The Difference Between Groupthink and Teamthink


Chances are you have heard the phrase “groupthink” and if so you have a justifiably negative feeling about the idea. Chances are probably even better that you haven’t heard the phrase “teamthink”, and that is the point of this article.The word and idea of groupthink was popularized in the early 1970’s based on a book by Yale psychologist Irving Janis. Here is his influential definition, in part (with my emphasis for our purposes). “I use the term groupthink as a quick and easy way to refer to the mode of thinking that persons engage in when concurrence-seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive ingroup that it tends to override realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action . . .

The main principle of groupthink, which I offer in the spirit of Parkinson’s Law, is this: The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against outgroups.”

If I may simplify this a bit, and connect it for our uses, no leader wants people to gain agreement so quickly and firmly that the group doesn’t look at the options available to them. And while wise leaders will want high levels of connection, trust and esprit de corps among their teams, they don’t want to threaten independent critical thinking.

That, my friends, is the trade off – we want to build a connected, engaged team, and yet we want to make sure we are considering options and making sure everyone’s opinions are heard and considered. In other words, we don’t want groupthink. I propose that what we do want is teamthink.

Teamthink builds on the relationship portion of the groupthink phenomenon, without the dangerous implications, ignoring options or devaluing independent thinking. Here is my simple definition of teamthink. Teamthink is the collaborative thinking that comes from people who care about each other and their goal enough to listen carefully, consider options and make the best decision for themselves and those they serve. The way to get what you want without the risks, starts with you as a leader. To reduce the likelihood of groupthink, start here:

The Goal to Galvanize
First, you have to make the goal clear and meaningful. When the team has a shared and mutually understood goal and a purpose that is greater than themselves, you have set the stage for success. But this alone doesn’t reduce the chance for groupthink.

The Relationships to Bond
Next you must foster the development of strong working relationships. People do not have to be friends in order to have an effective team, but there needs to be a level of commitment to each other and caring for each other. As those things grow, we can reduce the challenges of groupthink, but that still isn’t enough.

The Trust to Create Safety
Goals and relationships can still lead to groupthink, but the rejection of independent thinking and the rush to agreement comes often because people don’t feel safe in sharing ideas that might be controversial; worrying about the reaction of other team members of the leader. As leaders, we must make it a priority to cultivate and grow trust between team members and with ourselves. This will create a safe place for people to listen, share, and be heard – whatever the topic or idea. Then we must lead by example, allowing new opinions and ideas to get their full chance to be heard and considered.

If you want to move past groupthink to teamthink, you must have all three of the components above; any two of the three won’t get you where you want to go. There is a difference between a group of people and a team; and similarly, there is a difference between groupthink and teamthink. As a leader it is your obligation to your organization, those you lead and those you serve to create true teams; people who are able to move past groupthink and make real decisions based on real conversations – and to create better results. Teamthink is your goal, now make it your reality.

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Motivation vs Manipulation



A mistake many managers make is thinking they are motivating people when in reality they are manipulating them.

Manipulation is a way for one person to get someone else to do something that is wanted or needed without the second person receiving anything significant in return. This method of getting others to do something usually results in a loss of true motivation. When people realize that they have been manipulated, it is normal for them to feel used or even abused because of it.

One simple way to avoid becoming a manipulator is to determine why you are asking a person or group to accomplish a task. If it is to get you out of doing it or to get something for free, there is a good chance that you will be using manipulation to get the job done. Examine the outcome of the process. Is it highly likely that…

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Cultural dimensions – a framework for cross-cultural communication


Culture provides the context within which people in organizations interact with one another and the world surrounding them. Many of us work routinely with people from other cultures and backgrounds. Often this goes well, and the cultural differences are interesting and enriching. However, sometimes things go wrong, for reasons that we may not understand. This is where it’s important to understand the differences between cultures, so that we can work with people more effectively, and prevent misunderstandings.

Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s Seven Dimensions of Culture,  as well as Hofstede five Dimensions of Culture, are two gurus within the Organizational Cultural field.

A very popular country comparison tool for different cultures can be found from the Hofstede´s homepage:

Dysfunctional team and how to change them so you can get your group back on track


Have you ever been part of a team that just can’t seem to get things done? Don’t despair; it happens more than you think. Here is a good article from, that describes seven of the most common habits of a dysfunctional team and how to change them so you can get your group back on track.

