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Coaching Teams to Get the Job Done

Good Day San Francisco. Every company in the Bay Area forms groups and teams to implement executive strategies. Managers in these companies fail or succeed because of their skill in forming and leading these social systems. Several years back, a Vice President of a San Francisco company told me how confused he was about the difference between groups and teams. In his view, groups and teams are identical. Since many people agree with him, this column explains the difference between the two and highlights the difference that this difference makes.

Groups serve as the foundation of corporate life. At Intel, groups function as a system of relationships between and among employees. Employees there interact, share common corporate goals, values, and norms. Groups enjoy social structure and evolve various amounts of cohesion. When you join a company, you join a group.

Teams are similar to groups, but different. Like groups, teams share a common purpose and come together to pool knowledge. Unlike groups, however, teams enjoy a specific expertise and have a more narrow focus. You can say that a team is a task-specific group because leaders formed it to accomplish a finite task such as create a new data base or design a new product. While groups form a permanent part of a company, teams arise and diminish even in as little as a few days. A group is composed of two or more teams.

At the enterprise-wide level, you can see that groups and teams, although similar, are quite different. For managers, you could say that teams are tactical units of enterprise.

An intelligent career coach cares about the difference between groups and teams because team members often affect each other more directly than do group members. When it comes to groups and teams, managers share the same concern as career coaches, but from a much different perspective.

Think about it. At Intel, Cisco, Network Appliance, and any other local company you can name, everyone merely belongs to a group, but everyone is impacted by a team. While group members may never meet each other, team members will impact the careers of the other team members. This is an immense difference between group and team membershipand can make or break a career.

This difference is important to career coaching success. Through the specificity of task performance, career coaching can more directly improve the performance of teams. Here an experienced career coach can contribute to team success by building the core hard and soft-skills of team members. These core skills include not only respect for different perspectives and willingness to work with others but also the ability to:

  • Work with others who differ
  • Share knowledge and responsibilities
  • Share in decision making
  • Work as a solid contributor and team member
  • Stand alone when necessary.
  • Handle conflict professionally without fragmenting the team

Remember this: It is the team that does all the work and earns all that money for their enterprises. Groups just give them someplace to park in between assignments. Smart managers understand the difference and can employ smart coaches to enhance teaming skills.

Today’s suggestion in your career design: Join a natural group to become a member of a recognized team. You can form you own group but you cannot force a team to accept you. Jump-start your career by creating a reason for becoming a member of the right team. Please contact me at with your comments or questions. Join our new social community at and share your experience.

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Copyright (c) Raymond L. Newkirk, Psy.D., Ph.D., Ph.D., Ph.D. October 21, 2011


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