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Company Culture Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 101 – Opinions Vs Feedback & Pixar Pluses

Dear leaders, I want to be clear in my message this week, language and words matter more now than ever before.
We are going to dive into Opinions Vs Feedback. 

Hybrid Challenges: In the hybrid work world we are mostly operating in, landing that message, providing feedback and offering insights have to be clearer and more deliberate than ever. Many are missing the mark with hybrid communications. 

It’s time to review small tweaks to have bigger impacts. 

Sad Over Mad? 

In Product teams, you often have retros, it is “a safe place” to review the last sprint. Often the safe place or space (in hybrid working) can be hostile. 

Many frame it with Mad (things that made you mad), glad (things you are glad about and for), and sad (things that make you sad about the release/product). 

In almost all retros like this, mad and sad overtakes glad and kills the celebrations, kills micro-moments, and concentrate on what could have been. 

Even with great business results, you will see a negative impact on the product subculture and creates an internal cultural bleed.

When I temporarily took over a Product team a few years ago, I instantly removed mad, it was simply sad and glad, you would start with glad (always start with a positive) and end quick fire with sad. 

Removing ‘mad’, removed venting and negative opinions helped bring the teams closer and celebrate each other’s victories for longer and celebrate cross-functionally.  

Just by removing one element – you can have better framing and better conversations. In some good news, some teams are now reframing this into (a) what worked, (b) what could have been better. 

Why words and framing matters

I am a believer that opinions really cut up organisations, feedback helps to reshape products, people and progress.

You should not look to remove opinions, after all, we all have them, however, opinions are often just what you think or how you might be biased for or against something. Opinions rarely help guide you forward and can be your opinion versus someone else’s. 

Feedback is action-orientated, it is built to add value not take value. Feedback should be constructive and a spin on improvement(s). 

By being deliberate and adding a focus on feedback over an opinion you are setting the framing in a better light and encouraging improvement. 

Pluses Focused Feedback? Pixar have ‘pluses’ in their review process of movies, all the company attends and can add a plus which adds value, the famous example (from Dan Coyle’s book the culture code the company culture playbook) is in Up and someone from outside the creation studio suggested a tweak (a joke) and it landed so well this plus was added into the movie. 

Could you reframe feedback sessions to be pluses focused and frame feedback as a plus each time? 

In the coming weeks when H2/2H is firmly in sight and essential you review how the previous six months have gone and how you need to reshape or optimise Q3 and Q4 can you remove opinions and add feedback and could these be framed as pluses not just as “plain feedback?”. 

Thanks and have a great week ahead,

Danny Denhard

Essential Reading

  1. How to fix toxic company culture
  2. What really is company culture
  3. Why it is time to hire a culture community manager
  4. The ultimate hybrid work guide
Categories
hybrid office Leadership

The Future of Work – Is The Forced Return To The Office (3+ Days Per Week) A Modern Day Loyalty Test? 

Apple’s three day return to the office recently came under scrutiny when their Machine Learning lead Ian Goodfellow announced he was leaving Apple stating
“I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.”

The question many are not asking is, is this part of the company’s strategy to add control back or is it a test to work out whether hybrid can work?
Or is this part of a company-wide strategy to add more guardrails (less chance of interviewing, harder to organise interviews etc) to control the great resignation from impacting their business?

Apple is a notorious company for keeping projects secret and it is well documented their internal secrecy around new projects. Brand and products are a huge competitive advantage for Apple.

Is this really the reason for Apple’s non-flexible stance? Unlikely. 

There is often an argument and firm belief that the best talent leaves first, especially in a market that is weighted towards candidates. 

To be clear, this is not the first or last example of talented individuals leaving however it is the first that publicly suggested working styles and returning to the office is the main factor. 

We will see many more high calibre individuals leave for the same reason, whether they are in the same position to make this statement we will have to see. 

Loyalty Doesn’t Work Both Ways?  