  1. Leadership
    Dysfunctional teams lack a strong leader. A team needs a strong leader to identify the team’s objective, maintain the group’s focus on that end, and drive the team toward its established goal.
  2. Team Members
    Dysfunctional teams often have members more interested in individual glory and less interested in the team’s objective. The goal of the team must always remain the team’s focus. The quest for individual glory is contrary to the very concept of a team. As such, a true team needs members that are concerned only with how they can help the team achieve its goal and not what achieving the goal will be able to do for them individually
  3. Defined Goal
    A dysfunctional team often fails to define its goal. A well-organized team defines its goal or goals from the outset and then sets out a road map as to how to get there.
  4. Equitable Distribution
    Dysfunctional teams disproportionately place too much of the team’s work on a few of its members’ shoulders. This is contrary to the entire concept of the team. If one person is going to do everything, why have a team to begin with? It is wasteful. A successful team combines individuals who come together to accomplish the defined goal and spread the work load evenly across team members. Each person is necessary to achieve the goal.
  5. Focus
    Dysfunctional teams lack focus. They may convene to discuss an issue but get caught up in seemingly endless debate surrounding a general topic while never moving toward an ultimate goal. A team needs to maintain its focus on achieving its defined goal.
  6. Accountability
    Dysfunctional teams lack accountability. They push back deadlines, or worse, they ponder theoretical questions without defined goals in mind. Moving back deadlines or simply gathering to endlessly pontificate without defined goals leads to a lack of accountability. Without accountability, it is easy to lose focus on the team’s goal. A successful team maintains its accountability to achieving its ultimate end.
  7. Decisiveness
    Dysfunctional teams lack decisiveness. Often flowing from a strong team leader, a team needs to be decisive. Consider facts, draw conclusions on the basis of the best available information, and make a decision. A team’s goal must always be to make a decision and then to act to accomplish its goal or make recommendations as required to do so.

Groups vs. Teams


What is the difference between a group of employees and a team? Are there essential differences? What are the implications for leaders?

As a leader, it’s important to understand Group vsTeam distinction. Your approach to leading will be completely different. For managers to make better decisions about whether, when, or how to encourage and use teams, it is important to be more precise about what a team is and what it isn’t.

A group is a collection of individuals who coordinate their individual efforts. A team is a group of people who share a common team purpose and a number of challenging goals. Members of the team are mutually committed to the goals and to each other. This mutual commitment also creates joint accountability, which creates a strong bond and a strong motivation to perform.

Without purpose and goals you cannot build a team. The purpose must be worthwhile and create a sense of doing something important together. The goals must be challenging and specific so that each member can understand how they contribute to the success of the team.

A well-defined strategic plan outlining the purpose, values, goals and objectives of the team becomes the glue that binds the group together and helps transform them into a team. Participation in developing that plan helps to build understanding, consensus, and commitment. As a leader, you use the plan to set expectations for individuals and the team as a whole.

The power of a team emerges from the sense of community that develops and exerts strong influence on the attitudes and behaviors of the participants. Peer pressure and a desire to be a productive member of the team helps to shape priorities and direct efforts where they will support the team goals.

As a leader and manager, you are no longer limited to managing individuals. You have an opportunity to manage the team as a whole and enlist the support of the team to help manage the individuals.

Building high performing teams


Effective teamwork is essential in today’s world, but as you’ll know from the teams you have led or belonged to, you can’t expect a new team to perform exceptionally from the very outset. Team formation takes time, and usually follows some easily recognizable stages, as the team journeys from being a group of strangers to becoming a united team with a common goal. Whether your team is a temporary working group or a newly-formed, permanent team, by understanding these stages you will be able to help it quickly become productive.

As a team leader, your aim is to help your team reach and sustain high performance as soon as possible. To do this, you will need to change your approach at each stage. The steps below will help ensure you are doing the right thing at the right time.

  • Identify which stage of the team development your team is at from the descriptions above
  • Now consider what needs to be done to move towards the Performing stage, and what you can do to help the team do that effectively. The table abow helps you understand your role at each stage, and think about how to move the team forward.
  • Schedule regular reviews of where your teams are, and adjust your behavior and leadership approach to suit the stage your team has reached.

