NYCTLF Session 4: Diagnosing Organization & Culture

Intensive session today. Our session leader was Lori Roth Gale, who impressed me greatly. We had four papers to read in advance of the session, and they were so diversely written and various in subject that I had trouble pinning down ahead of time what the focus of our work would be. In part that’s because we’ll be spending two sessions with Ms. Gale, so there’s more time to delve. But it’s also because her her subject, as well as being broadly researched, is grossly encompassing: Diagnosing and enhancing working structures and cultures.

The work today resonated so completely with my nascent “change project” for the Rubin Museum that I was at times impressed into being speechless. The insights came hard and fast, not just about concepts of effective management and leadership, but about the over-arching factor of engendering high-performance culture. We investigated models for non-profit life-cycle, organizational congruence, performance gaps, negotiation styles, and moving toward more positive norms in staff motivation. A very busy day; I’m glad we get a second.

A scattered few personally important insights:

  • What you measure is what you get.

  • What got you to here, won’t get you there.

  • “Oops” is the first step to improvement.

  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

  • Dissatisfaction with the norms can be a driver for change.

I’m looking forward to next week. We have another four papers to digest, and the date of our “change-project” pitches fast approaches. This is a lot of work. Good, growing work.

NYCTLF Session 3: Social Media

Our guests today were Edith Asibey and Jamie Lonie, and I was just thrilled with their approach. It was an intense day, with few, brief breaks, but a lot of movement and creative thought to make up for it. We weren’t only aiming for a better understanding of and appreciation for the major social-media channels, but to do so in terms of mission-relevant goals and immediate objectives, and how specific channels could best support those.

I’ve mentioned it before, but what’s really awe-inspiring about this fellowship is absorbing all these different organizations’ perspectives and intentions. This was particularly poignant in considering the outreach of social media.

I think the best insight I gained from today was to perceive the social media channels as channels perfect not just for giving content, but receiving information. “Listening,” in Edith and Jamie’s vernacular, and it’s an especially apt word.

Of course, any self-respecting discussion of social media comes around to metrics eventually, which is a sweet spot for my change project. I took careful notes. If only visitor experience could so automatically be measured…

The coming week brings much reading homework, on the subject of organizational diagnosis and culture. Again: Close targets for my interests and particular project. It will be hard to match Edith and Jamie’s level of clarity and expertise. Still, my hopes are high.

NYCTLF Session 1: Introductions & Leadership

The New York Cultural Trust Leadership Fellows - 1st Session

In the spring of this year I applied for a fellowship. I did not achieve it. My supervisor - the Museum’s Executive Director - followed up to understand why. This fall, I reapplied. And today was my first session as one of the New York Community Trust’s Leadership Fellows. It was an encouraging, enlightening, inspiring, and overwhelming day.

Two aspects impacted me most:

  1. The nurturing environment of the session. We were challenged, certainly; today with a particular focus on the qualities a good leader ought to imbue. Yet the overall atmosphere was of sharing and safety - sharing honest experiences, safe in the knowledge that everyone there was there to learn, to improve. Remarkable.

  2. The astonishing breadth of participants’ non-profit work and personal experience. Everyone there was different, coming from distinct fields and experiences, and at the same time united by a strong desire to be ever-better at accomplishing work that was important to them. Frankly, I was in awe (and conversely: struggled with a little impostor syndrome).

I’ve so much to process, I haven’t much of substance to report; in spite of 8 pages of vital note-taking. One thing I learned is that the fellowship will be huge, hard work. I’m looking forward to it, confident that I’ll come out of it equipped as I’ve never been before to advance good work. The first real task, it seems, will be to track down and entice a good mentor.

I’ve craved mentors for as long as I can remember, usually adopting them covertly, just in my own perception. It may be pretty refreshing to have a proper one, but it will also take some serious research, not to mention trial-and-error.

This is the beginning of a surprising, rewarding adventure. And I begin it with deep gratitude.