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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 15th January

In today’s five for Friday, we share five simple tips to improve the next couple of weeks ahead.

  1. 30:30 Rule – 30 minutes at the start of your day to review or create your to-do list of the most important actions.
    30 minutes at the end of the day to review your list, write down 3 achievements and write down the important information you need to address the following business day. Removing those problems from your mind onto paper or centralise system allows you to reduce the anxiety or stress around it.
  2. Team Or Department AMA Session – At the end of each plan out an AMA session where you, your team or department offer an AMA session for the rest of the business can ask work-related questions.
    This is an excellent read to help you prepare or create company-wide AMA.
  3. Ask your team for ideas – Many teams are looking for a chance to show off their ideas and their solutions to the problems they see. Book a time slot in where you and the team or department present their ideas and score these ideas.
    Organise with a simple three-box template:
    1. The problem you are solving? (How much is this costing us?)
    2. Why Now?
    3. The 5 things needed to make this successful?
    This will help with team morale and encourage ideas and collaboration. You do not have to commit to any ideas but there will likely be a couple of brilliant ideas.
  4. Develop out your Department Joker – as we have called out in the department joker, they are a brilliant member of your company and bring teams closer together.
    Book in a time where you can arrange to develop your colleague and help them to take on more responsibility. This might seem extra work but these colleagues are often overlooked and turn out to be brilliant mentors or coaches.
  5. 30:to:25 – Meetings are the bane of all professionals currently. Reduce your meeting defaults down from 30 to 25 minutes, reduce an hour meeting to 50 minutes. Timeboxing is the secret to getting through meetings with good agenda’s. If you are in back to backs typically this will free up at least 25 minutes per day.
    Read optimise your meetings for extra help and context.

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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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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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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 28 – The Management Cult of CCF

Confusion, Chaos, Fear

14/12/2020

Dear Leaders,

I have been speaking to a number of different leaders in forms of meetings, panels, private slack channels and text (yes even text, remember that anonymous text helpline I offered).

The hottest talking points apart from the banned C-word and performance is leadership and leadership styles.

One leadership style I have always despised is the cult of CCF:

Confusion, Chaos and Fear.

There is a particular age range of members of the bad managers club aka CCF club, and they have allowed the tactical and channel-ification of work to hide behind.

Confusion

There are many leaders who actively choose to lead by confusion. Yes, confusion.

Confusion is based on lack of or poor communication. Other traits include hoarding information to protect themselves, make themselves feel indispensable and they make everyone else constantly second guess themselves.

Confusion can mean handling everything on their time vs when it makes sense on others.

Confusion to Chaos

Once the confusion is worked out by individuals or team, they actively create chaos (just like politicians).

Chaos is often created by making changes to projects, to budgets, to headcount, and ‘shuffling the pack’ as there was a ‘bad egg’ or someone just wasn’t at the level they wanted.

Chaos is a way to control situations for weak managers, anyone who decides to use confusion or chaos as tactics to lead are not leaders.

Chaos To Create Fear

Once chaos works, they create fear around themselves and then the deliverables that have to complete. Fear is often inherited by rank or title but can be leveraged in situations to create uncomfortable working environments and deliberately build a horrible working environment for everyone in and around your team or department.

These managers have learnt these behaviours and believe this is the way to take control vs building the right team and environment to hit targets and develop their team. It takes a while for businesses to gain enough insight into this or takes a few brave individuals to come forward and address with the company.

Management styles shape company cultures, do not allow these behaviours to shape your organisation.

If you are in the position to, I recommend reviewing your management roster and see how they manage their team or department and if you are a manager and believe you have adapted this, I would highly recommend addressing this ASAP.

This week focus on improving your layers of management, remove this selfish and ignorant style of management and reduce the level of the stress by clearly and proactively calling out these behaviours.

Have a great week ahead,

Thanks,

Danny

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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – Friday 11th December

This weeks Five for Friday, is five important reads, listens and watches from company performance, leadership and company culture.

  1. 2021 actionable predictions: 21 predictions for 2021
  2. Rethink the title vs job description dynamic: leaders vs manager vs manager vs coach vs operator
  3. Remote First: Is there such a thing about productivity working virtually? The Table Group Podcast
  4. Business Scale: How to scale your go-to-market – Google Slides
  5. Leadership: Daniel Ek the Spotify CEO joins Tim Ferriss

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to sign up to the leaders letters, coming out every Monday morning.

