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Differences Between a Group and a Team

Facilitating Groups
October 10, 2023 12:33 pm

What is the difference and how does it affect your meeting?

It’s 7:30 AM, you are on the subway making your way to work. The train is busy, but you recognize a few individuals that you see occasionally during your commute. Each of you have a personal goal during this trip. Some of you are heading into work, others may be on the way to school and yet others may be heading to a job interview. These individuals are unknowingly exhibiting traits of a group – each person having their own goal to achieve.

Suddenly the train comes to a stop and there is a medical emergency…

This group of individuals on the train now have a common goal; to get help for this individual! As a result, they will likely become more team-like and “WE” focused. They will start asking questions like; How can “WE” help this individual? What should “WE” do? Does anyone have any skills or experience to help? We begin hearing more ideas coming forward, and more supportive actions taking place to achieve the goal. We now share a common focus and feel the sense that “I’m not alone trying to help this individual”. This newfound camaraderie is empowering and motivating to all of the individual players.

Bringing Out The Team In Your Groups

As a facilitator you need to know if you’re dealing with a group versus a team. Groups tend to be more “I” focused lacking a common goal or purpose for why they’re coming together. As a project manager or team lead it’s very important that you help your group define their common purpose upfront to avoid the pitfalls of having a group of “I” focused individuals. Individuals in groups tend to be led by their own set of rules of engagement rather than shared guidelines. One way a facilitator can engage and better align the group around a “WE” focus is to ask questions such as:

  • What behaviors do we need to embrace to collaborate effectively during meetings?
  • How will we engage in decision-making? How will we test for agreement?
  • How will we manage conflict when it arises? When should we escalate our concerns?
  • What must be in place for us to need to hold a meeting?

When facilitating a meeting it’s best to have everyone work as a team to take advantage of synergies and collaboration. Determining the group’s common purpose and rules of engagement typically help groups to align and move from an “I” focus to more of a “WE” focused team.

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Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!