Monday’s are not always anyone’s favourite day. Sunday night blues kick in, you realise you probably have numerous video calls that fill you with dread or only going to bring problems not solutions.
There is something I believe you sign up for when you join a company or sign up to be a leader and that is:
Make a difference.
Make a difference seems simple enough but many of us are wrapped up in the day, we are brought into another back to back or we are brought into other people’s political fights and we move away from making a positive difference.
Previously I wrote to you and confirmed it is always ok to move on as a leader, so today even if you know it is time to move on or you know you want to start looking for your next challenge, remember to question what difference can I make in the time before I leave?
Making a difference can be with the company as a whole, it could be making a difference for your team, it could be making a difference in someone’s career by helping them to improve or they deserve your time with coaching or mentorship.
Decide to make the difference today, take 30 minutes to identify how and where you can and take it on as a personal project to make the difference in the next few weeks.
Today I am writing to you to help you think a little differently about personal development and team development.
We will see a reduced amount of hiring for most businesses, we will see the number of jobs available reduce by around ~50%, the first order is less staff turnover, this provides a great opportunity to improve company culture, especially with your teams to get to work better and ideally more effectively together. Remember experts suggest it takes six months of no change (no new staff or staff leaving) for a team with training to be able to operate at the highest level.
The second order is how this will impact your team and personal development of your teams. Less interviewing means less development, less gained experience, less finding out what you and your staff are worth.
Netflix is huge advocates of understanding your value and knowing the market rates (Read The No Rules Rules newsletter for full info). Netflix even encourages staff to take interviews, which many companies have a fear of but the way Netflix is set up is to embrace this and allow their teams to know they are paid at the top of the market as they are the top of the market.
This process is likely not happening within your business, your teams will be stuck in their way of doing things and will struggle to ask great questions when hiring is back on the agenda.
Recommendation: I strongly recommend you and your best-interviewing staff alongside HR, arrange internal interviews, build out on a selection of questions, share and co-develop a selection of tasks and presentation to interview each other on and run dummy runs.
Some of the best organisations I have worked in or programmes I have created is around creating great interview questions, creating exciting and challenging tasks and personalising interview question and techniques to improve your departments.
This week start putting together a training guide for interviewing. Ensure you add interview training into everyone’s personal development plan and help people of all experience levels to improve their experience and their interviewing techniques. Some of the worst interviewers are the most senior staff, keep this in mind when setting up these activities.
Something to always keep in mind, you might be an attractive brand to work for, you might be well known but your interview processes is what will convert someone who is interviewing at many companies to someone who will want to work for you and your organisation.
Have a good week and let me know if you have any brilliant interview challenges, questions or tasks.
PS, my favourite interview question ever asked is what pizza toppings are you and why? Remember bland can be good or bad, you will understand how you got on instantly with your answer and the social cues received even virtually, so keep alert to these.
Problem 2 – Leadership Smarts Blindness “The Leadership team” is often seen as the smartest or know best, so teams struggle to challenge. Struggle to challenge creates trust issues and can push some high performers to leave.
Problem 3 – Dominance Dynamics The flow of information and the lack of flow kills businesses far quicker than competitors do. Many leadership teams and managers struggle to communicate important projects to their teams, this is often down to overly discussing in management team meetings. Important initiatives are also lost down to information hoarding and clearly being able to share information.
Open up communications
Always have kick-off to all projects, create an agreed document to guide how to effectively start projects
Open up your meeting notes with actions and decision and why impacts the people and the business.
Create and share a decision document to show how decisions are made and when these need to be actioned and delivered upon
Problem 4 – Fixed Mindset Leaders often do not accept contributions from their department or from their team members as can be seen as questioning their leadership. This has been an issue for many users, dominance leaders can feel threatened and struggle to accept contributions or ideas.
Open up contributions from everyone but provide a framework to allow feedback and suggested improvements.
The way to introduce a growth mindset is to allow teams to question, debate existing issues, build out ways of testing, building it better or differently.
Problem 5 – Restricting Network Connections Companies restrict networking and connection between teams. Through numerous pieces of research, it has been proven you are only as good as the networks you are in.
Many colleagues rarely get to work together or cross-functionally, a person in finance might have some of the best ideas to improve performance but are not allowed a stage or connection to offer this.
The Customer Experience will likely have an interesting take for the Marketing or design team.
