On season 1 episode 2 of *the agile academic* podcast for women in higher ed, I talk to Dr. Katie Linder, higher education administrator, writer, podcaster, coach, and so much more.
Transcript and Show Notes
On this episode of the agile academic podcast, I talk to Dr. Katie Linder who you might know from her prolific writing, speaking, podcasting, and coaching work. Katie and I talk about how to live your values and work with purpose in higher ed.
Hello listeners. Welcome to the agile academic, a podcast for women in and around higher education and its first season. I talk with our special guests from all over academia, about a wide range of topics from teaching and research to writing and speaking to career by tally and burnout and everything in between. I’m your host, Dr. Rebecca Pope-Ruark.
RPR: Hi Katie. Thank you for being here today.
KL: Hi, Rebecca, I’m so happy to be here with you.
RPR: Katie’s like my guru. So I’m really excited that she’s talking to us today.
Katie: Rebecca’s like my guru, so I’m really glad.
RPR: So I’m really excited to have Katie here because she has such a wide breadth of experience to share with us and to talk with us about, so do you want to just tell the listeners a little bit about yourself, Katie and the work that you do?
KL: Sure. So, um, I am, my name is Katie Linder, and I am currently a full-time administrator at Kansas State University. And before that I was at Oregon State University and then I was at Suffolk university in Boston before that. So I’ve kind of hopped around a little bit. Um, but I’ve been doing full-time administrative work at this point for, um, over 10 years. And some of that work has been in faculty development. Some of it has been in research in online teaching and learning. And now I do more kind of general administrative oversight of online teaching and learning programs. Um, marketing, student success, recruitments, all the things. And, um, the side of that, I have a coaching business, um, that encompasses a range of things: group coaching, private coaching, coach training. Um, and then I also offer some online products and services around different courses and, um, uh, some kind of group programming and community building and things along those lines. So, um, I’m excited about this conversation today because it’s going to give me some nice insights, I think, as I reflect on all the things and how they’re kind of coming together at this stage of my career.
RPR: And I think so many of us are interested in side gigs that might become something else for us. Um, you know, as, as higher ed changes, um, and how we approach higher ed changes, what are the, what are things that we can be looking for to take advantage of, or to offer more services to our coworkers or, you know, other folks that I’m in Katie’s training, coach training. Um, and I’m, I’m taking a lot of that back to work, um, and how interacting with faculty, but also interacting with my colleagues. So it’s valuable to me in terms of my current full-time job, but also as I’m looking toward side gig or consulting or seeing what’s possible there. Um, so what led you to start the business?
KL: There were several things. I mean, I kind of had a more informal business when I was in the Boston area. I had started to do some speaking and kind of workshop facilitation, locally, around course design and assessment and some of the work that I’ve been doing in faculty development. And, um, I didn’t really treat it as a business at that point. I just thought like, Oh, I have a little bit of extra, you know, money from these fees. And, and I remember very distinctly, um, buying, uh, a very expensive blender, um, because as a vegan, you know, like smoothies are important to me. And that was like a big deal that I was able to buy this blender with my, my first speaking beat. Um, but when I moved to the job I had at Oregon state, um, that was my first time working for a public institution. And I wanted to really separate out what I was doing at my day job from what I was doing on the side. And I had formed an LLC at that point and, um, started to kind of expand the offerings within the business. And I started selling some webinar products and other kinds of things, and it kind of grew from there.
So it was definitely, um, a kind of natural evolution of, of, you know, growing it over time. But I also think that it’s interesting what you were saying Rebecca about higher ed and kind of try to develop something on the side that could come into something more. For a long time, I really felt like I needed to keep these things very separate, you know, in my own mind for financial purposes, for tax purposes, for ethics purposes, you know, and at the same time, I really felt the tension of like, I’m just one person, you know, it’s not like I’m two different people running two different careers. Like I, I actually am one person who’s bringing the strengths that I bring to the business also to my day job. Like you said, so as a coach, you know, I bring elements of my coaching skills to my day job, and I’m able to bring it into my business and serve and provide services to clients there.
So it’s really been kind of an interesting journey to think about how those things overlap and how they inform each other. And I’ve gotten much more comfortable over time with talking about how I have these different elements of my professional life. And I’m very open about it, you know, with my boss, with the people I work with, because I think we have kind of this sense of like, these things need to be hidden or like we’re supposed to be doing stuff on the side. And I just really disagree with that. I think that this is just different aspects of our personalities and our professional gifts and strengths that we have that come out in different ways and that they can really like positively support each other if we let that happen. So over time, I’ve, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with that. But in the beginning, I definitely was kind of doing that really strict separation, um, until I felt like I fully understood kind of what I was trying to do in the business and how it could positively impact the work that I had in my new job.
