The Future of Progressive Team Building - In conversation with Norman Crowley

Chloe ShearmanContent, Social & PR ManagerHuckletree11/8/2022

Huckletree Ambassador, founder of CoolPlanet and AVA, Norman Crowley is what you can safely call a serial entrepreneur. In his ventures, he’s developed particularly progressive approaches to team building and development. Here’s how…


Have you always been progressive with team development?

I was pretty awful at it for a long time. It’s only since the pandemic that I’ve developed more out there approaches. We made some fundamental changes in our thinking. We used to say “rule number one: look after the planet, rule number two: make money, rule number three: look after the people”. We’ve now completely flipped that and rule number one is to look after our people and we’ve put a very conscious structure in place.


Tell us about that…

It’s a three-level system. Level one is technical training which covers basic things like using excel and all that. This is fully automated using LinkedIn learning. The second layer, we jokingly call how not to be an a**hole, and is all about how to be more effective at interacting with other humans. We work with a group called Positive who use the fundamentals of psychology.

The third layer, Light, is the most unique, and covers spiritual training. We really encourage people to explore themselves. Through breath work, yoga, meditation. And this layer, Light, has really revolutionised the business. Other brands are picking up on it, too. Accenture have just started using it, and Pizza Hut.


Love that. How do you reflect this in the way you bring the team together for business?

We approach meetings in a slightly unusual way. For the first five minutes, no matter what, and internal or external, we spend that time connecting with the people. And that’s not just a “Hi, how are you?”, it’s a genuine moment to figure out how that person’s day has been, how they really are, are they struggling? We’ve found the conversation after this just flows.


What are some lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

There are thousands, but it all comes down to remembering we’re all human. Companies, essentially, are a collective of imperfect humans coming together to work towards incredible things. The goal isn’t to build a company with a mission, it’s to bring people together and make them better and happier humans. Then, the organisation thrives.


And any other wisdom you want to give leaders in bringing people together?

It’s such a huge area, but I think accept first that you are a flawed human as the leader of the organisation. Acknowledge that’s the way it is. And then I think for the leader, and for everyone else in the organisation, you have to spend your time getting to know yourself and unpacking your own s*** all the time. We’re currently building a sabbatical programme where if our people are in the business for more than four years, we pay for our people to disappear for three-six months on a structured exploration of themselves. Getting to know yourself in this way means you can really show up to the organisation and your team. 


Coming together with purpose is going to be the new super-skill in 2023 for all business leaders, creatives and entrepreneurs. Download your copy of The Great Gathering Zine to find out how you can lead, steer and inspire your teams when together and apart. Happy Gathering.

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Chloe Shearman

Chloe has both a way with words and an appetite for knowledge. She joins Huckletree from a background in the innovation ecosystem with brands such as Plus X and Central Research Laboratory. Previously a self-confessed craft beer nerd, she worked in experiential marketing with drinks industry domineers BrewDog. At the weekend, you’ll find her exploring London with her dog Lillie and getting cosy with a book.


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