Enable nodes to grow by enabling connections, offering ways for those who do not typically work together to collaborate and tackle internal issues.
Dear Leaders, happy 2021, I trust you are energised and refreshed from your recent break.
Leadership teams spend hours every week in management meetings, you sit there working through weekly or twice a week meeting and discuss a number of recurring themes.
Many inexperienced leadership teams fail to create a dedicated leadership improvement plan, even with annual planning sessions and reviews, these leadership teams neglect having an agreed set of principles to improve the company and improving their management. Yes, we are all busy, but there should be no excuse when it comes to improving your management team and management skills.
With clients, I recommended leadership principles for the year ahead and ensuring one member of the leadership team keeps you honest and reviews regularly to ensure you are on the right track.
If you are returning to the office or in a place to use the office safely, print out the leadership principles and post across your office, if you have a virtual or digital HQ where you share and pin announcements, pin these, refer and reference these continually and return to the leadership principles to ensure everyone is onboard and reminded of them.
Remember good leadership is ensuring old messages resonate and gain constant cut through.
Example Leadership Principles
Improve Communications – Share knowledge. Reduce unknown knowns, gain cut through to all staff members and customers
Develop Leadership – Bring the next leaders through with a dedicated program
Build EQ – Build emotional intelligence between leadership team and their direct reports
It is pretty telling when you speak of a few leaders people stop and pay attention.
Something I have noticed over the last five years is how much Jeff Bezos name ensures people stop and listen to the words you say.
From reading the seminal book The Everything Store, read each shareholder leader (PDF’s available here) and watching hours of Jeff Bezos interviews here are the lessons I have taken from Amazon and Jeff Bezos.
The Lessons From Jeff Bezos
Obsess about customers – never competition. This is vitally important for their success and how they have led all decisions to be made. Faster and easier is a mantra Amazon has delivered on constantly and is why so many of us invest in Prime.
Build Vs Buy Vs Sell: AWS was created to power its own business, was proven to work and then power much of the web.
High Standards – Customer service was one area Amazon invested in early and frequently, if you have had ever had an issue you are refunded and given a free month of prime.
Long term thinking over short term thinking – this has been managed internally and with investors with “long-term market leadership considerations”. Remember Amazon is rarely profitable and that’s been to their advantage.
Flywheel – Whatever you add to your business should be a cog in your flywheel, if it doesn’t add value then it shouldn’t be added. Prime Now, Prime Video, AWS etc all add incredible value.
Lead – Leaders should see risk as an investment and tackle head-on versus running away from the challenge.
Always Long Term – Take the right long term bets by seeing how technology has opened up pathways. Jeff Bezos famously says Amazon have a ten-year strategy and executes on it, how far ahead is your company strategy?
Measurement – In many interviews, you will hear Jeff and other senior execs say how much they measure but also how you should trust your instincts and your gut. “I believe in the power of wandering. All of my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart, intuition, guts… not analysis.” — Jeff Bezos
Keep Pushing – Something that many businesses are guilty of internally is stopping pushing when they feel like they have won or are winning. Take the foot of the gas and you will be taking a step backwards.
Partnerships – Amazon knew the risk of not being able to expand their product lines. When they took on and expanded their third-party seller’s program it was a huge risk but they believed in their model and would keep pushing. This move has increased their marketplace model, their product SKU’s and now third parties completed 60%+ of the orders.
Leverage Everything – Amazon leverage other companies logistics. For example, existing quick shipping options created prime, this then created “prime expectations”. Delivery companies are now being eaten alive by Amazon.
Test – A/B testing was always essential to take learnings from and drive industries forward. A/B test allowed new ideas to be tested quickly, this improve customers experiences.
Known To Leverage – Understand what you business is known for, play to these perceived strengths in the press and behind the scenes crave out other business areas you can leverage.
Culture = Essential – from the front door desks created to being frugal, this enables everyone to understand this is what your company represents. If innovation is part of your subculture then innovation is expected and embraced.
“Successful Failure” – is something Amazon gave embraced time and time again, a failed fire phone led to dominating the e-book and e-reader market.
The slides included in this post are from an upcoming presentation I will be keynoting in January & February “the next normal”, email directly for a copy of the deck.
Amazon Must Watch Video’s
Amazon Empire – A great follow up viewing is this PBS documentary on YouTube
The Story Behind Prime – The story of Amazon Prime being an engineers idea not from the c-suite.
This is the 29th leader’s letter of the year. Thank you for reading every week.
