For those of us who love the study of human behavior, social media provides a 24/7 real time research lab. Millions of people spend hours a day on social networks. As individuals, business leaders, students, CEOs, research analysts, marketers, and recruiters we all have different objectives both personally and professionally.

Social media offers the opportunity to join groups of people, to create communities where people come together. We come together for a cause, to solve a problem. We join tweet hands to share content and knowledge, to increase the depth and reach of voice or simply connect with human beings.

As each individual comes into a group they bring with them their personalities, feelings, insecurities,  knowledge, objectives, egos and even their baggage.  We may join teams with a goal of becoming more successful as a team than we are as individuals or to leverage the strengths of a team to gain personal growth and benefit. We aspire to join. We ask to get in. We are invited to groups. Some we join, some we don't.

Then as more people join the community they each bring with them the personalities, feelings, baggage and objectives etc. So now you have a party mix of all of these things. You don't know if people are joining for good intentions. You don't know if they are there to help the team or if they will sacrifice relationships to achieve their own objectives.

Does it become a question of “we” or “me”.

I believe this question drives human behavior in tight social circles. There must be a strong foundation of “we” to enable the team to have a purpose at all and provide value. There must be an understanding within the team of what the “we” is.  Yet, there must also be respect for the individuals.

When we lose sight of the “we,” we lose site of the purpose we came together in the first place. Part of being “we” is respecting the “me”.  It's respecting we all have busy schedules. We have happy days, down days. We have days we may be tweeting or talking too much. We have days we may not be around the social circle enough. You may feel our presence is missing.

The Tuckman Model of Group Development:

The model of group development by Bruce Tuckman includes the 4 key phases a team goes through. The stages are storming, norming, forming and performing.

bruce tuckman team development growth stagesThe four key stages of team development: (See more on Wikipedia)

Forming: The team comes together. They get to know one another. This is the most comfortable stage to be in. Mostly because everyone is nice.  They tend to avoid controversy and will choose individual behavior based upon being accepted by others. The team is learning about one another and the scope of the task at hand.  Team members still behave individually at this stage as they aren't fully aware of or informed of the issues or objectives of the team. During this phase it's important for team leaders to be somewhat directive to minimize confusion.

Storming: Storming is bound to happen in teams as individuals figure out their roles, balance the we versus me.. It is necessary to the future growth and performance of the team. Conflict is inevitable as communication opens and members push back on each other's ideas and perspectives. Tolerance of each team member and their differences should be emphasized to avoid failure. This phase can have devastating affects on a team and can lower moral if it is allowed to get out of control. Some teams obviously never move past this phase. It is important that there is open communication during this stage. It is important that team leaders are accessible and remain directive in their guidance of decision-making and professional behavior. This will foster an environment where team members feel open communicating about their concerns to enable the team to move forward. The goal is to avoid making people feel judged but still let people share their opinions and views in a professional manner.

Norming: By this stage some may have given up their own ideas and agree with others in order to make the team function. They will have one goal and one mutual plan for the team at this stage. Group members want to work for the success of team goals which can also be inclusive of individual goals. This phase is required to ever move forward to becoming a performing team.

Performing: Not all teams reach this stage, but the lucky ones will. If you have ever been on a true “preforming” team you know it. You can remember the goal, the outcome and most importantly the people. You probably remember the good more than the bad. Your memories of the bad are usually shadowed by the success you had in solving them. The high performing team is able to function as a unit. The team members are competent, autonomous and able to handle decisions without supervision. Team leaders are almost always participative during this stage.

Just because you make it to performing, doesn't mean you'll always stay there!

Teams will cycle through these changes repeatedly depending on circumstances surrounding them. Such impacts can be new people joining the team, change in leadership or simply busy schedules of a team member that take them away from the team. Existing norms may be challenged, roles may be challenged. The goodness is the team has already connected once or more and has felt the success hopefully of being a high performing team. The goal is that you can cycle through the stages again more efficiently understanding the concerns of the newbies as well as the old guard.

So how can we leverage the Tuckman Model in social media?

social media human group dynamicsI have always been a fan of Tuckman's model and have used in roles as both member and leader in many high performing teams. It's funny how this model was developed in 1965 and the same dynamics exist. The same behaviors exist in both online and offline circles today. Why? Because it's about people.

Some of the best leaders in social networks I have seen tend to be those who are good at leading teams outside or before social media existed. It is people who make up the social networks, groups, fan pages and more. We must connect with and understand the hearts of our teams.

Starting a group on Facebook, LinkedIn, Triberr or other platform can often be just as challenging if not more so than leading a group in a corporate business setting. When you are working in business often times you are assigned to teams. If you're a leader, your team may be assigned to you versus you getting to hand pick every team member.

Social networks are very much the same. You can not pick who joins your open LinkedIn group or Facebook group. However, you can select who joins your closed groups. Regardless, it is your responsibility as a leader and as a team member to do your best in being an effective team member. There is so much benefit to be had for those who invest the time in social groups. The relationships that can be formed as you work thru the stages Tuckman defines can form human bonds that can last a lifetime. Relationships that will stand the test of time, evolution of technology changes or even the change of Facebook to another platform.

So as you head into your next group or logon to your existing social network group chat discussions, remember it's the people that matter. Work out the differences in a postive and professional way the best you can. If you are a group leader or team member, leverage the Tucker model to help guide your team. Acknowledge where they are in the fostering and growth of the team dynamic. Realize it's natural. Let them storm, but help them get to norming as fast as they're naturally ready to do such.

At the end of the day it's as I always say, about the people. If you worry only about the number of retweets, number of web hits, subscribers to your opt-in, then you are missing the greatest benefit. You'll miss the most the organic and most important aspect of social media which is social relationships.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think? How are your social groups working together? How quickly are you seeing them go thru these stages? Do you see a healthy balance of “me” and “we?” What tips can you share with others who are just starting to lead teams of peeps online.

Source: Bruce Tuckman's Team Development Model