The Tech Leader’s Guide to Cultivating Team Growth

Imagine IBM 100 years ago, at the dawn of the 20th century, when they primarily focused on producing punch card tabulating machines for businesses and government agencies.

Back then, IBM’s mission revolved around data processing and automation, but they evolved with the times.

If they hadn’t adapted to emerging technologies, such as computers and mainframes, or if they ignored changes in data protection laws and the significance of software, they might have faded into obscurity.

Instead, IBM embraced growth, diversified its offerings, and transformed into the global technology giant we know today.

Hopefully, this quick example gives you a glimpse of understanding the importance of fostering a growth mindset within your teams.

Active Steps to Foster a Growth Mindset

The journey toward engineering excellence requires leaders to actively cultivate an environment where team members embrace learning, seek mastery, and find purpose in their work.

Let’s explore practical steps that engineering leaders can take to nurture this culture of continuous growth within their teams.

Embracing autonomy

In our previous discussion about accountability, we emphasized how autonomy is essential in building trust and improving accountability. 

Autonomy also plays a significant role when it comes to growth. 

Here are some ways to promote autonomy and foster growth.


To promote learning and development among team members, encourage them to take charge by simply asking what they plan to learn during the week.

Additionally, consider providing dedicated learning time during working hours to ensure that they feel safe to slow down on execution in order to learn.

Provide autonomy in project selection and decision-making

When employees are given the opportunity to choose their career path, it allows them to concentrate on the most important work that coincides with their interests.

This not only empowers them but also benefits the organization as a whole.

By focusing on areas of expertise and interest, employees can increase their productivity and overall job satisfaction.

This can lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce, resulting in higher levels of success for the organization.

Mastery Through Mentorship

One way to expand knowledge sharing within your organization is to create a dedicated platform for experts to share their insights and expertise.

This platform could be in the form of an internal blog, a knowledge base, or a community forum where employees can ask questions and receive answers from subject matter experts.

Additionally, you could organize regular knowledge sharing sessions or workshops where experts can present their latest findings or share best practices with their colleagues.

Finally, incentivizing knowledge sharing through recognition programs or performance evaluations can also encourage experts to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the benefit of the entire organization.

By implementing these strategies, you can create a culture of knowledge sharing that fosters collaboration, innovation, and growth.

Here are a few specific examples you could try within your own teams:

Mentorship programs

Mentorship programs can have a significant impact on your team’s growth, and it doesn’t have to be a complicated or time-consuming effort.

One simple example could be a book club where an expert guides discussions around each chapter.

It’s crucial to create a supportive environment that encourages team members to mentor each other, which can lead to more collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and ultimately a stronger team.

Don’t hesitate to explore various mentorship opportunities that fit your team’s unique needs and goals.


Partnering with someone can be an incredibly valuable experience that opens up a world of knowledge and skills.

When you work with someone else, you have the chance to observe their thought process, decision-making, strategies, and techniques.

In turn, they can learn from your approach as well.

This creates an environment of mutual growth and learning, making collaboration an amazing opportunity.

So if you have the chance to work with someone else, don’t hesitate to take it – you never know what you might learn!

Differentiation in learning styles

Learning is a crucial aspect of personal and professional growth. Do you enjoy reading, watching videos, or listening to audiobooks?

Everyone has their own unique learning style, and it’s important to recognize and cater to these differences.

By understanding the different ways people learn, we can foster a growth mindset.

Here are several ways we can achieve this goal:

Encourage joining the local library

In recent years, libraries have evolved to become more than just a place for books. Instead, they now offer a wide range of learning resources in various formats, including digital ones.

This means that you can access a wealth of knowledge from the comfort of your own home or office by browsing their extensive collections. Whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge in a particular subject area or simply want to explore new topics, libraries are a valuable resource that can help you achieve your goals.

So why not take advantage of all that they have to offer and start exploring today?


It’s likely that you’ll discover a podcast related to your favorite topic given the recent increase in availability.

These days, you have the choice of various formats such as audio, video, and written summaries, which enables you to choose your preferred format and consume the content in the way that suits you best.

Online learning platforms

Currently, I have a preference for LinkedIn Learning and Safari Books Online when it comes to expanding my knowledge on technology and leadership through various formats.

For a more hands-on learning experience, I have found Codecademy and Coursera to be quite useful.

Although these websites often require payment, they also offer free options with exceptional content to help you get started.

If your company has the means, it could be worthwhile to inquire with your team which subscription would be most valuable to them and consider covering the cost.

Call to Action

As you embark on your leadership journey, it’s crucial to understand that cultivating a growth mindset is more than just a strategy – it’s a pledge to assist your team in realizing their complete potential.

