I can hear Mariah Carey in the background (does it start earlier each year or is it just me?), so… we’ve reached December, my final message to you all and the end of a year together. In my incoming address at the 2022 NSGC Annual Conference, I shared my vision for NSGC during my presidential year. Today, I want to reflect upon some of my experiences with that lens in mind.
One concept I put forward is the idea that strategy cannot exist without a culture to support it. It’s the connective tissue that keeps everything together, particularly in times of change. This past year, I see that we’ve begun to make small culture shifts that map to a few things I mentioned in my address.
Slowing Down to Listen
This year, we’ve included live discussions with NSGC members to hear direct feedback as part of broader organizational changes. Following calls from many of you, our DEI assessment and support from the Board, NSGC is implementing new Disciplinary Procedures in 2024. We announced these measures mid-year, leaving several months to communicate and help everyone understand the changes. This included virtual Q&A sessions in July and August with Board members. These shed light on a need to share fictional scenarios that would, or would not, apply to these new procedures. We’ve now created a member resource to address this need, which is now housed on the webpage.
The Special Interest Group (SIG) Task Force collaborated with the Board to recommend changes to the SIGs to increase member access and reduce barriers. This sparked the all-access NSGC membership that includes membership to an unlimited number of SIGs. We discussed these changes with SIG leaders mid-year, and held sessions between the SIG Task Force, Board and SIG leaders to hear questions and concerns. These thought exchanges helped identify ways to refine the new SIG funding processes and created spaces to foster a better understanding of why the changes were being implemented.
Leading with Curiosity to Understand
Given my role, I’ve been a part of many conversations with members and groups external to NSGC where the goal is not to convince, but to understand. In these moments I try to stay curious while asking purposeful and clarifying questions. These uncover ideas, dispel assumptions, build empathy and often simply humanize a situation. Part of our role as a Board is offering support to other volunteer leaders and staff. As 2023 began, we met with Committee Chairs to review their group’s charges for the year and how they mapped to NSGC’s Strategic Plan. These meetings helped us to explore rationale for the charges, know immediate concerns and find ways to set up the groups for success. With purposeful curiosity guiding our leadership, we continued to check in throughout the year to ensure we could address things that came up, shifted or perhaps led to unforeseen challenges.
Reframing Expectations of One Another
I was being aspirational when I included this in my address – it’s a big ask. And if I’m being honest, we have work to do here. As highly skilled individuals, we have high expectations of each other. But in my opinion, these expectations do not match the actual size of our organization – we’re bigger than we think! (If you need data to tell the story, look no further than our 2023 Professional Status Survey). The labor- and time-intensive approaches to fielding concerns from members that worked when we were a small organization are not sustainable for our current size. I experienced this with the number, scope and intensity of issues that came to me, our Board and our staff team all year.
Colleen Campbell, next year’s NSGC President, talked about the immense growth that our profession and NSGC are undergoing in her incoming address at last month’s Annual Conference. I know one of Colleen’s goals – and strengths – is to determine how to transition NSGC from our “small size” identity of the past to our mid-size reality of today, with strategies to support and sustain our growth. I look forward to helping with this for our organization’s future.
Culture change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a slow process that needs consistent attention and time. Small changes are happening and hopefully these can serve as a “starter” culture to stabilize and enrich the future (remember my references to yogurt and sourdough?). Next year is a strategic planning year, so everything we’ve all built, from years ago to now, will undergird that work as we reach for new horizons.
Thank you for the privilege of being your NSGC president. It has been a very “both/and” experience – thrilling and terrifying – and so few are able to experience this level of leadership. I look forward to working with Colleen Campbell, Sara Pirzadeh-Miller (2024 President-Elect) and next year’s Board to navigate the adventures before us.
Thank you especially to my Board and staff “ride or dies” throughout this year. I often had the mic, but never without this incredible crew: Patrick Bardach, Austin Bland, Andrew Buckley, Colleen Campbell, Meghan Carey, Phil Connors, Hannah Durnas, Jessica Eustice, Molly Ford, Madalyn Frigo, Catherine Gahres, Kim Garber, Carrie Haverty, Leila Jamal, Cindy James, Carla McGruder, Kristen Perry, Michael Pikuza, Sandy Prucka, John Richardson, Madeline Stanke, Barry Tong, Sydney Von Holten, Isabella Thomases, Jennifer Trotter, Carrie Wall, Patrick Wilson, Heather Zierhut. Much love to you all.
For now, friends, I’m turning Mariah up… that song gets me every time.