RPR: Right. I love that that point that we are not different people when we go to different. When we go to our office to work on our coaching or when we go to our office at work or virtually go to our office at work, um, these days that we do bring our whole selves into all of that and the professional development that’s happening on, on, if we want to call them both sides are the things that you’re, you’re bringing into those environments are going to help the other environment, right. That, that extra experience, that, those opportunities and those, those conversations just come into play as we grow. And I’m also, I, you know, that I’ve moved to, um, a public institution as well. So that’s something that I’ve really been thinking about. How do you keep at least that part separate. I even had a conversation with one of my colleagues about, you know, if I use our computer to do this right, what, what, what is that? Is that okay? Right. Cause I’ve never had to deal with FOIA or things like that before. So, um, it it’s been interesting. It’s been an interesting move, but it also kind of, um, has encouraged me to develop both of those sides of my interests and think about how those make me a better coach, a better consultant, a better speaker, um, and a better faculty developer as well.
KL: Yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, there’s definitely good reasons for that separation, you know, conflict of interest, you know, those kinds of things. But when we only focus on that, we lose so much more, you know, like when we’re not, when we’re really trying to separate out and it does kind of create this kind of split personality of like, well, I’m this person over here, I’m just person over there and I’m taking on and off different hats. And I’ve been really, I think, working toward for a long time, having more, um, overlap and, um, kind of mutual benefits from these two things. Um, and being able to kind of cross those skills over in different ways. Um, and I feel like I’m getting closer every, you know, every time I shift, you know, to a new job or to new responsibilities, it’s helping me to see more connection there. Um, and that’s good. I mean, I think integration and alignment, I mean, those are things that I’m, I’m always really focused on in myself personally and also for my coaching clients. And so, you know, being able to model that as being really important.
RPR: Yeah. And I think that is one of the things that I definitely learned from you in terms of focusing on values and focusing on purpose and held those do, um, those are north stars, right? And, and sometimes they change that. You need to just keep checking back in with yourself and doing some of that metacognition, but those drivers of who we are and what we do are important. And those cover multiple sections of our work and multiple sections of our, who we are and what we bring to the table. So I’m curious about, you know, on the show that we talk about, um, four specific kind of areas, right? Purpose, connection, compassion, and balance. So before the show, you and I talked a little bit about both compassion and purpose, so I’m just wondering which of those stands out to you and maybe how you would define that term?
KL: I think right now, um, I mean all of the terms are like, no, they just hit me right in the heart. Like they’re really good. Um, right now I think though, just kind of wearing that in my career, purpose has been that area that I’ve really been kind of just personally focusing on. And I recently took a class on a kind of coaching called somatic coaching, which is basically embodied coaching. And one of the things that they talked about was working with clients to develop an understanding of what you are a commitment to, and using the language, “I am a commitment to…” whatever it is, you know, kind of your purpose. And I loved that. I think that it’s such a great way to think about what is my purpose. And like you said, it can change, it can shift, it can grow, it can evolve, it can mature, you know, like I don’t think these things are static.
But it got me thinking a lot about like, what is my purpose right now? You know, it feels kind of, um, integrated for me. And how does that relate to my set of values that are being prioritized in my, in my life and my career right now. And for a long time, I’ve been kind of playing with this language around radical self-trust and as a taxonomy that I’ve developed for myself, for my business, for my clients to better understand kind of our own sense of self-awareness and self-loyalty. I do think in higher ed, we’re asked to be loyal to a lot of things outside of ourselves, um, which can be challenging as you’re trying to kind of grow your career and develop over time. Um, and so that’s been kind of interesting to think about what does it mean to be a commitment to radical self-trust and how does it, you know, then come out in my life in various ways in how I run my business, which is very values centered in how I work with clients and how I show up, you know, day at work.
Um, and so I purpose I think is really, I think it’s scary for some people, but I just like to dig into it. I mean, I just find it really interesting and I know it can be kind of overwhelming or feel really pressure-filled of like, what is my purpose? You know, like it feels so big. Um, but I, I just kind of approach it with curiosity, you know, all the time, you know, like, has this shifted, what does this feel like to me today? And as I especially tie it in with specific values, those values have specific intentions. There are certain practices that I associate with those values. I mean, there’s different layers of all this stuff that, I mean, this is why I’m the values coach. I just, I find it really fascinating. And so living in out of my own life has been really fun.
