Weekly Focus Newsletter

The Leaders Letters

Weekly Letter

July 2020.

Dear Leaders,

Each week, Focus sends a newsletter to leaders from small to large businesses, designed to help and your business improve.

Leaders Letters will offer one must consume piece of content you have to action and an area for you to focus on in the week ahead.

Like any good letter, The Leaders Letters are designed to take a couple of dedicated minutes to read but provides you insights and actions to take for the short and long term.

Each week, Focus will send The Leaders Letters directly to your favourite email inbox.

Thanks and I look forward to send you my weekly leaders letters,
Danny Denhard
Founder - Focus


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Sign up for your weekly letter, inspiring you to take an action on an incredible piece of content, a written article, an inspiring video or a podcast you will likely have missed out on.

Read the Recent Leaders Letters

Click on letter number or letter title below to read the specific Leaders Letter letter or scroll down to read one by one

1. Develop Leaders
2. Ride Of A Lifetime
3. Future Seers
4. Commit To Communicating Clearly
5. Beliefs and Bets
6. The Power Of An Internal Motto
7. Givers and Takers
8. Is Sleep Really A Competitor?
9. Personal And Professional SWOT's
10. Smarter Not Harder
11. Bad HiPPO
12. Idiot with a plan?
13. Fight, Flight, Freeze
14. Your Secret Weapon
15. Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors
16. No Rules Rules Lesson
17. What Leadership Is
18. Text Helpline
19. Challenge: Write a letter to your team
20. Optimise Your Meetings
21. Hidden Leaders

Extra: The 5 roles you must have in 2021

Read Recent Leaders Letters

Leaders Letter 1: Develop Leaders

08/06/2020

Dear Leaders,

Welcome aboard to the first leaders letter.

Each week there will be a weekly letter designed to help you address something important for the future and focus on moving forward.

If you have to read one piece of content this week, it is Jeff Weiner's leaving email to the LinkedIn team.
Why - LinkedIn's growth and development under Jeff's guidance has been incredible and has strategically transformed LinkedIn from occasional visit to a daily utility for many businesses and professionals.

If you haven't already watched Jeff's famous all hands from 2016, watch it at the bottom of this letter.


Future Focus
Something to remember this week, while looking forward to the future, ask yourself how are you looking to develop your existing staff.

It's easy to look at the upcoming months and look at the list of objectives you want to hit, however, without your people in recent months the business wouldn't be in the place it is today.

Help to develop personal growth plans together with your leaders and their teams.
Ensure you make and take the time with your managers to create personal development plans for each team member, fix dates and milestones in to understand the progress and how you can continue develop your team.

Until next week,

Thanks and have a good week.

Danny Denhard
Focus Leader



Leaders Letter 2: Ride Of A Lifetime

08/06/2020

Dear Leaders,

I trust this week has been productive.
I have recently finished Bob Iger's The Ride Of A Lifetime, it is a truly remarkable business and leadership book.

Why read (or listen) the book?
Bob tells his detailed account of his early career inside TV and TV production, his career progression from a young leader inside ESPN through to thinking he was going to be overlooked when COO at Disney to take over from previous CEO Michael Eisner. The book is full of life and work lessons, the pressure of work and being able to think clearly and for the long term.

Bob's account is more detailed than his masterclass and much better value.

Bill Gates has also recommended the book and said "a business book I'd actually recommend".

Something to take away from this book is:
'Never start small'
and
'Never start negatively'.

Wise words!

Focus On:
In the coming weeks it is going to be important to zoom out, think big and productively with possibilities.

Until next week, focus on starting big and positively.

Thanks,
Danny Denhard

  • H
  • Leaders Letter 3: Future Seers

    22/06/2020

    Dear Leaders,

    I trust this week has started off productive and you have learned from lesson 1; developing your existing internal leaders and lesson 2; starting off projects and your weeks positively.

    This weeks point to focus on is finding the "future seers". This short five minute video will help to guide you on future seers.

    There are many people in your organisation that live in the present and that is ok.
    There are actually many more long serving staff members that live in the past and the past glories, who reminisce but struggle to grow and evolve with the future.

    There are very few that can see and live in the future, these are the people who will drive your brand forward and guide you through the headwinds all of us will be fighting.

    Until next week, focus on finding the future seers in your organisation and enabling them to start co-creating the future of your company and guide those around them who struggle to live in the near future.

    Thanks,
    Danny Denhard

  • Leaders Letter 4: Commit To Communicating Clearly

    29/06/2020

    Dear Leaders,

    I trust this week has started off productively and you have identified your future seers.

    This weeks point to focus on is communicating clearly and building a clear communicating culture.

    The lack of information and 'transparent' communications often leads your teams to assume or fear for the worst outcome.
    Agree to create a culture that enables and ensures you communicate as clearly and kindly as possible.

    As a manager and a leader you will be well aware that the fear and panic amongst your people, your teams and department is often when an important piece of information is not communicate to the group, it is not clear and often sent without second order effects considered.


