Colleagues, coaches, and cohorts: The importance of community

By: Jane Livingston

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Jane Livingston, Vice President for IT and CIO at the University of Notre Dame.  She is a MOR alum and program sponsor. Jane may be reached at or via LinkedIn.]
Happy Valentine’s Day!
On a day to celebrate the people we love, this reflection celebrates the many people I am grateful for in my professional life.
I went through the MOR Advanced Leaders Program in 2015. It is no exaggeration to say it was a singularly formative experience in my career. Today, however, I don’t want to talk about how important the tools or the practices or the wisdom that I learned then (and afterwards) have been to me.  I want to talk about the community of mutual support and sharing that I have carried with me.  My cohort in 2015 consisted of three colleagues from my own institution and roughly twenty from elsewhere, as well as three coaches.  There were roughly thirty people I met that year through MOR.  From those thirty people eight years ago, I have interacted directly with five this week.  If I expand to include social networks and expand the timeframe to a month, the number is seven. If I expand the list to include people I have mentioned in conversations, the number is even higher.  Belonging to this MOR community has challenged me, cushioned me, and cheered me on during all the ups and downs of a professional career.
In the years since my MOR experience, I have moved to a new institution and then to another.  Change is hard, but it is easier when others are doing it with you. One cohort colleague has been at three different institutions in at least five different roles. We became CIOs, or not, we moved on, or not, we shifted to the corporate world, we retired. Almost all of us continue to plug into the MOR community, again and again. Our individual journeys have enriched us all.  This kind of group connection across different places and situations does not happen or persist accidentally. I am grateful for all the times my MOR coaches lent an ear, provided advice, listened, questioned, and, perhaps most importantly, expressed cold truths that I needed to hear. But I am just as thankful for the times that, instead of helping me, they reminded me that I had a colleague I could reach out to or suggested to someone else that they connect with me. They are purposeful stewards of our MOR communities.  As Brian McDonald said in his reflection last week, relationships matter.
I have been a sponsor of the MOR leadership program at two institutions–one where I introduced the program and one where it was already in place. I am conscious that my role has evolved into that of an initiator of new communities like those that supported me. I have also gained a new perspective into how MOR serves my own institution: It does so not just by developing leaders who are more practiced but leaders who draw on the wisdom, experience, and support of their own MOR communities to advance the mission of IT at Notre Dame.

We should all be intentional stewards of our communities, professionally and personally, especially now when many of us find ourselves feeling disconnected and burned out. Connecting with people is crucial to our mental well-being.  The news post-pandemic is full of articles about the importance of keeping and maintaining our human relationships.  Here are two of my recent favorites:
Friends enjoy being reached out to more than we think.  The greater the surprise, the greater the appreciation.
Thinking About Reaching Out to Someone? Science Says Do It. Two new studies find that connecting with someone is even nicer than we expect.

The stereotype of IT folks is that we are an introverted bunch. Still, don’t be a stranger. If we haven’t met, I would love to connect and hear your story.

No votes yet