This Monday’s The Management Cult of CCF (confusion, chaos, fear).

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Business Performance

21 for 2021

2021 is just around the corner and many companies are deep in the planning cycle.

I have 21 predictions to help you and your company for 2021 and beyond.

The predictions include company culture, mental health support, building and adapting to the hybrid office, company strategy and experience-based on-sites vs offsites.

  1. Company Culture is taken seriously and treated a dedicated recurring workstream throughout the year not just quarterly
  2. Staff happiness and development will be treated as business-critical. Businesses have to evolve away from sending more pulse-based surveys into more actionable and trackable methods. 
  3. Culture community managers are formally hired or existing staff member moved into the role 
  4. Company culture because a pillar in company strategy 
  5. Flexible schedules vs traditional 09.00 to 17.00.
    There will be a fundamental shift away from one schedule fits all, this will means more and better flexibility for teams, departments, offices and companies. Flexible will mean communication has to improve and calendar management is taught. 
  6. The hybrid workforce is built out and developed, hybrid requires real investment from leadership teams, the staff at all levels and tech investment and positive shift away from forcing in-person work into the existing tools 
  7. Remote first continues – while 20% of staff work in remote locations not from home. This will be key for managers of all levels to understand and build out flexible tools and methodologies to support their teams and departments.
    in 2021, businesses have to work out how to manage this safely and work with external providers and tools to manage this and support staff safely. 
  8. Satellite office spaces are scoped out – centralised HQ will be essential but smaller geo focused areas will need to be scoped out and offered to truly answer all of the requirements in the modern work environment. 
  9. Office Design: On sites will replace traditional off sites – on-site in the office, reconnecting with the space (the office), the identity and the people will be vital, off-sites were often used as a break away from the small four walls, now many will need their feet in their base. There will be a need for training and workshop consultancy to ensure high quality outputs
  10. On sites will be arranged every month to replace poorly co-ordinated video calls 
  11. Experience-based on-sites and off-sites will be introduced, vs sitting around a large conference room table, we will see more outdoor spaces utilised  
  12. Small project(s) on sites and QBR will be selected to take place over away from video, where permitted safely.  
  13. Remote offsite sessions and more traditional team-building getaways will be selected to bring teams closer together. Leadership teams will create bi-annual getaways to address strategy 
  14. The virtual HQ will become popular for a small set of tech-minded companies. Colleagues building their own avatar within a virtualised HQ where you meet in the kitchen, in breakout spaces and 
  15. Video calls are not optimised for more than three participants – we will rooms and gestures to talk move forward 
  16. The move away from ‘chat first’ based apps to asynchronous communication starts to develop 
  17. Phone calls – walk and talks replace recurring video calls. Typically for one to ones and meetings / stands not requiring screens or multiple screens 
  18. Gesture-based apps are integrated into chat (Slack, Teams, Workplace) tools to add benefit to presenting remotely 
  19. Pre-recorded video’s, pre-recorded audio will become commonplace vs long-form written content, pre-recorded video will become one way we reduce reliance on poor presentations and multiple voices and questions over video 
  20. Mental health support and large double-digit investment by companies into external partners and apps 
  21. Colleagues will require more emotional support and have formal times where they can take burnout and mental health time. This requires many companies to adapt and change their HR policies 

For many leadership teams, 2021 can feel daunting and uncertain, however, by building the right plan of action and running through these questions will enable you and your company to succeed and reduce the stress and anxiety that will seep through your company.

Happily reach out to discuss the future.

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Company Culture Leadership

Rethink The Leader – Manager – Coach – Mentor – Operator Dynamic

Rethink The Leader - Manager - Coach - Mentor - Operator Dynamic

Each week in Focus’ newsletter Leaders Letters, we discuss leadership, what a leader is and is not and how to channel that inner leader on important topics.

2020 – 2021

Throughout 2020 there has been a number of recurring themes, one of which is your role within the company vs the job title you have.

Role Vs Job Title

There are a few core tiers of role vs job title that often stands out and is important to raise and for you to discuss.

Often we see a hierarchy, we see it by the org chart, the title you have or the role you play within the business. This org chart rarely suggests or shows the different roles you play and how you operate. Hidden Leaders often play multiple roles within your org, they might not a manager but can be a coach and a mentor alongside being a high level operator.

