How to Turn Your Group into a Team

Much of what is called teams in workplaces are merely groups. Groups whose behavior seems quite arbitrary and whose members don’t necessarily have any allegiance to each other. With lack of allegiance comes siloed thinking, the politics of power rather than the politics of accountability, and an underwhelming pace and quality of work.

But teams are different. A team is a collection of people who are mutually committed to the team itself and to achieving the team’s goals. Additionally, teams have a sense of mutual accountability, something groups usually don’t have.

Another way to look at it: If a group is climbing up a mountain, and one person falls down a cliff, group members are sad and upset, but may also think ‘he/ should have been more careful.’ A team climbing up a mountain is tethered by a rope connecting them, and are all invested in making sure no one falls, or else they all fall.

Given this difference, leadership must work differently in a group than in a team. With a team, the leader works as a facilitator rather than in a group the leaders is more of a controller. On a team, members actively participate in discussions and have a real stake in the outcome. Moreover, team members are more actively involved in deciding how work is distributed rather than having a leader who assigns tasks. Here are some thoughts on turning a work group into a dynamic, thriving team.

Together we can move mountains

Common purpose pulls a team together and inspires members to contribute toward achieving goals. In a team, members aren’t in it for their own glorification, but so the team can accomplish more than could a generic collection of individuals. When goals are attained, the entire team shines, and that reflects on individuals positively as well. In addition to tackling issues together, several other behaviors characterize the team as opposed to a mere group.

Focus on Mission-Critical Thinking

The great thing about being on a highly functioning team is that work doesn’t feel like work. It feels more like a mission; like the team is pursuing something greater than a checklist of deliverables. This sort of mission-critical thinking was apparent in major projects like Apollo 11, but it’s also evident in the corporate world. Vision and teamwork brought us things like the iPhone and Amazon Prime, and they can accomplish amazing things in any type of organization with commitment and good team dynamics.

Does Your Team Have Aspirational Goals?

Organizations without teams, or that group together mediocre people and call them teams, don’t typically set their sights very high. They’re concerned with performing prescribed actions so they’ll receive a paycheck. On the other hand, organizations with real teams raise the bar and set aspirational goals. Just doing what you’re told is OK, but it’s not really something that gives people (or groups) a sense of achievement. Outstanding team leadership plus strategically selected team members aim high, and accomplish big things.

Create Drive from Within

The best teams are motivated from within, rather than externally.

We all understand the concept of “fire in the belly,” that drives individuals from within. Highly functioning teams develop their own inner fire that propels them to great accomplishments. While a work group may have to be bribed or threatened in order to go above and beyond, the internally motivated team develops most of this drive from within. If a highly functioning team is inspired by outstanding leadership that facilitates excellence, then the results can be surprisingly powerful.

Understand the Power of a True Team

A real, dynamic team is something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. If you’ve ever played on a sports team that excelled despite a lack of star players, then you probably understand this. One key is establishing and encouraging frequent, honest communication among team members. Team members should feel that they are able to offer feedback, ask for what they need, and speak up when they’re getting something they don’t need. A group of people that doesn’t practice honest and frequent communication simply can’t transcend their status as just a collection of individuals forced together.

Encourage Initiative

Internal drive and accountability thrive when team members feel empowered to take care of things without asking permission or getting something signed off at every step. Team leadership is important, but it’s different from group leadership. The former is about inspiring and guiding, while the latter is about assigning and checking things off a list. A team that’s hamstrung because they’re not allowed to use their initiative and must get permission for every action is a team that won’t thrive for long.

A team may start out as a group, and that’s a positive development. But when a team fractures into “just” a group, it can be tragic. At Teams of Distinction, we know how to go from group to team, and how to go from a satisfactory team to an exceptional team. We encourage you to learn more about our Team Building Executive Coaching programs as a powerful learning opportunity that can elevate your team’s performance and solidify its commitment to preeminence.

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