    Focus on speaking to your organisation and the managers around you to ensure you cut through poor communication and create an agreed internal principle you will communicate as clearly and as timely as possible to remove anxiety and fear around the company, particularly with the near future in mind.

    This will reduce the amount of questions you will receive, you can encourage improving internal communications and reducing the internal chatter via instant messenger.


    Until next week, focus on building clear communication templates you and your teams can use and agree as a company wide principle you will have clear communications across the business.

    Thanks,
    Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter 5: Beliefs and Bets

06/07/2020

Dear Leaders,

I hope you had a positive weekend and ready for the week ahead.

Believe it or not, it is now Q3 and with more businesses opening up again, this week's message is to revisit your beliefs and bets for the rest of 2020.

This year has been a challenge for everyone and business right now feel like they are constantly being dealt bad hands in poker.

There is a lot of luck needed but calculated risks and understanding of the game is essential.

I am currently reading Annie Duke's 'Thinking in Bets' and it aligns so well in business and in the current situation.

Beliefs are key to any business succeeding, what do you believe to be true, what do you believe will happen, where do you believe the industry will go and why.

Your bets should be the 3-5 big bets you are betting on and have confidence in delivering for the rest of the year.

Revisit the top ten (yes 10) beliefs, revisit your top 3 bets for the rest of the year and clearly and concisely articulate your belief and bets to the whole organisation.

Have a home and hub explaining the beliefs and bets and get creative in having a 101, FAQ’s and ensure it rolls up to your Focus Metric.

Focus On: Achieving buy-in by reintroducing the beliefs and bets and talking collectively about these.

Ensure everyone understands the ten beliefs and three to five bets, ask for total commitment to deliver these and by the deadline you and your teams create.

The mid way of every year is typically when people take their breaks and holidays so fatigue is setting in and this is the time for leaders to step up and energise the team.

Happily let me know how you map out your B&B’s and if you have any troubles, happily email me for support.

Thanks and have a great week ahead.

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter 6: The Power Of An Internal Motto

13/07/2020

Dear Leaders,

I hope you had a good and re-energising weekend and ready for the week ahead.

This week I read about how Steven Gerrard (the Liverpool football legend and current Rangers FC manager) created an internal motto for this players to easily understand their change in playing style and helped to guide the team towards winning an important away game in Europe and re-shape their season.

The Motto:
“Own the ball, own the pitch”

Why so effective?
Most likely because it is short, simple and easy to remember.
Yes, it is harder to execute no doubt, however, that is for the management team to create training plans around, train new formations and create playbooks for upcoming matches.
And for the players; to understand easily, to ask questions, to work on and train with in mind and develop their understanding of their teammates and develop their togetherness on and around.

So Why A Motto:
Simple is essential in today’s noisy, feed driven world.
Short helps everyone remember and repeat this and helps to have a guiding principle to follow and concentrate everyone around.

Focus On:
I challenge you and your fellow leaders to create (or revisit) one simple and short motto for your team to get behind and help to guide your team with upcoming changes and a way to understand how you are going to operate for the near future and how it will lead your decision making moving forward into 2021.

Let me know what your new motto is and how you decided your new motto.

Thanks and have a great week ahead.

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter 7: Givers and Takers

20/07/2020

Good morning leaders,

I hope you feel refreshed from the weekend and you are looking forward to a good week.

This week's leader's letter is about Givers and Takers.

Adam Grant the organisational psychologist is well known for his books, podcast and his TED videos.

Adam has created excellent phrases and uses very clear messaging (sprinkled with some humour) from findings and his studies to improve businesses and teach the next generation of leaders.

I highly recommend you watch his TED Talk Are you a giver or a taker?

The Givers and Takers talk and his findings really stand out and will stand the test of time.

As we have all been challenged recently humans show the best and absolute worst of ourselves. However some people have something baked into them that just cannot be shaken off. In problem raisers, problem solvers and problematics I break down in a slightly different direction.

The TLDR of the Adam Grant findings:

Takers
Takers are ‘what can you do for me’ people. You are likely surrounded by them. Takers progress in the short term and seem to be rewarded. Takers like the name suggest take and rarely think about those around them. Although they raise in organisations quickly, they drop just as quickly.

Givers
Givers on the other hand, are for the long game, Givers think about others, they want to improve those around them, they teach, they share, they bring others together for the right reasons.

To quote Adam….
“Givers make organisations better”

In this time of change, consider how you want to progress, how you wish for your people to understand you, your leadership and the culture you are trying to create or recreate with the ever changing landscape.

Right now is a great time to address existing issues and issues potentially bubbling up under the surface.

Find the Takers and consider how that one bad apple can really impact your team.

If you are a Giver who was burned, consider how you can embrace your giver side again. Attempt to remove or dilute that bad experience.

Remember when you picture a taker from the present or your past, they generally lose.

If you are a taker, I would recommend you look around you and see how quickly you have impacted the team and consider how you move yourself into giving more and taking a lot less.

Go and give!

Thanks and have a great week.


Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter 8: Is Sleep Really A Competitor?

