The Slovenia Times

The Team is a Living Organism



The team is defined as a small group of people, with certain membership, who work in mutual dependence for fulfilment of a common goal employing their complementary knowledge, skills, and abilities. However, having participants with required knowledge, skills and abilities merely assembled together and assigning a common task or a common goal to them is not enough for effective team work. Because a team that has been made also needs to develop just like every living organism. - members need to get to know each other, acquire common interpersonal experience and gradually build the most suitable and most effective working methods liked by all. Due to the nature of work and preoccupation with work issues, work teams often run out of time for team building and team bond development. Therefore, events such as "team building" represent a kind of intervention that is meant to encourage the relations development between team members.

The beginnings of Team Building

The beginnings of team building date back to the 1920s when the psychologist Elton Mayo carried out research into effects of surroundings on employees' work in Howthorne company. At first he had focused on effects of light. He noticed, however, how significantly the work itself had been affected if people had been under observation. He began to observe and research effects of interpersonal relations in the workplace and concluded that their effect on work efficiency is stronger than physical surroundings themselves. Consequently, the findings brought about the development of different team building programmes, which encourage interpersonal relations among employees in their workplace.

In the past decade, team building events have also become more popular in Slovenia. Terminologically speaking, there is a good deal of disarray in this field because very diverse programmes are promoted and sought for under this term. All of them in a certain way stimulate building and strengthening ties between employees in the workplace.

Let's take a look at various programmes we find under the term team building:

In-formal social gatherings

The broadest but not most precise meaning of the word defines team building as all the events encouraging informal socialising of employees or members of a certain team. Relaxed relations in the workplace have a positive effect on atmosphere and well-being of people, but not necessarily on their work efficiency. This broad, lay category of "team buildings" includes former trade-union excursions, sports excursions such as going bowling, rafting, and common barbecues, dinners etc.

These kind of get-togethers are mostly useful for teams as it stimulates people to get to know each other and consolidate informal ties with their colleagues. Nevertheless, such social gatherings have weaknesses as well. Because socialising is completely down to participants themselves, it often happens that subgroups are formed. During the event people who are already more acquainted with each other, socialise and thus do not manage to get to know others more closely. In addition, if a conflict within a team already exists, it can worsen, or even a new grudge may arise. The latter is not the rule, however. In our culture social gatherings and excessive alcohol drinking go often hand in hand, and consequently quite a few unpredicted, unpleasant situations may develop.

Entertaining team buildings - common challenges

The more accurate meaning of the word team building stands for events planned in such a way that team members deal with situations that compel them to cooperate with each other in various ways. Usually these include different forms of challenges which the whole team have to confront and only mutual cooperation, communication and adjustment among members can produce a successful solution. Such events are usually called entertaining team building. This kind of team buildings most often appear in a form of various outdoor activities, sometimes in adrenaline parks, also in a city, indoors, halls, or in a form of art activities, cooking challenges, shooting a joint film etc. They are most effective when a team, already cooperating in the workplace, jointly attends the event.

Expertly guided team buildings

In the narrowest meaning of the phrase team building, programmes are defined as expertly guided events deliberately planned to encourage a team's development. In addition, there are numerous differences, highly varied methods and approaches also among expertly guided team buildings. Some people have given the name "team building" to workshops in the field of team work that mostly take place, even sedentary, in seminar halls. Most providers combine theoretical parts with practical tasks (physical activities in the nature, also indoors, cooking, being artistically creative, etc.). Some organise these programmes by giving a lecture on team work followed by practical team assignments, whereas others place a lecture in between, or start with a lecture, followed by assignments and finish with a recap with a final assessment of the team and discussions.

There are very different approaches, yet, by opinion and experience of the writer of this text, the most efficient one is "the continuous learning through experience" approach continuously intertwining practical team assignments, their reflection, analyses and discussions. This approach teaches the general principles of teamwork, which would lead the team to recognition of their own common action at the workplace. Members become aware of their individual and group patterns of behaviour that may obstacle their action and ultimately they find a way to overcome them.

Confusion of the wide concept

Due to the broad concept of team building and the offer of numerous truly diverse programmes called team building, individuals often get confused regarding what to expect from team building. The first response mentioning team building is often "oh, this is those games for companies", while others immediately connect the term with adrenaline activities or even adrenaline parks.

The role of the management

The management of a company plays an important role. It happens that the team manager calls and wants us to "do something with my team so that they will work better", whereas they are not willing to take part in the team building. In this case it is definitely necessary to discuss with the manager in advance what they expect from team building, what is their approach to the management and what they think of team work.

The team manager or management - in case of a large organisation - always plays an important role. Moreover, it is important that the manager or management understands the meaning and sense of team work in the company and encourages employees in this way. If the manager is not aware of the meaning of team work and is not willing to adapt their management style to the team work, sometimes even an extraordinary amount of effort dedicated to the team has no effect. In those cases it is better and "safer" for managers to organise for their employees social gatherings or merely entertaining types of team buildings. (Changes, also positive, fear us to a certain extent because they threaten the existing practice although it has not been as successful as we may have wanted).

For the actual establishment of more efficient team work in companies, the "top-down" approach to work is needed at all times. In case of a small business with only a few employees and in line with the manager team building for the entire team can be organised, while in case of large businesses it is better to start building team work from the top, i.e. with the management, and then move further down to individual groups of employees.

The purpose of the event

When making a decision on the type of team building, it is always important to ask yourself about the purpose of the event. What do you want to achieve with team building? Once you know the answer, you can then explore the possibilities offered by team building providers and consult on what is best for you and your team.

Eva Ferjan is psychologist and professional team building coach at IKSA institute. (


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