Jacqueline: Hello. C is for collaboration. On this episode of our STEAM Information Podcast, our SIP, I want to talk about collaboration. First, let me give you the context of collaboration. Collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to achieve shared or overlapping objectives.
A lot of us may think that we’re in collaborative relationships, especially when we talk about the work environment, but there are still several ways people can resist. One of the things, when we tie this into STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts and math—those are fields that are introducing change, and change at a rapid pace in our world today. So, people naturally—it’s almost if by nature—resist change. Resistance is almost the opposite of collaboration. It takes a special skill set; it takes practice and development of that skill set to work with teams and then to be a leader of teams in a collaborative way.
The reason why it takes a special skill set and a special type of leadership style is because collaboration is a voluntary process. It’s not like command and control. When you think of military, you’re given orders and you follow those orders. If someone of a higher rank gives that order, you have to follow it. Well, in corporate America and in society at large, it doesn’t work that way. Just because you have a leader title—you’re a director, you’re a VP, you’re a CIO—doesn’t mean people are going to do what you’ve asked them to do, especially not in the spirit of collaboration. Now, people can do the work, but they can do it resentfully. You’re not going to get the same quality, and it’s not going to go as smooth. So, collaboration is where you have people’s buy-in, there’s enthusiasm, and they’re motivated. There are special styles of leadership and team building that really emphasize collaboration.
I love the quote in the IT arena: the way you get a quality software product is that you have a motivated workforce. They believe in what they’re doing. They’re not just there to collect a check. A lot of us can relate to that. If you ever go to a restaurant and you don’t have a motivated waiter or waitress, someone that wants to be there, loves what they’re doing, and enjoys what they’re doing, you can tell in the level of service. The same thing goes whether you’re a doctor in the operating room, whether you are a technologist writing or testing code. Whether you’re a teacher in the classroom teaching science or math or you’re an engineer building and designing something, you want them to feel motivated and plugged in. That’s that special type of leadership.
Furthermore, when I talk about the collaborative style of leadership and team building, it’s getting people to see pass being individual contributors, being “I”, isolating themselves, being on an island, and always wanting to outshine. A good collaborative leader makes sure that everyone buys in and that the team is more important than them as an individual.
Now, to parents: having young people participate in programs such as coding camps, hackathons, and robotics on the weekend, it’s not just simply about, “I want them to have a career in robotics,” or “I want them to have a career in writing code.” Not at all. We’ve had many parents give testimonies at our BDPA HSCC (High School Computer Competition) and also with NSBE Jr. After three or four years of consistently being a part of these programs where they created a bond with teammates, the most important thing is they came away with being good team players, understanding the dynamics of teams and different personality types, finding what their strengths were, and knowing how to leverage the strength of their other teammates. Parents talk about how the BDPA HSCC taught them to speak better publicly, how to communicate their thoughts, and how to be patient. These are the qualities that make good team members as well as give them the skill set that they need to be collaborative leaders.
Let me talk to young professionals and even seasoned professionals. If you’re looking for leadership, people may from time to time ask you, “What is your leadership style?” A collaborative leadership style is one of those recognized styles, because collaborative leadership, it says here, is developing effective partnerships for your communities, for your job within other departments and/or for your school. Because collaboration requires a volunteering nature, the success of a collaboration depends on one or more collaborative leaders’ ability to maintain those relationships.
One of the things we always talk about is networking and building a network. As Derrick Brown used to say, build a network, leverage a network. That’s what collaboration is all about. When you’re trying to develop a career or if you as an entrepreneur are trying to develop a business, you have to work those networks; you have to build those collaborative networks so that when you need something, you’re not just calling people when you need something. You’re calling to first of all, figure out how you can help them so that then when you need something, they’re there for you. Most collaborations require leadership in a social or decentralized way.
Again, the leader isn’t pushing or controlling the group, but the leader motivates the group to want to do the right things. Teams that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, recognitions and rewards when facing competition for finite resources. The old saying that individually, we may be strong, but when we combine our strength, it’s exponential. It’s just not 1+1=2. When you collaborate, 1+1=3. You even triple your ability to compete and win. It has been proven over and over. Teams that win might not have the most resources. I love a movie that was shared with us at the NSBE Conference this year. It’s called “Dream Big.” I highly recommend it. I know it doesn’t play at the main theaters, but in Atlanta, at the Fernbank Imax Theatre look for “Dream Big.”
It showed how teams who didn’t have the same resources, one was a poor teen that came from Mexico. It was a robotics competition. Everyone else came with state of the art, MIT, big fancy robots with nice outer shells. Theirs was just cobbled together literally with duct tape and different things. They had to have this robot go under water, pick something up, move these three rings, and then come back to the surface. The day they got there and threw theirs in the water, it started leaking. They never had a real environment to test theirs in whereas others had simulated the same environment that was going to be at the competition, but nonetheless, teamwork, tenacity, just being creative and not giving up, they were able to problem-solve; they won the competition. I know I should’ve said spoiler alert, but you have to see it. There’s a lot in it. It’s very cute HOW they won. You have to watch the movie to find out what their secret weapon was.
The other thing I loved about that movie was their leader was not able to travel with them. They didn’t have the money for all the members and their leader to travel, so their leader had to stay behind. But, he had instilled in them enough: work as a team, talk to each other, and don’t fall apart when the going gets touch. He left them with that, and they were able to take his words and apply them even when he wasn’t there. That’s a sign of a great leader.
So, just to recap. Our letter for today is C for collaboration. Parents: start them young and get them on teams. A lot of athletes learn it when they’re on sports teams, but remember that there are also academic programs that teach team value. Get our intellectual youth, those who have a spark on the intellectual side, get them on teams. Also, for those in your early career or your advanced career, go out and seek collaboration training and leadership collaboration courses to add that skill set to your resume. I promise you’ll get more hits, and it’ll help you bump up that salary. I hope today’s SIP was refreshing, and I hope to see you back very soon as we continue our A2Z, our STEAM alphabet series.Thanks, and bye for now.