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Team development & team building | in nature

I am a systemic nature therapist and a management consultant. How these two things fit together, how I use this field of tension for teambuilding workshops and offsites in nature, and why it takes more than just a fun team activity here and there for team development, you'll find out when you read on.

Team development in nature collage by Olivia Köhler
Collage by Olivia
Topics covered in this article:

Being outdoors has a positive effect on well-being

Being out in the fresh air in nature is good for you - our grandparents and parents have always known that. Now we know it ourselves and have often been able to consciously experience the beneficial effect.

Additionally, there are also more and more scientific investigations and studies that prove what time in nature does to us humans:

  • Reduces stress: Time in nature can help lower stress hormones like cortisol and regulate blood pressure.

  • Improves cognitive function: Concentration and cognitive performance can improve after a walk in nature.

  • Promotes physical activity: Being outside in nature can encourage being physically active, which in turn has numerous health benefits, such as better cardiovascular health and lower risk of overweight and obesity.

  • Improves sleep quality: Spending time in nature can help improve sleep and increase sleep quality.

  • Reduces the risk of depression and anxiety: Research has shown that spending time in nature on a regular basis can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.

  • Improves the immune system: Spending time in nature can have a positive effect on the immune system by reducing inflammation and increasing the production of natural killer cells.

That's a lot! For the well-being of individuals of teams and companies, this is important and can definitely contribute to workplace health promotion and stress prevention, for example.

Various offers for individuals and teams outside in nature are becoming increasingly popular. Be it forest bathing, for example, a conscious and mindful immersion in the natural environment, or active team events outside in nature, such as hiking or canoeing together.

However, these types of team events still don't have much to do with team development or team building, even if taking place in nature. For that, something more is needed.

Team development activities are about more than just having a good time together outside the office

Of course, it can be important for a team to simply have a good time together away from the daily work routine, be it out in nature or at another type of event. This strengthens the sense of togetherness and cohesion in the team.

However, if you want to actively develop a team, it is first important to find out what the specific needs and challenges of the respective team are. Based on this, you then plan individually tailored measures and implement them.

For example, the team needs and challenges might include the following:

  • Communication: Improving communication within the team, clarifying misunderstandings and conflicts, strengthening relationships and trust.

  • Collaboration: Improving teamwork, developing synergies, improving team dynamics and togetherness.

  • Goal Setting: Clarifying shared goals and vision, developing strategies to achieve goals, and overcoming obstacles.

  • Roles & Responsibilities: Clarity on roles and responsibilities of individual team members, optimizing role allocation and avoiding overlap.

  • Leadership & decision-making: Improving leadership skills in the team, strengthening decision-making skills and developing a sense of responsibility.

  • Conflict Management: Developing conflict resolution strategies, effectively managing conflicts and promoting respectful interactions.

  • Feedback & Reflection: Establishing feedback culture in the team, continuous reflection and improvement of work processes and performance.

In team development, therefore, the focus is on very specific issues that concern a team at a very specific point in time or even in the long term, or rather, these issues determine the direction of the process.

In most cases, these topics cannot be solved by just having a "good time together as a team (in nature)". This requires a conscious accompaniment of the process.

The team leaders in organizations, be it the HR department, the CEO himself or herself or a team manager, often try to do something good for their teams. Unfortunately, I often see that the planned events lack the necessary depth and are not aligned with what the team really needs.

An iterative process for team development

When working with teams, it is always important to pay attention to where the team is at the moment and what it needs. This is best done with the involvement of all participants and should be done regularly as long as the team exists.

With my clients, I am guided by the following process, which can and should be iterated over and over again.

  1. Understand & Align: The first step is to identify the team challenges and needs holistically and develop a shared view of them.

  2. Focus: The most relevant challenges for the team are prioritized and thus a focus for the next steps is created.

  3. Intervention: Together we explore which approaches, such as workshops, trainings, dialog formats or joint teambuilding activities, can be used to solve the challenges.

  4. Implementation & Evaluation: The agreed measures are put into practice and carried out. Afterwards, the hoped-for effect is monitored and ultimately evaluated in order to be able to learn from it again.

You can go into this entire process together as a team to identify current stumbling blocks, prioritize them, and work together to develop and embark on a clear and inspiring path as a team.

On the other hand, the first two steps can be gone through in a smaller group of people and then the appropriate intervention and measures, such as a team retreat in nature, can be carried out with the entire team.

Systemic nature therapy as an intervention approach for team coaching

Many of the issues that often arise as challenges for teams can be considered and worked on with the help of systemic nature therapy, in which I am trained and experienced. It is about using the experiential space of nature in the process of understanding, visualizing and desired changes as a supportive element for the process.

Briefly about what systemic nature therapy is in general: it understands the human being and his environment as a mutually influencing system, which is part of a larger system, which also includes nature. This approach is based on the assumption that everything is interconnected and that changes in one part of the system can have an impact on the whole system.

In terms of team development, this means viewing a team as a system made up of different entities, processes, and relationships, similar to systemic organizational development. This perspective can help identify, understand, and improve the interactions, dynamics, interactions, and patterns within the system.

Systemic nature therapy as an approach also allows one to view the team as part of a larger system and to understand and consider the connections between the team, the organization, and the natural environment. All of this can help foster long-term and sustainable change within the team and the organization.

When I develop team development and team building formats in the spirit of systemic nature therapy for the outdoors, I use the natural space on site as a rich repertoire of symbols and metaphors. This helps to clarify complex issues and relationships on an individual or team level and promotes communication and collaboration within the system.

All of this together creates the foundation to strengthen team togetherness and improve communication. Through shared experiences in nature, outside the comfort zone of the office, team members can build trust, get to know each other better and develop a deeper understanding of each other.

Along the way, it all contributes to the physical and mental health of team members, which can lead to higher motivation and performance in the work environment.

Systemic nature therapist vs. management consultant

Now you probably already have a feeling for how the work as a systemic nature therapist and as a business consultant or team developer fit together. In both cases, in organizational and private contexts, I accompany and support people and systems to understand their individual needs and challenges, to tap their potentials and to implement goals or positive changes.

Both roles are based on the following overlaps:

  • Systemic Thinking: My work is based on systemic thinking. Everything is part of a larger system and problems are the result of complex interactions within the system.

  • Solution orientation: I am concerned with solving problems and bringing about positive change through appropriate and individually tailored measures.

  • Process support: In both roles I support and accompany a process of change and development. In doing so, it is important to proceed step by step, to find common images and not to rush to solutions.

  • Communication & Empathy: In both fields effective and at the same time compassionate communication and empathy are the basis for a successful process.

In the end, I see myself as a guide for individuals, teams and companies, be it as a business consultant, as a coach or as a therapist. Systemic nature therapy as an approach and also my connection to and familiarity with the various natural spaces adds an interesting and versatile dimension to my toolbox for this guidance.

Do you want to consciously shape and support the development of your team?

Are you currently thinking about a team offsite, a team event or retreat or other activities for your team? Let's talk and see where your team is right now, what they need and where we can best start. I look forward to meeting you and your team!


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