By implementing these practical measures, you can create a workplace environment that fosters creativity, knowledge exchange, and personal growth.

Embrace transformation, prioritize education, and steer your team towards a thrilling future filled with possibilities.

Begin taking concrete steps today!

behavior management Team building

Turning Accountability into Action: Practical Tips for Leaders

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines accountability as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.

As leaders, we are often tasked with keeping our teams accountable and being accountable ourselves. The problem is that accountability is set as an expectation, but anyone in your organization will rarely show you how to hold your teams accountable.

Today, you don’t have to wonder anymore.

We’ll go over some common challenges leaders face, and explain a few ways you can enhance the accountability for yourself and your teams.

Let’s get started!

Why accountability?

If I were to further break down the definition of accountability, I would argue that our willingness to “accept responsibility” is further driven by our desire to belong.

Society works based on trust. We’ve learned that we can count on people to do what they say they’ll do, and when they don’t, we reduce our trust in them.

So accountability is about trust. It is our desire to know that I can trust you to do as you said you would.

Who are we accountable to?

Since we established that accountability is ultimately about trust when we are asked to hold our teams accountable, who are we expecting to trust?

I pondered about this for a while and ultimately understood that in business, we are always accountable to our customers. But we get there by being accountable to our peers.

When we talk about holding our teams accountable, we are, in essence, placing our trust in two critical directions: horizontally, toward our peers and colleagues, and vertically, toward our customers and stakeholders.

Trust in Our Peers and Colleagues (Horizontal Trust): Accountability within a team relies heavily on mutual trust among team members. As leaders, we expect our team members to trust us to provide guidance, resources, and support to help them achieve their goals. Simultaneously, we must trust our team members to fulfill their roles, meet their commitments, and contribute to the collective success of the team. This horizontal trust forms the bedrock of a cohesive and high-performing team.

Trust in Our Customers and Stakeholders (Vertical Trust): Ultimately, the success of any business hinges on the trust of its customers and stakeholders. We are accountable to them for delivering quality products, services, and experiences. To earn their trust, we must first demonstrate accountability within our teams. When our peers and colleagues trust us, this trust cascades vertically to our customers. They see a well-coordinated and accountable team dedicated to delivering value and meeting their needs.

Common challenges to helping your team be accountable

Celine Teoh, CEO Coach at Mochary Method, breaks down common challenges to accountability in their “How to Hold People Accountable” presentation. Let’s go over them in detail:

Ex-boss syndrome

Bad bosses are everywhere! luckily, since you are here, you care and are not one of those micromanagers that made you and your teammate’s life impossible. Don’t let a bad experience ruin the opportunity to build trust within your team to help them with accountability.

I am not an expert

How do you question someone more experienced than you? As leaders, likely, you are not the expert in the room, however, you are still accountable to your team and your customers.


You understand your team and feel deeply for the challenges they face. How can you expect accountability when their reasons are so valid?

I trust the team

You believe in your team and trust them so much you don’t feel the need to check on them.

Conflict avoidance

What if they get angry? what if my best employees leave? I am hesitant to hold them accountable out of fear of what they might do.

While these and other scenarios might seem valid to you, understand that to win over your customer and your peer’s trust, we have to overcome our fears and learn of ways to cultivate a culture of accountability.

Fostering an accountability culture

Carrots and Sticks

The prevalent way businesses have been fostering accountability has been by using carrots and sticks. If you are not familiar with the term, carrots, and sticks refer to when leaders use gifts (the carrot) as well as punishment (the stick) to incentivize behavior.

The basics of carrots and sticks look something like this

  • Set a goal and provide a bonus if you hit the goal (use a carrot)
  • No bonus if the goal is not met (remove the carrot)
  • We place you on a PIP and fire you if you don’t meet the goal (use a stick)
  • Meet your PIP goals and we won’t fire you (remove the stick)

Research has shown that carrots and sticks are well suited for tasks where the steps are well known. But well-known tasks are also tasks that are prone to automation, so we are left with a workforce whose value is created by being creative and solving challenging problems.

Unfortunately, carrots and sticks are detrimental when used to incentivize creative work. So how do we then get our teams, working on creative tasks, to be accountable for their work?

Intrinsic motivation

Rather than doing something to seek a reward or avoid a punishment, intrinsic motivation plays to our desire to do something simply because we find it interesting.

A great example provided by Dan Pink is the contrast between Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia and Wikipedia.

For Encarta, Microsoft went about implementing all the known carrot-and-stick approaches. Highly capable managers, a well-laid-out bonus structure, and very explicit goals.

