Groupthink: One Reason why Groups do not become Teams

All Team Situations Improve with Good Communication (Source: bp6316)
All Team Situations Improve with Good Communication (Source: bp6316)

A significant problem that many teams are a victim of, but never are aware of it is Groupthink. Groupthink is one of the poorest situations that can happen to a group in their development into a team. Groupthink limits the opportunity for trust, honesty and solidarity to develop and ultimately for a team to reach their full potential.


Groupthink is the situation that occurs when the leader or person with the most authority in the group dominates the conclusions reached in the decision making process. An example of group think in action might be a coach discussing what should or should not form part of the team rules and then the players only participating in limited discussion before reaching consensus on what the coach wants. Characteristics in this situation of groupthink happening could be little or no debate about what in addition to the coaches suggests could form part of the basis for the team rules. Another warning sign might be that the group of players do not debate or change the wording of any of the rules to suit their perspective and understanding.


Groupthink for teams is a ball and chain around their feet restricting where they can and cannot go. In many circumstances teams must experience certain types of emotions and situations to truly bond as a team. If the coach or one player is too dominant the range of these experiences and situations can be limited, and therefore the group will never be able to move past a certain point of growth.


With a new and developing group it is important to be aware of situations when as a coach you can promote discussion within group allowing players to express themselves. Through having these open discussions and conversations as a group there will be an environment created which promotes Honesty, Trust and Solidarity.


Honesty within the team environment will develop once players feel their opinion and input is valued and welcomed. As coach honesty can be promoted through the use of opportunities for two way communication, conversation with players in regards to feedback and opportunities in the team environment for all individuals to speak.


Trust will be fostered when the players have a series of positive experiences in regards to their performance, attributes or characteristics. As coach you can help develop trust amongst the group by providing constant positive re-enforcement and taking an interest in what your players have to say. This does not mean you will always agree, but demonstrates you value their input.


Solidarity within the team is the last of the three elements to develop and is a direct result of honesty and trust forming between the individuals of the group. Solidarity is a fantastic aspect as it allows players to look past their own interests to what is best for the team. This is a much sort after characteristic by coaches, but often it is hoped solidarity will happen in absence of the other two aspects, but this is never the case.


Groupthink will no longer be an immediate danger once these three aspects are developed and continue emerging within the team. This is because players will be more likely to express themselves even when in direct conflict with each other, especially if the theme of the discussion is of particular importance to the individual.


Coaches should be mindful of groupthink and its ability to develop within the early stages of the players coming together. As a coach when facilitating discussions with your players allow the group to have their input prior to you expressing your views. Start discussions with open questions that allow for the most amounts of discussion and contribution by the playing group. As the coach of a team you have the right and authority to make decisions based on better judgement and experience. This however does not mean that you know all and sometimes the logic, perspective and context of what a player states can make difference in everything falling into place when it is identified by a peer of the players.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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