What’s the Difference between a Group and a Team?

Posted by Kristin Arnold on August 30, 2011

So what is the difference between a group and a team?  Aren’t they the same thing?  Well, no, they aren’t.  A group is a collection of people whereas a team is that same collection of people who are working together on a common goal.

shutterstock_277372325Here’s a common illustration of the difference:  A group of people walk into an elevator.  They all have different goals and agendas for being on the elevator.  The group becomes a team when the elevator breaks down.  Now they all have the same goal: Get out of the elevator!

Here’s another more recent example.  My grandkids are visiting PEI from Toronto and we went to the local farm to pick some green beans.  Each person had a brown paper bag and a designated row to pick green beans.  It’s a singular activity – bending over, picking the beans, shoving them into your own paper bag.  Grueling work if you had to do it all day.  Good news: We only picked beans for about ten minutes.

Our group became a team when shifted our work: One person held the bag, two people were picking the beans (the grandkids!) and another (that would be me) was taking the pictures. At the end of our ten minutes, we had ONE paper bag that we all contributed to.  Not four bags that each of us could hold near and dear and proclaim it as “mine”!  Just one that we all own.

Why is this important, you may ask?  I see too many managers expect groups to act like teams, and to reward performance as an individual in a group.  (Show me your bag.)  The reality is that there is nothing wrong with being part of a group OR a team – just don’t confuse the two!

Are you part of a group or part of a team?

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