Is this today’s CEO loyalty test, is it suggesting to employees this is the way you show your loyalty to the company by working within the office environment? 

Most likely yes, however, only certain companies would be brave enough to try this approach, Apple, Google and very few others have the brand equity, stock options and base salary to do this. 

Especially in a market where Uber, Meta and other previous powerhouses have hiring freezes and only backfilling essentials. 

With high wages being paid by cash-rich companies and from the web3 space, we are seeing a systemic shift towards flexible work and companies that understands the demands of modern work. 

Many businesses are allowing managers to set their own working schedules with their teams and in some rare situations at individual basis, this always comes under scrutiny, however, with most large businesses setting the tone for other businesses who blindly copy, the one rule of returning to the office three days per week, is likely causing cracks and creating sub cultures within your business. 

Google’s it’s ok manifesto received huge support across LinkedIn in 2021, however, Google has been clear about the move back to the office and its continued investment into the likes of London Kings Cross is clear their long term future is in person first. 

Rename Home To Workplace

Right now the best thing any business can do is rename home to workplace, remove the conditioned work that happens in the office and remove the pandemic PTSD around forced work from home is the same as working from home in a more open work world. 

The questions many are not answering: 

  • Is three days the right amount?
  • Why do we need teams in the office? 
  • How do we adapt our office for hybrid working?
  • Does collaboration actually happen effectively in person? 
  • When most work is in real-time (in meetings) and over zoom is being in the office offering the best work experience? 
  • How do we improve our hybrid tools
  • What is the best possible hybrid work experience? 

The other issue many are encountering has allowed poor management practices like internal policing from bad and middle management. Proximity bias is slowly killing companies inside out.   

Think Differently: 

Digital First & Work From Anywhere Movement

Airbnb has been bold to suggest in the US you can work from anywhere and your salary won’t be affected, is this a PR play or does the Airbnb management team truly believe they learnt enough and listened to feedback to suggest this is the best way to keep talent happy and attract talent. 

The answer is both, it is a PR play and it is a move the management team back, so the winners are those who want flexibility and those who believe in their vision of the future of work. 

In a recent Forbes interview, CEO Brian Chesky suggested Airbnb had over 800000 visitors to the career pages. Airbnb famously went over and above in 2020 for the teams they had to lay off and opened up their careers hub to help their employees find new work.   

Slack’s digital first approach is winning over many, it centre’s around enabling a change of thinking around what identity is within a business and in person is the old way of working. 

Twilio announced they are approaching work as a remote first company, potentially this way you can improve the way people interact and consider working from different workplaces like “home” and other offices.

Slack’s parent company Salesforce is now listing job roles by timezone, not by location emphasising the importance of flexible approaches. 

Dropbox has redesigned its offices and rethinking what in-person work looks like is a good reminder of what smaller companies are doing to improve work and stay competitive. 

Easy Question: Simply ask your teams why they used to work from home in 2018/2019/early 2020? 

It is most likely they worked from home to get their heads down and get their work done. 

If you couldn’t make the office environment work before 2020, you will struggle to make the office work in 2022 and beyond. 

It is time to rethink, reshape and rebalance the office/work environments. 

Other ways to consider reshaping work are to: consider satellite offices, hiring workspaces based on the commute of your employees, hiring workspaces based on the projects they are working on and moving to asynchronous work versus real-time work. 

Will 4 Days Per Week Work Better?

In the next hotly debated topic will a move to four day work weeks help? Unlikely, however, smart companies like front have tested and rethought what 4 days per week might look like and why flexible Fridays at Front are working.

4 days per week only work if you can work in a new constraint and have rethought what work works like and what success looks like in 4 days, not 5. 

Consider, is it 40 hours of work per week you can rethink rather than working a set 4 day week (like Wednesday are non-work days), as logistically this will be a much harder shift in mentality. 

