During my team development sessions, I always have managers coming to me, asking if I got any advice on getting their team to adopt a growth-centric approach to work.

Their usual remarks go something like these:

“When I issue a task, they will expect instructions from me before anything is done.”

“In brainstorming sessions, they usually give me the I-DONT-KNOW look, rather than ideas I can work with. Heck, I am the one coming up with ideas most of the time.”

“This guy has worked for me for over 10 years, and you wanna know something funny? He’s in the exact same job role when he started. I want to promote him, but he’s just not growing enough for me to justify to the management.”

While the managers themselves are growth-centric, somehow their people aren’t. What seemed to work for them wasn’t working for their subordinates.

These are my top suggestions, along with some recommendations, and since it has worked out well for them, I thought I’ll share them with you too.

1. In-House Hackathons.

If you’ve observed the startup scene in Malaysia, you’ll realize they are many hackathons out there, usually held over the weekends. The premise is simple: find a problem that many people will pay for the solution, and hash out the solution over a sprint session, most of the time within 48 hours. Because the solutions that came about were out-of-the-box, even some large companies have adopt the concept, but within the company. Microsoft and AirAsia are two companies that have in-house hackathons to improve their business processes and create new products and packages.

You can adopt the same as well, by picking a few processes or ideas, and breaking your teams into smaller units to work on them. It can be something only for your department, or a company-wide initiative. The good thing about the latter, is that often the best ideas come from outside your department. I’ve seen how systems were streamlined by ideas given by those in the PR department, and admin staffs coming up with marketing ideas for an untapped market.

The key here is to define the problem(s), or process to be improved, take out all the rules, set a time limit and get them into action-mode. You’ll often be surprised at solutions hiding just beneath your noses all this while!

2. Moonshot Projects.

Every successful company from Apple to Tesla, Google to Facebook, have Moonshot Projects, or what they like to call projects with BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Pick team members and allocate 20% of their work time where they can work on these projects, something that scares them because it has never been done before, but on the same notion, excites them with the possibilities of achieving it.

The reward doesn’t need to be monetary at all, because internally, it rewards them with something money cannot buy. Researchers have identified positive emotions such as a sense of purpose, creative freedom and meaningful work as some of the factors that drive them.

Also, don’t be too fixed on the end goal, because by definition, a BHAG is something beyond the ordinary. As a leader, get them to enjoy the process and derive as much learning from it.


3. 3-Question Feedback Session

Feedbacks are the foundation for a solid growth mindset, because without them, we wouldn’t even know if we are heading in the right direction. At the end of a project or a task, ask your team there three questions:

1. What is one thing that went well with the project? – This helps them identify what works and should be continued.
2. What is one thing that didn’t? – This helps them identify what doesn’t work, and should be stopped.
3. What can you, or we, do now, to make it better for the next time around. – This question is geared towards immediate action, so they can progress from the experience as soon as possible.

4. Buddy System

While you may be goal-driven and a self-initiator, not everyone is “wired” like you. Most people need peer support, and setting up a buddy system creates the accountability factor they need to move forward mutually. Some leaders I know even encourage the “buddies” to have a weekly lunch, at the company’s expense so that they can check in on each other’s progress.

5. Learning Assignments

One of the local companies I know that has won the award for best work culture, year after year, is Mindvalley. And I like to believe is because every week, they let their employees take an hour break during their working hours to learn something.

Learning doesn’t have to be confined to books. We have different learning styles, and since the world is so digitalized now, the resources are endless. Podcasts, TED talks, online courses, audiobooks, webinars, synopsis, infographics are just to name a few. Identify the learning preferences for each of your team, and assign them growth materials based on it.


Some of us are naturally grow-centric, but it doesn’t mean the rest are doomed to fail. The mindset is highly trainable, and if you set the right environment and challenges, you will start noticing that your people are capable of rapid progression. Just like you and me, sometimes we just need a nudge in the right direction, the right carrot to be dangled in front of us or simply a pat on the back for a job well done.

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