RPR: And I think, especially when we’re talking about higher ed and we’re talking about faculty, you know, things like values and purpose can come off a little “woo-woo” sometimes. Yeah. And I know I felt that way before burnout. Right. And that, you know, my students were my purpose, but when that falls away, what’s left. Who are you when you’re not doing higher ed? So that’s been an interesting, um, it’s been an interesting journey for me to kind of look into those aspects of myself, and you always advocate planning and looking ahead and really that deep reflection and for a long time that, it scared me, but it made me angry that it scared me at the same time.
So I was just looking at, um, my Power Sheets from that. I started at the beginning of the year and I’ll share in the show notes, a link to the Power Sheets. And I have written goals in January, but I hadn’t looked at them since then, because all the worksheets and things for goal setting and actions were kind of freaking me out, honestly. Um, but I look back at those goals and they were not achievement goals. Like typically they are, they were connection goals and community goals. Um, and that was really, that really kind of filled me up when I really looked at those again and said, okay, I am growing from the person that I used to be. And not that she was a bad person, just that, you know, it’s time for me to grow and it’s time for me to change. And that’s been really gratifying and rewarding to look at and yeah,
KL: Yeah, the documentation of our goals and our, I mean, I think of those things sometimes not even as goals, but like intentions, you know, like these are things we’re trying to grow and referring our own lives. And I also have enjoyed, you know, Power Sheets as a tool. Um, I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and yeah, the 80 pages of reflective work, you know, in the beginning can be a little bit intimidating. Um, but I do appreciate kind of the lens that they, the creators of this tool put on it, which is basically like get messy, you know, like it’s okay. And, and there is a possibility within the Power Sheets to kind of revisit every quarter or so what are your goals, which I love, cause mine are always shifting and changing, but I do think that there is this, um, there’s a difference for me, at least in terms of separating out goals from these kind of bigger understandings of values, intentions, and what I call life practices that are more consistent over time in terms of how we’re trying to nurture them and what they can show up as in our clients kind of on a day-to-day basis.
Um, and then the goals, I think sometimes people think of those as kind of the highest level thing. Right. And I just feel like there’s so much more that comes before that in terms of like laying a foundation for why you would have those goals or why you would be working toward those metrics. And then we have to make sure that the metrics we associate with goals are actually meaningful and sometimes they’re not. And so that to me is like one of the really interesting things about higher ed is that we’ve been kind of given a set of metrics in some ways for some positions. And I think especially faculty roles of what are the metrics we should be paying attention to. And for some of my clients, especially like these are just not meaningful. So helping them to develop more meaningful metrics around their values, around their intentions and my practices I think is really helpful. Um, so yeah, I mean, it’s these tools for me just helped me to kind of dig into that more and see it from different angles and try to better understand what does it personally mean to me to personalize the practice of goal setting and personalizing practices is like one of my favorite things to talk about right now, because we all do it in different ways and it has different meaning to each of us.
RPR: Yeah. And those are the different tools, then the different aspects of your, of your purpose and your values, especially if you’re a professor, as you said, if you’re an academic, those, those hoops that you jump through are predefined for you. And we spend a lot of time waiting for other people’s approval for things, right, for tenure, for getting a contract for getting a grant or for getting, you know, an article published. So separating our kind of our purpose for what we do versus those things that higher ed sets up for us is one of the things that’s going to help us thrive, right? It’s one of those things that’s going to help us have a vital career or potentially realize that maybe this isn’t the place where I can have a vital career or, you know, uh, a healthy self-image, even in this kind of this kind of context that I know that probably changes, uh, across different stages of an academic career. So do you see kind of different things about purpose and values playing out maybe with clients who are maybe a little newer or junior versus folks who are more senior?
RPR: Definitely. Um, I mean, I would say though that across all of the career stages, I see people who have somehow become disconnected from their values, and it may be that they never knew what they were to begin with. They never really had a conversation with themselves. And the pattern I’ve seen is that this is just not something we talk about, you know? And like in grad school, there’s not really a discussion of trying to identify what your professional values are. And like you said earlier, Rebecca, it’s like, people think it’s like a “woo” conversation. And it’s like, actually it’s very practical in some ways it really does help you to make decisions, think about future direction. I mean, when I think about the values I’ve laid out for myself, like right now there’s five that I I’m really kind of focused on. They’re really informing my decisions like on a day-to-day basis.
And when I get asked to do a new project or something like that, I’ll think about, you know, does this align with where I’m headed and in terms of my own professional development, I mean, like there’s a lot of things that I’m tying in with these values and if you’ve never been guided through that kind of exploration before, it can feel a little rudderless, you know? So I found across the life cycle, you know, of career cycles where people, um, I see that at every stage. So it’s not like if you’re, I, I wouldn’t want anyone listening to this being like, Oh, I met the senior level, and I really don’t feel like I know what this is like, what’s wrong with me. Like I talk with senior-level people all the time who don’t know what this is.
