From Group to Team

Human capital development and trust nourish themselves mutually. The development of all aspects of human capital cannot take place without trust.


Team building: the power of the group and the trust-factor

Uncertainty, competition, cost-control, continuous renewal, stress management, excellence, innovation and speed to market are some of the key words that summarize the demand on firms. How do they solve these simultaneous challenges? The answer lies in ‘teamwork’. “Ideas often light up themselves mutually, like electric sparks”, said the German philosopher, Friedrich Engels (1820-1895). Obstacles to the development of a team are individualism, the failed transfer of skills or the failed sharing of know-how, or the managers’ habit of trying to gain power through information control.

A winning team firstly, has a clear and common vision for the results that the group has to achieve, and of the efforts that must be undertaken. It shares a way of working, has acknowledged its leadership while members are experts in their roles. A second factor is, however, ‘knowing how to behave in a certain way’ with every other member of the team. The human being is made not only of rationality but also of passion and emotions. It is this common denominator that allows every human being to know how to use their skills to the best of their ability, but how does one ‘know how to behave in a certain way’? How does one improve the emotional intelligence of team members? Emotional intelligence is defined by Daniel Goleman as the ‘capability that defines how well we are able to use our skills’. “Emotional intelligence”, as explained by Tiziana Agazzi, Psychologist and Psychotherapist in Milan, “is a metaskill made of different elements.” These include: 1) Self-awareness, the ability to read one’s emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions; 2) Self-management, the ability to control one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances; 3) Social awareness, the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks; and 4) Relationship management, the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.

What sort of training, can contribute to the transformation of a group of people into a team, and from knowledge and know-how to ‘knowing how to behave in a certain way?’ One way to enhance the emotional intelligence of team members can be found in outdoor training. Outdoor training was developed around 1940 by Karl Hahn, founder of the first accelerated ‘personality training school’ in Wales, which aimed to build a strong and ethically correct personality amongst young members of the English aristocracy for the purpose of conducting sea rescue operations. Hahn’s methods were later trialled and put to use in the Usa where it has been recognized as one of the foremost didactic methods of corporate training. Over the last several decades this training has made its way back to Europe. Every participant is encouraged to make an active contribution. Through living with and sharing concrete experiences with colleagues, the individual unleashes their own positive energies and directly contribute to an improvement of team belonging and identity. In this way, the training program is anchored to an emotionally fulfilling and evocative experience.


Giovanni Soldini is a champion yachtsman who continues to take part in singlehanded regattas or leads crews in international sailing competitions

Giovanni Soldini, who has carried out several team building programs for a number of large corporate clients aboard sailing vessels points out that team strength and know-how can be maximized at sea. “During a sailing voyage, you have to face unforeseen events. Above all, the capriciousness of the sea with its immensity enables people to focus their cooperative energies in ways that more controlled environments cannot emulate.” “Team sailing, is especially suitable for newly formed groups or for groups where there is a need to decrease the psychological distance between members. It allows sensitizing members to their roles, team working and leadership.” Soldini adds. Soldini notes that participants must face difficulties and highly complex situations involving emotional risk. In this case the goal is the full emotional involvement of participants who are spurred to put at stake all their energies and personal capabilities.

The most poignant means, by which trust and ‘knowing how to behave’ is experienced intensively by participants, are nightly ones. The dark is an all-enveloping element that has required the group to be even more cohesive and has enhanced the trust factor within these team-building exercises. These workshops and several projects are run by Lab in the Dark, an initiative managed by blind people which, while originating in Germany, is now present in many countries. Mr Franco Lisi, Managing Director of Lab in the Dark’s Italian headquarters in Milan, explains that “with team-building courses in the dark, anxiety management is lived in a totally different way.” Participants’ willingness and ability to develop means of cooperation and collaboration towards the final goal are especially amplified. Total darkness throws a focus, in the mind of participants, on all aspects of emotional intelligence. Also essential to such group training exercises is the final period of debriefing, feedback and reflection. Participants are encouraged to recognize the critical success elements of a group both at an operational and at an emotional level. As Doctor Agazzi further explains, “every debriefing comes to an end with the summary of some learning points that have to be applied to the next project and to the working context”. So, why is outdoor training considered amongst the most effective learning methods? In responding, Dr Agazzi quotes Confucius: “If I hear, I forget; if I see, I remember; if I do, I understand.”


Photos. The images are courtesy of Jacques Vapillon.


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Spring 2009