Directed Field Study – Week 8

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.

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.

Directed Field Study – Week 6

Time spent this week: 9 hours, bringing the total for the semester to 33 hours.

Activities this week: This week I did a fair amount of reading, including finishing the Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor book, a highly cited article by Ibarra et al. from Harvard Business Review (2010), and I found several Catalyst reports that look relevant. I also worked to get more of the articles that I’ve read entered into the Google sheet that I shared with Jennifer before she left for France. Last week I set myself a goal of contacting Art Dean, Marilou Johnson, and Lisa Varga to start sponsoring relationships. I did email Art (and heard back!), but did not email Marilou or Lisa, the latter because I had forgotten that it was the American Library Association Annual Conference week and thus a poor time to get in touch with Lisa. I started having discussions with three of my direct reports (the three women, all of whom have been department heads for less than 2 years) about identifying and nurturing sponsors for them. I’ve also started sketching out the outlines that will be my product for Jennifer in two weeks.

Skill development this week: This week I finished Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, which largely consisted of reading the final third of the book, titled “Pitfalls and Trip Wires.” The first chapter of the section was about the real threat for junior women and senior men that a sponsoring relationship could be misconstrued as a sexual affair. While Hewlett has some recommendations on how to avoid this, she also gives some advice on how to deal with it if it happens. I find this extremely disturbing, though perhaps that just means I’m naive. My dean is a young, good-looking man who is my little brother’s age. It hadn’t occurred to me that working lunches with him could be misread by colleagues. I wonder if it has occurred to him? The second chapter of the section was mainly aimed at a problem that people of color face: distrust based on unconscious biases (and, in some cases, conscious ones) related to differences in culture or heritage compared to the established powers-that-be.

The third chapter was about executive presence, which is a topic that I’ve seen in Hewlett’s HBR articles as well. This was one area that I feel like I’ve had some good advice in but also have figured out on my own – it is a combination of “how you act (gravitas), how you speak (communication), and how you look (appearance)” (p. 171). Taken together, these paint a picture of a person’s leadership capabilities that can help support a person’s bid for position or kill it. I had an experience early in my career that was illustrative: my second post-college job was as a library assistant in the Duke science libraries. I was 23. The libraries served mainly faculty and graduate students in the science departments – meaning I was younger than most of the people that I was trying to maintain some authority over (for teaching and for library policies). I stopped wearing jeans and t-shirts very quickly at that job, and haven’t gone back to it since. Over the years my personal style at work has evolved more and more towards simplicity with a little bit of interest (I tend to wear long skirts and colored blouses, with blazers in the winter), and I now sport what I call “department head hair” (with a streak of purple in it for fun). I haven’t had anyone pull me aside to counsel me on my executive presence in a long time – which suggests that either no one thinks I need counsel, or no one is willing to give it to me. I think I should find someone trusted to help!

On the principle of co-regulation and socially shared regulation of learning, I started having discussions with my three junior department heads (all women) about sponsorship for their careers. In reading Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor one of the things that I’ve realized is that I’m a good mentor for these women, but not in a high enough position to sponsor them to the rest of the university (not least because I’ve been in my role as Associate Dean a very short time and don’t have a university reputation to leverage for them). However, I now recognize that just as sponsorship is important for my career, it is also important for theirs – and their career success is important to me. I’ve also considered who in the libraries would be good candidates for my sponsorship, and have identified a high-potential woman who has a master’s degree (qualifying her to be a faculty librarian) but is currently in a staff position.

As noted above, I emailed Mr Art Dean to thank him for his facilitation of a recent diversity program in my unit retreat, and to offer my help back to him (as a first step in nurturing him as a sponsor). To my delight, he wrote me back within a few days not only accepting my thanks, but offering several ideas for things we might work on together. One includes continuing the work on diversity/access and inclusion that we started in the retreats (which I will happily do), and another is to train me to facilitate the series of structured discussions, one of which is what he had given to the unit. This would give me access to departments across the university in both academic and student service areas – which, if I do a good job, could significantly increase my name recognition on campus and my association with what is a core value for me, the libraries, and JMU.

So this week I’ve considered my roles both as sponsor and as protege – and have taken some steps towards living into those roles. It’s encouraging but also a little scary!



Directed Field Study – Week 5

Time spent this week: 3 hours, bringing my total to date to 24 hours.

Activities this week: I spent some time reflecting on potential sponsors within my organization (and identified two), and working on Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, which I continue to find interesting and helpful. My mentor is on vacation in France, so we did not have a meeting this week. I also had an extremely busy and stressful week at work (with four 10-14 hour days) so generally did not have time available for field study work.