28/07/2020

Dear Leaders,

Happy Monday.

For many of us it is holiday season.

It’s almost August, how are you feeling month one of Q3 has already gone?

I was recently discussing the Netflix approach of naming competitors and having an alternative view on who competitors are.

Netflix is famous for suggesting sleep (yes sleep) was a competitor. The framing is smart and grabbed the business world's attention.

In NFLX’s recent share holders letter, Netflix specifically praised TikTok,

"TikTok’s growth is astounding, showing the fluidity of internet entertainment. Instead of worrying about all these competitors, we continue to stick to our strategy of trying to improve our service and content every quarter faster than our peers. Our continued strong growth is a testament to this approach and the size of the entertainment market."

Something that really leapt off the page for me and hopefully leaps out to you: “We continue to stick to our strategy of trying to improve our service and content every quarter faster than our peers”.

Trust me when I say one large competitor or emerging competitor can send shockwaves through organisations, for years I had Facebook as a competitor and it can really sidetrack senior execs and confuse teams if they do not have clear objectives and goals of concentrating on the customer.

By “managing via press release” Netflix have made it crystal clear to The Street but more importantly to their staff that they are going to concentrate on offering the best service and stay focused on their long term strategy.

This week Focus on aligning the teams on shared goals, aligned to the strategy you and your teams painstakingly put together and producing the best possible product or service not on a competitor or a new entrance into your market.

Have a good week leaders,

Thanks,
Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter 9: Personal & Professional SWOTs

10/08/2020.

Dear Leaders,

I trust you had a good weekend and have made some time to find those future seers and your internal motto has been rolled out.

This week I took a couple of mornings away from creating workshops to focus in on personal and professional SWOTs.

When leading a previous business, I would often make the time to take a step or two away from delivery and dedicated into planning and reflection.

Reflection is great to understand where you are currently, why you might have missed something and what can be improved and what you should ultimately improve on.  
Planning is vitally important especially when the world is in constant flux.
Jeff Bezos didn’t get to his famous ten year strategy by not reviewing his personal and professional life.

I personally find frameworks help me and frameworks help many people frame problems in different ways and allows adjustments in their approach to a task or important future decision making processes.

We all strive to improve but until we can review and decide to either build new skills or products or double down and excel at something we are often in limbo.

So why personal and professional SWOTs?

SWOT's aren’t just for executive presentations and analysing a specific business situation, they are opportunities to honestly review yourself and your professional work.

Personal and professional are interconnected, although many experts suggest you are not different, many people want to be and act differently at home and at work.

Personal SWOTs are great to review where you are at, what you see as achievable opportunities and where you can remove any weaknesses or threats.

The trick I have found is to think two fold, the first as you and the second as your critic. This will enable you to address the differences between the two.
If they aren’t very different I’d suggest you have a start over.

SWOTs always start out easy but should be challenging to complete and action.

Professional SWOTs are great to drive you forward as a leader and helps to drive the team forward.

Right now professionally you will likely have a few more negatives than positives however this is to be expected and is an opportunity to address and pick sections of your business that might want to optimise or drive forward.

As remote management is vitally important, take the opportunity to focus on personal and professional development.
This can be exercises you go through with your team.

Here are ten remote management tips to improve your remote management experience and help guide your team.

Thanks and have a good week.
Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter 10: Smarter Not Harder

10/08/2020

Dear Leaders,
I trust you had a good weekend and look forward to making incremental improvements this week.

Working smarter not harder is something you have likely heard. Working smarter has always been something I have been an advocate of, however until a few years ago I wasn't sure what it truly meant.A personal story: I would go into the office earlier than almost everyone, I would have back to back meetings and book time in for deep work.

I would then work many evenings and wonder why I would be shattered and feel like I didn't deliver my best. What I realised over time was; I was working hard but not as smartly as I could have been. I started to review the schedules I had, the times I was working and the slots where I was productive or not.

I would review my calendar weekly and then categorise the time into themes and work out which meetings could be reduced, could be removed, or could be delegated.

There were meetings that were unproductive and I sort out to address these. Yes, this can sound like extra work but the upfront effort to save your time and sanity is worth its weight in gold. I would make more time for when I knew I was more productive, I would schedule times in with the teams that suited them better and would save some energy as I worked for an American business, mid to late afternoons meant you were due in important management meetings and were supposed to be designed for decision making - these meetings have a higher cognitive load and can be taxing.  

The hybrid office is going to suit many people, there were times where I would work from home in the mornings and dial into "lite' meetings and then come in for team based meetings or deeper more immersive meetings that worked better in person.

I would book in mentor sessions and catch up coffees where I knew I could recharge and reenergise before lunch. I know personally I get an energy boost from mentoring and could rely on them to act as a refresher.Working harder than everyone is often something you will hear an athlete say in interviews, or I would out work everyone, yes it can work, however, most athletes will tell you coming towards retirement they came close to burn out. Sir Chris Hoy’s explains high performance and the shift in his career really well on this Podcast.

