State Policy Network

SPN Professional Development Program

We know it’s the individuals like you who make it possible for your organization to achieve lasting change. We also know that the pressure of changing or competing priorities can make it hard to find time for professional growth. And mainstream advice doesn’t always address the unique challenges our state-based Network faces when we show up at our jobs.

SPN’s professional development resources are designed to help both current and future state-based Network staff build fulfilling careers and reach their full potential, empowering them to contribute to the success of their organizations.

Please note: This is a private community for state-based Network professionals and access is subject to SPN approval.

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Latest Blog Posts

Resource Collections

Building & Developing a Virtual Team | Thriving in a Virtual Office | Communication & Conflict Resolution | Resilience | Time Management | Management & Coaching

There is a wealth of material available on these topics and our lists of recommendations will remain living documents. We’ll be updating the lists with new material as we uncover it and would welcome your input. Please send any recommendations for related articles, podcast, videos, or books to Teresa Brown. We would also appreciate hearing from you about other subjects we should cover in this section.

Building & Developing a Virtual Team

Whether by choice or necessity, many organizations are now experimenting with, or considering, making remote work a permanent part of their organizational set-up. While building and managing a virtual or hybrid team can seem a daunting challenge, there are a wealth of tools, advice, and best practices to help you and your leadership team take full advantage of the opportunities that a virtual office offers, while avoiding or mitigating the pitfalls. We have curated some of the best here, to provide you with the practical resources to successfully build and/or develop a thriving, high-performing virtual team.

How to Thrive in a Virtual Work Environment: A Guide for Nonprofits
Practical guidance for managers of virtual teams, based on SPN’s two-plus decades of operating primarily as a virtual team.

Welcome to the Remote Office: A Survival Guide for Nonprofits
Foundation for Government Accountability’s COO Jonathan Bechtle has published a handy guide for organizations transitioning to a virtual office, with practical tips and guidance.

9 Tips on How to be an Effective Manager 
This concise article isn’t exclusively about remote work, but there are several reminders about being an effective manager that are essential for managing a virtual team.

Sustaining Employee Networks in the Virtual Workplace
Working virtual can hinder the formation of trusting, collaborative bonds between members of an organization, making teams less effective, less creative, and, ultimately, less successful. But being aware of the ways in which remote work can impact relationships and interpersonal networks within your organization and teams positions managers to preemptively address such issues.

How to Have Difficult Conversations Virtually
“Having difficult conversations is hard to do successfully under the best of circumstances. When you must have that conversation virtually, a little extra preparation can go a long way toward making the interaction feel more like it would if you were in the same place at the same time.”

How to Manage an Employee Who’s Struggling to Perform Remotely
“Remember, your biggest contribution to those you lead is helping them be, and contribute, their best. When they fall short, your greatest show of compassion, especially right now, is to help them figure out whatever it takes to get back on track.”

Virtual Communication: How Remote Teams Talk
A short, useful primer on setting up effective communication channels for a virtual team.

Related Book Recommendations

Thriving in a Virtual Office

As more and more organization shift to remote offices, or hybrid set-ups that allow or encourage staff to work from home at least a portion of their week, cultivating the skills and competencies needed to thrive in a virtual office is becoming essential. We’ve compiled a few resources to help you get started and to help address some of the most common challenges we can face in a virtual office.

First Day at Your Remote Job? Here’s Everything You Need To Know
From creating that work/life division to being your own tech support, here are 8 tips for mastering remote work.

How to Thrive in a Virtual Work Environment: A Guide for Nonprofits
Practical tips for helping set yourself up for success in a virtual environment, based on SPN’s two-plus decades of operating primarily as a virtual team.

5 Tips for Managing the Juggle: Working from Home with Kids
We need to be prepared that the new normal may be one where the overlap between work and home will continue to be messier and less predictable than it has been in the past. This short article includes five tips for easing the stress of juggling work and the realities of home.

Setting Boundaries: Ending the Day Well When You Work from Home 
Good, practical strategies that will “make the end of your workday clear — both to yourself and your coworkers.”

Why Zoom Meetings Can Exhaust Us 
“Being gazed at by giant heads can take a mental toll.” The article offers some tips for avoiding Zoom Fatigue.

Working from Home in the New Normal 
Working from Home in the New Normal is a project of Thrive Global. They’re regularly posting interesting new content.

Related Book Recommendations

Communication & Conflict Resolution

Whether working in a physical office or remotely, learning how to communicate effectively with co-workers, managers, and those who report to you is one of the keys to building a successful career. It is a skill we should always be seeking to strengthen in ourselves and to cultivate in those who report to us.

Radical Candor in Six Minutes with Kim Scott
This short video, narrated by Kim Scott – author of the bestselling book, Radical Candor – gives a quick breakdown of Scott’s approach to management and communication.

Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work
Disagreements are an inevitable, normal, and healthy part of relating to other people. There is no such thing as a conflict-free work environment. And you shouldn’t want to work in one. Disagreements – when managed well – have lots of positive outcomes, such as better work products, opportunities to learn and grow, better relationships, and a more inclusive work environment.”

