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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 32 – Make A Difference, Whatever Your Situation

18/01/2021

Dear Leaders,

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.

Have a great week making a difference.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 31 – Interview Training & Practise

11/01/2021

Dear Leaders,

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.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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.

Recommended Reading: Ten ways to improve your remote management skills.

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Business Performance

The Big Problems Within Organisations Today & The Actions To Take

Speaking to numerous leaders over the past year, there are a huge number of challenges we face in this forced remote-first world.

Many issues have continued, alongside many existing offline problems have been forced online and actually highlighted these issues or brought to a head.

Here are the five most common problems Focus undercovered and some of the actions you should take to address these issues.

Problem 1 – Knowledge Clustering
Teams end up thinking the same, you slowly create clone-like teams. By default, all thinking and training become the same and ideas and execution ends up the same.

Action:
Flip this the head:

  • Open knowledge up between teams
  • Enable teams within departments to think and operate differently.
  • Create a shared knowledge centre and share ideas and concepts
  • Share what you are working on and encourage adding someone from a team to observe and interact with projects.
  • Encourage cross-functional training and bring in external (remote)

A follow-up article to read – Bad HiPPO’s = Bad Companies


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.

Action:

  • Invite challenges and debate to improve company culture and performance.
  • Allow teams to create a way to challenge the idea or ideate better ideas and fixes.

A follow-up article to read – Leadership Principles


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.

Action:

  • 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

A follow-up article to read – The leadership cult of confusion, chaos and fear


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.

Action:

  • 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.

A follow-up article to read – It’s time to rethink management teams with management pods


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. 

Action:

  • 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.

A follow-up article to read – Productive working relationships

If you are experiencing any of these issues and may struggle to implement these, happily reach out below:


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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 8th January

In today’s five for Friday, we share five must read or watch pieces of content to set you up for the day ahead.

One – Want to disrupt an industry? Here’s how Haus did it to the wine industry and how they are so quick to create great new product.

TwoThe best books I read over the last twelve months

The list includes: The Netflix no rules rules culture book, The Instagram backstory No filter, Rebel Ideas, Thinking in bets and Trillion Dollar Coach.

Three – The business lesson from Jeff Bezos

Four – How Ring started and why KPI’s are mission-driven vs money driven

Five – Simon Sinek on why now id the time to reinvest ourselves.

Have a good Friday and weekend ahead.

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 30 – Leadership Principles

04/01/2021

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 

Commitment – to beliefs and bets and pillars 

Focus On Listening – two ears, two eyes, one mouth 

Seek Feedback – improve feedback loops, seek out feedback not opinions and address these flaws and weak points 

Participation – Always ensure we are present and participate in every conversation, every meeting, every event.

Relevance – improve our relevancy and our positioning 

Customer-Centric – show up every day and put your internal customer and external customers first.
It is important to note: Internal good company culture has to be considered customer-centric.

Improve The Status Quo – remove the average and create a movement forward to improving output

Growth Mindset – embrace change, ask what can we do, how can we grow, what’s the change we can make.
A good read on the growth mindset and leadership is business lessons from Jeff Bezos 

Challenge X – we are going to promise to show up in x number of times in y ways.

This week concentrate on creating the right leadership principles, sharing these and ensure your teams are empowered and live these. Here are five focus points for success in January 2021.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

PS, You will want to read business lessons from Jeff Bezos today.

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Strategy

The Most Read Focus Articles In 2020

Here are the top 10 most read and most helpful articles from Focus this year.

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Bonus: The Most Discussed With Clients

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Leadership

Business Lessons From Jeff Bezos

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.

The Everything Store
– Talks At Google

Related Recommend Read:

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 29 – Rally Cry

21/12/2020

Dear Leaders,

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.

Set up mentorship, set up coaching sessions, entrust givers not takers, set yourself up for success by performing your personal and professional SWOT and find your hidden leaders embrace them and empower them to take your company up another level, optimise your meetings, help people become smarter not harder and commit to communicating clearly, lastly do not forget to listen to your future seers. Why not action 21 for 2021.

Thanks for reading and supporting leaders letters this year, go and have a great Christmas break.

My own personal rally cry and the north star of the focus manifesto:
I will fix the broken world of work.

Yours sincerely,

Danny Denhard

PS if you agree, give this newsletter a share on Linkedin or to your leadership team on Teams or Slack.

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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – Friday 18th December

Today’s Friday Focus is how to get ahead for 2021 with five quickfire tips.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Read the 21 actions for 2021 to help you get ahead and enhance your company culture for 2021 and improve your business performance.

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Business Performance Company Culture

The Focus 2021 Predictions

Here are the 2021 Focus predictions, focusing in on company culture and improving your business performance.

The Focus 2021 predictions recommend the five most common business elements to tackle that arise throughout 2020 and have been regular talking points with teams and clients in Q4.

The areas to tackle are:

1. Improving internal communication

2. Reducing screen time

3. Teaching where the line between home and work is

4. Enabling physical and mental health support within your teams

5. Ability to offer external support and advice when those are struggling with mental health, grief or anxiety from 2020.

We recommend four problematic areas to look to remove and provide guidance on:

1. Zoombie’s aka zoom and video fatigue

2. Personal conflict

3. Reliance on stealing each others time with meetings

4. Uncertainty for the future

We answer five important questions we feel are most important:

  • Q1. What will be the new role/job created for 2021?
  • Q2. What will happen in company culture in 2021?
  • Q3. What hires will be most important for 2021?
  • Q4. How will the role of the manager change?
  • Q5. Will businesses return to normal (working in the office)?

Our 10 quick but essential tips are:

  1. Company Culture: Put as much into company culture as company strategy
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. Develop: Build personal development plans in December and January and ensure you stick to quarterly outputs 
  5. Training: Champion internal training – arrange external & online training 
  6. Clear Company Strategy: Create a strategy one-pager, and a company playbook with all plans of actions from each department and team 
  7. Connect & Align: Constantly align and connect teams, assign owner and provide clear ownership boundaries  
  8. Better Communication: Asynchronous communication over chat tools 
  9. 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. 
  10. The Next Normal: Build your next normal, be proactive don’t wait for surprises