Sunday 17 May 2020

Reading list, 17 May 2020


Pitt River Museum curator Dan Hicks ponders the future of museums for Artnet. More interesting though is the piece he links to by Meta Knol, director of the Museum De LakenhaI in the Netherlands, reflecting on last year's celebration of the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt's birth and the fact that the blockbuster exhibitions of the kind organised for the event are simply not sustainable.

At the moment, I meet online fortnightly with the National Librarian, National Archivist and CE of Ngā Taonga; meet fortnightly with the directors of the eight metro museums and galleries; meet every few weeks with other CEs of organisations monitored by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage; meet weekly or fortnightly with the board of Arts Wellington, the pan-artform membership organisation;  and listen in on a weekly call with directors of galleries of all sizes all over the country. It's more concentrated and open sector engagement than I've ever had, and it makes me interested in this article about the 200 New York arts leaders who are tuning in for a daily call.

It's interesting to see how festivals are adapting to reach audiences online. Here's a reflection from Now Play This, a festival of experimental game design, who just moved their event online and tried to maintain the sense of participation and interaction while doing so. Meanwhile, the Hay Festival is moving online (much of the programme is streaming for free, just ... on BST).

Tangentially Covid-related

Jill Lepore's history of Sesame Street for The New Yorker echoes the rapid establishment of the MOE's two educational tv channels: "Educational shows for kids responded to two conditions: the scarcity of preschools and the abundance of televisions".

Not Covid-related at all

A terrific interview with writer N.K. Jemesin

Fine art director: meet Fanny Pereire, who sources and organises art collections for tv shows and movies (fantasy job, after naming nail polish colours).

This week Te Papa launched Kōrero takatāpui ki Aotearoa: LGBTQI+ histories of Aotearoa New Zealand, a new section of our website, dedicated to queer objects, artworks, and stories in Te Papa’s collections and  the rich histories of Aotearoa New Zealand’s LGBTQI+ communities and icons.

Catch-up therapy

This two-parter between Harriet Lerner and Brené Brown on how and why to apologise, despite all its Americanisms, taught me a lot this week.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Mentoring suggestions: helpful resources for people managing (and being human in the workplace)

 I'm having the most amazing and humbling response to my offer to open up some mentoring spaces, and I know I'm not going to be able to spend time with all the people who have submitted their interest.

The podcast I wish someone had given me when I started managing people

Manager Tools "Basics". Listen to them on 1.5 time. Prepare to roll your eyes at some of the episodes and the need to reinforce beyond-basics like "have one-on-one meetings". But the episodes on feedback have completely reshaped my approach to this and I wish wish wish I'd heard them years ago.

The book I wish someone had given me when I started managing people

Lara Hogan's Resilient Management. Like the podcast above, it's written for the tech world, but I thoroughly recommend at least downloading the trial chapter from the link and giving that a read. It took me until last year (when Lara presented at Webstock) to see how the forming / storming / norming / performing model she uses could help me understand what the hell was going on with teams I'm working with, and to think about how people's essential needs (status, security, novelty) shape their reactions to change and challenge in the workplace. Well written and blessedly short.

The blog I wish someone had shown me when I started managing people

Leadership Freak. Middle-aged American man warning. The frequency may wear on you. But every couple of posts he makes a point that really really helps me. Like this recent one about accountability.

The podcast that made me feel better about finding everything so hard right now

Am I the last woman leader in the English-speaking world to learn about Brené Brown? Seems like it. I can't stand her author interviews on her new podcast, but these two short episodes really helped me get some perspective on what's been going on with me over the last few weeks:

Anxiety, Calm + Over/Under-Functioning (I'm a classic over-performer in response to stress and this podcast helped me step outside myself and understand how I was behaving)

On tough first times (We are doing so many new things, in new ways, in a situation of great ambiguity. It's not surprising we're feeling snappy, knee-jerky, and stressed.)

The podcast that helps me find my empathy

Esther Perel has been one of the best things in my lockdown experience. Her insight, charm and brutality make such a unique and listenable package. I binged on her couple's therapy podcast and haven't listened to all the episodes of her more recent 'How's Work' but I've listened to the following two episodes twice. In them, Perel explores the idea of the 'relational dowry' we bring into the workplace,

Prologue (an introduction to the idea of a 'relational dowry'; needs for identity at work; power relationships in the workplace; stability and growth)

Special Episode: Esther Perel and Adam Grant of Worklife (In which organisational psychologist Adam Grant tests and debates Esther's approach with her)

Monday 4 May 2020

An experiment: want to try me on as a mentor?

