By Lukáš Volf | 2.2.2024

How do we educate our leaders? Welcome to Appleaders Academy

Culture – 6 min read

Engaged attendees at a leadership workshop

“I’m introverted, I chose IT so that I wouldn’t have to talk to people.” Sound familiar? You might’ve noticed that this hasn’t been a thing in IT for a while now. Or at least not here. Applifters are always in touch with clients, colleagues, or their mentors. And that means they also need some soft skills to go with their technical know-how.

We’ll give you a helping hand… and a book as well

At Applifting, there are many ways to learn new things. We go to all sorts of events, seminars, and workshops, and the company pays for it as long as our colleagues agree that whatever we’re doing is worth it. We also have a library packed full of insightful reading, and adding more titles is as easy as just saying the word.

That being said, self-studying doesn’t always cut it, which is why every Applifter has their personal leader or mentor to help them develop their talents, including soft skills. But who do the leaders turn to?

Team leaders need to grow too

Our leaders take good care of others, but we want them to have the space to grow as well. For this reason, we’ve launched an intensive program called Appleaders Academy. This idea came from our cofounder Vratislav Kalenda and Gabča Culková from the People Care Team, which is the part of our HR that looks after the well-being of our colleagues.

As the company grew and teams expanded, Vráťa and Gabča noticed the increasing pressure and demands on leadership capabilities. They put their heads together with our second cofounder Filip Kirschner and the rest of the PCT team and came up with the concept and areas of focus.

In the end, the plan was to do an off-site session and later follow up with workshops that would focus on personal effectiveness, communication, feedback, and the leaders’ engagement and individual responsibility.

The first run took place at the beginning of 2022. Now, almost two years later, we’re about to kick off our fifth. All in all, we’ve had 54 Applifters participate, and we believe there are many more to come. So, what does the program entail?

Cofounder of the company writing on a whiteboard

First, you hit the road…

The participants begin with a two-and-a-half-day getaway with Vráťa and Filip. With their personal approach and the relaxed off-site environment, it’s hard to not be motivated and engaged. Don’t be mistaken, however, this isn’t your typical team-building retreat. On the contrary, it’s hard work from dawn to dusk. You start with a little bit of theory, do some practical exercises, and then go back to putting on your thinking caps.

While the same set of topics is always covered—such as how to work with team motivation, what skills leaders need, what the differences between leadership and management are, and how to address conflicts in the team—the general approach always changes in line with the group dynamics.

„We spent quality time with the guys and delved deeper into the overall vision and mission of Applifting.“

Michal, iOS team lead

… and then you get your hands dirty

Afterwards, the participants dive into workshops facilitated by an external consultant who was involved in the preparations for the academy and is therefore well aware of all the “hurts”. The workshops span the whole day and are spread out over several weeks. This gives the leaders time to put their newly gained knowledge to the test and evaluate the results. It’s important not to have the insights go to waste—you need to get the ball rolling. It’s the only way to truly assimilate the knowledge.

At the beginning of each workshop, we briefly revisit some of the theory. The most important work comes later, though, when everyone has the opportunity to talk openly and share their practical experience. At any given moment, everyone is dealing with something a bit different, and they can draw inspiration from one another. It’s not uncommon for someone to realize they’ve been doing things right all along—and now they actually know instead of just assuming.

Group of people sitting at a table discussing learnings from the leadership workshop

“Applifting is built on people who aren’t afraid to take challenges head-on and take responsibility for them. Applifting isn’t just Vráťa and Filip, it’s all the Applifters within it.”

Tadeáš, Flutter developer & council member

What do the participants have to say?

To make the program and the workshops even better, it’s important to gather feedback, both immediate and longer term.

We were happy to see people find comfort in the confidential space we created for them. They also appreciated the time spent with the founders, the deeper understanding of the company’s vision, and the rediscovered sense of camaraderie with other leaders. Suddenly, there wasn’t that much of a difference between leading a back office team and spearheading an IT project—working with people, regardless of what they do, always comes with its fair share of challenges and benefits.

As for hard skills, what resonated the most with the participants were practical tips for prioritization, handy tricks for time management, and an introduction to the 3 E’s of employee motivation (engagement, empowerment, and enablement).

Practice makes perfect

Appleaders Academy is designed to keep team leads continually engaged. It would make little sense to get away for the weekend, teach people new things, stir their enthusiasm, and then just drop the ball. Motivation fades quickly, and when a company fails to create a space for people to share or practice the things they’ve learned, it’s just money going down the drain.

So even when the getaway and the workshops come to an end, the leaders get together regularly to address the topics that get brought up during the discussions. We then work through them and keep moving forward together.

Some people continue to learn on their own while others turn to coaching, which gives them the chance to talk about specific things on an individual basis. One topic that comes up is energy management, which teaches you how to work with your energy levels in a way that allows you to handle everyday tasks and take care of the team—all the while not wasting energy on things you can’t control.

Focused participant writing notes

What’s next?

In HR, we also do our best to grow and bring in new insights and methods. Currently, we are working on implementing Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment, which focuses on developing people’s strengths and potential. We hope it’ll help leaders recognize both their own talents as well as those of their team members.

All things considered, no matter what company you find yourself in or how senior you are, education is just one of those topics that is worth paying attention to.

Share this article

Join our newsletter

By clicking the button I agree with the collection and processing of my personal data as described in the Privacy policy.