Skill development this week: I spent some time reflecting on my political map, including people who are above me in standing at the university but with whom I have a positive, if tangential relationship. One of the things that I specifically considered was their potential interest/willingness to sponsor women into leadership positions. Another was their focus in the university in terms of current job and history. I identified Marilou Johnson, Vice Provost for Academic Development, and Art Dean, Executive Director for Access and Inclusion (which is a President’s initiative and office). Marilou’s portfolio is one that I could see myself overseeing in a future job iteration, and she has also created and supported programs aimed at supporting women in leadership at the university. I’ve also seen her do some unconscious sponsoring for other women on campus, so have hope she’d be a sponsor for me as well. I have already started cultivating Art as a partner (or, rather, his office as a partner) for my new and developing problem of practice, which will give me an opportunity to show him my skills in a practical way. Clearly access and inclusion is important to me, given my new PoP.

Now that I have identified these two individuals, however, I find myself a little paralyzed about how to proceed. I’m not convinced of the wisdom of essentially cold-calling them and asking them to sponsor me. The Hewlett book is giving me some good practical advice about how to recruit a sponsor (it’s hard, she admits), which includes asking questions like, “How can I help you with a project you’re working on?” Another suggestion is offering less specific help, such as “The next time you’re forming an interdisciplinary group to work on X, keep me in mind.” I’ll have to consider how to frame these asks. In one of the possibly unconscious acts of sponsorship that I saw Marilou do this week, a junior leader simply asked her for advice in building a larger network on campus, which resulted in Marilou inviting her to the Associate Dean’s biweekly meetings (which she runs, and I attend).

In my continued reading of the Hewlett book, I’ve also come across the recommendation that I need not only more than one sponsor at JMU – both to insulate me against something happening to one and to provide me with a broader network and pool of advice – but I should also be cultivating sponsors outside the university. I had hoped to work this summer with the mayor of Harrisonburg, but we never managed to properly connect. Unfortunately my job change four years ago took me out of a professional network that I had cultivated over 10 years (and in which I had several external sponsors), and I have yet to develop a proper professional home in my new position (in part because it’s changed twice in the last four years – so even if I’d found something in 2013 it wouldn’t be valid now). I wonder if my colleague Lisa Varga, the executive director of the Virginia Library Association, would be a good option – she certainly knows a lot of people in the state. However, if I’m hoping to build a network outside of the library profession, I’ll need to make broader connections outside the profession. I’m hoping to attend and get active in AAC&U or similar groups – perhaps the AAUW would be a good option… I’ve struggled with this since coming to JMU and feel stuck.

Also in this week’s reading in Forget a Mentor…, Hewlett emphasized the role of the protege-sponsor relationship as not just benefiting the protege, but as a means of promoting the sponsor. This is very different from a mentoring relationship, which tends to support the mentee but not particularly the mentor (other than incidentally). I will need to keep this in mind when reaching out to Marilou, Art, Lisa, and others – and I think those questions that I wrote out above are examples of being-sponsored behavior (“how can I help you”) as opposed to being-mentored behavior (“how can you help me”). It’s an interesting different way to think about this sort of workplace relationship. I’ve been trying to practice servant leadership, which sort of takes the same approach to supervision, so at least I have some experience to draw on.

Activities for next week: Because of my workload this week I was not able to download and read the two reports that I’d given to Jennifer last week. I’d like to do that, and to get further in Forget a Mentor… If I have time, I’ll also work to update my Google Sheet of notes from the various articles that I read. I fear the Google Sheet won’t work for my notes from Forget a Mentor…, so I’ll have to come up with a way to organize those so they’re easy for Jennifer to parse.

This is a bad time to approach Marilou and Art, even if it is to offer my help, because not only is the fiscal year ending so we’re all desperately writing our annual reports, but our beloved Provost is retiring at the end of this week and a new one is stepping into the job on July 5th. Marilou is directly impacted by this (since Provost Coltman will be her boss), and I imagine Art will be tangentially involved. My boss (the LET Dean) is also distracted by both reporting and the new Provost. However, the registration for the fall VLA conference just launched, which means that Lisa may actually have some time to talk. With her I feel much more comfortable asking directly for her advocacy – but am still weirdly awkward about it. I’ll try to work up the courage (and time) for an email this week. I think I’ll also join the AAUW!

Directed Field Study – Week 4

Time spent this week: Approximately 6 hours, bringing my total for the semester to 21 hours.

Activities this week: The bulk of my time this week was in reading the remainder of the research articles that I had found (2.5 hours), plus the first third of the Forget a Mentor, Get a Sponsor book (2 hours). I also met with my mentor for an hour, and did some preparatory work pulling two articles and two reports from Catalyst for her to read on her flights to France (1.5 hours).

Skill development this week: As usual, my meeting with Jennifer was very interesting and helped to fine-tune our further work. We are less convinced that a training program marketed broadly is appropriate for Talent Development to maintain – but perhaps there are other ways we could support the development of sponsorship as a means to support women’s leadership development on campus. In part this is because of a concern that sending a dozen women out in search of sponsors on our relatively small campus could backfire massively – and neither of us has the pull with leadership above us to try to teach them about being sponsors. However, we are still interested in pulling together materials with a goal of determining next steps in an emergent way.

