Team and Community Building

Team / Community Building is a key factor in group achievements. The effectiveness of a team depends on the relationships between team members and their appreciation of the collective consciousness of the group. This section looks at different approaches and ways to strengthen the bonds within a team.

A New Perspective

In Teal organizations, teams are guided by a common purpose and a high level of awareness and connectedness between employees. People share for the common good. Weaknesses are seen as sensitivities (rather than flaws) that can help the group learn and grow without the need for supervisors or managers. Tensions freely rise up from within and are resolved at the heart of the team. As organizations move towards Teal, the bonds between people become deeper, stronger and more open.

Every historical stage has given birth to a distinct perspective on Team / Community building, and to very different practices:

Red organizations

In Red organizations, teams are held by the leader’s charisma and his ability to transmit his energy and goals to his employees. The leader’s strength and power protects the community from its fears and worries about the outside world.

Amber organizations

In Amber organizations, managers are responsible for the results of their teams. Instructions are given and clear parameters, processes and policies guide decision making. Team efficiency generally depends on the ability of its’ managers to communicate objectives in a clear and realistic way. Two way communication is often considered unnecessary. Employees often feel a strong sense of belonging to their organization and form close bonds within their peer group. People usually socialize with others at the same level in the organization.

Orange organizations

In Orange organizations teamwork skills are seen as a way to help improve employee performance and productivity. Orange organizations often promote team building activities and incorporate them into the fabric of the company. Team building is considered as a competitive activity. Events are sometimes designed to provide strong emotional experiences (facing challenges, extreme sports, parties, etc.) to bond people together. Learning about different personality types is often included so that people learn to adapt their behavior for the benefit of the team.

Green organizations

In Green organizations, there is room for sharing feelings and emotions with colleagues. Fun and social activities are often organized so that people can get to know each other better. This increases understanding and confidence between peers. Team building is also designed to support the development of shared values and vision through bottom up processes. Team or community building activities are usually driven by HR initiatives. Green organizations also frequently invest in external community engagement and community building as part of their social responsibility strategy.

Teal organizations

In Teal organizations, the strength of connection between people tends to produce an environment where collective intelligence is encouraged and listened to. Everyone contributes in their own way, recognizing that when the group thrives – they thrive. People are encouraged to bring all of themselves to work , sharing vulnerability, ideas and strengths in a trustful environment. They use practices that support open and trusting communication, encouraging creativity in the workplace. They also often encourage taking time to be still and reflective through meditation or silent practices.

In Practice

Bringing our whole selves to work

Teal organizations encourage practices and ways of working that honor the whole person. Feelings, thoughts, physical attributes and in some cases spiritual aspects of life are celebrated. Connection is supported by the development of a common language for people to express their feelings and thoughts. Teal organizations support community and team building by creating and attending to a safe and open workplace. Practices of group reflection are encouraged to develop collective intelligence. Team building becomes part of the day to day work of these organizations and is no longer a separate activity for "team away days".

Reflective Practices

Large and small group reflective practices are used to help people grow their ability to explore and develop an idea.

When everyone can freely express their feelings, thoughts, emotions and needs, space is created for everybody to be themselves and better understand others. People learn to see each other in the light of their humanity and in the beauty of their strengths and vulnerability.

An example practice is:

  • A topic is selected and presented by someone. Then small groups of people (between 6-10) share their reflections and feelings.
  • The facilitator establishes a few ground rules to create a safe space that allows people to be authentic and vulnerable in their exploration.
  • There is no scripted outcome to these meetings, no expected end product; everyone comes out of the meeting with his or her own personal learning.

Often, collective insights emerge, as well as decisions and initiatives that are then carried out when people go back to work.

Peer coaching

Peer coaching is a process that allows an individual to draw on the power of the team to address a specific issue. It is often a deeply nourishing process for the individual and valuable bonding experience for the team as they share their wisdom and knowledge.


To listen to our inner wisdom , we need to find time to slow down and be still amidst the noise and buzz of the work place. Teal organizations typically support practices of mindfulness and silence in the workplace. Organizations like Sounds True or Heiligenfeld offer space and time for silence or meditation, sometimes when the day starts, or at points during the working day. Collaborating in silence brings a special quality to relationships between colleagues. It requires a new level of mindfulness, listening less to what colleagues say, and more to their presence, feelings, and intentions.