In more recent years, when athletes met sports psychologists, the psychologist would highlight they were running their body and their mind into the ground.

They needed to be smarter with their efforts. The business world is ruthless, time is precious but keeping your sanity in check and knowing how you work and when you work best is incredibly important. This is just one of the many reasons why I built out Focus.

There are going to be times especially when working remotely that feel impossible, or you need to be across every project, however, taking a step back or planning a 30 minute slot to plan, review and optimise is going to save you hours per week.

This is part of the growth mindset that I highly recommend you become a follower of. Matthew Syed has many books that explains the growth mindset. His book is part of my most recommended business book post I wrote recently.  In lockdown, on average, a recent study has found our workdays are 48.5 minutes longer than they were previously. This isn’t harder or smarter, it’s just longer!

This week focus on: Stepping up as a leader, lead by example, help those around you to use their time more wisely, enable colleagues or your team to work smarter. Something you can work through is surveying the company around their meeting habits and seeing if they plan and how they review their week.

Thanks and have a great week.
Danny

PS. Here is a quick Matthew Syed Video explaining Growth vs Fixed Mindset

Leaders Letter 11: Bad HiPPOs

17/08/2020.

Dear Leaders,

I trust you had a refreshing weekend.

I know from speaking to a number of leaders recently they felt like August used to be the slow period but August 2020 has been unrelenting. With this, there is a lot of onus on leadership teams.

Unfortunately, there are many management teams that are top-down or CEO/founder lead aka led by a HiPPO (a reminder a HiPPO is "highest-paid person's opinion" or the "highest-paid person in the office.").

There are many people within organisations that suggest they do not know why they are asked to do the work that they are or the way they “have to” work as the boss told them to do it or do it this way.

I have worked in organisations where the most senior by title feels like they have to make the decisions and they want to be seen to lead so they refuse to listen, these organisations fail for many reasons but one of the main long term reasons they fail is HiPPO’s acting like this.
They kill the business by their actions.  This inspired me to break down the ten (yes ten) HiPPO’s that are ruining your business.

I recommend you review the 10 HiPPO’s and hopefully find out you are not one of them. I highly suggest you look out for if you are “The This Is My Way HiPPO” or “The Dominant” as you are likely killing morale.

As a bit of fun I recommend sharing this post to your leadership team and wait for feedback, if you do not receive any, you are likely one of the ten.

This week focus on: Connecting with your team, understand if they believe they are a HiPPO and how they are impacting your business. Consider how you can delegate more effectively and if there are decision-making frameworks you can introduce to take the onus off you and improve trust across the business.

If you need some HiPPO training or you need management team training, happily reach out by replying to this email or emailing here by clicking here

Thanks and have a great HiPPO free week,
Danny  

PS I have written two important posts, traits of a good manager, and the traits of a bad manager.

Leaders Letter 12: Idiot With A Plan?

24/08/2020

Dear Leaders,
Are you ready and raring for this week?

I recently started creating a list of quotes, it got to over 60 and many of them are actually well worth sharing, so I started to tweet them daily at 8.30. Quotes can have many reactions (they either resonate or they flop) but one that will always stand the test of time in business is from Warren Buffet.

For all of the strategic sessions, I have sat in, proactively participated in the earlier phase of my career, to co-creating on leadership teams, to leading company-wide strategy is; everyone within organisations needs a centralised plan, they need to access it and feel they were a part of it and be connected to it.
“An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan.”
-Warren Buffett

I have a strict rule when consulting with businesses, you have one (yes just one) company-wide strategy, you have three pillars you are going to concentrate on for the year and then a series of bets that are driven by a number of beliefs.

These are all driven by one Focus Metric that guides you through making decisions to reviewing are we on track?  
Each team then have their own action plan that rolls up into the company-wide strategy and must connect with the other teams regularly to ensure they are all on the same page throughout creating the action plan to rolling these out.

This connection and co-creation are essential. Surprises are what hits business hardest. Believe it or not, some businesses do not operate with a formal plan and do not share formally with their teams. Many leaders talk about their plan to their leadership team and forget to share and talk through.

Surprisingly one meticulously created company-wide plan can shock even the most experienced leaders, often responses are ‘everyone knows the plan’ or ‘we just get on and do it’ - well as Buffet states an idiot with a plan can beat a genius without one. Are you an idiot with a plan (I hope not) or a genius without a plan?

This week focus on starting to plan for Q4 and 2021 and putting together a meticulous plan. If you would like to discuss strategy and adopting the Focus approach to Strategy happily reach out.

Thanks,
Danny Denhard

PS - If you missed leaders letter 5 beliefs and bets newsletter it is well worth a read regarding bets and beliefs.

Leaders Letter 13: Fight, Flight, Freeze

31/08/2020

Happy Monday.
Tomorrow is September, have you started Q4 and 2021 planning yet?

You have likely heard of fight or flight, there is a third called freeze. From twenty years of professional work and working with leadership teams over the last ten years, it is important we apply these human reactions into the business world.

