PM Articles > Geof Lory > Facebook, Twitter, and Teams

Facebook, Twitter, and Teams

by Geof Lory

I'm not an overly private person but I'm not really into social media. I understand LinkedIn and use it for business purposes, but Facebook and Twitter seem like digital versions of reality TV, which, as you might imagine, I don't care to watch. When I was growing up, 1984 was just an Orwellian proposition, and the thought that anyone would know that much about you was scary, not inviting. Readily publishing private information was even more unthinkable. From my perspective, most of the drivel people tweet about or put on their Facebook page feels self-absorbed and narcissistic. Does the world really need to know about that last drinking binge? Does anyone even care?

By now, if you haven't already rolled your eyes and clicked away, you are probably still reading mostly in hopes of finding something you can reply to. I hope it is the latter (there is plenty of opportunity at the bottom of this blog to do that) and I hope you follow through with that impulse, because I am slowly becoming a convert and I am interested in your thoughts and help. Sometimes converts are the worst evangelists. I will be the first to admit that I may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and may need to adjust my thinking.

Unfortunately, I have been exposed mostly to the immature side of social media: bad pictures, long blogs from people who need to get a life, and all-too-public displays of a side of the human psyche that might be better left hidden. I can say that I felt pretty comfortable in my self-righteous condemnation of the whole movement. However, I am hopeful that like most social changes, this one will also eventually grow up and achieve its potential: the power of creating community.

By community I'm not referring to LinkedIn groups or to following, liking, or other methods of sharing among people of common interests. For me, that is not community; that's just social interaction. There's nothing wrong with social interaction (I'm changing my tune already), but I'm talking about creating true community based on trust and collaboration toward a common goal or purpose, like a team.

I'm not going to go into all the truly great things about social media or the unlimited possibilities and how it will most likely change just about everything we do (now I've really gone over to the dark side). Instead, I will take a small venture into how social media can enable project teams not only to work together better but also to be truly better teams through community, collaboration, transparency, and accountability.

What changed things for me was seeing one of my team members regularly check and update Facebook even though I was unable to get her to keep her tasks up to date on the project plan -- you know, things like time sheets and percent complete. It was far easier to find out the latest adventure of her new puppy or how she scored front row tickets to Lady Gaga than it was to get a clear picture of the status of her tasks. Clearly, I was not getting her engagement and mindshare, but Facebook was. Why are people more apt to update their status on Facebook than update their tasks on the project management tool? What am I missing?

So I started thinking, what if we could make work as compelling as following Facebook, checking in, or tweeting? What would change if people were following or liking someone's assignment? It feeds the need to be recognized. This taps into the deepest principle in human nature: the craving to be appreciated.

I haven't completely thought this through yet, but after all, isn't that the way social media works? Throw it out there and crowdsource the ideas. What comes back is likely to be far better than anything I could create on my own.

So here are my skeletal thoughts on how social media can help build great teams.

We all have an inherent need for community. It feeds our sense of belonging and fulfills our desire to be recognized, even if only personally or privately. In exchange for what we get from community, we have to collaborate at a level we might not otherwise. This collaboration exposes us, creating transparency, which in turn affords us and others the opportunity to hold each other accountable. Accountability is what drives results, which in turn provides the recognition that refuels the community. Onward and upward.

So, how does social media fit into and enable this cycle? Everyone wants to talk about what they are doing, mostly because they are engaged in what they are doing and they believe others want to know. If you don't believe this, try holding a daily stand-up meeting of 20 people in less than 30 minutes. Most people find what they are doing interesting and want to tell others about it. This is the substance of social media. Using social media to tap into this craving to be appreciated will begin to develop the community that starts the cycle. Channeling that desire into collaboration is just a natural extension. Once that ball is rolling, the transparency will be almost unavoidable. From there the commitment to the community will drive the accountability and after that results are inevitable.

I know it sounds pretty simple. The first step is the hardest, gaining the engagement at a Facebook level. Both of my daughters are avid social medialites (is that a word?). Until now, I have avoided visiting their pages (and I use the word visit intentionally, as that is how I feel trudging around in their personal life information). However, in light of this new perspective, I think I am going to take a few more digital drive-bys to build a little community with them, and of course make sure they are behaving. Sorry, I can't help myself -- I am still first and foremost a dad.

I'm interested in your ideas and experiences with using social media to engage team members and foster community and collaboration on your teams. I look forward to hearing from you and eventually trying out your ideas.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Real teams at work talk about their new puppies and their tickets to concerts, and many other things that are (according to their clueless managers) "not work related." But being a community, as you say so clearly, is work related, and you can quite well measure the quality of a teams work by noticing how tight a community they are (along with other things, of course).

If you want to build "teamness," make sure the members have lots of opportunities to socialize (and that includes, but it not limited to, social media). But be wise, observant, and perceptive about what sorts of opportunities you encourage. Create an environment where social interaction is easy, but not forced. Surely you're wise enough not to design your daughters' social lives—so don't think you're wise enough to do it for your employees.

It is one thing to be connected and another to build rapport.

To build rapport we need something beyond the smalltalk of posting on a Facebook wall.

To build rapport, we need to recognize each other as unique and amazing human beings. That's not something that can happen on Facebook. That's something that Facebook can facilitate once rapport has been established.

We can communicate via social media but building a real relationship requires us to occupy the same space.

I believe that social media can only facilitate collaboration if trust has already been established. Otherwise, connectedness is on the surface and not trustworthy.

So, we will have two classes of people that we communicate with. One class are those who have not gained our trust and those who have.

Social media can be wonderful among people who have already established trust..we get to know what is important and respond to that. Social media encourages us to be dismissive of people who have not gained our trust.

Good teams are made up of people who have mutually gained each others trust.

Great Blog post! Work places that are remote and distributed need high levels of engagement as team members will miss the face to face interaction.

I love Facebook. it gave me a way to keep up with my daughters when they studied abroad. I have found friends there that I haven't seen for 45 years (& would never have encountered again otherwise). I don't find it overly narcissistic or self indulgent. I think of it as my little virtual community - and it enhances my 3-D "real" community. Watch out, Geof, I may have to friend you.

Great article! It has me thinking about how the use of social medial might help as one part of creating a cohesive team.

I, too, use facebook to keep up with family menbers I do not get to see as often as I would like as we live in different states. It is a great fun way to keep in touch, share pictures, etc...

What if we could make work as compelling as following Facebook, checking in, or tweeting? What would change if people were following or liking someone's assignment?

I'm not sure, but I think the effect you're looking for here is what's often called "gamification." The general idea is that people do things that are fun and/or rewarding (not always the same thing), but avoid things that are neither fun nor rewarding. Your team member was actively avoiding her status reports for a reason that might not be addressed by the medium of communication. It's impossible to know for sure what the reason is, however, without an open dialogue (and truth be told, she may not even be aware of it herself).

I used to say people don't like or appreciate feeling watched, but that seems less true today than it was back in 19-mumble-mumble.

Perceptive observations Geof. I am with you on the privacy concerns, but I also recognize that we build trust by sharing some of the non-work dimesions e.g. weekend adventures, kids, pets. Social media provides yet another channel for sharing, albeit the permanancy and public nature makes me cautious as well.

Now jump into our Chatter feed and get some well-deserved appreciation :-)

From all the great responses it is clear social media has a lot to offer to build and support the team environment that is essential to optimize both our collective productivity and our personal satisfaction. Thanks for all the insightful comments. They remind me to be more deliberate in my efforts to help teams communicate.

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