The three articles that I read this week were interesting but not, in the end, hugely informative beyond what I’ve already read. Two were focused generally on business leaders and their sponsorship histories, and the third had to do specifically with human resources professionals and their different mentoring histories. I have a few additional articles to look up, but in the end there’s not a lot new in these articles. I do find it interesting that there’s not much agreement in these articles about whether mentoring and sponsoring are related or nested or independent of each other.

The book, on the other hand, is a remarkably rich source of background (much of which I’ve read, including Lean In) and practical advice. I like the first person point of view and the mixture of narrative, evidence, and recommendation. So far at 1/3rd of the way in (4 chapters) I’ve got a lovely handle on what sponsorship is and how it works (including a handy three-part model for what sponsors do and how protegés reward them), and how to prep for getting a sponsor by first understanding my career goals and my professional strengths and then by identifying potential sponsors. Included in chapter 3 are several sets of questions to help guide the development of self-evaluation, which I find very helpful.

Activities for the upcoming week involve working further in the book as well as going through some of the questions to start building my own story. So far my main skill improvement has been that I’ve realized how much I need a sponsor, so I’m updating my outcomes for this summer to work on that as well. I’m also planning to read the two Catalyst reports that I had identified for Jennifer (but gave her my print copies). Jennifer is in France (and completely off grid) for the next two weeks, so I’ll be preparing materials in her absence.

Directed Field Study – Week 3

Time spent this week: Approximately 6 hours. My total time spent is now approximately 15 hours over the last three weeks.

Activities this week: I got started reading the research literature on sponsorship (3 articles read; 2 to go), picked up the book Forget a Mentor, Get a Sponsor from interlibrary loan, and started working on notes from articles using a Google Sheet [LINK]. I have shared this sheet with my mentor so that we have a shared knowledgebase for moving forward – these notes and quotations will become grist for our workshop. Note that I was at the National Spelling Bee most of this week (my daughter was #132!) and so did not have a meeting with my mentor.

Skill development this week: I don’t know that I learned all that much new about my topic this week from the readings. The popular literature that I went through last week was largely reporting on several whitepapers and HBR reports/documents that I’ve not been able to secure because of my travels this week. I finished reading three more scholarly articles, which were interesting. One was a longer version of one of the short trade articles I’d read the week before, so while it went into more detail it didn’t really add a lot of content (but did depress me; one concern about cross-gender sponsorship and mentorship is that people are afraid of being accused of having an affair). The other two were very interesting for different reasons, so I’ll make some notes here as well as brief reflections on where they’re leading me.

Citation: Curtin, N., Malley, J., & Stewart, A. J. (2016) Mentoring the next generation of faculty: Supporting academic career aspirations among doctoral students. Research in Higher Education, 57, 714-738. doi: 10.1007/s11162-015-9403-x

Curtin, Malley, and Stewart (2016) studied doctoral students (in this case, PhD) in several disciplines to see if there was a connection between various forms of mentoring (including sponsorship as well as career/instrumental mentoring and expressive/psychosocial mentoring) and career efficacy and career interest (in this case, of becoming an academician). This was done using a survey and scale based on some other research into mentoring in academics. In the study, sponsorship and interest in an academic career were significantly linked, and sponsorship predicted career self-efficacy as well (career self-efficacy in turn also predicted interest in academia). In addition, the researchers found a significant relationship between reported sponsorship relationships and interest in an academic career among non-under-represented minority (URM) women, and URM men, but not for non-URM men or URM women (this last possibly because the sample was too small for statistical power). The other forms followed this pattern as well, to varying degrees by type and population. These findings suggest that “sponsorship may matter least for non-URM men, and more for the other groups” (p. 730). However, women in the study were less likely to report a sponsoring relationship with their primary advisor than men were. This was also the case for instrumental mentoring on practical aspects of research process. The authors note that other studies have found that advisors may not consider sponsorship as part of their expected duties with regards to their graduate advisees, but this does not account for a gender-based difference in reported incidence of sponsorship. The authors recommend advisors be trained in mentoring behaviors and be expected to provide them with equity.

This article was interesting to me as a doctoral student, but is relevant to my work because it found no significant difference by field of study and so is applicable across disciplines. I also am interested because it suggests that sponsorship across categories (faculty vs. student) is beneficial, and it is beneficial not just for getting people into a higher position but for supporting their self-efficacy that they can and want to be in that position.

Citation: Sexton, D. W., Lemak, C. H., & Wainio, J. A. (2014). Career inflection points of women who successfully achieved the hospital CEO position. Journal of Healthcare Management, 59(5), 367-383.