Many hidden leaders are not ‘a people manager’ and this is actually a bonus to their career and the people around. I dislike the term individual contributors as this is so limited to what some people offer and the impact they have on those around them and the service they bring company.

In leaders letter, fewer managers more coaches and mentors we recommended a way to rethink your company set up and question do you actually need more managers and more hierarchy, or does reshaping your business with more mentors and coaches actually make more sense.

The Impact on Company Culture

Hierarchies will often dictate decision-making processes, the flow of information or in some orgs who is the ‘ultimate decision-maker”, this impact staff happiness and what is your company culture.

Leaders Are More Than A Title

Leader – Manager – Coach – Mentor – Operator for many are defined tags or labels you have and associate into your title. For others, these are hard labels you have and enter into a tiering system.

For me, these are interchangeable and should be used by companies to help colleagues understand different layers of leadership and development.

I challenge many managers to list down which of these roles are the people within their team and those who could offer reverse mentorship to them or identify a reverse mentor within their business who would help both parties and the company to progress.

The Roles Explained

  • Leader – A leader doesn’t have to have a C or V title. You do not have to be the most senior to be a leader, you can set the example and drive behaviour forward whether you are inexperienced or the most experienced or most senior.
    Leaders come in many forms and it is essential you understand the true difference between a manager and a leader.
    A leader can be a good coach and a mentor providing they have the time to dedicate and the energy to provide true value to their colleagues. Some of the smartest leaders have reverse mentorship and provides tremendous benefit to the org.
  • Manager – Typically a title, you can be a manager on a project and be less senior but have an important role to play on a project and manage those around you. Project Managers often drive businesses forward and made important decisions over more senior titles.
    Managers can be extremely busy and many are not taught to develop their team members or their department, this is where coaches and mentors will be valuable members of the company’s development and evolution.
  • Coach – Coaching is one of the most difficult and most challenging but is the most rewarding activity of work when you see your colleagues grow.
    A coach although typically older is someone who helps individuals grow, improve colleagues skills and helps to nurture the business forward. Some of the best coaches in business are inside of your org, they are likely in other areas of the business but can help improve your skills and might actually be lower in rank and title but will coach you.
    Remember the best sports coaches did not have huge professional careers, they have the best approach and methods for improving others.
  • Mentor – Mentors are often unspoken of, at any point you will see many people mentoring others, this is most regularly informal and is helping colleagues to guide others without having hard written goals or targets.
    I am personally extremely passionate about mentorship, many managers are just too busy to help you, often you can arrange fortnightly or monthly mentoring sessions with more senior members of staff and gain huge amounts by discussing your work, your aspirations and growing your role and influence. Many organisations will help you arrange a mentorship programme if you have not organised a mentor programme consider how you will match colleagues together.
    Try not to make the mistake many businesses do by only organising this for the raising stars or standout performers.
    A mentor will provide your business with a large amount of benefit, they will be guiding force and help those around them as much or more than most managers.
  • Operator – A specialist operator is hard to come by, they are often stand out performers and often led towards a management role. This does not actually benefit the operator or the business, this is often down to conditioned ways of thinking. An operator can be a better coach or better mentor vs having to take on formal management roles.
    As mentioned above an operator can be far more than just an individual contributor and offers far more than a flat title as this.
    A high-level operator (many from a developer background consider this the only way to progress) will feel pressure to ask for a manager or a senior manager, consider how you help to shape their careers and help the team or colleagues around them gain the most from the operator.

Move Away From Flat Titles

Moving forward I challenge you and your business to move away from flat and ignorant titles and build out layers in which truly reflect the impact and influence colleagues have within the organisation.

Pay special attention to developing out who would make great coaches, mentors and leaders and building managers who can manage their time, benefit from reverse mentorship and built out succession planning and the next evolution of leadership within your organisation.

If you would like to understand and develop this out further, I recommended reading a related and worthwhile article is what is leadership.

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 27 – Review Your Managers Reviews

07/12/2020

Dear Leaders, Happy Monday.

You likely have only three more Mondays of 2020 left.

This weeks leaders letter concentrates on reviewing your team of managers feedback from their team.