The Future Of Work Is…

It is clear the future of work has evolved past even the smartest business operators and past the way many conditioned leaders can envision the future. The future of work is what we make of it, so make it better, make it flexible and create environments where output is valued more than location and hours worked. 

Supporting Resources To Help Make Smarter Decisions 

The A-Z Of Leadership in 2022

The importance of DNA documents and agreed principles

5 smart ways to rethink the work week 

Will a strict return to the office help my team get back together?  

How to handle back to back meetings?

How to rethink perks in hybrid work?

Categories
Leadership

A-Z Of Leadership In 2022

Leadership has never been so challenging and often it feels like you are fighting to understand what are the traits of the best leaders and leadership.

Here are the 26 leadership traits you want to have, work on and develop within your teams.

A – Attitude

How do you handle attitude and how your attitude is perceived within the business?

B – Balance

How much balance do you have and what work/life balance are you and your business offering?

C- Company Culture

How seriously are you taking, designing and improving the company culture within your business? Does the team know the principles that make up your company culture? If something goes wrong does your company culture bounce back or are fingers pointed by individuals?

D – Delegation

How do you delegate and how well are you supporting those you delegate to?

E – Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

How emotionally smart are you? How are you promoting EQ as well as IQ and how do you reward those who apply EQ to their management styles and throughout the business?

F – Formidable

How formidable are you and your business? Is this something you work on? How formidable can you be to influence your competitors?

G – Growth Mindset

Do you have a growth mindset? Are you ensuring there is personal and professional growth throughout your organisation? Do you encourage growth? 

H – Hybrid

How are you approaching hybrid work and enabling hybrid work to thrive within your business?

I – Intelligence

Do you show intelligence? Do you offer to share your intelligence and do you understand that IQ only works with EQ and PQ (political intelligence)?

J – Jobs To Be Done

Do you prioritise the right jobs to help your customers become successful? Do you understand how to build the right jobs to be done mindset?

K – Kind

Are you kind to those around you? Do you build out kindness and respect within your business?

L – Learning

Are you always learning? Do you consider how you learn from failure and teach from these moments?

M – Mental Strength

Do you have the right mental strength and allow those around you to demonstrate their mental toughness and their exercise their mental strength?

N – North Star

Do you know what makes your company ultimately successful? Have you set the right north star? Does the company have the right compass to be successful? Do you repeat the north star as often as possible? Does your strategy roll up to your north star?

O – Operational Excellence

Do you understand what operational excellence looks like? Can you explain what “excellent” looks like across your organisation and how are you teaching excellence daily?

P – Prioritisation

Are you prioritising the right work? Prioritising the right hiring? Prioritising the right spending? Ultimately are you creating focus?

Q – Quality Of Work

Do you know what good work looks like internally? Do you proactively reward high-quality work? Do you reward good quality work overwork just hitting deadlines?

R – Relationships

Are you building relationships across the business, vertical and ensuring you keep relationships strong?

S – Security

Are you offering security to your teams? Are you secure with your operations?

T – Trust

Do your team trust you? Do you show you trust your team? Do you ensure trust is earned and rewarded?

U – Unity

Is your business showing unity? Do you operate as one unit versus numerous teams within departments?

V – Vision

Do you have vision? Are you painting the right vision for your company to follow and believe in? When people lose their way, does your vision set them back on the right path?

W – Wellness

Are you putting your wellness and wellbeing first? Do you support mental wellness and have you put in the right support levels to ensure wellness is a priority?

X – X-Factor

Do you have the x-factor? Do your team(s) strive for the x-factor?

Y – Yare (Speed and agility)

Does your teamwork with yare? Do they know that speed and agility are vitally important alongside just hitting deadlines?

Z – Z-A Starting At The End

Can you start at the end and ensure you and the team lay out the steps to be successful? Ensuring you know what success is and the milestones to hit?

Want weekly help?
Subscribe to our weekly leadership newsletter.