You have likely had your remote or virtual (zoom based) Christmas (or seasonal, festive or end of year) party, you have likely written and read your speech to your department or to your company and you have hopefully signed off the budget and the action plan for 2021.
The end of the year is something we all look forward to, there is something about finishing up for the year and being able to rest, recharge and come back fresh, with renewed fight and optimism.
The time between Christmas and New Year is often a quieter time and ‘admin time’ for those who continue to work. For others, it is ‘returns session’ after what was likely the busiest online Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas period for your company. However, for most, it is the time you truly know how your end of year numbers came out and I hope you can celebrate with momentum into the new year.
Looking Back Leader: For certain leaders, they like to look back, recap and celebrate the achievements, with a thank you for your work, dedication and flexibility for 2020. Next year is the next fight but needs a refresher mind and clarity of thought on the 4th of January to rally the troops.
Looking Forward Leader: For others, they like to only look forward, driving forward with more energy, more intensity. The rallying cry is for more, for better, for bigger.
Neither is wrong, but being able to say thank you and know your plan for 2021 is set and going to provide many different possibilities and avenues is something to look forward to and gather around. Sharing that one-page strategy plan between Christmas and New Years might just be the difference between a flat first few weeks back and a joined-up company ready to stand together and win 2021.
2020 is the year that will stand out for all of us, the year we didn’t know the answers, we were unsure of what the next week looked like and the year we learnt so much about our friends, colleagues, managers and bosses.
2020 was the year of some good, some bad and a lot of ugly.
2021 Rally Cry
2021 has the opportunity to be brighter, an opportunity to challenge the status quo, to build something new, something different or even build something yourself. 2021 has to be the year you own, you lead, you empower and a little challenge, where you can; seize the day as many times as possible. You shake up your management teams and implement management pods.
Today’s Friday Focus is how to get ahead for 2021 with five quickfire tips.
Write down a list of all the important tasks you need to pick up upon your return to work. Create a list, categorise, write a due date, a priority and an owner, this ensures you don’t forget the essentials and the agreed owners over the festive period.
Write a thank you note to your team, quick, snappy, witty if you can and thank person by person. Celebrate the note together. Write your team a letter is a good read if you need inspiration.
Arrange personal development plan meetings for the first week of January, this ensures your teams know you are thinking about their progress and enables you to check in on their breaks personally. Ensure you book a 45-minute slot with an agenda shown so there will be no anxiety for an unspecific meeting in the new year. Optimise your meetings will be an important read to help with poor meeting etiquette or management
Manage your 2021 calendar today: Block out times in your calendar for the new year, habits start small and you create habits by starting early, building a prompt and creating the behaviour. Start by blocking out times for deep work (if you are a morning person book out 90-minute slots in the morning, if you are an afternoon person block out 90 minutes after 15.00). It’s also a great time to start planning the Q1 2021 offsites and management team training.
Annual reviews re-reviewed: Annual reviews can be productive or counterproductive, what makes one party happy often makes the other frustrated. Book in a re-review session in the new year to review the annual review and offer three clear steps for the more negative elements more proactive for your team member or team. It is essential that you build trust and set expectations from your leaders to make everything proactive and actionable. A good follow up to read is: what leadership is Hidden leaders is a good read if you would like to understand your teams and your people better and uncovering your brilliant secret weapon.
End the year in the right way, start the new in the new way that will help your colleagues and teams deliver excellence and feel like 2021 is their year.
Design Better Meetings: Design your meetings, question should this be a meeting, agenda’s as standard, reading materials, why people are attending, the expectations of the meeting, the follow up actions and owners and the delivery dates.
Time: Help colleagues co-manage their time and the line between work and life. Enforced remote work has been a challenge even on those who had experience with it or had to help everyone adapt to remote work
Develop: Build personal development plans in December and January and ensure you stick to quarterly outputs
Training: Champion internal training – arrange external & online training
Clear Company Strategy: Create a strategy one-pager, and a company playbook with all plans of actions from each department and team
Connect & Align: Constantly align and connect teams, assign owner and provide clear ownership boundaries
Better Communication:Asynchronous communication over chat tools
Talent: Talent retention will be harder, more colleagues will be looking at their options and looking for new or better challenges. Talent acquisition will be harder, bigger talent pool won’t mean easier to hire.
The Next Normal: Build your next normal, be proactive don’t wait for surprises