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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
Leaders Letter 1: Develop 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.
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.
Leaders Letter 2: Ride Of A Lifetime
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'
'Never start negatively'.
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.
Leaders Letter 3: Future Seers
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.
Leaders Letter 4: Commit To Communicating Clearly
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.
Leaders Letter 5: Beliefs and Bets
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.
Leaders Letter 6: The Power Of An Internal Motto
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.
“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.
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.
Leaders Letter 7: Givers and Takers
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 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 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.
Leaders Letter 8: Is Sleep Really A Competitor?
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,
Leaders Letter 9: Personal & Professional SWOTs
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.
Leaders Letter 10: Smarter Not Harder
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.
PS. Here is a quick Matthew Syed Video explaining Growth vs Fixed Mindset
Leaders Letter 11: Bad HiPPOs
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,
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?
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.”
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.
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
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,
Leaders Letter 14: Your Secret Weapon
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!
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.