Team bonding consists of an ongoing process that helps to nourish relationships inside a team, looking to connect its members and to increase loyalty among them.
The aforementioned expression to title this article consists of a topic that triggered an increasing search for information and knowledge about what really is, which benefits are included and how can effectively be put in practise . The aim is to promote the strengthening of relationships and ties formed within the team, performed by an in-house department.
However, before starting to address this specific topic, I would like to talk about “Team Locker Rooms”.
I played basketball for a very long time in my life. When I was younger, I felt the passion and desire turned it into a goal, as I’m practicing the “most spectacular sport in the world”. I had the privilege of attending one of the best basketball schools in our country named Futebol Clube Barreirense. It’s a historical champion club which trained several champion names in our square, and it’s known because the last Portuguese players to be connoted with the NBA were formed and passed here. João “Betinho” Gomes, nominated for the 2007 Draft (did not enter) and considered the best Portuguese player of the last decade, and Neemias Queta, recently named the first Portuguese basketball player to make into the NBA, playing for the Sacramento Kings.
Here’s a fun Fact – João “Betinho” Gomes is one of my best friends since we were teenagers, and I grew up in the first 12 years of my life in the same place, in Vale da Amoreira, Moita, from where Neemias jumped into the world. Coincidences…
Back to the “locker rooms” tale…
All those who practiced and still practicing team sports, know the importance that a “locker room” has when it comes to forging relationships. This is where everything happens, before and after a game. Conversations about how hard practice was, compliments on a teammate’s performance, discussions about upcoming games and areas of improvement. “Locker rooms” are also sacred places for fun, jokes, banter, and they’re the starting place for creating a team where people genuinely like each other. A team showing empathy.
Empathy does not mean that we all must be best friends. Regarding sports, empathy does not guarantee that all the team players will bond outside of training and games, but is guaranteed that they will be present in the “locker room” prior to training and games. A good “locker room” has the power to make players feel comfortable. If the environment lived is comfortable, players are more likely to take their time getting ready to go and to socialize before and after games. The responsibility for building a positive internal culture among the players, ultimately relies upon us (I still consider myself a “locker room” team player). Without empathy, even if you have the nicest “locker room” and the best features included, that can’t force basketball players, and people in general, to be best friends, to talk, to mingle, and ultimately, to trust and build bonds.
Let’s go straight to the expression “team bonding”. What is meant here, in the corporate world, is to strengthen relationships within a specific team. “Team bonding” consists of an ongoing process that helps to nourish relationships inside a team, looking to connect its members and to increase loyalty among them. It occurs most of the times in an organic way and is usually fostered by team leaders, when they exist, and/or the acting chief. It can easily be a chat during coffee breaks or going out for a drink after work. Any team won’t stay together just because they work together. If a leader does not create or gives chances to bond, he/she will spend more time being squeamish and susceptible instead of getting work done.
Hey Fabio, but isn’t this “team building”?
Despite the similarities, and both concepts being able to complement each other when placed into practise, “team building” and “team bonding” are different in all aspects. Let’s unravel them down for you.
“Team building” refers to a strategically planned activity aiming to bring co-workers together, improve skills, boost morale, and increase companionship within the group. There is a specific goal and can be often facilitated by external organisations. “Team bonding” tends to be organic. This happens when hanging out by the pantry, catching the elevator to smoke a cigar downstairs, etc. Almost never we check outside facilitators, plan, or structure. It is often facilitated by the team’s leader or acting chief. However, all team members can take the initiative.
In an increasingly hybrid corporate world, with converging and diverging advantages and disadvantages between face-to-face and digital factors, the act of developing and nurturing bonds among team members strengths loyalty and relationships between them. This will make all the difference and act like a strong factor in terms of an “emotional salary” that a company can offer to its employees. Considering and identifying the value that the team leader or acting chief applies to each of the dynamics and the desired results one wants to obtain, the latter can help define the type of activity, as well as when, how and where to invest – or in building / bonding. Building a team is about to directly invest in the employees skills, working dynamics, to search more efficient and effective ways of working. Bonding a team is to invest in shared experiences that serve to build culture, the group’s cohesion, trust and creating a team’s identity, indirectly increasing productivity and the desire to stay at the company.
I am not saying that we should choose between them. Both can coexist, and ideally they really do.
The “team building” goal, it’s about everyone get to know and trust their colleagues, but trust is not suddenly built. A team foundation passes through different steps, evolving from a group of strangers to efficient employees. We all know that team building events are very difficult to arise and to manage on a regular basis. They only appear when time, budget, calendars, and the sun all align together. So, if a team counts only with this dynamic, it will notice hard times regarding general understanding and acceptance of each other, making it very difficult that the sum of different personalities and cultures turn into a single watermark. “Team bonding” activities are more like an investment in the relational and emotional aspect of a team rather than its business aspect.
For instance, if we have a newly formed team, investing in team bonding experiences instead of team building experiences, this one can boost the development of social connections, building of trust and cohesiveness of its members. Discussing positive past experiences in the form of fun activities like virtual workout classes, online happy hours, virtual group training programs, “icebreaker’s”; holding virtual lunch and learning moments, etc., are simple ways to address team bonding. Small initiatives have the powerful capability to release stress and convey thoughts within a group. It is not easy to experience a programmed team activity when no one asked if it could make us feel embarrassed and uncomfortable, taking the risk of running exactly the opposite to the expected main goal that is “forming and forging bonds”.
Approaching and encouraging bonding in our workplace in a way that feels more natural than the current artificial and “no strings attached” approach is crucial. It is important to build smooth, meaningful and regular interactions that will inevitably expand and enhance the scopes of development, growth, and scale, inside a team, making it much more resistant to adversity and eventually… happier.
This business I’m in is different. It’s special. The people around me feel like brothers and sisters. We hardly know each other, but we’re that close; somehow there’s been an immediate bonding between total strangers. We share each other’s triumphs, and when one of us gets hurt, we all bleed – it’s corny, I know, but it’s true. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s great. It turns up the heat in life. Johnny Cash
Fábio Pina, Chief Heart Officer at Prime Group