Institute Value Spotlight: Collaboration

The role of collaboration in the workplace

November 12, 2021 | By Workplace Learning & Professional Development
Work colleagues collaborating across a conference table

Continuing Georgia Tech’s campaign, Living Our Values Every Day (L.O.V.E. GT), the opinion-based podcast series from Workplace Learning & Professional Development (WLPD) has launched a second episode. Hosted by LaTrese Ferguson, director of WLPD, each episode in this series focuses on an Institute value and how it plays into our behaviors, relationships, and motivations, while providing deeper insights to consider and skills that can be applied in the workplace to advance your personal and professional development.  

In this episode, Ferguson sits down with Nelson Baker, dean of Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE), to discuss the value of collaboration and the role it plays at Georgia Tech and in the workplace at large.  

Here are some highlights from their conversation: 

Don’t compromise your personal values or ethics for a job. [8:56]  
Make sure you are doing what you feel qualified and excited to be doing, and always point out when your organization is not upholding its values. Organizations need to listen earnestly and empathetically to employees in order to continue to create an environment where people can find their passion space and maintain their values, which allows the organization to build better teams. “Magic happens when people find mission, purpose, and passion,” said Baker. 

Collaboration is foundational to Georgia Tech Professional Education. [10:22] 
One of GTPE's major roles is to collaborate with outside organizations to help them find solutions to their unique problems. To do so, GTPE must work with the organization to fully understand the problem and connect them with the right faculty and/or subject-matter experts. GTPE also collaborates with these organizations to develop and provide training curricula for their workforce. These collaborative efforts build trust between higher education and the workplace.  

Finding common ground is the key to collaboration. [11:57] 
Baker explained that, as a member of the International Association for Continuing Engineering Education (IACEE), he often works with colleagues from all over the globe. Working with people of different backgrounds, value sets, and languages can be a challenge because of the many barriers to communication. So, the key to working together is to look for commonalities rather than focus on differences. Establishing a point of connection will help unify your unique perspectives and aid your ability to move forward as a team.  

Collaboration is a skill that every person can and should continually practice and improve. [14:38] 
The art of collaboration is a skill that does not come completely naturally for anyone, and that’s okay. Every day, make a point to intentionally practice empathy and listening. You will find that learning something new is often better than always sticking with what you know. As a collaborator, you also must understand that you and/or the other party may make a mistake. Apologize when needed, be gracious, and learn how to move on together. We all make mistakes, and they are often one of the most powerful ways to learn.  

“Win-Lose” attitudes are detrimental to collaboration. [24:06] 
Going into a conversation or disagreement aiming to “win” will not be productive for you nor for your organization. Maintaining an open mind and looking for ways to learn about another viewpoint will yield the most success, as that will build trust and take a step toward a unified collaborative effort.  

Learn from previous life experiences, both yours and others. [26:30] 
Everyone has a unique set of life experiences. We can’t erase these experiences, and they will always play a part in our day-to-day life. Therefore, it’s important that each of us look for opportunities to understand each other’s unique background and viewpoint. Again, this action will earn trust and create a better environment for collaboration.

Interested in increasing your effectiveness in support of our Institute values? Check out these upcoming values-based learning sessions. 

As the Institute’s partner in faculty and staff professional development, the Workplace Learning & Professional Development (WLPD) team is committed to supporting campus learners. Whether exploring a leadership mindset, seeking professional partnerships, or embracing values congruence, WLPD’s offerings facilitate the development of your professional learning goals and add value to your career at Georgia Tech. Want to receive customized learning content, news, and updates straight to your inbox each month? Join our mailing list