Time spent this week: Approximately 4 hours, bringing the total for the semester to 44 hours.
Activities this week: I discovered that I had lost my notes from an article, so I reread it and entered the notes into the Google Sheet. Once that was complete, I created a summary report for Jennifer of what I had learned from the readings (in a Google Doc). Jennifer and I met on Thursday to discuss the summary doc and next steps. I also heard back from Lisa Varga (from VLA), who is unsure of her fitness as a sponsor because her own network among academic librarians is not robust. However, she is interested in talking about how we might build a network together.
Skill development this week: This week was low in terms of activity, other than pulling together the various ideas from the two dozen (plus) readings that I’d done over the eight weeks of the semester. Looking back at it and at the notes and summary document that I created, I’m impressed with the amount of work that I put in and the growth in my thinking about what kind of a leader I want to be as well as my own professional development. I think the overarching theme that I’m seeing in all of my recent readings is that the idea of the leader as a sole agent, suceeding by the force of his (his) skills and will, out in front with everyone following behind, is a total myth. Leaders don’t get to where they are without someone helping them. Leaders don’t lead without people being on board and helping. And even if some of them do, that’s not the kind of person that I am or want to be.
Jennifer and I agreed that we’re going to keep on working on this topic, with the goal of building the idea of creating a culture of sponsorship into Talent Development trainings and other professional development programs. Some of the things that we talked about included balancing the perception that women tend to be more critical of other women than men are with the perception that men are less likely to sponsor/mentor/”lift up” women into leadership roles. At the same time, Jennifer is also concerned about creating a program that encourages people to go find sponsors could backfire on us. However, taking the opposite tack by incorporating training on being a sponsor into the various leadership development programs. There is currently a workshop titled “Leaders Open Doors” that Jennifer teaches several times a year; perhaps we could create a second one called “Leaders Pay it Forward” (title taken from the Catalyst report) that takes a more advanced stance towards sponsorship. I can see talking about what activities are sponsoring vs. mentoring activities, and having people think about when they might use them and with whom.
I found myself late last week thinking about sponsoring activities in my own practice, as well. I would like to be the kind of leader who helps bring people into leadership, and it seems that being a sponsor is perhaps more effective at this than being a mentor (which I enjoy and do a lot of, to the point of winning an award last fall for it). However, I wonder whether I am in a position at JMU or in my professional societies that really gives me standing to be a sponsor – I’m only four months into my associate dean role, and still haven’t really solidified my professional home yet so don’t have leadership roles there.
As I move forward with this doctoral program, I’m glad that Art is eager to work with me on diversity, access, & inclusion projects. I think his support will be helpful in the evolution of my problem of practice (access & inclusion in the physical spaces of the libraries) and potential interventions. My hope is that working with him on university-level projects will get me the notice I need to identify and attract other networking/ mentoring/ sponsoring opportunities moving forward.
Working with Jennifer this semester has been lovely – although we were not in the same state at the same time very much, we had some wonderfully intense and wide-ranging conversations about all of these topics. I am grateful that she was willing to take time on me this summer and that we were able to strengthen our relationship with each other in the process.