In this article, the authors held semistructured interviews with female CEOs and COOs of US hospitals to gather self-reported “inflection points” during their careers, and to examine patterns for what kinds of points those were and how they affected the women. They found five categories of inflection: education and training (including original and second degree, and fellowships or residencies), experience, career management (particularly formal career planning), networking, and mentorship and sponsorship. Interestingly, this population split into two cohorts; one cohort were traditional healthcare management MS holders, and the other had either started in clinical professions (with an MD, PharmD, or one of the many nursing degrees) or in an administrative support area (such as accounting or IT). The paths that these two groups took tended to diverge in the education/training, experience, and mentoring/sponsoring facets. The healthcare management folks tended to have been mentored/sponsored by the COO or CEO at their previous hospital, even at mid-career, while the clinical and administrative services professionals tended to be mentored/sponsored by the chief of their division (such as the Chief Nursing Officer or Chief Information Officer) before moving to a COO position and then being mentored/sponsored by the CEO. This group also reported an inflection point being a professional bias against non-healthcare management professionals in the COO/CEO role that led them to move to a different hospital to take on those roles.

This is a very interesting finding to me, as I can see a similar division in academics regarding the path to university provost, albeit possibly reversed. JMU recently held a national search for a new provost (our current beloved Dr Benson is retiring at the end of this month), during which it became clear to me that the traditional path to provost involves being an academic dean first. Since it’s unlikely that I’ll be an academic dean (unless my path takes a real turn and I go head up an iSchool somewhere), I’m clearly on a harder path similar to that of the administrative support professionals. This article suggests that although I can perhaps lean on the sponsorship of my dean (of libraries & educational technologies), what I really need is one of the academic deans to support me in this way, and I may need to leave JMU to get credibility in the vice provost ranks as something other than a librarian. That’s very interesting, if true.

I’m not sure that either of these are all that helpful for the purposes of creating a workshop on sponsorship for non-faculty leaders at JMU (my ostensible project this summer), but they are interesting in terms of presenting some of the existing actual research on sponsorship and its role from both sides of a career. I have two more research papers to read, plus the book, and I also need to track down the reports that everyone is citing. Still miles to go before I sleep!

Directed Field Study – Week 2

Time spent this week: Approximately 5 hours.

Activities this week: 

On Tuesday I had my first in-person meeting with Jennifer, in her office. We had a rollicking conversation about the weaknesses of basic-level trainings like the one she had sent me (and wants to improve on), and identified the question of sponsorship vs. mentorship as an interesting part of support for women in leadership paths that neither of us knows a lot about but are both interested in. We agreed that I would pursue this specific thread for the next few weeks, as whatever I found would be useful for developing a future workshop. Thursday I spent some time browsing the stacks in the LB2332s (women in academic careers), and then searched our combined education databases via the EBSCO platform. I found 23 articles (both in the popular and scholarly literature) that looked promising, plus one additional book that I requested via interlibrary loan. I was able to print out most of the identified articles. The (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor book wasn’t in from ILL in time for my trip to DC for the Spelling Bee (my daughter is speller #132!), so I will have to wait to read it until I get home next week.

Skill development this week: 

This week I worked through reading the popular articles (several from the Harvard Business Review, but others from various trade and popular magazines as well). ItIt was very interesting to see this problem described from a variety of perspectives, including general business as well as the specific fields of banking, law, and real estate/construction. None of these were specifically from education (which isn’t surprising; I would have expected to find them from CHE or something similar). Next week I intend to work through the six research articles, which may have some more directly relevant writing for educational settings.

I have certainly learned a lot in a short amount of time about the sponsor-protege relationship, both as a counter to and as a component of mentoring relationships. It’s interesting to me that sometimes sponsorship is presented as kind of an advanced form of mentoring, and sometimes as a different relationship entirely – to the extent of giving advice to find both a mentor AND a sponsor (and, in the case of an IBM program, the assignment of both a coach/mentor and a sponsor as different people). I’m starting to develop a working definition of the two, though, that I think will help in framing both my research and our workshop outline and materials.

In this working definition, a mentor is a person who helps you with skill development and with understanding the culture of your current workplace, such as through talking through problems that you are currently having. This is a very inward-facing relationship; the goal is to improve the mentee’s work skills or knowledge. Mentoring can come in many forms, including the traditional senior to junior model, peer mentoring between people of similar status, and various types of group/multiple partner mentoring. Mentoring reminds me a lot of a co-regulatory learning (or, in some cases, shared regulatory learning) model, in which mainly the mentee gains new skills, but the mentor also grows in knowledge.

The sponsor, on the other hand, is nearly always described as a senior person with influence within the company (or relevant decision making group) who can advocate for the protege, helping them get attention from decision makers that can translate into promotions and good job assignments (which also lead to promotions). This is a much more externally-focused relationship; the goal is not (necessarily) to improve the skills of the protege (though some articles talk about the sponsor as helping the protege develop “executive presence”), but to help others perceive the protege as a rising star.

