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Team Coaching vs. Group Coaching

What is the real difference between a group and a team?

Depending on who you are the answer to this question seems obvious, irrelevant or supremely important. Or maybe you don’t think there is a difference. But, as you think about it more, the distinction can seem further nuanced and confusing. 

Before we go deeper, take a second to reflect on what differences come to mind for you, and what the implications of those differences are.

Let’s start with some definitions:

Group: “A social entity capable of acting as a whole and of expressing feelings and thoughts over and beyond those of its [individual] members” (Smith & Berg, p. 63).
Team: "A small number of people with complementary skills, who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable” (Katzenbach and Smith, 2003).

Given these definitions, the distinctions seem immediate and important: All of us are part of different groups, but how many of us are part of a real team?

If you’ve ever experienced the satisfaction of working with a team that really understands its purpose, one that works together to achieve, then you know it is an exhilarating way to work.

But, do you ever feel like your “team” is NOT committed to a “common purpose, performance goals or approach”?

One of the most frustrating feelings had by a leader is coaching a team of people who you know have complementary skills and could achieve incredible things together… but they are not.

Do any of these problems sound familiar?

  • Lack of clarity about team goals, roles, responsibilities and procedures 

  • Juggling multiple, and often competing, individual performance expectations and team expectations 

  • Little time to collaborate and innovate 

  • Building trust, dealing with conflict, holding each other accountable and achieving team results 

  • Myopic vision—not seeing the whole picture


It’s easy to be part of a group; it’s much harder to form a cohesive team. Think about the differences you have experienced between being part of a group and being part of a team.

Next, we will explore the particular challenges of coaching a team and how to overcome them. How about you? What do you think are the differences between leading a group versus leading a team?


About the Author

Dr. Laura L. Hauser, MCC, MCEC

Founder, Leadership Strategies International

Dr. Laura Hauser, MCC, MCEC, works with organizational leaders and their teams (and the professionals who support them) to build healthy workplace cultures. She is an internationally-recognized thought leader and researcher in the highly specialized space of team coaching. Using art and science, she teaches, coaches, supervises and consults in a way that expands mindsets and capabilities needed to navigate through disruption. Laura has been honored for her contributions to the coaching profession. She is the developer of the Team Coaching Operating System®, an ACSTH coaching school accredited by the International Coach Federation. Contact Laura by email or on LinkedIn

When referencing this material, please acknowledge the source: ©2020 Dr. Laura L. Hauser, MCC,

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