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!

empathy growth habits management

Project empathy, day two

For day two of our project, I only got in 30 minutes of work. Here is how that went.

Since I am in management, I am constantly in project management and productivity software such as Jira and Todoist.

The idea is to build a project management tool that feels as simple as todoist.

Doing so should get me into design, architecture, and software system implementation.

Thus reminding myself of what it is like to do all the things I expect of engineers in my teams.

With this in mind, I created a few documentation tasks and got started on the first one, defining a `project.`

The deliverable requires a model, commands, queries, events, API consumers, and dependencies.

Luckily, I found a microservices canvas that neatly organizes the areas I hoped to document.

I copied it into our repository and filled it out with `project` details. 

Check out the draft here https://github.com/toyiyo/todo/blob/issue-3-define-project/services%20canvas/project.adoc

For day two, I figured out what I wanted this project to shape and started a documentation task via a microservices canvas template.

Stay tuned for day three.


Simple life hacks

◦ Repetition makes perfect

◦ But Perfect is the enemy of progress, start with the two-minute version

◦ Consistency allows for repetition – same day, same time, all the time

◦ Make your outcomes easy to achieve (put the fruits and vegetables 🥕 out)

◦ Make your bad habits difficult to achieve (unplug the tv, throw away the candy)

◦ The best skill to learn is problem-solving – play Tetris, puzzles, solve a maze.

◦ Write ✍️ as much as possible – write what you intend on doing, how you intend on doing it, and by when you intend on doing it.

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growth management

A short one

Well, I lost my daily writing streak.

I got some back pain, heavy days at work, and busy afternoons with the kids.

By the time 8 PM rolls around, I am exhausted and not really in the mood to write.

But here I am, at 6:23 CST on December 1st, 2021, trying to pick up where I left off while my kid makes a mess in the bathroom by spreading toothpaste all over the counter!

I usually try to tie these quick stories to business perspectives, so here it goes.

We have ups and downs, and busy lifestyle outside of work.

While this should be obvious to all of you reading, as managers, I believe we somehow forget that this is the case and continue pushing our teams for consistency in excellent outputs all year round.

Never forget there is more to life than your job.

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growth management support

Coaching with empathy

Have you initiated a PIP on one of your reports? Did they improve and maintain their enhanced performance? So far, in close to 20 years of working in tech, I have not witnessed the first individual that survives a PIP.

Imagine a world where most PIP sections are there, but we remove the “if you don’t improve, we’ll let you go.” clause

I argue that removing the option to fire someone for performance reasons makes it so that we genuinely care for a successful outcome of any improvement plan.

Here is how this would look.

Goal settings

Most PIPs will come with a pre-determined set of goals already laid out for the individual.  

In my opinion, this removes the power of commitment from the individual, so instead, I suggest you present a set of the underperforming areas with information to back up your claims and then ask them to define specific goals to improve in those areas.

Action items

After setting goals, the next step is to work on action items planned to get to the goals.

Let’s say one of the goals is to improve communication.

Specific action items could be

  • Write up a standup update daily at nine AM
  • Set a reminder five minutes before a meeting to read ahead and participate in meeting conversations
  • Set aside one hour weekly to write up about technical decisions taken during the week

This should be a collaborative exercise where both of you work on a set of actions that will get you closer to the goals you have set.


Lastly, we’ll make sure that we have a way to show progress on the actions and the goals.

Following the example above, to improve communication well be writing standup updates daily. 

To hold us accountable, we can report weekly on the number of standup reports completed. We can further survey the team on how they feel about the individual’s communication practices.


PIPs don’t have the goal of improving performance. Instead, they aim at driving someone out of the company.

By constraining ourselves by removing the option to fire for performance reasons, we change the process so that the goal is to see improvement truly.

We get there by working together to set up goals, the actions to achieve them, and ways to measure our progress.

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