In this relationship, the actions are not focused as much on learning as they are on politically-savvy moves – the protege may take on some of the sponsor’s work as a means of demonstrating skill and competence, and in return the sponsor talks her up to senior management, which in turn leads to another (assumedly plum) job task. Nearly all of the articles talk about how hard it is to find a sponsor (since assigning someone isn’t hugely successful, but neither is cold-calling), and how easy it is to lose one (mess up that second assignment, and your sponsor will walk). This is in large part because what the protege is asking from a sponsor is inherently different from what they ask of a mentor. The mentoring relationship is about knowledge; the sponsoring relationship is about prestige.

One of the things I’m realizing in this process is that I want to think seriously about who my sponsors are within JMU. We have a new provost coming in, and with my dean being relatively new (2 years) but with good standing (he’s the chair of her onboarding committee, and clearly already has her trust), I could stand to cultivate a network outside my close sphere that could get me onto university committees and task forces. I’m tempted to go talk to our Vice Provost for Academic Development, whom I like and admire, but I fear that I don’t have anything to offer her.

(This, incidentally, is named as one of the problems that women have with finding and leveraging sponsors. The articles suggest that women just aren’t very good at developing professional networks and then working them for advancement.)

I am also starting to think about how I might serve as a sponsor for junior faculty as well. This year I served on the jury for the conference scholarships for our major academic library conference, and got to meet 10 new librarians from across the country. We did a business card swap, and after the conference I reached out to all of them to congratulate them on their award. I closed by offering my support at any time. Two wrote me back – I’m wondering if I should check back with them again around the time of the next conference (it happens every other year). In addition, over the years I’ve participated in a number of mentoring programs through professional societies (as both a mentor and as a mentee). None of these have resulted in lasting relationships. I wonder what it would take to flip such a mentoring relationship into a sponsoring one?

Right now I’m at the spelling bee with my daughter (as noted above), so I’ll leave this post there. Plans for the coming week include reading through six scholarly articles and starting to collect the research reports (mainly from HBR) that have been cited by many of these trade articles. I will be back at the libraries on Monday 6/5 and hope that the ILL book that I requested will be in by then.

Directed Field Study – Week 1

This is my first blog entry reporting on the week’s work in my directed field study for TEL 792. My mentor is Jennifer Campfield, Director of Talent Development at JMU, and we are working together on a project aimed at supporting leadership development for women in middle-management and non-instructional faculty positions.

Time spent this week: Approximately 4 hours, including a phone conversation to start our work, development of my plan of study, setting up a schedule for meetings for the summer, and reviewing the instructor’s guide for a previous workshop series that Jennifer taught in the fall (the last being the bulk of this time).

Activities this week:

  • Early in the week I had my first contact with Jennifer, this time by phone (as both of us had other meetings on either side of our call, and no time to travel). I have known Jennifer tangentially for several years, and so we felt that we could have an open conversation without needing to observe social niceties and see each other in person.
  • Together we brainstormed a project and some loose questions, which I then adapted for the plan of study that was due this week.
  • I developed a schedule for regular one-on-one meetings (in person) with Jennifer. This was challenging because for much of June either she or I will be out of town. However, we will plan to keep in touch via email/phone when possible.
  • The bulk of my time this week was spent reading through the instructor’s guide for Women and Leadership: Working Through Barriers and Biases, which is a roughly 4.5 hour workshop from HRDQ designed to help women understand common barriers that women experience in taking leadership roles, including some self-assessment of individual skills and gaps. I read through this as a foundational document, to get up to speed on the work that Jennifer has done on campus already.

Skill development this week:

Much of this week was spent on the initial setup phase of the field study, including the initial meeting, setting a plan of study, and organizing meetings. However, I appreciated a chance to think on my own and with my mentor about what aspects of leadership I found interesting in the context of what she has need to explore. We are both very interested in women in leadership positions – and both feel a bit frustrated with the lack of substantive advice for women other than “stand up straight and talk more loudly, but not too loudly or people will think you’re mean.” I talked briefly with Jennifer about my need to develop a new problem of practice, and suggested that it would be interesting to thinking about library services using a “female gaze” approach, rather than a traditional “male gaze.” Both of us thought this was an interesting idea, but we agreed to table it for later, given that neither of us really know where to go with it.

In the end, the main leadership skill development activity that I did this week as to read through the instructor’s guide linked above. I can see why Jennifer is frustrated with this workshop – there’s very little in there that isn’t either normal leadership advice (team-building activities, a reference to making both a rational and emotional case for change that reminded me of the rider and elephant metaphor in Switch, a recommendation that what people really need are sponsors, not mentors), or somewhat tried-and-true clichés about how women are perceived in leadership positions (you can be either likable or competent, but not both). There was a self-assessment at the end to help identify areas of skill development need: unsurprisingly, I’m good at being authentic, bad at work/life balance, and lazy (but not necessarily unskilled) about my negotiation practices.