Um, I would say though that the difference I see is once you get to kind of mid-career or beyond, there’s more of a willingness to explore and separate yourself out from maybe predetermined values that have been given to you, um, people who are earlier in their careers and especially pre-tenure folks, you know, like there still is kind of a, um, obligation or maybe responsibility to try to continue to jump through those hoops a little bit, which makes complete sense because you’re earlier in your career, some people are fresh out of grad school. Like this is what they’ve been told their whole education that they should be aiming toward. So I do see kind of a little bit more of a, an openness to other ideas and also a willingness to kind of explore values, um, from a personal perspective, a little bit more from people who are just a little bit further along. Um, and it may be that they’re more disillusioned too. Like they’ve gotten to a point where they’re just like, this is not working for me. And I know it’s not working for me. What else is there? Whereas some people earlier in their careers are not quite there yet. They’re still kind of trying to, and maybe have some self-doubt about, you know, this is me, not the academy, you know? And, and so they’re not quite ready to kind of do that more inward facing work.
Um, but yeah, across the, across the span, there are a lot of people who have that sense of disconnect and just miss the alignment, you know, the end, they may not know what it is, but it’s there and something feels off and they don’t know what to call it. Um, and so when we do work around values, it often does help people to kind of identify like, Oh, this is what’s felt off for me, is that I’ve taken on a set of values that I really personally believe in. Um, and I need to be doing some work to figure out my own personal sense of what my values are.
RPR: And that was definitely something I struggled with. I hated taking those values tests or not tests, but you know, those, those activities that you would do and you would circle your values. And I was always frustrated because my values were always around achievement and respect and kind of some, some level of authority, right. There’s things that I didn’t, I knew about myself, but I didn’t want those to be the things that continued to guide me. So kind of started kind of doing well, these are what I think my goals are. These are what I’m aspiring to, how do I get there, right? How do I, what mindsets do I need to change? Or what ways that I communicate with people, or I relate to people need to change to be able to be this more aspirational person that, that I think I want to be as an adult, basically as a woman in a field.
Um, and that’s been really powerful that really does help me make decisions. And four of those values are the values of this, this podcast and of the burnout book, right? Purpose, compassion, connection, and balance. And those aren’t necessarily things that I was always good at, and I’m still learning and I’ll always be learning to take those things seriously, but I feel like I have a broader purpose now. I feel like I’m connecting to people better. There’s more self-compassion. I actually feel like as awful as the pandemic was, is, um, and we’re recording this in early October, there has been a lot of opportunity to really sit down and focus on connecting with people, right. Just doing these interviews has been amazing. And just, I feel like I’m connected to my colleagues in ways that I haven’t been, um, I’ve been taking coaching classes. So I met this whole other set of people who are wonderful in higher ed who care about similar things, right. So it’s, it’s been really gratifying and interesting to see all of those relationships develop. Um, and just the connection is just empowering, I think. And it’s just, I mean, not to be cheesy, but it’s kind of a beautiful thing.
KL: No, it is a really beautiful thing. I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of silver linings coming out of this pandemic time. For me, I think there was a lot of possibilities coming out of it for people as much as there are challenges. But the other thing I would say that’s kind of interesting about values is I think about them often on kind of a “why, how, what “meant like matrix, you know, all up Simon Sinek, um, for people who are familiar with his work in his TED talk. And I think sometimes values over time shift from being less about a why once they’re kind of really embedded in ourselves to more of a how so I think about, you know, several years ago, I really was associating, um, the concept of documentation as one of my values, because I, I love to podcast. I journal, um, I do a lot of strategic planning. Like there’s a lot of things around documentation is really tied in with kind of who I am and what I’m about.
But over time I realized that had kind of shifted for me into more of the how column, you know, like this is how I do things. This is how I live out particular kinds of other values that I have in my life. So I think that these things can kind of shift around a little bit. Um, and that’s something that over time has been helpful to understand because in the beginning I kind of thought, Oh, this is just a set of values that you have, that don’t change and you can see them from your childhood. You can see them into your, you know, um, as you grow and mature over time, and now I’m really feeling like they do change and that you do have things you learn and grow with over time that you insert into your value system as you kind of come to a better understanding of those things. So anyway, I just find that really interesting that sometimes what we, um, maybe didn’t recognize as a value becomes more in the “why” column of like what gets us up in the morning and then some of the stuff that wasn’t the “why” column once it really becomes a life practice for us. It’s more of the how of, of what is it that we’re doing. That’s really, um, a practice that shows up in our lives on a day-to-day basis.