Fight is the best when you are winning and needing to pick up performance. Fight can have negative consequences if poor culture or lack of agreement on strategy and direction, however, these tend to show that people care and want to succeed.

Flight can be typically associated with staff entering and leaving the business.
Flight is not always a bad reaction or reflex, it can actually be positive. Remember one toxic person can impact a team, department or business for a number of months.

Freeze is likely one we do not frame in the right way, I think of this as performance anxiety, when teams do not know how to shoot or delivery anymore.
Freeze is probably the current default reaction within your teams especially with lockdowns, current performance or after a long tiring year.

These reactions all have a performance impact and knowing what phases project, campaigns and teams are at will help drive the business forward.

Focus on: Stepping up as a leader and address Freeze, consider how you could change help the team, bring in a coach or mentor (or agency).  

Have a good week and speak to you next Monday,
Thanks,
Danny


Leaders Letter 14: Your Secret Weapon

07/09/2020

Dear Leaders,
A short and sharp letter for today.

There is something I run through in every organisation I work with, it is called find your secret weapon.

In every organisation, there is a secret weapon. It can be micro-behaviours, a specific person, it can a department, it can be the unprompted coffee and snack break teams just do.

A number of times it is a behaviour but more recently it actually is a person, an internal influencer (as I call them) who really and truly drives people forward.

In a recent conversation, I asked a business leader to go find her company’s secret weapon, she found out by speaking to her leadership team it was the number of rising stars they had and that came from “great recruitment” and “great internal coaching”.

When I challenged the leader if they could scale (or power) up the secret weapon she replied with a huge YES!  
Have a guess what they are now concentrating on for the next 15 months?

It is more internal coaching, identifying internal talents and developing more rising stars through more coaching.

I challenge you to go a step further: I highly recommend you add a further proactive step, decide how you will then turn your these internal influencers into your next leaders, maybe reread letter 1, develop leaders.

This week focus on finding your business secret weapon and then identifying and developing the next phase of leaders.
It will be the best investment of H2 2020!

Thanks,
Danny

P.S. If you are a sports fan, I highly recommend Spurs’ All or Nothing on Amazon Prime (i’m an Arsenal fan and I shouldn’t say this, but, it is great) to understand how the sports world have these and how coaches leverage their secret weapon(s) too.


Leaders Letter 15: Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors

14/09/2020

Dear Leaders,

This weeks letter is a challenge to set yourself and your leadership team. With all the businesses I have worked in and on, and with the businesses I have spoken to recently, the more I question the way we have set up work to succeed.

The most common question I ask:
“Why do you think you need more managers?”.

Very rarely do I receive an answer that backs up hiring more managers or another manager.

Hierarchy can be good for company progress and taking active steps to mature your startup or middle management team, however, what you likely need in this period is more coaches and more mentors.

These, of course, could be internal (and should be happening organically) and could be external, you will likely benefit more by leading through coaching the team and guiding them long term with specific mentors. Keep this in mind: Both are specific skills and different disciplines.

Coaching can take many forms, the best form of corporate coaching is based on skills gaps, coaching on identified tactical areas of improvements and developing better muscle memory will more likely help teams and departments to perform better together or more resiliently than adding another manager into the chain of command.

A question to ask yourself: Do we have the right coaches internally to help the skills gap or should we look to hire a few specific coaches?

Mentoring is essential for those who need longer-term development, a lighter touch with more time to discuss, guide and mould your staff. Pairing mentors and mentees are essential, if you feel like you have someone to take ownership of internal mentorship, great, if not I would recommend looking to bring in external mentors for specific individuals or pairs that would benefit most from it.

Headcount will likely be tight for the foreseeable future, so consider how you can develop hard and softer skills including; confidence, professional development, reactions and your people over another layer of hierarchy.

As always, promote the right candidate and replace exiting managers if these are essential, however, really question and consider: What does our company require?
How is our business is going to improve performance? Not just manage people.  


A challenge for you:
Can you breed a team that proactively coaches and encourages your team to seek mentors and seek mentees?

This week focus on reviewing your hierarchy, department structures and how you can introduce a coach or coaching into the weekly flow and where and who could benefit from mentoring.

Especially those senior members who would greatly benefit from reserve mentoring. So many senior leaders are so disconnected from the floor and the teams they instantly benefit!

Have a good week and let me know by reply how you reconsider management and development.

Thanks,
Danny


Join Other Leaders from Tech Giants, Startup Founders, E-Sports, Charity & Gaming Today

Leaders Letter 16: No Rules Rules

21/08/2020

Dear Leaders,

I trust you are making progress and 2021 strategy is being shaped nicely. 

I recently finished reading Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer’s (author and business professor) book No Rules Rules. 

It is based on the (in)famous Netflix culture and how Netflix set up their company culture for success. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn from their mistakes and how rules become principles and guidelines, empowering their teams to make the right decisions by following “Act in Netflix’s best interest”. 

I will be honest throughout my career I have read the Netflix slide deck probably north of two dozen times, it has been an inspiration and on an odd occasion, it has been a hindrance.

