Groups and teams are two words that are often wrongly used interchangeably. A group is formed when two or more people get together for any purpose. For instance, a number of friends going out for dinner qualify as a group. Teams on the other hand are more goal-oriented. A team consists of people who get together to achieve something.
What is a group and how is it different from a team?
A group exists when two or more people get together. We are a part of several groups in our daily lives. Human beings are social animals; hence they cannot exist without groups. The most basic and essential group in an individual’s life is his family. Groups can be formal or informal. A team, though consisting of a group of people, is a more organized set of individuals who are together with the purpose of meeting a goal or a target. Team members effectively communicate and take decisions that affect the whole team (Topchik, 2009).
To begin with, the success of a team depends on the extent to which team members share the same vision and the clarity of communication amongst them. When forming teams, managers must be careful in selecting team members (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005). The members should have diverse strengths and a common goal. The success of a group comes solely from compatibility of the group members. Thus groups are more casual and easy to form and lead as compared to teams (Clements, N.D.).
How to turn a group into a high-performance team?
Any group of people working together cannot be called a team. The purpose behind composing a team is to blend together different strengths and ideas so as to accomplish the ultimate goal (Topchik, 2009). A good manager is capable of turning an ordinary group of people into a high-performance team. A high-performance team is more productive and successful. To get there, the manager must ensure that all team members share the same goal instead of focusing on individual goals. The latter is best described by the term tunnel vision which means working towards realizing personal goals as opposed to the team’s goals (Clements, N.D.).
The second important thing a manager must do is to give people ownership for their tasks. Once the team members feel responsible for what they are doing, they are bound to do it well. Thirdly, team leaders must encourage all team members to contribute their ideas and suggestions, and participate in all activities. This stimulates openness and creates a team spirit that eventually enhances the performance of the team. Another important aspect of team building is the element of trust. Team members should be able to trust their leaders and each other. This can only happen when they are all sure that they share the same motives (Topchik, 2009).
An important factor that makes a group a high-performance team is that individuals try to understand each other. There is clear communication amongst them. In a group, there is a limit to which members can apply their skills at their work. In contrast, team members are encouraged to develop new skills and apply them to work. Also, in a group, conflict resolution is not handled well. Managers tend to ignore it till it gets really serious. In a high-performance team, conflict resolution is seen as a normal fact of life and is dealt with in a mature fashion. Disputes are negotiated and settled (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005).
Teams have a two-way communication between members and team leaders. In a high-performance team, there is delegation of decision-making authority. In fact, team leaders sit with team members and reach a consensus on the decision that needs to be taken. However the team does realize that at times, the leader will have no choice but to take the decision himself. In short, teams have a more understanding and open culture. Moreover, team members have a clear understanding of the leader’s vision (Clements, N.D.). Team members are more motivated and dedicated to their work than group members. On the other hand, in groups, decision-making authority rests with the group leader. There is less delegation. On the other hand, the group leader assigns tasks and then ensures they are carried out in the right manner (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005).
To sum it up, there are three factors on which one can decide whether their group is just an ordinary group or a high-performance team. The first factor is the motivation and development of the individuals. Team members are more motivated and more capable of making important decisions (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005). The second factor is the nature of job. If there is delegation of authority, openness and two-way communication, the group qualifies as a team. The third factor is the level of trust that the manager has in his subordinates. In a team, the manager has faith in his members to make every effort possible to enhance the team’s performance. This includes the team members’ willingness and ability to carry out tasks as required (Topchik, 2009).
The Impact of Demographic Characteristics and Cultural Diversity on Group Behavior
Demographic factors and cultural background play a very important role in shaping people’s habits and behaviors. Culture also affects communication, attitudes, work habits, and other things such as punctuality and discipline. For instance, the Japanese have very close-knit groups but they tend to be reserved people. Americans on the other hand, are more open and outspoken in their communication. In a team comprising both, the frankness of the American team member may end up offending the Japanese member. Furthermore, where linguistic barriers are present, the result is misunderstanding. This could lead to inappropriate actions or even conflicts. Hence it is important for managers to understand the cultural background and demographic traits of their team members (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005).
Demographic factors include age, gender, occupation, social class and so on. All these also affect the success of a team. Young people tend to be more innovative and adventurous. If senior people are put into the same group as them, they may feel resentment against the young team members. In the same way, females and males have a different ways of perceiving things and reacting to them (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005). Thus for a team to perform well, managers must be aware of the culture and demographic factors pertaining to their groups.
Teams and groups are two different concepts. An efficient manager is one who is successful in turning a group into a high-performance team. However for this to happen, he must lead the team in a way that ensures motivated and committed team members with a common goal. Moreover, there must be open, two-way communication, delegation of authority and participation of all team members. The manager should be careful in choosing team members. He must analyze and understand their cultural and demographic roots and compose a team that is made up of people with diverse strengths and good workplace compatibility.
- Schermerhorn, J. R, Hunt, J. G. & Osborn, R. N. (2005). Organizational Behavior. Location: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Clements, M./Australian Government. (N.D.) How to get your group to become a team.
- Topchik, G. (2009). Is Your Group Really a Team? What You Need to Know to Be a Team Leader.