RPR: And one of the aspects of your radical trust, um, framework is kind of playful experimentation. And I think we can do that with values. And we could do that with purpose as just a way to kind of experiment, play a little bit in your head about how these things might play out, how they might become life practices to make it more of an active intention with your values, rather than just these I’m going to write these four things and they’re going to stay on my wall and remind me that that’s, those are my particular values. We don’t, I don’t think, it’s interesting though, because most of us are trained to do a miracle types of research, but it’s okay to have a research problem or challenge, but it’s not necessarily okay to have this kind of personal, it’s not even a challenge. It’s just kind of thinking about who you are more frequently because we are given those values in higher ed that we push.
KL: Yeah. I mean, I recently I did some kind of values work to try to, I was coming up with kind of a, a longer term strategy for the next two-to-three years of things I’ve really wanted to focus on and prioritize. And I wanted to really lay my values out, you know, like what are the things that are gonna help me make decisions and really be prioritizing things during this period. And with each of my values, I wrote down, what are the practices I’m currently doing that I associate with those values? Like, is there an intention that I kind of associate with that value? And then what are the practices?
So for example, I have an alignment of value where I’m trying to leverage systems, thinking strategy, planning to foster alignment, across various projects, systems values in my life. You know, there’s an alignment piece and a connection piece I’m trying to do there. So my practices associated with alignment are taking quarterly retreats, doing monthly goal setting and quarterly goal setting with Power Sheets, doing a lot of advanced calendaring. So I can kind of do that strategic work ahead of time.
So I have specific things that are associated that value that I, it’s not just me saying, Oh, I value that thing. It’s actually looking in my life to say, where am I, where does that show up on my to-do list in my time, you know, in my energy, where does that go? So for each of my values, I’ve done that. And that’s actually been really helpful because then I can also cross-check and say, is there anything happening in my day-to-day life as a practice that I don’t see reflected in these values? And does that mean there’s another value kind of hidden in there somewhere because I am spending time and energy on this particular practice, how does it tie in, you know, with all these other things? So it’s kind of a little bit of a check and balance to see what’s going on with the values, but also what’s going on with where are you putting your time and your energy and your prioritization on a much smaller scale, because values can be so big and nebulous, but we do really need to bring them down to the day-to-day. So that’s been a helpful thing for me to really associate what are the practices that I’m tying in specifically with each of these values?
RPR: We talked a little bit earlier about being a whole person. So when you do that kind of work and look at alignments and you’re kind of mapping those practices out, do you include both the personal and the professional in that? Or do you kind of see a little bit?
KL: Yeah, no, I do. Um, I think about, for example, I’m looking at my, I have my values kind of pulled up, cause I knew we were going to be talking about this. Um, I mean, I think for example, like one of my values right now that I’m very focused on is holding space. And for me, this is really connected to developing mind-body relationship and a lot of the work that I’ve been doing recently to understand how things like yoga relate to coaching. Um, and I’ve been pursuing some professional development around that, and this is a tool that holds space for me and for other people, you know, so how do I kind of embed that in different ways? So the practices that I associate that with that would be things like somatic coaching methods, which is tied in with kind of my, my work and my profession as a coach, but also personally for me meditation, my personal yoga practice, and the concept of silence, which I bring into my own kind of solitude practices as a dedicated introvert.
Um, but also in meetings, you know, like I, I will sometimes use silence very effectively, you know, when we’re having a meeting about a difficult topic or, you know, something along those lines. So the concept of holding space shows up in a lot of different ways. It shows up in my personal life, it shows up in my day job, it shows up in my coaching. And I, that to me is part of what makes it aligned. That kind of concept of alignment is that it is showing up everywhere. Um, and I think things show up in different ways, and over time that can shift and change. But, um, for me, yeah, I, I definitely look across, um, and that kind of goes back to the earlier thing we were talking about. I don’t want to be two people. I don’t want to be one set of values in my personal life and another set of values in my professional life. What does it mean for example, to hold space for my partner? You know, like that, that is equally as important to me, or maybe even more important to me, than holding space for people at work. You know, so there’s lots of different ways. And the more that I expand understanding of how I’m applying these things in different parts of my life, the more I grow, um, as a practitioner of that thing, um, because I have a better understanding of all the ways it can be applied.
RPR: Um, I’m glad you shared those values because I think often when we look at the values list that you see in activities, there, there’s almost kind of like emotion words in some ways, um, and ways of being, but holding space, having documentation as a value, I don’t think those are necessarily things that people would, would think about or call values that expands the, you know, for a good thing, it expands it, but maybe it’s also a struggle because you expand the possibilities of how you’re going to articulate your goals, but you, your values are your values, right? They don’t have to fit on this list. They don’t have to appear somewhere else. So do you have tips for helping people, maybe some sort of activity or something to help people think through it, their values a little bit more?
