A Conversation with Andrew Nurkin
A Conscious Collaboration Podcast In this episode, Yael speaks with Andrew Nurkin, the Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Andrew served previously the Executive Director at Princeton AlumniCorps, an organization dedicated to mobilizing people, organizations, and networks for the public good. Yael had the opportunity to work closely with Andrew – given her role as the lead facilitator for the Emerging Leaders NY program of AlumniCorps – a 9-month leadership development program for non-profit managers.
In his leadership, Andrew blends a unique combination of self-awareness, flexibility, humor, and strategic thinking – all in the spirit of the public good. And in this podcast, we particularly explore how Andrew relates to the notion of “conscious” collaboration in his previous and current leadership roles.
Highlights from this episode
- Our working definition of “conscious collaboration”
- “An attitude and a set of practices in working with others and leading others that recognizes that everything we do at work, every interaction we have, can be an opportunity for our professional growth, as well as our psychological or emotional growth as human beings. And every interaction is also a chance to help the workplace be a more healthy place to be or not.”
- Andrew’s thoughts on “conscious collaboration”
- “A lot of the joy of conscious collaboration is the interpersonal joy of getting to work with people.”
- Two concerns of the definition:
- “It seems to put a lot of burden on every interaction. Most growth is seen in retrospect.”
- “Some kinds of labor for whom this definition does not make any sense at all.”
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs may also suggest conscious collaboration isn’t possible at all stages of adulthood / working life
- Experience with “conscious collaboration”
- First experience while working at the Center for Engagement at Princeton University
- Project: build a post-education system across 13 correctional institutions across the state
- Learning how to collaborate without prior knowledge – personal and leadership growth as a result
- Facilitation and bringing the project together
- Learning to check personal emotional responses
- “Being able to check in with oneself and not be reactive has personal and professional benefits.”
- Exploring the difference between reacting and responding
- A reaction is sometimes needed, but the most constructive response is often pausing and letting someone else lead
- What it means to lead other people
- Taking on a facilitative role: the natural question is “How do you want to be managed?”
- Part of leadership is trusting the people on your team and know themselves and know how they work best
- Being a leader/manager is getting people to do their best work
- Your job as a manager is that people find meaning, satisfaction, and high use in their projects
- Outcome-driven vs mission-driven
“People can get very focused on their individual tracks and jobs. One of the roles as a leader is to keep people anchored and oriented towards the larger mission.”
- Learning to be a leader
- “Dropping into the deep end of the pool and figuring it out”
- Mentors and guides who share wisdom and feedback
- Formal leadership training: “Valuable mostly in forming relationships with people who are going through the same levels of experience as me”. There can be few spaces for reflection and collaborative learning
- “Moments of truth” as a leader
- Evolution of my understanding of what my role, and our work, is about
- Public service tends not to be a culture of affirmation or “participation trophies”
- How will I know I’ve achieved what I – or we— set out to achieve?
“I’ve learned to search more deeply for indicators of my success that are more truthful and authentic than someone saying ‘good job.’”
- Discerning between our “higher” and “lower” motivations as a doorway into “conscious collaboration”
- Understanding ego-driven needs vs. what we are trying to achieve here?
- Everyone has ambition and ego invested in the work we do
- Keep our ego in check
“I don’t think there’s any real value in denying that all of us have some ego and ambition in our work. I do think it’s helpful to keep it in check – and to be mindful, about when that’s your gut driver, or when that’s distracting you from a higher purpose or sense of accomplishment.”
Enjoy listening and stay tuned for our next episode.