Are you a team or a group?

Photo by Court Prather
Photo by Court Prather

A lot has already been written about teams and a lot is invested in team building: People drink, climb and analyse with psychological help. Who doesn’t want to be part of a successful team these days? But what if essential prerequisites are missing? Then the manager’s efforts run into void and it remains with a group of people. But is that really bad?

Let’s think again about what makes a team: There are of course the members that make up the team. The team has a common task, its mission. Ideally, every team has an identity. This can be supported by the name, a common logo or a battle cry. As already described in another post, a sociable get-together with support of alcohol also helps to shape the team.

Modern leaders invest a lot of effort in this process. They organise offsites, create space for norming discussions and also hire external coaches to accompany the team-finding process. After all, in addition to creating efficient cooperation, it is also a matter of binding the team members to the manager. By investing in teambuilding measures, you create recognition for yourself – regardless of whether you position yourself as a person of authority or as a collegial primus-inter-pares.

Teambuilding also always creates a sense of community in order bind its members and swear them to a common goal. But this is exactly one of the pitfalls in the formation of the “team”.

In a larger organization, everybody is part of several groups at the same time: There are the direct colleagues as a peer group, the own department, different inclination groups for content-related work. To a certain extent, these groups compete recruiting you as part of their “team”.

The sense of beloging depends very much on how much time you spend together collaborating on a common task. When I, as a department manager, meet with my colleague once a week in the department jour fixe, but invest the rest of the time in the department tasks, I will rather see the department as my emotional home – my team.

I will then be more likely to act as a delegate of my department team in the division group than to feel part of the department manager “team”. This is not bad per se, as a department manager my focus should be on the department.

At this point there is a big difference between a goal-oriented project world in which everyone works together on a clear mission and the heterogeneous construct of a company that has to cope with a whole bouquet of diverse tasks.

In such an environment, it will be much more difficult to develop an effective common mission with which everyone can identify. Too often I have seen elaborately formulated vision and mission statements that decorate the walls, but do not reach the hearts of employees.

It is therefore clear that team-building measures do not fully work for a group. Of course, it is not harmful to create understanding for the individual strengths and weaknesses in a group and to develop common standards. As a leader, however, I should not overtax the team spirit and be aware that I will never be able to form a fully-fledged team out of delegates in a group. This should not frustrate me at this point and I should certainly not live out my frustration with the group.

Here, too, a common understanding is important. As a group I can also work successfully together into the same direction.

What about you?

Which team do you belong to?

Have your teambuilding measures ever run nowhere?

Have you ever wanted to impose the team idea on a group?

Translation into English supported by DeepL and Grammarly

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