KL: Well, there’s definitely like, yeah. Google around and find values list because they’re out there. I mean, if you know, you’ve mentioned, Rebecca, that, that wasn’t a fit for you and it’s not always a fit for everyone, but, um, I think it’s a good start to just kind of think about, you know, what are the categories or the themes that you’re noticing when you look at a values list and what are you circling? What are you drawn to? But the challenge, I think for a lot of people is they see things on that list that they think they should value. And what I always tell people is there’s a difference between seeing the value of something. For example, I see the value of collaboration. I understand how it’s contributed to my work, to my professional life, to my relationships over time, but it is not kind of in my heart, you know, centrally what is helping me to make decisions about projects.
I’m not going to choose a collaborative project over a project. That’s not collaborative because that’s not kind of a central value for me. And in part, because I’m an introvert, you know, like, so I can see the value of collaboration, but it’s also kind of exhausting to me to do that collaboration. So being able to separate those things out into, I can see the value of something in my life, but it’s not necessarily a central core value that shaping my decisions and actions. I think that’s step one is to kind of pull those things apart and to really try to use, I mean, and I hesitate to use the word “intuition,” but it has kind of a gut feeling of like, what is it that’s really like speaking to you in, in that moment. And also recognizing like right now, your values could look different than they did five years ago or five years from now.
So one of my values right now is focused around recovery and self-care, totally related to being in a pandemic. I mean, it’s like absolutely a big part of right now for me is having practices around yoga and, you know, sleeping more and really trying to take care of myself and give myself recovery time. So that personalization of not just you and your personality and kind of your strengths are things that are tied with your kind of core understanding of yourself, but also like, where are you in this moment right now? Where are you geographically? Career-wise with family, with external circumstances that might be impacting what you’re prioritizing or valuing? All those factors come into play And I think sometimes we, like you said, we narrow it too much. So we don’t think about things like documentation or, um, you know, other kinds of things that are very personal to us and kind of what we want to focus on, but the more flexible we get around it And I think the more that we talk about it and kind of think through it that it starts to solidify. I mean, I feel like it’s a little bit like Jello; like in the beginning, it’s just like liquid and it’s everywhere and it’s, you know, like it’s not, there’s no solidity there, but over time you start to get to a place where it feels a little bit more solid and you start to think like, yeah, this is tied in with my identity. This is tied in with core elements of who I consider myself to be. I do feel like I could share this in a way that would make sense to other people that, you know, so those kinds of things, I think help us to solidify that over time, but it’s not a rushed process. I feel like I’ve spent years coming to understand what my values are and how they are shaped over time.
And, you know, ask me a year from now, and I might have different values than, than what is kind of on the table right now, but it doesn’t mean these other things have gone away. It might be that holding space has again moved into that “how” column instead of the “why” column. And it’s part of my practice of, of how I infuse these things into my life. And maybe it’s been replaced by something else that’s developing into a practice for me. So that’s another way I think to think about it is, are there things in your life that are developing into practices for you and does that signal a value in some way?
KRPR: Right. I was reading something the other day that was interesting in the sense that it said, I think it was a book about like not doing things all of the time. Um, and, and the author was talking about personal growth is almost economic at this point or kind of capitalist at this point that we always have to be growing and rather than just necessarily settling into ourselves or, you know, doing that work and understanding our values and our purpose and letting that be the guide rather than some sort of artificial I’m going to continue to improve myself for the next 50 years kind of, um, kind of thing. So does that resonate with you at all that I found that statements would be kind of interesting and I’m curious what you think about it.
KL: I, I do think it’s interesting because there is a lot of pressure to, like you said, you need to develop and grow and, and maybe for other people’s metrics, you know, like it’s not necessarily our own personal choices. That said I’m definitely a lifelong learner. I’m definitely one of those people who pursues credentials and likes to learn. And I’m always out, you know, figuring something out for my own professional development. But I do think that there is a difference between deepening aspects of ourselves and like just pursuing something for the sake of pursuing it. And I think like this year, my phrase of the year was “deeply rooted.” I chose that pre-pandemic. Um, I was moving, I was moving to a new state. I was moving to a new job and I really wanted to kind of re into my values. And that was like a big thing that I was really focused on.