The training did remind me that I do already have prior knowledge in this area, and helped me think more about what I feel is lacking. One thing that I’d like to delve into (and this lines up well with Jennifer’s goals) is how women can support other women in their leadership journeys. This could include the question of mentoring vs. sponsoring, but also an exploration of how women are often much harsher critics of other women than they are of men or than men are of women. I think this will be the focus of several of the next few weeks.

I got a few reading recommendations from the workshop guide, as well. Two years ago I read Lean In as part of an HR training in women’s leadership – this was an interesting (though at times annoying) read, and one that I should probably return to again. I did join a local Lean In Circle, but only a few other women joined that, and we have yet to meet. I have Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about How Women Become Leaders, by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, on my list of to-read this summer. I fear, though, that this is going to be more of the justification for how women are held back, rather than a description of how we might move them forward.

On my reading list: I realize this section is not part of the formal prompt for the weekly entries. However, I need a place to collect items that may be of interest. These are some books from the JMU library collection, cataloged with the LCSH “leadership in women.” The first two specifically refer to leadership in academia (which I sense is different from the corporate world), and the last is focused on social development of leadership.

  • Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders (Eagly & Carli, 2007).  HD6054.3 .E34 2007. Currently checked out: requested recall.
  •  Career moves : mentoring for women advancing their career and leadership in academia (Vongalis-Macrow, ed, 2014). LB2332.3 .C37 2014.
  • Gender and leadership in education : women achieving against the odds (Fuller & Harford, eds., 2016). LC1481 .G46 2016 Internet. Ebook, but only available on campus.
  • Power through partnership: how women lead better together (Polk & Chotas, 2014). HD6054.3 .P65 2014 Internet. Ebook.

Leadership Challenge #8

Module 13 LdC reflection on provocative question #7

Provocative Question (LdC)

What does the literature suggest we should do to make our conversations about research meaningful to use as change agents/action researchers?   Include Wenger and one other author.  


Reflect on Module 13 LdC Step 3 – determine your leadership challenge

What behavior did you experiment with/try out for your leadership challenge last week?
I considered a model for incorporating research into practice in the form of my Dean’s experience and practice, and reflected on that model in a self- and shared regulation way.

What did you end up doing for your leadership challenge last week?
I had a brief conversation with Adam (aka, the Dean) about how he incorporates research into his practice (he completed his EdD at Western Kentucky in 2014). We then followed up on the conversation briefly several times, both in person and via email.

Reflect on Module 13 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.
There were three effects: first, an internal one in that I started noticing when people referenced external knowledge in conversation and writing (both implicitly and explicitly); second, my conversation with the Dean prompted him to explicitly reference research in at least one meeting; third, I reinforced with my Dean the shared connection that we have because of our positive orientation toward research, particularly theory-based, rigorous studies outside library science.

Reflect on your experience with the Leadership Challenge for this module.
For some time now I’ve struggled with trying to find the sweet spot between what the leader of a leadership intensive once called “wet dogging” and hoarding the ideas, theories, and information that I’m learning in this program. Wet dogging is when a person gets overwhelmed with exciting new ideas, and shakes them out on everyone around her – much like a dog does when she comes in from the rain. And much like everyone around the dog yells and backs away, so do colleagues who are the “beneficiaries” of all that shaken-off knowledge. However, part of the reason I’m doing this program is to bring back ideas and knowledge to my local context – so hoarding it in my brain is also not acceptable. So, again, I’m trying to figure out where that middle zone is, where I’m able to bring in research to my practice (and not in the form of researching my practice, but of informing it) in a way that is transformative but not alienating.

I asked my dean and friend, Adam, how he goes about doing this. I was rather surprised that he wasn’t able to talk about it well. We had a good conversation about how this is hard, and occasionally in passing he or I would say “Oh, look, we’re referencing research!” However, we never talked about ways that he has found to acceptably bring theories and studies up in conversation or in other areas of practice. Adam writes an occasional all-hands email to the organization in which he puts links to “current reading” at the end – mainly these are trade or popular articles, though. As I noted above, we have also read some of the same books (particularly Bolman & Deal), and that comes up. I’m a little disappointed, though, to discover that he wasn’t able – and, almost, unwilling – to talk about research influencing practice with me. I feel like I leaned in and he leaned away. This could easily be because we had a really rough week, with both of us just back from vacation and a whole day lost to meetings with architects about our building renovation/expansion. Knowing Adam, he’ll wander into my office in a few weeks wanting to talk about it then.