On the other hand, Wikipedia is free to use and its content is entirely made from excited and engaged individuals who care for the information Wikipedia contains.

You don’t have to guess which encyclopedia is successful now. The intrinsic motivators driving Wikipedia contributions far outpaced any bonus structure put in place for Encarta.

How then do we foster intrinsic motivation to create a culture of accountability? Recent authors have given us excellent information on how to foster intrinsic motivation, here are some recent examples that I’ll use to illustrate actionable steps

These authors argue that when we care about something, we do a much better job at it, and to foster a culture of caring, we must help our teams understand the value they are adding and give them ownership over their work.

Let’s now take a look at specific action steps we can take as leaders to foster a culture of accountability by ensuring our team cares about their work.

Practical tips for leaders

A mental model I use to simplify what we’ve reviewed so far is that

“we foster accountability in our teams by providing autonomy via mastery and purpose”

This oversimplification covers most of the general idea, but let’s dig into the specifics of how we could implement it.


Your team works best when they feel ownership of their work, We allow for ownership by fostering autonomy, Here is how:

  • Define the mission and objectives clearly – follow up on progress on a pre-determined scheduled
  • Set high standards and clearly define what excellence looks like – repeat these often
  • Reaffirm your trust in your team. “I understand this work is challenging, and I want you to know that I believe in you and I have high expectations from your work.”
  • Allow decisions to happen where the information resides
  • Allow your team to choose their projects
  • Focus on outcomes rather than micromanaging the process
  • Let individuals define their own goals and metrics for success
  • Enable flexible work arrangements
  • Allow for open communication and active listening
  • Encourage your team to propose solutions
  • Foster “I intend to” statements by asking your team to bring up what they intend to do (new decision, next steps) rather than expecting you to tell them what to do next. On your end, focus on asking about the impact rather than focusing on the steps.
  • Don’t allow for excuses, autonomy = ownership. When given an excuse ask – what could we have done differently? what do you intend on doing next?
  • Lead by example by taking full responsibility for the successes and failures of your team. Never blame others or external factors for setbacks


It is extremely difficult for your team to achieve their tasks autonomously if they don’t have the knowledge and expertise required to complete them.

To have Autonomy, we require mastery, and mastery is achieved with grit (talent + effort). Here are a few ways to help your team achieve mastery:

  • Offer continuous learning opportunities
  • Allow your team to tackle challenging projects, stretching their current knowledge
  • Setup a mentorship program
  • Encourage your team to attend conferences
  • Encourage cross-functional collaboration, so your team learns from others and builds empathy toward sister groups
  • Solicit and Provide constructive feedback so your team knows where to improve
  • Frame mistakes or setbacks as opportunities for growth by holding retrospective meetings after projects to identify what went well and what could be improved, fostering a culture of continuous learning
  • Organize “learning days” where team members can dedicate time to exploring new technologies, tools, or methodologies.
  • Set up a “learning board” where team members can post and discuss lessons learned from various projects, promoting shared learning
  • Start a book club on a subject related to an upcoming project
  • Foster a culture of open communication and active listening, allowing team members to freely exchange ideas and insights
  • Facilitate regular peer reviews, where team members provide feedback and suggestions on each other’s work
  • Implement a feedback loop that allows the team to make data-driven adjustments.


To fully achieve Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, it is important to focus on the underlying reason for the work we do.

When we have a clear understanding of our purpose, we can take ownership of our work and feel empowered to achieve our goals independently, utilizing the skills and knowledge we have gained. To help your teams find purpose, follow these steps:

  • Communicate the team’s overarching mission and how each member’s work contributes to that larger purpose
  • Regularly remind team members of their work’s meaningful impact on the organization, customers, or society as a whole
  • Initiate discussions about the values and principles that guide the team’s work, helping individuals connect their tasks to a sense of purpose.
  • Involve team members in setting meaningful goals that align with the team’s mission and values, creating a sense of ownership
  • Encourage collaboration and teamwork by emphasizing the importance of mutual support within the team. Each team member should cover for and support their colleagues
  • Foster a culture where individuals are willing to step out of their comfort zones to help others in need, even if it means temporarily shifting focus from their tasks
  • Promote a “we before me” mentality, where the collective success of the team is always prioritized over individual achievements or agendas
  • Encourage team members to ask questions and seek clarification when they are unsure about the intent or the rationale behind a task. Promote a culture of curiosity
  • Help your team prioritize tasks and objectives based on their importance and impact on the overall mission. Focus on the most critical goals first
  • When facing a crisis or rapidly changing situation, remain calm and composed. Encourage your team to do the same and stick to the plan while making necessary adjustments