And so there’s a lot of things that I’ve done this year that would from the look like personally professional development growth, you know, I, I pursued a yoga teacher training for example, but to me that was more about deepening something that I already knew, and it was expansive and it allowed me to grow and shift and change and evolve in lots of important ways. And those things will continue, but there’s also an element of it that is more rooting to me than it is expansive. And the more we root, the more we can expand. So if you think about like a tree with a really extensive root system, you know, it can grow there because it has that extensive root system underneath it. So I think that we don’t often talk about that. We focus more on the outward tree. That’s like growing, growing, growing, and not necessarily on the root system.
And when we talk about things like values, I think it is shining a light a little bit more on that to do you have a strong foundation that’s really expansive underneath the ground that is allowing you to kind of do these other explorations? Um, so I mean, I, I think that it depends a lot on like, how does it make you feel when you think about that? And I have a podcast episode coming out that I’m sure it will be out before this is released. That’s basically talking about, you know, is something expansive or contracting, and how can we make a decision based on, is it energizing us? Is it taking away energy from us? Like there there’s several different frameworks I offer for like making big decisions. And it reminds me of what you’re describing here, because I think it is about everyone personally is going to feel different about some of these big decisions for some people moving will feel expansive; for other people, it will feel contracting. So you have to have that kind of personal sense of how do you respond, you know, when you hear that and some people are going to be like, Ooh, that, that doesn’t feel good to me. And other people are going to say, yes, that’s what I need in my life right now.
RPR: That makes a lot of sense. So I’m curious across your coaching clients, maybe are there some things that, that are, especially your women, clients that are coming out that are specific maybe to this time period or to the, to the purpose work that we’re doing? Um, as we’re in this crazy time in the world, right. So how are you, how are your clients doing with that?
KL: I mean, there’s a lot of questioning. Um, there’s a lot of just, you know, there is more turning inward and questioning, am I doing what I should be doing? Am I giving energy to the things that I should be giving energy to? And that is not always a fun process. I mean, it can be a very scary thing to ask those questions and to say, for example, am I in the right job? You know, or, and now really is the time that everybody’s asking that question. And my coaching clientele has expanded a lot because there are a lot of people who are trying to root into their values and have a better understanding of, you know, how they can use those values to make decisions right now, or post pandemics, you know, when they feel like they can be more mobile or, you know, shift.
Um, but those questions have been around with my clients for years, you know, like especially clients who feel geographically bound or they feel constrained in some way in their job. And there’s always that question of, should I stay, or should I go, you know, like if you’ve been in a job for more than a year, I mean, we’re always asking, you know, is the grass greener somewhere else? I think especially around our careers, you know, this is something that is a big question for a lot of us. Um, and that’s a very different thing than I think was originally intended in higher ed. I mean the whole tenure system is really about keeping you at the same institution for a very long period of time. And now that that’s in your system is really being disrupted. There’s a lot of people who are way more mobile, uh, in terms of their careers, whether that means, you know, they’re contingent faculty or they’re adjuncting where their administrative roles or whatever.
Um, it just changes the landscape. A lot of the kinds of decisions that professionals in higher ed are making now. So I see that happening right now with a lot of my clients really trying to have a better understanding of, um, at a, at a macro-level, why are they making the decisions that they’re making, but also really going into a micro-level of like the day-to-day practices, because it’s hard to be motivated right now for a lot of people and the things that motivated them before feel out of reach; you know, they may not feel like they can do their research right now. And maybe literally they can’t collect data right now because of the pandemic, uh, limitations. And so that just throws a lot of things into a tizzy. So, I mean, I do think that this is what draws me to coaching is that it allows you to take something that feels really messy, like a big old knot, you know, of just string and slowly unravel it. And S and with support, you know, and, and with someone else who can kind of help you find clarity, pull the string apart, start to understand what is going on here. What are the factors that I need to be thinking about and a way that’s not necessarily overwhelming when you’re trying to do it on your own? I think it can feel really hard. Um, and not that it’s not hard at all when you do it with a coach, but I think it’s easier when you have that kind of support.
RPR: Yeah. And I feel like when you were with me kind of last year, when I was going through the burnout and making some hard decisions and, um, leaving a place that I thought I would be at for my entire career, um, and making those choices to try something very, very different. I think my values started to come into more clarity when I was making those decisions. So I made the choice to leave a tenured role, and I was eligible for full, and I could have gone up for full. And I think my case would have been very strong. I chose not to do that because my value had shifted to a personal value rather than a higher ed value. And I had different, I had different goals for my life than I had prior to making that decision. And I was actually surprised how supportive almost everyone was of that decision.
