From Networking to Netbuilding: The Inaugural GLP Women’s Leadership Summit

It’s long been established that “who you know” matters when it comes to professional advancement.  Networking – or the accumulation of contacts and connections that can be helpful – is a strategy most aspiring or established leaders accept as a necessary part of the work. The bigger the network the better. But not everyone likes to network: the process can feel transactional, impersonal, and, if you are an introvert like me, downright exhausting. Moreover, many of the natural spaces for successful networking (the golf club, the bar, or the conference circuit) may seem more welcoming to some – and less comfortable for others.  But what if we reimagined networking? I’d like to offer an alternative: I call it “netbuilding” and I believe it is essential to effective leadership development. 

Here’s what netbuilding looks like: imagine a small circle of leaders, joined by a deep sense of trust, an authentic desire to support one another, and a shared sense of purpose and joy. Add in a lot of laughter, space to know one another as people first, and time for exercise and relaxation. Then imagine the power of that net: a smart, creative, experienced team of collaborators who offer ideas, honest feedback, advice, inspiration, and encouragement in a trusted circle. Now your net is more than a web of useful or expedient connections. It’s a net of empathy, kinship, wisdom, support, and safety.  It’s a source of deep learning and growth. It’s a new kind of power – one that fuels you to lead, inspires you, and supports you when you are unsure of how to move forward.

This summer, we decided to try something different – and it was all about netbuilding. On the encouragement of many of our clients, we convened a small group of female school leaders and trustees from across the country at the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. We were a small but mighty group; 23 in total – and we came together to explore questions of  leadership, gender, the challenges of education, and the particular problems facing schools. 

You can’t build an effective net without strong ties – so we started where all good educators start: with emotional safety and personal connections.  Rather than jumping quickly into content, or random interactions, we invested time in getting to know each other as individuals, establishing norms for our work together, and practicing listening and questioning skills that empower us as coaches to one another.

Then we got to work. No sessions, no tracks, no keynote speakers.  Instead, we stayed together, worked independently and with one another, in a structured and facilitated process to get centered and focused. We tackled questions at the core of leadership: What matters to me? What do I need to be effective as a leader? What do I want to accomplish for myself and for my school? What does it look and feel like when I’m successful? What’s in the way?

Over the course of three days we built the net – we shared our stories, addressed our fears, and celebrated our strengths. We developed and practiced leadership mindsets and behaviors – grounded in coaching methodologies – to unleash what is possible in ourselves, our colleagues, and our schools. We consulted and critiqued. We honed our skills.  We hiked, broke bread together, and simply relaxed. In short, we centered ourselves in a supportive, trusted, and joyful cohort of women committed to one another’s success.

Research indicates that women need different kinds of support and that they thrive when they build nets – smaller webs of trusted colleagues – to advance their leadership. I hypothesize this may be true for many leaders. Not just those who identify as women, but anyone who seeks deeper connections and more meaningful interactions. This July we hosted our first, but not our last, Women’s Leadership Summit. From here, we aim to reinforce and expand the net we’ve built – leaning into the investments and energies of the cohort – and leveraging technology and places where we can come together to collaborate and celebrate. Most important, we’ll continue to design experiences that facilitate “netbuilding” for aspiring and established leaders who seek deeper connections and collaboration. As one of our participants stated: “this may well have been the best professional development experience of my career” and 100% of the participants surveyed rated the summit “highly effective”. We think we are onto something - and we hope you’ll join us as we build new nets! Stay tuned for more!

Summer 2019 Reading List

Summer 2019 Reading List

While the phrase “summer vacation” might be somewhat of a misnomer for educators (and especially for those in leadership roles), the summer months nevertheless provide ample opportunities for reading and reflecting. What you read over the summer has the power to transform the upcoming school year — here are a few recommendations to help spark powerful ideas about teaching, learning, and organizational strategy.

Elevate and Float: Roger Brown on Dealing with Disruption

Elevate and Float: Roger Brown on Dealing with Disruption

This week, we had the privilege of leading a deep dive workshop with approximately 75 heads of school at AISNE’s Heads Retreat. The setting (Cape Cod) was restful and AISNE staged a wonderful two day retreat that offered real time for reflection, structured work, and organic conversations.

We loved every minute of our work with Heads, and we also loved listening to AISNE’s other guest speaker. He was funny, warm, and he captured beautifully our belief that great leadership and strategy is all about making clear choices about what to do and what not to do.

On Anecdotes, Exceptions, and Outliers: Harnessing the Power of Story from Multiple Perspectives

On Anecdotes, Exceptions, and Outliers: Harnessing the Power of Story from Multiple Perspectives

I had the very good fortune this July to attend a Challenge Success Summer Leadership Seminar.  As it happened, the Principal and Vice Principal of my own children’s public middle school were also in attendance.  After a busy morning of workshops, I took advantage of the lull before lunch to share with the two school administrators an anecdote with my perspective on the preceding school year.  To sum up, my story went something like this: “I just wanted to say that overall I am very satisfied with what I assume is the school’s policy to not assign homework over holidays and long breaks, with one exception.  For the winter and spring breaks both of my children, in grades 6 and 8, were asked to complete sections of a review book for the state math assessment.  What concerns me is the message that it sends about the values of our school. We say we have a commitment to breaks as downtime for students and their families to unwind and spend quality time with one another, without the stress of homework.  But when that commitment is measured against the requirements of standardized testing schedules, we allow the test to take precedence. We are in essence communicating that we value performance on a standardized test more than we value the need of families to have quality time with one another while on vacation.”  

Fall 2018 Reading List

Summer reading lists abound with informative professional recommendations, but my attention in June and July tends to turn to good, old fashioned sagas (Saints for All Occasions), psychological thrillers (The Other Wife), and memoirs (Educated).  So I like the Fall reading list for getting back to work -- and there are a few things grabbing my attention now that are worthy of your nightstands. What I love about all four books is that they offer real insight into learning -- and the lessons can be applied to how organizations and individuals can lead and perform well -- by learning! For educators, many of the insights will inspire and inform your teaching practice - particularly Newport’s and Hoogterp’s books.

Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Your Perfect Presentation By Bill Hoogterp

Strategy That Works by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi

Engine of Impact by William Meehan and Kim Starkey Jonker

Enjoy!


Return to Preikestolen: Musings on Vision and Strategy

Return to Preikestolen: Musings on Vision and Strategy

If you’ve read Creating Schools That Thrive (and if not, please do!) you may recall my story of hiking Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), Norway in March, 2009.  The story of the hike became my metaphor for strategic design -- for distilling the language of strategy and helping clients make sense of the process to design and execute strategy.

Taking Our Own Advice

Taking Our Own Advice

You know the joke about the carpenter's house never being finished or the doctor who doesn't follow her own advice? Last month, in a flurry of work and new engagements, I realized we had the same issue at GLP as the carpenter has with his partially built home. So - in the midst of the heaviest work schedule this year - I called for a one day retreat with the team and planned it much in the same way we would with our clients.  

Make 2018 the Year for Feedback

Make 2018 the Year for Feedback

Resolutions abound around January 1. We commit to all sorts of new behaviors, we set goals, and we feel the excitement of starting anew.

I’ve found that one resolution always worth making is to commit to better feedback practices. Make a commitment to request and offer feedback effectively.  If you are already doing it, how can you do it better? And if you are not doing, how do you start?