It was inspiring to have candour at their level and admit some people just aren’t good enough. Something that leapt out in the earlier chapters was one sentence, this one sentence that kept coming back to me: 

“When I saw how senior management spends their time. I lost confidence in the company”

This quote actually inspired me to reach out to a couple of previous colleagues in management teams and a few more in senior leadership positions and asked: 

If people could openly see how you and how the senior management team spends their time, do you think it would improve or worsen the company? 

Most answered honestly, and suggested it would actually worsen the company. One was particularly honest. I love how we operate between us and our management team meetings are proactive vs previous roles.

However, we are not leading by example outside the meetings and it shows up in team meetings.  I have sat on a couple of management teams and leadership teams, I have advised a few more and upon reflection, I have to say one would have improved confidence and performance and guided the team. 

Another would have been particularly detrimental and would have instantly lost confidence and respect. Some management teams are thrown together and it requires months of getting to know each other, trusting each other and then respecting the collective decisions. 

For those who I have advised, being organised, deliberate, actionable, accountable and transparent are non-negotiable essentials and everyone has to sign up to these behaviours. 

These sound obvious, however, internal politics and personal ego’s come into play and ruin the hard work up front and then have numerous ripple effects throughout the business.

Over the coming week focus on asking yourself and your leadership team how we are spending our time and how is it improving performance, morale and accountability of the company? 

Thanks and have a great week, 
Danny 

PS if you are struggling as a management team or need help with management team development let me know. 

Want a TLDR of the book, here is a 5 minute mini pod for you to review

Leaders Letter Extra: The 5 Roles For 2021 Success

26/08/2020

Dear Leaders,
Happy Monday.
Are you confident about this week?

Recently I wrote the 5 roles for success in 2021

The roles were
> Culture Community Manager
> Retention Marketer
> Project Manager
> Growth Specialist
> Innovation Specialist

The reason why I wrote this was to drive a different thought process than just hiring what your team managers are thinking about looking around their teams but instead look at the gaps in most businesses and drive cohesion and delivery.  

The Case For A Culture Community Manager

Within your business you have someone who knows: 

The pulse of the company, the temperature of how it is operating and how people are feeling, importantly they understand your people.

They understand the business, how it operates, they want to know the numbers, and what makes the business tick (or in some cases, what used to make it tick) 

They have trust amongst colleagues and the most important aspect, the respect of the business (ideally they have the support of the leadership team)

They most likely don’t work in HR and likely are not part of the senior leaders, they understand why these things matter but haven’t been given the right company-wide role to formally influence the business. 

This is who should be your Culture Community Manager.
If you cannot identify them quickly, go and find them ASAP.
For the last two years, I have been a big advocate for this role.
Why?
Speaking to numerous businesses and understanding their ongoing issues, the next most important role the most important upcoming business issues are likely within culture, staff retention and happiness. It is essential to keep in mind, this is a political role, this is a role that takes time to formally bed in but a lot less time to influence change, it requires good IQ and high levels of EQ. It also needs a lot of self-confidence and backing from leadership and HR to build out the highest level of trust to drive change within your business.

Having worked with companies and helped to roll this role out, it is important this person is already in your business and likely one the secret weapon

As I suggested in no rules rules, company culture is something Netflix was very deliberate with and they had senior management (the top 10% of the company) were always focusing on culture and the inner workings. 

Another role I believe that will be essential is the Project Manager. 
In many organisations the Project Manager fell out of fashion, it was not about delivering to a set date, it was when the product was as close to perfect as possible. Or rolling out a MVP that isn’t something that a Project Manager typically owned.

As I have stated before, in business we have lost our focus and it is time we bring back focus and direction and an owner who drive projects to delivery and keep everyone up to date with the right information. If you have ever worked with a brilliant PM you will truly know their influence and the importance of well communicate, good delivery on time. 

Upon reflection, I noticed these roles are actually intertwined:

Culture Community Manager to look across the company and connect people with teams, connect cross-functional projects, build connections and layers of support, all connecting with the strategy and goals of the company. 

Retention Marketer role to connect with customers and existing customers, helping the customer to come back and stay engaged, this will help the company to stay connect and aligned with their users. 

The Growth Specialist job is to help persuade, encourage and tip those users in your product to actually use it and get the most benefit, Growth and Retention go hand in hand.

These roles should connect with the Culture Community Manager to help them talk confidently about the customers and help these to connect to the strategy and the mission you are on.

The Project Manager helps to deliver vital updates and programmes while keeping everyone to date

The Innovation Specialist is then to be the future seer and drives development in and out of the company. These roles build trust, executes on delivery, builds direction and build trust throughout the organisation and with the customers. 

These links build out on some of Focus’s foundations for success: 

Communication ➡️ Culture ➡️ Trust ➡️ Delivery ➡️ Strategy 

Have a think about the roles you need within your organisation or agency, understand there is likely people within the org you can shuffle into some of these roles and identify which roles you are short on and help decide how you shuffle your company around or how you re-shift your 2021.