Team supervision / Conflict resolution

Working in teams, which is what most people do in self-managing organizations, invariably brings up tensions. Employees run into colleagues with different styles, preferences, and belief systems. They can choose, as most organizations do, to sweep the tensions under the rug. Or they can choose to confront and address them. Doing so invariably allows those involved to grow. When tensions and feelings are shared in a productive and respectful way, issues can be identified and resolved for the good of the organization. Conflict resolution skills are thus often necessary to improve team work.


When we reveal more of who we are, we have an opportunity to create deep, rich, and meaningful relationships. Many Teal organizations have found that story telling, is an effective way of doing this. Storytelling is woven into many of the recurring practices of the organization.

For example, at a staff retreat, a question might find its way into the program:

“Tell us about an elder who has been important in your life?”

“Tell us about the first dollar you ever earned?”

People are invited to share their stories if they want to. The practice is simple and yet it allows people to share a defining moment with their colleagues. Such questions can be built into recruitment, on boarding processes, training workshops, annual evaluations, staff retreats, and large group processes (such as Appreciative Inquiry, Theory U, Open Space, World Cafe).

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s a time-consuming practice for sure but generally when done continuously the benefits far outweigh the costs. The trust, empathy, and compassion that build up the kind of practices expand well beyond the confines of the meeting room. These feelings start to permeate the whole organization.

Self-management requires people that have the courage and feeling safe to speak up. Ensuring that employees are capable to express themselves in genuine ways are very important, also for that reason.

Concrete cases for inspiration

Heiligenfeld uses innovative management practices to create a supportive work culture that fosters trust, empathy, and compassion while decreasing conflict.

Example for Reflective Practice

At Heiligenfeld, every Tuesday morning, 350 employees come together for an hour and a quarter to engage in joint reflection. Every week, a new topic that is relevant at the moment and conducive to self-reflection is put on the agenda. Recent meetings have reflected on subjects as diverse as conflict resolution, dealing with failure, company values, interpersonal communication, bureaucracy, IT innovations, risk management, personal health, and mindfulness. The meeting always kicks off with a short presentation to frame the subject matter, followed by self-reflection in small groups. Every group elects a facilitator who enforces a few ground rules to create a space where it’s safe to explore, to be authentic and vulnerable. In the confines of the small group, helped by their colleagues’ listening, people dare to dig deep and gain new insights about themselves and others. Colleagues are exposed every week to a space made safe by ground rules that invites them to truly be themselves. They learn to see each other in the light of their deep humanity, in the beauty of their strengths and vulnerability. The trust, empathy, and compassion that build up in the meeting expand well beyond the confines of the meeting room. These feelings start to permeate the whole organization.

Heiligenfeld uses innovative management practices to create a supportive work culture that fosters trust, empathy, and compassion while decreasing conflict.

Example for Team supervision

Heiligenfeld has developed a simple practice of team supervision. The company works with four external coaches who each have their domain of expertise (relationships, organizational development, system thinking, leadership). There are a number of time slots with the coaches every month that teams can sign up for. The recommendation is for every team to hold at least one session a year; on average teams hold two to four. In the discussion, with the help of the outside supervisor, colleagues can explore what a tension reveals about themselves and how they can grow to resolve it.

At Sounds True, a bell rings everyday at 8:30 a.m.

Example for Silence

At Sounds True mployees can join a 15-minute group meditation or simply sit in silence at their desk for those minutes.

At Buurtzorg, all nurses are trained in “Intervisie,” a peer-coaching technique that originated in the Netherlands.

Example for Peer coaching

A nurse that wrestles with a certain question can ask colleagues on her team to help her sort it out in a group coaching session. How should she deal with a client that refuses to take lifesaving medication? How can she help an elderly patient accept help from his children? How to say no to clients to protect herself from burnout? Often, when a nurse struggles with one of these matters, it is because the question brings up a broader personal issue she hasn’t worked through. In these cases, a peer coaching session can help. Some Buurtzorg teams allot an hour for peer coaching every month; other teams convene when a team member requests it. “Intervisie”, the process used at Buurtzorg, follows a strict format and ground rules to prevent the group from administering the all-too-common medicine of advice, admonitions, or reassurance. During most of the process, team members can ask only open-ended questions; they become fellow travelers into the mystery of the issue the person is dealing with. A safe space is created that invites deep listening, authenticity, and vulnerability - the necessary ingredients for inner truth to emerge. The goal is for the nurse to see the problem in a new light and discover her own solutions. It is at once a simple and beautiful process. Being respectfully and compassionately “held” by a group is for many people a new and unforgettable experience.

Related Topics

    Notes and references