Um, and I wasn’t at an R1 or something like that. Right. I was at a teaching focused institution, which I loved, and that was where I needed to be for a long time, but almost no one kind of pushed back on that for me, a lot of people were just like, that sounds like a really good decision. And if you’re not happy, you should go do that. Right. And that’s not what I expected. I even emailed, I remember emailing my dissertation director been retired for 13 years now, and I said, I’m going to do this. You know, I hope that I hope that’s okay. Just looking for, I don’t know, a little bit of validation from her. And she’s like, that’s awesome. You know, do what makes you happy because tenure doesn’t necessarily make anyone happy. It’s just kind of a state of your personal career at that point and your career is not everything go be where you’re going to be happy for the longest amount of time. And that might be Georgia tech for a few years. It could be for a long time, but as academics, we don’t often think of ourselves as mobile. And even as I was thinking about leaving higher ed, there was always this kind of niggling thought in the back of my head of if I leave, can I get back in? Which is kind of a terrible way to think about your career and the things that you care about, right. It’s, it’s the, how are you beholden to this? So it was a really powerful experience going through the hard work that I had to do for burnout and think about what do I value and where do I want to be? And what does that look like if I take this whole thing that had been, that had me guiding me for 17 years, if I take that out, what’s left, and who am I? And what do I value about that? So it’s powerful work to do that kind of work and that kind of introspection.
KL: Yeah, it is really powerful. And I think sometimes we have the option of choosing that work, um, because of just wherever we are in our lives or careers. Sometimes I feel like that work is forced on us a little bit. I think about clients I’ve had who have been denied tenure, and then they’re like, okay, so this is a crossroads and I need to decide, am I going back on the market? Am I doing something entirely different? And so I think, you know, when you have the choice of doing the work, obviously that may be a little bit of a more pleasant experience. But, um, but I think that it’s also something where like, learning comes out of hard things.
And I think we’re seeing that even right now with the pandemic, you know, like there’s a lot that we can take away from this experience. It’s shining a light on a lot of things that maybe we should have been paying attention to before that we were not. Um, and with the social justice elements that have come out during this experience as well, like there’s a lot of things that are kind of being layered together. And there is an element of me that’s grateful for that. You know, it’s difficult as things have been during this period for a number of reasons, and it’s different for everyone. You know, there’s also really important lessons that I’m taking from this period as well about myself, about people around me, um, that have been very important and that will shape things for me in the years to come. So I’m always looking for that. I mean, I think that there is always a way in the hard moments to learn from that and to kind of lean into the core understandings we have of ourselves, because those core understandings come out more. I think when we’re dealing with difficult things,
RPR: It reminds me of it like a slightly different version of the Mr. Rogers saying, right, when there’s a crisis, look for the helpers. Right. I think that’s, it’s just sounds really similar in that sense. So as we wrap up, I’m going to thank you so much for your time, but I’m curious, what is one thing that you wish women in higher ed in or around higher ed really took to heart?
KL: One thing? Well, I mean, I think for me, it has to be tied to radical self-trust, um, that I guess what I would say is self-loyalty and self-awareness and self-knowledge is not synonymous with selfishness. And I think that sometimes that’s what we think. We think that, you know, if we focus on ourselves and we’re loyal to ourselves first and what we really need in order to be aligned and kind of focused and living our best lives, being our best selves, that, that somehow takes away from other people. And I think that, um, it’s, uh, it’s, you know, we always hear they’ll put your own mask on first, you know, um, the metaphor and I guess it’s kind of like that, but I’m also really focused on this concept that when you know yourself really well, it becomes way easier to do that.
Like when you have a deep understanding of like, I look at my calendar this week and while I’m on Zoom a lot, and I’m going to need some recovery time because I know myself and I know that I, I’m not, I’m going to hit a limit or I’m going to have a capacity issue here. Like, that’s something that impacts my partner positively. It impacts the people I work with positively. Like it, it kind of has this ripple effect of when I take care of myself. And when I have a deep understanding of my core needs and my value system and how I’m making those decisions, it has positive impacts on everyone around me. And that includes my clients. It includes, you know, people who are, um, in the communities that I run, you know, all different kinds of areas of my life. So I think that, that is the thing I would say is that, you know, you shouldn’t be afraid to lean into that because it is going to have positive effects overall. And I think we’re given messaging particularly gendered messaging that that can be very selfish to do that. Um, and it’s not, it’s kind of the opposite.
RPR: That’s such good advice, Katie. Thank you. Thank you so much for being here today. It’s always a pleasure.
RPR: Thank you for having me. This was really wonderful.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the agile academic podcast for women in higher ed. To make sure you don’t miss an episode, follow the show on Apple and Google podcasting apps and bookmark the show page where you’ll find show notes and a transcript with each episode, you’ll find the show at Rebecca Pope-Ruark.com/podcast. If you’d like to recommend someone to interview, please just complete the contact form at the bottom of the page. Take care and stay well.