Essential Reading

Need a glossary of some of these terms? The focus glossary will help

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 100 – 10 Lessons From 100 Leaders’ Letters

Dear leaders, it is the 100th leadership newsletter I am sending out, it is the 100-week streak, where I share lessons on company culture, ideas on leadership and frameworks to help improve your people and performance leadership. 

Today I wanted to share 10 lessons your feedback, questions and requests to collaborate. Here are the ten most popular alongside supporting content to help you make a difference to your career and those around you. 

  1. Leadership is getting harder 
    1. 7 great leadership traits 
    2. 21 leadership lessons
    3. Write your team a handwritten letter
  2. Management is getting harder but getting more rewarding 
    1. Record micro-moments to celebrate as a team
    2. Questions to ask to improve people’s performance 
    3. Three ways to connect with your department
  3. Many leaders were not taught the difference between strategy and tactics 
    1. Strategy is like baking a cake
    2. Strategy cheatsheet
    3. What mission, vision, strategy and tactics actually are
  4. Creating a long term vision is hard 
    1. What is company vision
    2. Why some people have vision and others don’t
    3. The future of business is community 
  5. Hybrid is hard work and many are unprepared 
    1. Hybrid work guide 
    2. Google’s Hybrid Manifesto – its ok manifesto 
    3. How to remove proximity bias (how to beat the managing in person is best)
  6. The great resignation is the great awaking for many middle to senior leaders 
    1. The 3p’s keys to winning business in 2022 and beyond 
    2. The 3 stages of your business, what it was, what it is and what it is going to be 
    3. Have you stepped too far away from your customer’s problems?
    4. Why it is ok to be on the fence for your company
  7. Meetings are taking over 60% of managements time 
    1. 25 proven recommendations to improve meetings 
    2. Would a Bill Gates get away week work for you
    3. Time to audit your calendar
  8. Communication is hard to gain any traction 
    1. Andy Jassy’s communication masterclass
    2. The first and last ten seconds is vital to winning communications
    3. How to kill constant internal noise and gain cut through
  9. Company culture is not given enough of a focus and is only ever an agenda item 
    1. Improve company culture with department principles 
    2. The 4f framework – Feel, Fascinate, Future, Flourish  
    3. Create management pods to connect leaders to company culture
  10. Team management is a struggle, especially in Hybrid or remote-first companies 
  1. Always re-onboard your teams to the office
  2. A simple game to connect with your team
  3. The hand over and hand back process

Have a great week and you can get in contact at any point by emailing me directly. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

BTW I am taking on a limited number of clients, do you need a coach? 

Other great helpful resources 

Be Inspired By Others 

Jeff Bezos’s business lessons 

7 business rules from Elon Musk

Stripe’s communication masterclass

Think Differently 

Time for a performance panel

Annual strategy playbook template

Two up two across framework for career development

Categories
Company Culture Leadership

11 Common But Unspoken Hiring Mistakes 

In recent months, we have seen an increase in hiring mistakes.

Rushing to hire, rushing to counter offer and in many cases hiring the wrong candidate because there is no clear understanding of what you want, what you need and why you are hiring this role for long term success. 

Truth is, very few people are good at hiring for the long term success of their department.

Hiring has been a challenge for many, however, the question should be asked:

Are you setting yourself and your company up to fail with bad processes and bad practices?  

Here are 11 common but unspoken hiring mistakes many are making and it is setting you and your company up to fail. 

Being led by recruiters, not by hiring managers
– are you allowing recruiters to filter CV’s and profiles based solely on one conversation with the hiring manager? It’s important to build that trust and relationship between hiring managers and recruiters before allowing this process to happen.

Asking bad questions leads to bad answers 
– are you and your teams asking bad questions that only promote and accept bad answers? Have you reviewed your interview questions recently and given interview training?

Hiring those that interview the best vs hiring those who will do the best job  
– this has been happening for years, however, it has not been addressed and this is down to lack of time, lack of training and lack of awareness of how people interview vs how people work. Create more working environments vs more interview questions.