So I feel like I’m still struggling with this question, and I haven’t really found the right person to talk to. I might turn to the Communication Center director, Paul, who is currently working on his PhD in Strategic Leadership at JMU, to see whether he’s been thinking about this topic. I’m feeling a little lonely, to be honest, and like I don’t have a lot of close colleagues with a similar identity to the one I have as a student-practitioner-researcher right now. I mean, it’s not that hard to bring research up – all I have to do is say, “Oh, I just read in my program X,” and people accept that context. What I’m concerned about is how to navigate (negotiate?) that conversation when I don’t have the excuse (context?) of being in a graduate program. How do normal people do this?

Leadership Challenge #7

Module 11 LdC reflection 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?


Reflect on Module 11 LdC Step 3 – determine your leadership challenge

What behavior did you experiment with/try out for your leadership challenge last week?
I reflected on my changing memberships in communities and those that my interim replacement (in my previous department head position) needed to start creating.

What did you end up doing for your leadership challenge last week?
Originally I was going to create a political map for myself that showed graphically the different communities that relate to my new position – of some of which I’m a member and some of which have boundary members who relate to me – but due to a hectic week at work and then a week of vacation, I was not able to do that. Instead, I started working with my faculty member who will be taking my former position over as an interim position, to disentangle myself from that role and move her into it.

Reflect on Module 11 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.
The primary people affected by my leadership challenge this week were the directors of the four departments that I now supervise, and the fourteen members of my former department. I started the process of moving into my new position and shifting my department head work to a junior colleague. This is requiring all of these people – two different communities within the constellation that is LET – to shift their relationships with and expectations of both of us. I am doing this specifically with the idea of CoP identities in mind.

Reflect on your experience with the Leadership Challenge for this module.
We have had a shaky history of asking people to do interim work, which often really means that they take on a second position in addition to their regular work (this is what happened to me when I accepted the Acting Associate Dean position – I was both department head and associate dean at the same time). When I accepted the permanent associate dean position last month, I wanted to be able to inhabit the role fully, without having to wait for the year that it will take to hire a new department head. This meant identifying an interim to take on the role. It was tricky to choose a person, as I wanted someone with leadership skills, interest in management, and tenure/associate prof status. There were two people with this combination, one of whom is already a department head and the other has leadership but no supervisory experience. After talking with lots of people, the Dean and I decided to ask the latter person (Carolyn) to be the interim.

What I’ve done in the last few weeks has been to reflect on the changes that this promotion means for my own identity as well as for Carolyn’s. Based on some of the thinking that I’ve done about identities in communities, Carolyn and I had several conversations in the week before my vacation about her identity in the community in particular – how taking on this role means she will have to shift her own practice, including her communication with her current peers, to be one of the supervisor and not peer. This is complicated by her need to also be able to move back to the peer role, should she not be selected in the national search for the permanent department head position (which is possible). So on the one hand I did some intensive work with Carolyn, to bring her deeper into the philosophy of management that I and the other department heads have used and that she’s been blissfully ignorant of.

On the other hand, I’m finding that I am acting as a broker of Carolyn herself with some of the other communities. She will start attending the department head meetings in May (her appointment starts May 1st), and so before then I have started having conversations with the other directors about her qualifications and my expectations for their working relationships. This is important because two of the directors are used to thinking of Carolyn as a junior faculty member, and not always with positive commentary attached. So I had conversations with them last week to prepare them for this change.

The hardest part of this process, which surprised me, was the communication to the department and then to the rest of LET. I had meetings with the subject clusters (there are 4, with 2-4 people each) and the few folks that I’ll still supervise. The faculty were all in strong support of Carolyn and this move, and had very few questions for me. I found out later that they have lots of more questions that they are speculating on amongst themselves (including whether people will be moving offices) or asking Carolyn directly. This surprised me – and makes me think that perhaps the department is further along the road of separating themselves from me than I thought they were. It seems to be a truism in academia that there is a divide between “The Faculty” and “The Administration” – having mostly been a member of the former, I always blamed the latter for that, but now I’m starting to think there’s blame on both sides.

This was just the beginning of this transition process, and unfortunately if she doesn’t win the permanent position I’ll have to go through it all again next year. I actually think we would do well to have an external person come in, but also want to support Carolyn as much as I can. So yes, I hope to maintain this behavior over time – and also hope that it will help me to continue developing my leadership group as a CoP.

Module 13 LdC Steps 1, 2 and 3 on provocative question #7

Provocative Question (LdC)

What does the literature suggest we should do to make our conversations about research meaningful to use as change agents/action researchers?   Include Wenger and one other author.

