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How Social Is Your Team?

Broadly speaking, people like people. Perhaps that’s why the culture of collaboration has taken such a strong hold in many organizations since the dawning of the social web.

Of course, social media and interactions aren’t just catchy marketing concepts; they’re also very good news for businesses that want to enthuse and inspire staff.

What Is “Social”?

While the current tendency is to tie the “social” concept to media or tools, these define “social” as much as did the water cooler, or after-work drinks.

Let’s consider the social team one that works closely together, regardless of distance, hierarchy, timezones, or, within certain boundaries, degree of project involvement. A social team is one that’s able to make the most of possible offerings or contributions from within or beyond the team efficiently and productively. And it’s a team that finds those engagements rich, satisfying and fun.

A social team tends to exhibit a number of key characteristics:

Solves Problems Collaboratively

The social team looks to others to help in problem-solving efforts large or small. The first problem-solving option for these team members involves collaboration. Those “others” may be other team members, people from other parts of the organization, or other organizations. Other resources, information sources and approaches may also be considered.

The important factor is that the members of the social team understand that their skills and knowledge are limited, and are convinced the broader organizational and informational communities can provide assets that can help to fill those gaps.

Members of the social team are prepared to experiment and research in order to locate those resources, selecting and using appropriate people and tools to access helpful ideas. Feeding their own skills and knowledge back into the broader peer community is also extremely satisfying for these people.

Comfortable With Identifying Areas of Weakness

As a corollary to the point above, the social team’s members are as comfortable with admitting their own personal limitations as they are in offering practical assistance and advice within and beyond their own teams.

Within the social team, individuals may actively, if unconsciously, keep a lookout for areas in which the team’s capability is limited.

Unlike traditional teams, which focused on in-house human assets, the social team looks to optimize internal skills and resources with the help of external offerings, from contract skills, to information resources, to tools and technology.

The social team isn’t afraid to admit it doesn’t know all the answers. It enjoys the challenge to go one better, even in areas where the team’s skills are already strong.

Open About Project Progress

The social team member is willing to look beyond the team for inputs — tools, resources, advice, philosophies — that his or her team can use to create a better project outcome more efficiently. And by applying best-practice ideas from the broader community, rather than relying on slower-moving in-house systems and ideas, these teams can quickly become more effective in their work.

A social approach positions the team to enjoy productivity shortcuts, reduce “busy work” with productive, satisfying work, and feel that their time is both justified and well-spent. Couple this with the closeness they’re likely to establish with other team members in the quest for the best possible project outcome, and most social teams feel little inclination to fudge timelines, misrepresent task status, or avoid telling colleagues about unexpected hurdles.

They’re much more likely to seek their team members’ thoughts on problems as soon as they arise, creating understanding and strengthening in-team collaborative relationships.

Involves Management

The social team differs markedly from the traditional team in that stakeholders and leaders are accessible and involved in the team’s workings. The traditional stakeholder expectation that, if they delivered a brief, they would later receive the specific output, doesn’t operate in the truly social team.

Instead, leaders and stakeholders are interested and eager to collaborate with project teams, using technology to overcome the limitations of busy schedules and multiple responsibilities to engage with the team at an operational level. Just as they might provide direction, they might also offer their own contacts, resources or knowledge to help the team excel.

A Social Team Is Supportive and Responsive

The subtext to all these points? The social team is supportive and responsive: its members are focused on working together, role boundaries tend to blur. People ensure that things get done, which feeds back into the sense of overall team satisfaction and enjoyment.

There’s less handing off of responsibilities, and more free suggestions of potential problem-solvers. In the collaborative team, ideas are eagerly shared, and team members are respected for their willingness to collaborate.

Does this sound like your team? What other characteristics define the social team?

Photo courtesy stock.xchng user sundstrom

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