Connections for Success



Is Your Department a Group or a Team?
D’Ann R. Meisenheimer

Several years ago, I became the manager of a small group of which I was a member. As the new manager, my goal was to bring the group together and foster a team mentality. I started by defining two similar and often-interchangeable terms—group and team. A “group” is defined as a body of individuals who coordinate their efforts. However, a “team” is defined as a group that share a commitment to working together and toward common goals.

Nurture a Team Mentality

My approach to nurturing a team mentality was to be the manager that I always wished I had. I wanted someone who would listen; someone who would stand up for me; someone who would be fair; someone who would challenge me and someone who would appreciate me and offer constructive feedback. To become that kind of manager, I committed myself to the following steps:

  1. Set clear expectations. Everyone needs to start on the same page. Employees need to know what is expected of them and the consequences of not meeting those expectations. To accomplish this, I hold monthly department meetings to uniformly and consistently communicate expectations. This allows team members to ask questions and receive clarification on issues that may arise.
  2. Hold the members of your team accountable. No one wants to be the bad guy. However, you will not be taken seriously if you do not follow through when members of the team do not meet expectations. It only takes one or two situations of holding people accountable for the team to realize that you are serious. Send a strong message, reinforce expectations and follow through.
  3. Walk the walk and pitch in. I believe in setting an example from the top. Therefore, BE the example. Demonstrate that you are not asking them to do something that you are unwilling to do yourself.
  4. Group activities. Each member in my team works autonomously, yet we are still a group. I needed my team to get to know each other better. I organized several group activities to promote social interaction. Once a month, we would do something together like having lunch together or meeting before work for breakfast. One month, we took a mid-afternoon break and had ice cream sundaes at a nearby shop. Another month, we had a potluck lunch. I also used our monthly department meetings to include ice breaker games. It was great to see team members bond and discover things that they had in common.

The harsh reality is that I learned that I could not turn my group into a team overnight. What I did accomplish was laying the ground work for them. The members of my group had to buy in and decide it was “all for one and one for all.” If the majority of the group decides to work as a team, the peer pressure generally brings the others along.

Benefits of a Team Mentality

Success can be measured by goals, stability and contentment. A team is committed to working together towards common goals. So, initially, I determined and set the department’s goals. Now, the team works together to set future goals. As a result, we are seeing less turnover in staff, which creates stability. Stability also came about because no one felt as if he or she was carrying the weight of the team. Finally, the team started to look out for one another. If one person noticed another having a stressful day, they would ask them to walk away for a couple minutes to get coffee or just take a short break.

With a lot of hard work, our group has become a successful team. We have achieved our initial goals and have grown. I am proud of my team and give them the credit for their hard work and efforts as often as I can.

For more information, contact D’Ann Meisenheimer at [email protected] or 312.670.7444. Visit to learn more about our Not-for-Profit Group.

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