I'm fortunate during this challenging time to be working with a great mentor. Her particular skill lies in giving me space to talk, then reflecting back to me in such a way that I can see where I'm placing too much emphasis, and not enough emphasis. She is also - at this time particularly - a great sanity check, a kind of Warrant of Fitness assessment when I feel in peril of going off the rails.

This is my first formal mentoring relationship. I've been lucky in my career to have started off in a university department (Victoria's School of Art History) that was filled with great exemplars, and then to have worked in larger organisations (like National Library and Te Papa) where I have had access to more experienced, highly skilled people who have been generous with their time and attention. I've been lucky too to work in a city like Wellington, with loads of arts organisations and smart people who I get to learn from.

So in the spirit of giving back, I'd like to offer myself up as a mentor.* I've done loads of informal coaching, but usually with people I work with. This is my first chance to extend that out to people I don't already know well.

My plan is to offer up to 4 people a trial hour-long session during this period where most of us are working from home. We'll book a video-conference session, get to know each other a bit, talk about what's top of mind for you, and see what we have to offer each other. Afterwards, we'll see whether there's value in continuing to meet longer term.

The areas where I think I can offer the most value:
  • Leading during the pandemic
  • Adjusting to people management roles
  • Taking care of yourself as a leader / people manager
  • Career changes, development and goals
The public cultural sector is my home base and site of most experience so I'd like to work with people who are in (or trying to get into) that zone. I should be upfront and say I respond best to optimistic, proactive people who are looking to grow.

If you're interested, please fill out the short form below by Saturday 9 May. I'll review applications (please let there be applications!!) over the weekend, and set up sessions starting the week of 11 May.

Expression of interest form

*In the spirit of disclosure, one of the things my mentor suggested in my last session with her was to carve myself out time to do things I find restorative and joyful. As an endlessly curious person, immersing myself in people's professional lives and ambitions is one of my happiest things. So, if this is an opportunity you're interested in, know you're doing me a favour by pursuing it.

Oh, also! If you don't know who I am: I'm Courtney Johnston, Tumu Whakarae | Chief Executive of Te Papa, you can read a bit about my background & experience on our website or in this recent interview.

Saturday 2 May 2020

Reading list, 2 May 2020

This week is brought to you by .... the return of espresso coffee

Full Covid

Are you the only person in my network not to have read and recommended this NYT article by chef and restaurant owner Gabrielle Hamilton? Here you go then: My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?

And then follow it up with The Gray Market's art-focused riff: Knives Out: Why Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's Reckoning Offers an Important Example for Gallery Owners

Hard as times are everywhere, museums and galleries that receive public funding are more secure at this time than those that don't. American and European estimates vary, but some counts say 1 in 10 museums will not survive the current lockdowns and following economic depressions. Nina Siegal for the NYT: Many Museums Won’t Survive the Virus. How Do You Close One Down?

I've been really enjoying Duncan Grieve of The Spinoff's series: The winners and losers of NZ’s post-lockdown economy (and how the losers might win too)

An interesting view from Gina Fairley of Australia's Artshub: The frontline pressure points are different for the regional arts sector

Be a pal

Now is an excellent time to support the arts organisations you believe in. Verb Wellington has launched a members campaign; the Pantograph Punch's is coming soon.

Also, if you've indulged in the reappearance of real coffee this week, don't forget cafes are doing it hard and you can help them bridge this time by buying vouchers for future spending.

Not Covid

I've not watched the show, read the book, nor practiced the method, but I remain kinda fascinated by Marie Kondo. Fast Company's Elizabeth Segran trailed Kondo as she moves into workplace coaching, and looks at the business partnership between her, her husband, and their growing network of coaches.

Level 3 means looooooong walks to blow off steam and find some space outside my living room - and opportunity to continue some pretty earnest self-development podcast listening. This week it was Worklife with Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist, including The Problem with All Stars (best advice - how to focus on amplifying those around you); Authenticity is a Double-Edged Sword (being you at work shouldn't be a selfish act); and When strength becomes weakness (we all have strengths - knowing when and how hard to apply them is key). All comes down to self-reflection and self-management really.