How to Develop Your Team – The Unconventional Way


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Your business is unconventional.  And your team is unconventional.  So I think, your team development should be unconventional too.

In an earlier episode, we talked about some very good, but somewhat conventional, ways to develop and grow your team.  Well, this week is for the outliers.  The entrepreneurs that eat innovation for breakfast.  Because if that’s you – then I’m sure that’s who you hired for your team too.  That means, the status quo won’t work with them.

So, how do you develop this creative bunch?  Well, here are a few, um – unconventional tips:

Why not encourage your team members to pursue personal projects.  You know, something that aligns with their passions and interests, and could be beneficial for the company too.

For instance, let’s say Stacy has a strong interest in artificial intelligence.  And while the company may not be working on anything A.I. related right now, you could give her permission to spend 4 hours a week exploring how A.I. might become a useful tool in the company.  You could let her attend workshops and conferences.  Who knows, ultimately she might come up with the A.I. secret sauce for the business.

Consider implementing a ‘no meeting’ day.  Try designating one day per week or month that’s dedicated to letting team members focus on deep work and catch up on tasks without being interrupted.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – people are always calling and eMailing – there’s no such thing as uninterrupted time.  Well, just designate someone else on the team to take those calls and return those eMails during that period.  Believe me – it will give a BIG boost to the team.

What about offering sabbaticals.  A sabbatical is a period of time when a team member takes an extended break from work to pursue personal or professional development activities.  Now, typically, sabbaticals are paid, and the duration can vary from several weeks to several months or even a year.  But remember it doesn’t have to be a 6 month affair, it could be as short as 3 months – or even shorter if you wanted.  Although keep in mind that a 1 month sabbatical is really just a 4 week vacation.  It doesn’t’ give quite enough time to get to the type of expansive thinking that’s the real benefit of a sabbatical.

…Walking meetings promote creativity, reduce stress and increase problem solving.  All good things – right?

But either way, the benefits are huge.  First, you retain the talent because you’re giving them a chance to rest and avoid burnout; they can use the time to develop new skills and get a fresh perspective; and when they come back they’re refreshed and energized.

Now, it doesn’t have to be a yearly thing – maybe after a certain length of service – like 5 years, you give a 3 month sabbatical.

Along the same line of thinking – offer a ‘personal development day’.  Try dedicating one day each quarter or each year to allowing team members to pursue personal development goals and receive support and resources from the company.

Let’s say Sarah wants to improve her public speaking skills.  Well, you can send her to a public speaking workshop, let her practice her skills with a coach and deliver a TEDx-style talk to the team.

Sarah gets a great new skill, and the company gets a polished presenter.

Here’s another good one – implement a ‘walking meeting’ policy.  encourage your team members to have walking meetings instead of traditional sit-down meetings.  Hey, don’t poo poo it.  Walking meetings promote creativity, reduce stress and increase problem solving.  All good things – right?

So, the next time you go into the conference room, and everybody goes for their favorite chair – tell them to grab their cell phones and tablets and follow you on a field trip.

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Think about passing the baton.  The leadership baton that is.  Let team members take turns leading short activities or projects – it grows their leadership skills and gives them a safe space to practice and build confidence.  Encourage them to take initiative, be creative and engage their colleagues.

It also helps them learn how to develop strategies and make decisions.

Having the opportunity to hone your leaderships skills is always a win win.

OK, you want unconventional – how about offering mindfulness training.  It’s a great way to promote mental and emotional wellbeing; and it reduces stress, improves focus and creativity, enhances relationships, promotes physical health and helps to create a more positive and productive work environment – all things we want.

It can also help team members learn to approach problems from different angles and come up with innovative solutions.  And don’t forget developing empathy and understanding – and, improving communication.

Now, I know these tips may not work for every team or organization, but they can give you some unique and creative ideas for developing your one-of-a-kind team.  So, tell me – what ideas do you have?

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