Not having a clear understanding of what you need from the role not from the candidate 
– I recently asked ten hiring managers what they are hiring for and their process and 8 of the 10 suggested they just copied and pasted another company’s job description and did not materially change for their workplace, they didn’t have time to consider the goals to make this role successful. The role and the job spec sets you up to succeed or fail. Consider what you need from the role not specifically from that idealistic candidate you have in your mind, consider the goals and the 12-month plan ahead, not just the job spec highlighting what you might want.

Hiring managers coming in too late in the process
–  many hiring processes remove the hiring manager from CV/resume reviews and LinkedIn profile reviews and then miss one to two rounds of interviews before interviewing the candidate directly, this means many hours of wastage and interviewing badly fitted candidates

Too many colleagues in the hiring process 
– hiring is an art form, hiring processes vary greatly, and many now opt to bring in colleagues and teams into rounds of interviews, very often there are too many colleagues involved in the hiring process and is extending the time scales. This is the hardest element to get right, however, ensuring the right colleagues are part of the process and provide good feedback is an essential balance.

Too many interview rounds, especially hybrid recruitment.
– are you hosting too many rounds of interviews? Can you hire in three rounds, not six or seven which is now a common number of rounds of interviews.
Have you learnt how to interview virtually effectively?  

Being too narrow on what a successful candidate looks like and in turn what will make them successful 
– unlike many businesses leads and department heads I believe being ultra-narrow and overly specific in what a successful candidate will look like actually hinders your hiring process and will impact your existing team and bias your hiring. Having an idea of what a successful candidate will look like is great however often when you interview someone and they lead the charge, you can feel empowered to change your view of what a successful candidate is.

Hiring for a team skill gap not for solving the existing and upcoming customer problems 
– there are many reasons why you are hiring; backfill, hiring to demand, hiring to grow your team or reshaping your department. What this is often missing is hiring for the future and most hiring is focused around the current skill gap in the team rather than the customer problems and helping to hire to fix these not just hiring for a digital specialist in your Marketing team as you don’t have an expert. Where some will have to and want headcount here is where freelancers, coaches and agencies can add a lot of value and you can then evolve your department based on customer problems for now and the future.

CV/resume hires, hiring based on brands people worked at. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple etc
–  the repeated mistake many make is hiring from some of the largest companies in the world. Typically, some in the hope of hiring up (“hiring higher calibre”), some to bring the experience, others in hoping these hires can bring the perceived successful operational frameworks with them or in hope to bring the same level of performance to their own business.
The truth is these companies operate in magnitudes of £$/x’s and 0’s bigger than you and often have numerous others who perform the same role, so in your org, you will have one senior-level Ops lead, in Google they will have a series of Ops leads.
These hires rarely scale well and expect large teams and hiring is rarely an issue in larger businesses, in smaller businesses and startups this just isn’t an option. Operationally too, larger companies have much more status-driven games and long hierarchical battles, these politics will also come into your business and will impact the culture and subculture of your business.

Hiring for cultural fit when you are unaware of what cultural fit is at your company 
– the unspoken hiring mistake is suggesting you are hiring for cultural fit when you do not have a culture defined or understand what culture is within your business. Cultural fit is often referred to by mistake as skills or “observed” ability. These misunderstandings will cause numerous headaches when looking for the right fit or explaining what cultural fit is within your department (subculture) and cultural fit within the business. If a candidate asks what cultural fit you are looking for and you cannot answer it in one to two sentences, you likely do not have your culture defined or cultural fit written down, agreed upon and shared throughout your business.

Not having a clear view (roadmap) and a potential 3-year plan for the role
– the topic I speak on most with hiring when asked to support hiring mid to senior-level roles. Thinking through and supplying a career roadmap for this role is essential for all roles, particularly those looking to join you and who need to map out their career. Most outstanding mid to exec level candidates have a plan and a long term roadmap they are building on top of.

