My Second Ph.D. Summer Institute – Who is In Your Corner?

As a requirement of my doctoral studies, I attend an annual Summer Institute at the main campus of Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in Marion, Indiana. At the completion of my first year, my cohort members and I walked a little taller on campus this year – we are now second year students! The Summer Institute is eight days of intense learning, connection, and personal growth. This quarter I am taking Adult and Organizational Learning and Change, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur who works with adults daily, I thought this year’s summer institute would be a breeze. That, it was not. Doctoral work is not for the faint at heart, but one of the things I love about IWU is the supportive faculty. I am certain that every day at this year’s (and last year’s) Summer Institute, at least one of my previous or current professors told me I could do this and that they believed in me. I have accomplished a lot in life, through a lot of self talk, self-discipline, and self-awareness, but nothing in this world beats having a supportive community that verbalizes how much they believe in you. Even one of the new professors, who I have not had yet, told me she believed in me. I thought to myself, “really? you don’t even know me!” For some reason, I still believed her, she was so genuine and I figured she thought “well, you’ve made it this far, I believe you can keep going even though I don’t know you personally.” One of the required readings for a previous course on leadership development was Organizational Leadership, by John S. Burns (2014), who suggested that leaders have support and accountability groups (p. 271). After some reflection, I realized that no matter how strong I am or how much I have accomplished, I need a support group and I need them to tell me (aloud) that they believe I can do it.

Here are the people I think you need on your team:

  1. The Cheerleader continuously cheers for you no matter what. Even when you have to take a break, your cheerleader will applaud you for your outstanding self-care.
  2. The Enforcer keeps you on track and holds you to the deadlines you have set for yourself. The enforcer will call you at any time of day or night and expect you to provide full details of your progress. Some people hire leadership coaches to act as the enforcer to help them stay on track.
  3. The Mama Bear will always have your back, and will always be there for you no matter what. When you think you can not go any further, the mama bear will sympathize with you, and give you the right kind of encouragement you need.
  4. The Influencer or Mentor is a person who has walked in your shoes. They have already gotten the promotion, or the degree, or started the business. The influencer inspires you just by being who they are. They encourage you and give you specific, technical advice when you need it.
  5. The Constructive Critiquer is quite the opposite of the always optimistic cheerleader and honestly, not the person you would call when you’re really down. However, we need the constructive critiquer to help see our blind spots and help us see our mistakes clearly. As long as the critique is done with love and the goal is to build up, having this person on your support team is essential.

What type of supporter are you? Who can you encourage? I’d love to hear from you.