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Groups vs Teams: Differences and Benefits of Each

Understanding the differences between groups and teams sets your employees up for success. Discover how these groupings differ and the benefits that each provides.

By Mara Calvello  •   March 3, 2022  •   6 min read

When it comes to project management or working towards an exciting goal, organizations often divide their employees into groups or teams. 

Groups and teams sound like they’d be the same, and they’re often used interchangeably by those who don’t understand the differences. However, knowing how these two terms differ can ensure managers make the most of everyone’s time and unique skills so they can all work together with as few roadblocks as possible. 

What is a group?

First, let’s define what a group is. When you’re in a group of colleagues or a collection of individuals, you work to coordinate your efforts towards something specific. Members of the group work together but have individual and separate goals. Even though the goals are separate, a related or joined interest should bring everyone together.

Some key points to remember about groups are:

  • Individual goals per person
  • Everyone is accountable for their own tasks and responsibilities
  • Success or failure on an individual level

Need a real-life example of a group? Think of an airline crew, from the pilot to the flight attendants. They all have their individual tasks and things for which they’re responsible, but they also have the shared goal of getting to the destination safely.

Encourage collaboration

Give the opportunity to be heard during every meeting by using a collaborative meeting agenda tool like Fellow where all attendees can contribute!

What is a team? 

Next up, a team. When you’re in a team with coworkers, everyone shares a common goal. Everyone on the team should lean and rely on one another to achieve the shared outcome. Whether the goal is creating new products, solving complex problems, or planning an event, all team members are aligned as one.

Some key points to remember about teams are:

  • Shared goals across the team
  • Individual and mutual accountability for tasks and responsibilities
  • Everyone collectively succeeds or fails at reaching the goals

For a real-life example, think about your favorite sports team. Every player, and even the coach, needs to come together to win the game.

What are the key differences? 

There are some main differences between groups and teams that should be considered. The key difference to keep in mind is that a group of people focuses on accomplishing their individual goals that contribute to the big picture. In comparison, a team of people focuses on achieving team goals.

The differences all come down to the levels of independence within roles. For instance, group members don’t share responsibility, but team members do share responsibility. Similarly, a group focuses on achieving individual goals, whereas team members focus on achieving the shared goals.

How are teams and groups similar?

While there are many differences between teams and groups, there are some similarities, too.

For starters, both teams and groups are made up of at least two people. The members of both have to interact with one another in some way, but face-to-face interaction is usually best. Additionally, both teams and groups need some type of leadership to operate successfully. And members of a team or group should be able to share information, space, and resources to achieve the necessary goals and objectives.

Benefits of creating teams at work

If you’re leaning towards creating a team at your organization, here are six benefits to consider when doing so.

1 Improves communication

If the people with whom you’re creating a team need some help with communicating, a team can improve how everyone communicates with each other. Communication is important for success, because a team has to be collaborative to achieve a goal. Having the right tools to have these conversations, express questions and concerns, and learn from each other’s points of view builds a successful team.  

2 Increases interpersonal skills

Effective teamwork can also improve interpersonal skills. All team members have to cooperate with one another, maintain a positive outlook, and negotiate as they work together. When team members have disagreements, these skills help resolve conflicts and help the team move forward as a cohesive unit.

Some interpersonal skills improved by working as a team are:

3 Allows for people to motivate other people

Another significant benefit of building an effective team is that the people within that team often motivate one another as they work since they have shared priorities and goals. In addition to team members motivating one another, individual team members will likely feel motivated by the desire to perform, so they don’t let their team members down. 

4 Creates a support system

Having support from the individuals with whom you’re working can go a long way. The support system within a team is often unparalleled. As team members come together to achieve a common goal, they rely on one another for support. Having team members you can go to when you have a question, need some help, or have a concern can alleviate the stress and pressure of working independently. 

Think back to the sports team example from earlier. No matter what type of sports team came to your mind, you know that players often have to step up to help and support their teammates when they’re injured or feel the pressure of the big game.

5 Brings together a variety of individual strengths

Another clear benefit of creating a solid team is that the members within all have a wide variety of individual strengths. Where one team member may lack a specific skill, another may excel. When tasks are aligned with these skills and talents, performing at what everyone is best suited for comes easy.

Members also feel confident knowing that everyone else on the team is working on completing a task that is most aligned with their strengths.

6 Aligns efforts as a result of the shared goal 

When every team member works towards the same goal, everyone is bound to feel like all their efforts are correctly aligned. Having this sense of alignment is even more important when the team is working on a time-sensitive project or goal for which they have limited resources. 

Benefits of creating groups at work

Forming a group has its benefits, too. Let’s explore the benefits of building a group to work together independently. 

1 It is easy 

If you’re in a time crunch and need something to be accomplished fast, organizing a group instead of a team may be the way to go. It can take time for team members to learn how to work cohesively, but group members need a lot less time because of their clearly defined areas of specialty. This can be an advantage for projects with tight deadlines.

2 Offers different perspectives

Another benefit of organizing a group is that all members have different tasks to accomplish and varying priorities on their to-do lists. Having these different perspectives can drive innovation and creativity, and new ways of approaching challenges may arise along the way.

3 Allows the group to take advantage of better problem-solving skills

Not only does a group offer different perspectives, but group members with varying talents and strengths can also bring the advantage of better problem-solving skills. You’ll likely have various ideas for approaching a problem, giving the group more options for how to potentially solve a roadblock within a project.

4 Improves communication

Just like with teams, members of the group will have to communicate with one another to get the job done. While active listening is important in groups, there also needs to be an understanding of how someone should communicate with people of different backgrounds who have different skill sets. 

This enhanced communication will likely help group members form bonds and better working relationships with people they may not have had a chance to work with otherwise.  

5 Encourages self-motivation

Since members of the group all work independently towards a shared goal, everyone needs to have a certain level of self-motivation. Every group member will need to motivate themselves to complete their tasks instead of relying on someone to motivate them. 

In addition to self-motivation, working in groups can inspire someone to focus on their growth and what they bring to the table as an individual. 

There’s no i in team… or in group!

When choosing to form a group or a team, choose wisely! Consider how you’d like people to work and what kind of goal is being set. The next time it’s up to you to assemble others to solve a problem or achieve a goal, consider which approach is best suited, and then lead the charge!

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