7 differences between a group and a team

For years now, organisations have been under increasing pressure to improve performance while making use of fewer resources. Measures to cut costs and streamline processes have been implemented and methods of collaboration have become more effective and efficient. And so now we have organisations with flatter structures, which are being run increasingly offsite and where employees work as members of teams (virtual or otherwise). At least it is generally assumed that teams exist. However, what I observe in practice is that people often refer to teams when they really mean just groups. Is there a difference you might ask. Definitely! In this article, I will outline seven essential differences between a group and a team.


Within any group there is always a feeling among the members that the group has been created for administrative purposes. In other words, to keep the span of control manageable or to make it easier to remove a management layer. Within a team, on the other hand, the members typically realise that the only way to achieve a goal that cannot be realised by one individual is to work together. It is this common purpose that binds and connects.

Role awareness

Within any group, each individual is preoccupied with his/her own task and little is known or understood about the tasks of the other group members. There is no overview of the contributions that each individual makes towards the end result, and this forms the basis for a lack of understanding, for suspicion and for the creation of ‘little empires’. Within teams, the members are aware that everyone contributes to the end result and that acquiring insight into each other’s tasks can lead to even better results.

Conflict resolution

Within any group, when conflicts arise, the members are often quick to point the finger at other members, and expect the manager to resolve the situation. And the manager is then the one to ensure that any problems in collaboration are dealt with. Within teams, the members feel a bond with each other and take responsibility for the collaboration. Instead of talking about each other, they talk with each other, and the manager is only called in if conflicts threaten to escalate.


Within any group, there is always some element of suspicion playing a role, causing members to be extra cautious about what they say. The energy they waste in making sure they don’t say anything ‘stupid’ leads to their creativity being stifled, and their ability to resolve problems is weakened. Within a team, trust leads to open communication, resulting in everyone’s contribution being valued. The members listen to each other’s views and are aware of the benefit of different perspectives in finding solutions to the problems.


Within any group, control forms the basis on which a manager manages. The members are told what task they have to perform, when this has to be completed, and preferably how it has to be done. They are reduced to ‘lending a hand’. Within teams, the manager’s attention is focused on gaining commitment to goals. Team members are asked their opinions on the goals and how they think they can be achieved. In addition to their ‘hands’, their ‘minds’ are also made use of. After all, two heads are better than one. An example can be seen in this short commercial.


Within any group, training is directed at developing and/or further intensifying skills that are required in the short term to execute the task that a member has been called on to perform. After all, that’s what they’re paid for! Within teams, members are encouraged to collaborate, to not be afraid of admitting to mistakes, and to be open to criticism. So it’s essential that the members receive training in the fields of personal development and team dynamics, for example, as well as in the usual vocationally-oriented training.


Within any group, results are not really celebrated; there is no culture of ‘sticking out above the crowd’. Feedback is given primarily when things go wrong and if improvements have to be introduced. And any successes are ‘claimed’ by the manager. Teams, by contrast, know how important it is to recognise and celebrate successes together, and to be proud of what has been achieved. The manager realises that he or she is responsible for creating the conditions in which team members can excel.

What about you and your team?

Are you part of a group or a member of a team? What I’m noticing more and more these days is that a lot of employees and managers are insufficiently trained to perform in the context of a team. So it’s no surprise to me that research performed by Team Coaching International shows that less than 10% of the teams they studied considered themselves to be High-Performing. In other words, they did not see themselves as teams that achieve the goals agreed upon, that create an atmosphere that encourages collaboration, and whereby the individual team members are able to meet the demands of change and are less at risk of not being able to cope with the pressure of work.

Are you curious to know where your group or team stands? As a motivational speaker, creating successful, high-performing teams is one of my key subjects.

Curious to learn more?