Thanks and have a great week.
Danny

PS if you liked last weeks Netflix culture letter, I recommend reading my No Rules Rules Book review

Leaders Letter 17: What Leadership Is

28/08/2020

Dear Leader, I trust you had a good weekend.

In recent years we have seen and heard many versions of what leadership is.
I was asked this week:
What leadership is and what does leadership look like today?

One of my recent goals was to speak to great leaders. I have been speaking to many leaders from healthcare, education, finance, app-only businesses and leaders from the world of sports, and one essential piece learning for me and the leaders interviewed…leadership is changing for the better.

For me, gone are the days where the leader is the person who intimidates the company the most, they are not the person who shouts loudest or has the final word.
The leader can be more introverted, they can be quieter, leaders can and should be calmer natured, and to borrow the Matthew Syed phrases, they can be a prestige leader, not a dominance leader.

I re-read a list of quotes I have saved and this leadership quote from the Everton Football Club men’s manager really does solidify what leadership is.

“My approach is born of the idea that a leader should not need to rant and rave or rule with an iron fist, but rather that their power should be implicit. It should be crystal clear who is in charge, and their authority must result from respect and trust rather than fear. ”
– Carlo Ancelotti 


For those who are unfamiliar, Carlo is one of the most successful football managers of all time, he was also a very successful player too. Carlo has played under some of the hardest and most dominating managers from football, he has also managed the biggest clubs and stars in sports. This quote really highlights how things can shift.

This week focus on: When you question what is leadership and what makes a great leader, I challenge you to rethink the old stereotypes and what you have been conditioned to believe and attempt to grow this type of leadership.

Have a great week!

Thanks,

Danny Denhard - Focus Founder

Leaders Letter 18: Text Helpline

05/10/2020

Dear Leaders,

We are ~78% the way through 2020, I know it is likely the most challenging year of your life.

I set up an anonymous text helpline back in July to help people concerned about their companies to text me directly so I could pick up their concerns (anonymously).

The typical use case is unhappy middle to senior managers having concerns and wanting me to act on their behalf and speak to their leadership team to help develop out their company.  

This week I want to extend the invite to Leaders on Leaders Letters and to help you with one of your problem areas.

This could be company culture, it could you are struggling with your company strategy or you need a question answered about 2021 planning.

One way I helped a company recently was helping them to move from tactical and channel thinking into a long term strategy by removing we have tried that and it didn’t work and taking ideas from everyone vs just the Head’s of and above.
Guess what, more puzzles were solved then problems raised. If you need an external opinion, you can text my dedicated helpline and I will come back to help you.

The number is +447480064060 and will be there for help.

This number can also be used if you are looking for a NED, a dedicated coach or mentor or would like to discuss how we could work together.

I have made it one of my missions to help business of all shapes, sizes and success and this helps me to get closer to helping more businesses.

Thanks and have a good week,
Danny

PS. If you don’t like to text, you can email me on contact@focus.business






Leaders Letter 19: Write Your Team A Letter

12/10/2020

Dear Leaders,

I trust Q4 has started to click for you and your team. Something I run in one of my workshops is a simple task, it is handwriting a letter to your team.

I’m 95% confident you haven’t written a handwritten letter to your team before.

Why a handwritten letter?
A letter is more personal, it shows personality, shows you are really thought through the words and the sentiment you want to share with your colleagues.

There are even behavioural sciences that back this method up.

Say thank you, show you have seen the team develop, identify great behaviours, call out wins, say when you have been proud recently and welcome feedback, yes feedback away from your 1-2-1’s. 

I give people up to 30 minutes to write and rewrite their handwritten letter. 

There are two kickers of the exercise:
(1) You have to give a copy to each member of your team or department (send as a PDF right now)  

(2) The letter will be shared with the other managers and leaders and the letters are shuffled like a pack of cards and each letter is read aloud to the group. 

This might seem like a trial on a bad reality TV show, however, the openness is imperative and this will push you and your leadership to be more open and more transparent with your team. 

It offers you a chance to say things you wouldn’t normally say, it allows you to continue ongoing in-jokes and an opportunity to be the most authentic you vs the leader you believe you have to be on chat, email and in-person. 

This helps introverts, ambiverts and even the extroverts who will want to read their letters aloud first 😉.

I guarantee you will learn something about you, about your fellow leaders and importantly about how your team or department react. 

Have a good week and happily reply to let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Danny 

PS Next week, leaders letter 20 will be 3 tips to optimise your meetings.



Leaders Letter 20: Optimise Your Meetings

19/10/2020

Dear Leaders,

Leaders, Something I am a stickler for is meetings, specifically making meetings work.  

Meetings and meeting culture are killing businesses.
I repeat they are killing businesses inside out!

There are many businesses that allow bad meetings to impact their culture and company performance and do nothing to change this.  There is something called MRS, it stands for: Meeting Recovery Syndrome.
And yes, it is actually a thing and it is proven it takes time to cool down post-meeting.

I HATE bad meetings, I am famous for saying how expensive is this meeting, to ensure meetings have actionable and directing agendas, to infamously stopping bad meetings when we are getting nowhere.