Leadership Activities at Different Group Formation Stage

  • Forming: Direct the team and establish objectives clearly.
  • Storming: Establish process and structure, and work to smooth conflict and build good relationships between team members. Generally provide support, especially to those team members who are less secure. Remain positive and firm in the face of challenges to your leadership or the team’s goal. Perhaps explain the “forming, storming, norming and performing” idea so that people understand why conflicts occurring, and understand that things will get better in the future.
  • Norming: Step back and help the team take responsibility for progress towards the goal. This is a good time to arrange a social, or a team-building event
  • Performing: Delegate as far as you sensibly can. Once the team has achieved high performance, you should aim to have as “light a touch” as possible. You will now be able to start focusing on other goals and areas of work.
  • Adjourning: When breaking up a team, take the time to celebrate its achievements. After all, you may well work with some of your people again, and this will be much easier if people view past experiences positively.
  • Tip 1: Make sure that you leave plenty of time in your schedule to coach team members through the “Forming,” “Storming,” and “Norming” stages.
  • Tip 2: Think about how much progress you should expect towards the goal and by when, and measure success against that. Remember that you’ve got to go through the “Forming,” “Storming,” and “Norming” stages before the team starts “Performing,” and that there may not be much progress during this time. Communicating progress against appropriate targets is important if your team’s members are to feel that what they’re going through is worth while. Without such targets, they can feel that, “Three weeks have gone by and we’ve still not got anywhere.”
  • Tip 3: Not all teams and situations will behave in this way, however many will – use this approach, but don’t try to force situations to fit it. And make sure that people don’t use knowledge of the “storming” stage as a license for boorish behavior.

Key Points
Teams are formed because they can achieve far more than their individual members can on their own, and while being part of a high-performing team can be fun, it can take patience and professionalism to get to that stage. Effective team leaders can accelerate that process and reduce the difficulties that team members experience by understanding what they need to do as their team moves through the stages from forming to storming, norming and, finally, performing.

The Importance of An Acknowledgement


Grateful Leadership enables leaders to tap into the power of personal commitment and dedication by acknowledging people in an authentic, heartfelt manor. Inspire your team and bring out the best in your people by dramatically increasing this level of engagement, productivity, and willingness to take initiative.

Engaged employees work with passion and feel connected and loyal to their organization. This yields higher productivity, sales, and results. Leaders who model true acknowledgment behavior will inspire others to do the same and dramatically increase their teams and their personal levels of contribution, making the Power of Acknowledgment truly transformational.

Expressing appreciation and thanks such that your team member feels acknowledged and highly regarded has plenty of upsides. They are:

  • It’s motivational. Employee surveys have frequently established that “pats on the back” are more motivational than pay rises (Graham and Unruh, 1990).
  • It’s a feedback mechanism
  • Putting “what’s working” on the table increases its recurrence, for sure.
  • It generates discretionary effort
  • It’s amazing how the going-the-extra-mile effort kicks in when the boss gives regular recognition and praise.
  • It’s big-hearted

Every human being on the planet wants to feel valued and respected. It’s big-hearted, kind and considerate to help people meet their needs, isn’t it?

Authentically recognizing that your team member has done well will naturally have them feeling warmer toward you. The increased intimacy increases rapport and trust, characteristics that are clearly important in a leader-team member relationship.

Recognition and validation for what we’ve done, or for who we are, simply put, feels good—even to those who don’t look like they’d lap up this sort of validation.

The best way to acknowledge:
Typically when a person is acknowledged they glow internally. In fact the Graham and Unruh 1990 study revealed that the following four actions were in the top five of 65 possible incentives:

  • A congratulatory note from the manager
  • Verbal congratulations from the manager
  • Public recognition of a job well done
  • A morale-building chat with the manager

Isn’t it interesting that none of these actions are a big asked? And they don’t have a monetary cost either.

Think about each of your team members—and recall the last time you:
…said something positive to them about their work, their behavior or their practices.
…Publically recognized them.
…Sent them a congratulatory email or note.

Was it last week? Last month? In the last quarter? In the last year?

Are you one of the leaders who’s impressive when it comes to acknowledging your team members—or is there room for you to up your effort in this regard?