YALSA’s Emerging Leaders Project – Part 2

Being an Emerging Leader is the easy part; it is the balancing of the rest of your life that gets difficult.

Sitting down to write this blog post, it has now been three months since we completed our project with YALSA and for something so major that occupied six months of our lives, it feels like it was over in no time at all.

But before I start reflecting too deeply on the experience, I’ll try to remember that someone told me this post was supposed to be about collaboration.

Collaboration can be such a scary word right? Going through life, we have all had some kind of experience where we were forced to collaborate. Maybe it was a group project in school where you partnered with your friends and things backfired horribly. It could have been that work assignment with Steve over in Accounting who you didn’t know real well, but things worked out and you wound up with a promotion. But I think for many of us, collaborating and that idea of “group projects” will always have a negative association.

So you can imagine my anxiety level heading into my first meeting with the YALSA group. And I know that they won’t admit it, but I would bet my teammates felt pretty similarly too.

That said, I think the community anxiety and general dread towards group work may have been the foundation of what exactly made this project run so smoothly. Each member of Project K seemed to enter that first day with a desire to try and make this process as easy and painless as possible. It was that mutual understanding and goal of trying to get through the Emerging Leaders program together, that provided the common ground that got us started.

So from a bird’s eye view, what exactly does collaboration look like for a group of Emerging Leaders?

  • 16+ E-Mail chains comprised of double digit replies, attachments, and motivational GIFs
  • 10+ Doodle Polls
  • 30+ Files in the Google Drive
  • 8+ Conference calls, video meetings and Hangouts
  • 4 Trips to Staples

And 1 satisfied organization.

There were of course plenty of little things that had to be picked up along the way, especially for six people in six very different locations: how time zones work, who needs to host the video conference, lining up schedules, good days to meet, bad days to meet, what a mute button is, and most importantly, how to resolve disagreements.

I don’t say most importantly to mean that we were constantly at odds, in fact, quite the opposite. But as six different individuals who are used to doing things in a certain fashion or being used to generally getting their way, there is no “formal” training that can teach you how to change your entire way of operating, especially when faced with an idea better than yours. Something like that can only come from trust and the mutual desire to make the project the absolute best that it can be.

I wish that I could say I’ve boiled it all down into one magic phrase or one singular technique to point to that made it all work. I wish I could say that we unlocked the secrets of the teamwork universe, or something that they will teach Emerging Leaders to come on how to be the best group you can be. But the real secret of our collaboration, at the very core of our success, was simply respect. A respect that turned us from librarians, into teammates and eventually friends.

So what does collaboration look like for a group of Emerging Leaders from the ground floor?

  • Multiple group dinners
  • Late night “Is everyone home safe?” texts
  • Award show naps
  • Wine flights
  • At-work video conferences
  • Virtual home tours
  • A trip to Harry Potter world
  • 6 tired librarians

And 1 satisfied organization.

Thanks for your eyes.

YALSA’s 2016 Emerging Leaders: Derrick Burton, Tiffany Davis, Kayla Marie Figard, Hattie Garrow, Samantha Helmick, and Dontaná McPherson-Joseph