Something else that grates me, people voicing their opinions to be heard or agreeing and explaining their why for agreeing without a prompt is a waste of time, money and collective effort.

Coaching and aiding bad meetings hosts is an essential part of being a good leader in my honest opinion. It is not that I was conditioned in finance, meetings = money, money has to = progress and sales. We are never taught that meetings are the biggest time drain and one of the highest costs within businesses.

Are we conditioned from our early careers?
At the start of your career, you take every meeting because you want to be involved and want to be seen and then eventually heard by the room asking for your opinion.
By the middle of your career, you are conditioned into thinking meetings = progress, truth is they rarely do.

Optimise Your Time
We are never taught to improve or optimise meetings, this is a huge failure for company culture and impacts company performance daily. Some managers suggest they are in 30 hours of meetings per week, that is 75% of your working week in meetings, away from doing work or positively influencing the business.

A grumpy HiPPO in a meeting leads to hours of anxiety, panic and MRS. Be proactive and focus on making meetings better! So, here are 3 meeting tips for you to apply to your meetings or across your business:

Change Default Times: Why are meeting defaults 1 hour? Outlook and then Gmail! Change the default times.
Time Change 1: As there is no timing allowance between meetings. Change the meeting start time from 10.00 to 10.10.
Time Change 2: Change defaults from 30 minutes to 25 minutes and 60 minutes to 50 minutes.
Why? Shorter meetings get more decisions made and more quickly. As a bonus, you are respecting people’s time and energy for the day.  

Silent Brainstorms: It levels the playing field and produces better brainstorms. They are 2x more effective. Why? Provides access to the floor for everyone. People bring their best selves and stop playing up for the boss and agreeing with their idea or decision. Crazy eights work particularly well with this methodology.

Silent Start - Silent Ending: Start meetings with memos so everyone can start reading the same information. As a realist, you are never going to get all attendees to read the information before the meeting. With the hybrid office taking over, creating a meeting memo’s should be a tool in your arsenal.
If the meeting is for updates have an open document where people update together at the same time.

Meeting feedback comes in many ways but if you want actionable feedback, create a meeting feedback section on your meeting notes and ask for feedback. Great for introverts, ambiverts and introverts and creates important feedback loops.  

+ Bonus:  
I love an agenda, it sets up attendees for what to expect, it generally also only applies for the meeting organiser, not the attendees. Always have a well-thought agenda with a question that has to be answered within that meeting, question yourself on why you invited these people to the meeting, was it to inform them or was it for their input.
Always have someone who “chairs the meeting” their responsibilities including take the notes, sticking to answering the question we suggested had to be answered and send around the meeting minutes with who is responsible to deliver the agreed and required actions. Yes, this sounds idealistic but without these steps, almost all meetings fail.

Remember: No agenda should mean no meeting. Set the example from the top and educate those on why and how. This week focus on improving your business by improving meetings. There are likely thousands of £/$’s wasted every hour by having rubbish meetings.

Thanks and have a good week, Danny

PS Don’t miss the what company culture is post, it’s a must-read for anyone in leadership, management or HR






Leaders Letter 21: Hidden Leaders

October 26th 2020

Dear Leaders,

It’s almost November, how it re-forecasting going?

In many organisations, there is someone who pulls the strings…secretly. Yes, secretly and you probably don’t think about them.
Sometimes even when the most senior people truly believe it’s their strategy, their company, they are the only ones who lead and everyone follows. This is a huge misconception and a trait of an old school dominance leader.  

The hidden leader isn’t loud, they don’t boast, they know what needs to happen for the business to succeed, they often work silently in the background and help the company to navigate through the headwinds.

They give everyone a boost when you are performing and optimise the tailwinds. 

They are often the person who knows and develops your secret weapon. These people often go unspoken of or unrewarded and their impact often misunderstood. The hidden leader calms those around down and keeps colleagues calm and reduces the company stress level. 

They are a giver not a taker!

Very rarely do these unsung heroes take the limelight or want it. They likely want to know they are doing a good job from those who they respect but they know they are doing the best for everyone. 

I often see this often an operationally strong person, a people person or someone who was not conditioned by weak leadership.

The hidden leader does not have to turn from Clark Kent to Superman to save the day and probably does not want to do this as it’s not a healthy state of businesses or company culture to celebrate heroes saving the day regularly.  

The secret leaders aren’t easy to spot but harder to find when recruiting. They have a we before me approach. (How the we are put first over the individual).


Typically, once the hidden leader decides to move on, they move on and the company often falls behind, slowly but surely and wonders what happened.
These hidden leaders are a rare breed, ensure they keep pushing the business forward and coaching those around them. 

We have been conditioned that leaders are loud, big, bold and strong, these might be good but rarely you do see the impact of the secret leader who drives everything forward methodically, often in silence.

This week focus on working with your secret and hidden leaders to ensure you keep them and keep the business moving forward.

Thanks and have a great week,

Danny P.S.
Don’t forget my Leaders Letter AMA today (Monday 26th)



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