How Do You Define Teams?

Have you ever considered the difference between a group and a team? Some of you may think it’s semantics, but it really isn’t. There is a significant difference between functioning as a group, and functioning as a team. Of course the standard operating procedure here would be to go to the dictionary – so we might as well. The dictionary would describe a group as a collection or assemblage of persons or things. A group is functional. It is simply organization – either by our own conscious choice or simply by our unconscious will. Our minds like to group things together because it helps us organize and make sense of the world. We look at a picture and see all the red things, all the circle things, and all the big things. On the other hand, teams are different. The dictionary would describe team as a number of persons associated in an action. Even better, it goes on to define team as a number or oxen or horses harnessed together to draw a vehicle or plow.

I love that imagery of horses harnessed together, equally pulling together towards a goal. A team implies unified action and direction. Teams are far from functional groups on an organizational chart or simple acts of grouping like job descriptions. Teams are intentional, with unified vision and goals. Can you imagine a team of horses pulling in opposite directions? Sure we could call them a group of horses… but not a team.

It seems time that we collectively take a good look at how we are using the word team around our organizations. To often we have “staff teams” that are really just functional groups. Teams we select, groups we define. Teams we coach, groups we manage. Teams we develop, groups we structure. Successful organizations today need more teams and coaches, with less groups and managers.

Are you an organization full of high performing teams and coaches that are harnessed together to achieve results? Or might you be an organization of functional groups and managers simply herding together in the same pasture?

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