Step 1. Prepare for an on-line Conversation

Quote/ideas from the book/reading Page number
 [Participation and reification] offer two kinds of lever available for attempts to shape the future – to maintain the status quo or conversely to redirect the practice.
1) You can seek, cultivate, or avoid specific relationships with specific people.
2) You can produce or promote specific artifacts to focus future negotiation of meaning in specific ways.
 Wenger p. 91
 The role of managers is often construed in terms of directing people, but it is worth noting that a good part of their activities have more to do with brokering across boundaries between practices… Although we all do some brokering, my experience is that certain individuals seem to thrive on being brokers; they love to create connections and engage in “import-export,” and so would rather stay at the boundaries of many practices than move to the core of any one practice.  Wenger p. 109
 In addition to being a source of boundary for outsiders and insiders, practice can also become a form of connection. Practice has the advantage of offering something to do together, some productive enterprise around which to negotiate diverging meanings and perspectives. People can engage in practice rather than simply talk about it. Over time, the connection itself gains a history:
1) sustained mutual engagement builds relationships
2) maintaining connections becomes part of the enterprise
3) the repertoire begins to include boundary elements that articulate the forms of membership involved.
 Wenger p. 113
 Experience may drive competence. Imagine that one or more members have had some experience that currently falls outside the regime of competence of a community to which they belong – for instance, because there are no words for it or because it puts the enterprise in question. As a way of asserting their membership, they may very well attempt to change the community’s regime so that it includes their experience. Toward this end, they have to negotiate its meaning with their community of practice. They invite others ot participate in their experience; they attempt to reify it for them. They may need to engage with people in new ways and transform relations among people in order to be taken seriously; they may need to redefine the enterprise in order to make the effort worthwhile; they may need to add new elements to the repertoire of their practice. If they have enough legitimacy as members to be successful, they will ahve changed the regime of competence – and created new knowledge in the process.  Wenger p. 137-138
 Alignment requires the ability to coordinate perspectives and actions in order to direct energies to a common purpose. The challenge of alignment is to connect local efforts to broader styles and discourses in ways that allow learners to invest their energy in them. Whether it is about a scientific method, an artistic or a social movement, a moral commitment, or the charter of an organization, alignment requires the ability to communicate purpose, needs, methods, and criteria. (then see processes, including negotiating perspectives, convincing)  Wenger p. 185
 Coregulation refers to a transitional process in a learner’s acquisition of self-regulated learning, within which learners and others share a common problem-solving plane, and SRL is gradually appropriated by the individual learner through interactions. Typically coregulation involves a student and an other (usually a more capable other, such as a more advanced student, peer tutor, and so on) sharing in the regulation of the student’s learning.  Hadwin & Oshige p. 247
 Coregulation refers to a transitional process in a learner’s acquisition of self-regulated learning, within which learners and others share a common problem-solving plane, and SRL is gradually appropriated by the individual learner through interactions. Typically coregulation involves a student and an other (usually a more capable other, such as a more advanced student, peer tutor, and so on) sharing in the regulation of the student’s learning. Hadwin & Oshige p. 254

Applications from workplace setting:
In the last few years two others of the senior faculty have gotten additional degrees – one a PhD and the other a MS – and yet neither of them tend to talk about the research that they did or that they read. My dean also finished his EdD in the last few years, and he similarly doesn’t thread references to research into his regular communication (mostly. see below.). Research really only comes up with these three if I bring it up – I had a lovely conversation with Jody (the PhD) about leadership styles on our way home from the ACRL conference, as I was working on those readings at the time. So I don’t have particularly solid examples among my peers for how this can work.

I should mention, though, the example of the dean. He is very fond of the Bolman & Deal “four frames” idea for academia – and I’ve found that since I also like that model, he and I have a bit of shorthand that we use with each other. It’s not an obvious reference to literature, but rather comments like “ok, but what if we look at this from the political frame?” In addition, he has a tendency to provide links in his regular all-hands update emails to articles that he is reading (though most of these are from the popular/trade press like the CHE). I’ve picked that habit up and try to remember to include a link to something from our courses when I think my folks will find them interesting.

Where we do tend to bring in the literature is when we’re working on a new project. Right now the liaisons have a number of projects underway, and their first step tends to be to do a literature review (might as well practice what we preach!). So while we don’t tend to randomly throw in references to general/day-to-day practice, we do deliberately seek out information for new or developing practices.

Step 2. Hold an on-line Conversation

Thoughts on the fishbowl:  Note that my group did the fishbowl this week. It was Amanda, Karen, and myself – we couldn’t come up with a time when all four of us in the group could meet to talk.

I think all three of us struggled somewhat in finding quotations for the provocative question, and we ended up all going in very different directions. However, I very much valued our conversation about collaboration, the value of small failures (and small wins) in building community and furthering projects, and how we were thinking about bringing the literature and our own research into conversations with stakeholders in our problems of practice. Our discussion lasted longer than we thought, we were having such a good conversation!

Here’s the link.

Step 3. Determine your Leadership Challenge/new leadership challenge

This week I want to have a conversation with my dean about how he makes a connection between research and practice, and whether he has thoughts about how well that works for him.

Step 4. Implement and Reflect

Module 13 LdC – Reported in the final report.