You don’t have to wait for a custom program to get started. You can launch your team’s leadership development journey by incorporating growth opportunities into the daily work of the business.

The CEO on my Zoom screen shrugged thoughtfully as he spoke about one of his team members. “I can see she could really grow with just a little bit of training. But who has time?”

Ever feel that way? That “just a little bit of training” is what stands between your team and better results — but they don’t have the time for it? Or maybe the right program is hard to find?

You don’t have to wait for a custom program to get started. You can launch your team’s leadership development journey by incorporating growth opportunities into the daily work of the business.

Here are four ways we coach our clients to develop team members.

Verbalize Your Thinking

Early in my career, decisions that impacted my team’s work were being made “on high” by the organization’s senior leaders. When I met with my boss at the time, Mike, to get the scoop on what changes were coming, I expected him to boil it down and give me the bottom line. Instead, Mike would start at the beginning and unpack the full context. He’d dig into the complexities of the situation, the options that were considered, and why the final decision was made.

Mike’s explanations were long, and at first I grew a little impatient. Then I began to see what he was doing. He was teaching me how senior leaders think about decisions, how they debate the issues, dig into the facts, consider alternatives, assess risks, and ultimately make a choice. What I gained from Mike’s explanations was invaluable to my development, allowing me to learn critical leadership skills.

To offer your team this same learning opportunity, find time to verbalize your thinking. What factors did you consider before making this decision? Whom did you call for advice? What numbers did you double check? What challenges did you resolve and what risks still remain? Making your thought process transparent exposes your team to critical thinking skills, making them better informed and more mature leaders, all while modeling how they can do the same. Imagine the ripple effect you will set in motion if each of the managers you coach cascade this practice for their teams.

Give Authority

Research shows that supervisors often underestimate their team’s capabilities. We micromanage work when we really need to turn over responsibility and let the team figure out how to get the work done. Trust your leaders. Empower them, equip them, and move out of their way.

Of course, what it looks like to give authority varies. If you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Ask junior colleagues to plan and lead team meetings. Work with them to set the agenda, but let them lead the meeting itself. Then debrief the experience.
  • Give team members the opportunity to present work to more senior leaders.
  • Go on vacation, appoint a leader in your absence, and then don’t check your email until you return. They’ll text you if something urgent arises.

Offer Short-Term Stretch Assignments

Stretch assignments have long been a way to climb a rung higher on corporate ladders. Impress the higher ups and you might get a promotion. These big challenges are a great way to build a developing leader’s experience while also helping them make connections across the organization. But say you have a leader whose plate is too full for a significant stretch assignment, or who is too new in their role to think of moving up. How can you create stretch assignments for them?

First drafts are a great way to offer micro stretch assignments. Ask your team member to create a first draft of your memo to the board, or the process your team will use for setting the next 3-year strategy, or of the Powerpoint presentation for next week’s meeting.

Pair the stretch assignment with time for discussion where you can review the draft with the team member so they can get feedback that helps them grow. Make sure you identify what they got right alongside the ways they can refine the draft for next time.

Pause for Reflection

Our final bit of leadership development advice comes from Dr. Bob Quinn, who is a co-founder of University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations. Quinn says we usually develop leadership in one of two ways. First, we develop leadership during crisis situations. Survive the crisis and you’ll have learned along the way. But most of us try to avoid crises, so Quinn encourages the second means of developing leadership: reflection. When we invest time in reflection, we can find patterns, skill sets, and ideas to apply in new contexts.

We recommend these three reflection questions for use at the conclusion of any project, event, or initiative. They are drawn from the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, which is a collaborative and future-focused method of leadership development and organizational change.

  • What were the high points of this project/initiative? Where were we at our best?
  • Imagine we do something like this again and it is the project/initiative of our dreams, a success in every imaginable way. What would that look like? What would be the same? Different? What new ideas would we try? What systems or processes should be developed? Who should be involved? What would the results be?
  • If that’s the future we want, what are 3-5 things we need to do to be ready? Or, what are 3-5 “transferable concepts” — ideas drawn from this experience we want to apply in other circumstances?

Pairing Experiential Leadership Development with Focused Training

Adult learning theory tells us that the leaders on your team will learn best through experience, where they can consider new ideas and apply them in relevant contexts. The four ideas above will help you create relevant and experiential learning opportunities that fit your team’s budget and time. But true and sustained growth often takes a more focused approach.

Pairing experiential learning with customized leadership development training and personalized coaching can help leaders advance their skills quickly and sustainably. This also helps your team develop shared language and understanding of what good leadership looks like in your organization. Provide these opportunities and you’ll quickly see your team’s leadership capacity expand as they reach peak performance.



Ready to develop customized learning opportunities for your team? Ad Lucem Group gets to know your business and your team so we can develop leadership training that fits the unique budget, timeframe, and contexts at your organization. Click here to schedule a complimentary strategy assessment call.



Amber Johnson

Amber Johnson

Senior Culture & Strategy Advisor

As a facilitator and consultant, Amber helps companies connect their purpose to their core strategies and behaviors in order to shape culture and drive business results. Amber has global leadership experience with World Vision and the US Peace Corps and has served as a leadership development, organization change, and strategy consultant to organizations including digital marketing agencies, software firms, universities, health care systems, manufacturing companies, utilities, and non-profit organizations. She is certified in the Appreciative Inquiry methodology and has 20 years of experience helping organizations drive change and strategy through human-centered design. Amber previously served as the Chief Communications Officer for Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership, where she oversaw thought leadership, including publishing four eBooks. She is a regular contributor at, where she writes about culture, strategic planning, and building positive organizations. Amber earned a Ph.D. in Values-Driven Leadership from Benedictine University, with a dissertation focused on the success factors of leading global change initiatives.

Learn more about Amber here.

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