Corporate Coaching: What is the difference between a group and a team?

“A group is any number of individuals who form a recognizable unit, cluster, or aggregation. Teams are specific groups of people with (it is hoped) complementary skills and abilities who join together to collaborate.” Kets de Vries

Within a team are people with different and complementary function. Their unique functions serve the team’s goals. These individuals are highly inter-dependent.   Each team player is also an individual.

The team is considered “merely” group if people are dependent on being in the group, or have to be in this group (as in families), and conform to groupthink. Groups usually form a leadership that decides unilaterally on how the group exists.

Organizations are groups that may or may not be teams. In a team, its members have each a function. This function serve to support the goals of the team.  The collective functionality of all the members of a team is more than the sum of its members. This means that putting the people together alone does not lead to performance unless the potential function of each individual within the group is realized.

Organizations that have healthy functioning teams experience smoother paths towards performance outcomes.

Read also: What motivates people to work and stay in teams?

How do I know if I’m working in a Team?

  • The people you work with have a high degree of interdependence.
  • The group is geared towards a common goal.
  • The members hold themselves accountable for the outcome.
  • The individuals have unique and complementary skills which make them interdependent.
  • Each member and the team as a whole will be affected by the outcome of the work.


De Vries, M. F. K. (2011). The hedgehog effect: The secrets of building high performance teams. John Wiley & Sons.