA). He has some very specific things that he would like help with from me, particularly concerning a program that he is developing around the idea of collegiality in the ELAC libraries and on campus in general. We have not yet spoken in person (the program starts this month), but so far what I am gleaning from his emails is that he is unhappy with the faculty status of the librarians at ELAC (something about supervisory responsibilities being taken from them) or with the level of collegiality there. I know nothing about Randall – my relationship with him is purely one of advice on these particular topics, as well as possibly some career planning if we get there. At the moment I would not do any of the things for Randall that Hewlett suggests a sponsor does (advocate for a promotion, stick my neck out, provide cover, expect loyalty), but I am willing to do the mentor actions (provide support, be a sounding board, be empathetic, expect little in return). This is in direct contrast to what I’d be willing to do for some of my former graduate students who are in similar jobs to Randall’s, but whom I know better and feel invested with. What I’ve also realized with regards to Randall and my disinterest in sponsoring, rather than mentoring him, is that I too need to make sure that I am on a firm footing with a targeted sponsor before asking for that level of help. Clearly in my head mentoring is a behavior that is appropriate for strangers to try, but sponsorship is not.

I had a brief but very interesting conversation with Dr Adam Murray, my dean, about sponsorship and executive presence. Adam is very young for a dean, which is more notable given that he first became a dean (at Murray State University) at the age of I think 28. I asked him whether he had had a sponsor during this time. He said that initially he didn’t have any time for one, because of all the fires he was having to put out in the early painful days of his deanship (which happened during a time of rapid change for the university). I asked how he had learned executive presence. He laughed and said that was something he learned in a hurry – he was, after all, two generations younger than most of the rest of the university’s administration and so had to learn how to look and act like a dean in a big hurry. What he did have, though, was a sponsor in the form of the business school dean, who helped him, as he put it, “relax into the role” of dean. Adam and Tom are still in regular contact, even though Adam is now at JMU. It sounds like their relationship has evolved into more of a mutually supportive one. It was very interesting to hear his description of this relationship, particularly in the context of his remarkable rise to the dean rank. I wonder, given the Catalyst and Hewlett’s recommendation that a sponsor be two levels above the protege – who sponsors deans?

Unfortunately I was not able to do more interviews this summer as part of my field study. With the retirement of our provost and the arrival of the new one this week, coupled with June and July being the most popular vacation time, I’ve struggled to get on calendars.


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