Crucial Accountability: 3 Stories We Tell Ourselves That Ruin Moments of Accountability 
“How you feel during a crucial conversation is not a direct result of what you just saw, heard, or experienced.” It is a result of the story you tell yourself. Learn to reframe the story in your head before the crucial conversation to help ensure a more effective engagement.

Related Book Recommendations


Resilience (or resiliency) is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Resilient people don’t wallow or dwell on failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward.” – MindTools

It’s important to remember that resilience is a competency that can be cultivated and strengthened in anyone. The collected resources here provide a starting point for understanding resilience and how to begin strengthening these crucial mental and emotional muscles.

Building Your Resilience
In life, everyone will inevitably face adversity and challenges. The key is figuring out how to respond effectively and to move on. This American Psychological Association article provides a “roadmap for adapting to life-changing situations, and emerging even stronger than before.”

The Power of Agency
At a time when many are feeling overwhelmed by life, psychologist Dr. Paul Napper suggest that cultivating a strong sense of personal agency is the key to successfully navigating changing times. In this podcast, he shares some of the insights form his book: The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms.

Developing Resilience: Overcoming and Growing from Setbacks
Good, practical article that explains the power of resilience and some tactics for cultivating this crucial muscle.

How Resilience Works
Almost all theories of resilience overlap in three ways: “Resilient people, they posit, possess three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. These three characteristics hold true for resilient organizations as well.”

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
A TED Talk by Angela Duckworth, author of the bestselling book of the same name, in which she argues that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called ‘grit.’”

Related Book Recommendations

Time Management

“I’m too busy.” “My to-do list just keeps growing.” “I can’t ever get caught up.” Out of control calendars and to-do lists are a challenge that plague many of us, and those we manage. Learning to take control of our time, prioritizing our efforts, and focusing our energy may be one of the most valuable skills we can learn and that we can nurture and encourage in those we manage. This list includes a range of ideas, tools, and theories for tackling the issue of time management. Not every approach will work for everyone. Some may find a combination of ideas work best. Experiment and test until you find an approach that allows you to control your calendar, rather than your calendar controlling you.

How to Get Your To-Do List Done When You’re Always in Meetings
The cycle of knowing what your most important priority is, but feeling like meetings keep you from doing it, can be incredibly frustrating. The Harvard Business Review offers tips on how to get project work done even when you need to start and stop for meetings.

Time Management Tips of Insanely Busy People 
A long, in-depth article, but if you have the patience to root through it there are some valuable suggestions for getting a handle on your daily calendar.

9 Ways to Say No to Busywork and Unrealistic Deadlines
The difference between living a life of peace and productivity versus a life of stress and resentment could lie in one simple skill: Learning how to say no.

There’s No Such Thing as ‘Quality’ Time
When you’re too busy aiming for ‘quality time,’ you miss the moments in front of you.

Related Book Recommendations

  • 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think – Laura Vanderkam
    A classic, full of practical advice for getting control of your calendar – and your life. Vanderkam has published a number of books since 168 Hours, but this book captures many of her key ideas.

Management & Coaching

The opportunity to manage and coach talent is one of the most important roles any of us can play in our organizations. Whether you are new to management or have decades of experience leading a team, investing in growing and developing your management and coaching skills will yield benefits that can ripple far beyond your immediate direct reports.

9 Tips on How to be an Effective Manager 
A great read for new managers, with practical guidance and advice. They are also good reminders for those with years of management experience!

Radical Candor in Six Minutes with Kim Scott
This short video, narrated by Kim Scott – author of the bestselling book, Radical Candor – gives a quick breakdown of Scott’s approach to management and communication.

A short talk by Simon Sinek on the power of empathy and leadership.

How to Stop Delegating and Start Teaching 
“Managers need to stop thinking of passing off responsibilities as delegating — period. If you do, then you will only assign your employees high-level tasks when you don’t have time to do them. Until then, you will continue doing everything yourself… When you take on the mindset of a trainer — instead of a manager delegating work — you will naturally look for ways to give a little more responsibility to the people who work for you.”

How to Give Tough Feedback that Helps People Grow 
“Giving developmental feedback that sparks growth is a critical challenge to master, because it can make the difference between an employee who contributes powerfully and positively to the organization and one who feels diminished by the organization and contributes far less.”

Related Book Recommendations

Coaching Blogs

SPN Professional Development Opportunities

Network Brownbag Series

We all know how challenging it is to find time for professional development training and conversations in the midst of everyday responsibilities. Yet such discussions and training can play an essential role in our continued professional growth and our ability to make a positive difference in our state and for our nation.

SPN’s Professional Development BrownBag series gives Network members a reason to carve out one hour each month to set the day-to-day aside, focus on important topics, and learn from each other.

SPN InternNet

Through this virtual program, state-based interns learn directly from thought leaders across the states and receive additional resources for shaping their professional development and future careers. For state-based organizations, this content is a free educational resource that internship supervisors can use to enrich interns’ learning and experience.

Online Community

Through SPN’s Professional Development Facebook group, you can get additional support for your professional development journey by connecting with like-minded Network colleagues and discovering even more resources and tools.

Please note: This is a private community for Network professionals and access is subject to SPN approval.

Contact SPN

If you have questions or want to suggest a resource, please contact Teresa Brown at