Performance can be tricky to understand. As a leader, your performance is based on how the teams underneath performance and how close you are to the targets you set at the beginning of the year.

You have likely heard of skips, skip catch-ups and skip 1-2-1’s are commonplace in large organisations but have you considered how you review monthly reviews and quarterly reviews?

Something that can be frustrating is how you can understand how your management team and the set of managers underneath are performing. It is also an area many busy managers don’t see as important as attending more meetings or replying to more emails.

Being able to proactively review and receive unfiltered feedback can be difficult but not impossible. Your teams are likely providing feedback to their line manager in the form of a monthly or quarterly review.

Something I am a huge advocate of is opening up and reading your direct reports reviews and the feedback provided by the team. You will see a variety of feedback you likely don’t see yourself and you will see how they interact with the different members of the team, especially when in their one to ones and behind closes doors / closed video calls. This will work for teams leads, department leads and management team members.

You may also undercover your hidden leaders, those in management positions or those speaking up and informing their managers of potential issues and where to drive the business forward.

This approach could help with mentoring and coaching opportunities, a way to proactively improve company culture and an opportunity to improve company-wide communications.

You will likely see patterns of feedback, often ignored by your managers, these are areas you cannot overlook and have to proactively manage and nurture your managers into the right areas or bring in external experts to help evolve your business.

Moving forward consider in on focusing in on making the time to review the direct feedback your managers are receiving and help them to improve their management styles, their management approach and improve the working environment for your middle management and their teams.

Your next set of leaders and the teams around them deserve your time and experience to guide the people and company forward.

Thanks and have a proactive week.

Danny

P.S. If you are looking to improve your team, reach out to develop your management team.

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 26 – Productive Working Relationships

30/11/2020

Dear Leaders,

How are you shaping up for the end of the year?

In today’s leaders letter, I am going to cover working relationships. What could come under company culture or company performance.

The older you become, typically the higher you progress, the more likely you have to proactively work on your working relationships between colleagues and fellow members of management and leadership teams.

If you are not working on this, you are, unfortunately, likely losing.

Often you will have to develop “productive working relationships”. In life, there are going to be people you just don’t get on with and in the professional world you will encounter this (I know I did) and you will have to proactively work on ensuring you can work together for the best of the company and for the best of your colleagues.

I personally would struggle with two behaviours.

  1. Colleagues who would be ‘independently motivated’, those who would work behind the scenes to put their interests first or proactively work to have dedicated time with the HiPPO to force their agenda through. Providing you get Face-time and zoom-time and build a relationship, you will beat those who don’t work on this.
  2. I would also struggle with people who would be CC warriors, say one thing and then pounce on any opportunity to CC in leaders or leadership teams into emails. This is and will always be unprofessional behaviour.

We all face these behaviours and have to develop our own approach.
The most professional and the best way I found to tackle this is to speak directly to said person and make them aware that their behaviour can and likely will cause issues and typically you both decide how you move forward.

With some individuals, their motivations will not change but it is something you have tackled and typically allows you both to be on the same page and will be able not to let this behaviour creep into your interactions and with your teams.

Throughout my career, I have seen many co-founders drift apart, some co-founders proactively take each other apart, build a CC warrior culture, and lose the company around them based on their working relationships.

One, in particular, was so messy it went into administration from misalignment and distrust of each other. Part of the culture became deciding which founder you would side with and proactively back. For the younger and less experienced it was unfair and uncomfortable. For the older, it became more than work.
This behaviour filters through the business and this behaviour can become the norm if not managed correctly.

When the chips are down and performance is struggling, you need to come together and coordinate fighting external factors, not the internal factors.

Working on relationships is an essential part of the business world, it doesn’t have to be political or have an agenda other than wanting to improve your working environment and remove poor behaviours and subcultures within your business.

In the coming weeks leading up to Christmas focus on:
Planning in sessions where you get to know each other professionally and personally, understand the motivations of your colleagues and when you feel comfortable to have feedback sessions where you have open discussions around how behaviours and actions can influence the company and causes rifts.

As recommended previously, create agreed principles and share throughout the business. Reduce company anxiety levels by reducing friction points, 2021 will hinge for many businesses on company culture driving company performance and how you will fight for the same cause vs internally fighting over many.

Have a good and proactive week,

Danny

PS if you need help with company culture, happily get in touch below