Very often long term success of the role is considered at numbers levels and then potentially job titles are considered, however, what the next two to three steps are and what the two up two across matrix is for this specific person. Yes, often this has to be considered when probation is based and you have an understanding of their performance, however, to give you a competitive advantage when you interview you should be interviewing for the next three steps for this role and within the business and evolving with each catch-up and 1:2:1.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 99 – Leader & Cheerleader 

Dear Leaders, this is the 99th leadership newsletter I have sent out. It’s been a pleasure landing in your inboxes each week 

It has been 99 consecutive letters helping you to fight the battles that come thick and fast at leaders every day. 

This week I am going to show you why cheerleading is the hidden pillar of leadership. 

I set myself on a quest in 2020 to speak to as many leaders as I could.

I actually do something similar every year, however, when we were in lockdowns and trying to navigate that evolving landscape I wanted to speak to leaders who were driving their company forward. 

I spoke to leaders from as many industries as possible, including; secondary education, the military, sport, FMCG, creators, finance and fintech and there were three themes that arose from the calls and zooms:
(1) leadership evolves every day
(2) know when to lead and know when to get out of the way
(3) communication is key – but it’s how you deliver the message that is so important to landing that vital message. 

When I checked in with a few of these leaders recently, I revisited the themes and a fresh theme bubbled up to the top: knowing when to be the leader and when to be the cheerleader. 

The role of the leader regularly changes, but the core principles are often the same. 

Many learnt throughout the last three years that being leader changes but what was required most recently was being ‘the cheerleader’. Cheerleading the strategy, cheerleading the culture, cheerleading teamwork, cheerleading great work, cheerleading the pending business pivot, cheerleading change when many were proactively feared change. 

The issue many leaders cited was when their middle management and their leadership team struggled to rally the teams or galvanise change, it was on them to step up and cheerlead not always just force leadership decisions and change. 

Are you cheerleading enough? Are you embracing the role of the cheerleader and the impact is has on your team? 

This week consider how you can embrace this pillar of leadership and cheerlead more to help drive positive change.

Thanks, 

Danny Denhard

Are you interviewing? Here are the company culture interview questions to ask 

Here are the 7 leadership tips to win 

Struggling with the hybrid work shift? Read the hybrid work guide 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 98 – Why Do Some People Have Vision And Others Don’t

Dear leaders, in letter 3 future seers I discuss embracing those who can see the future and have the rare ability to understand where the future is going. 

In many recent conversations and hosting coaching sessions, I have been asked about professionals who have ‘vision’ and those who don’t. 

There is not an exact formula for those with vision and those without, however, I have listed out the skills and abilities I have experienced with those with vision and those lacking vision. 

Subject matter knowledge, not expertise

Most colleagues and leaders with vision have subject matter knowledge, they understand the vertical or matter but do not have to be experts and often this is what helps them not be constrained or have bias through too much experience or expertise. 

Understand how the market operates

Many understand how the business of their market works and how their rivals make money. You don’t have to know down to the processing fees or salary breakdown but understanding the economics of the market and the factors involved helps to shape some thoughts and build a plan. 

Product direction

For me, this is what separates those with vision and those looking to shape the near future. Product is hard, understanding product nuisances and where the products within your market are going is a trait that very few have and can envision. The real vision here is to know the products are likely to be shaped in a way that you can lead or you can follow. 

Themes

Many understand what is a trend and what is going to be a (longer) theme. This who chase trends very often highlight they do not see long term. 

Understand the gaps

Gaps are generally opportunities or weaknesses to exploit, understanding gaps within the market and then what are routes to build a wedge becomes essential. 

Gaps ➡️ Wedges

Following on from gaps, those with vision know how to build a wedge within a competitor’s gap and build out to create a large opportunity and start to make or take market share.  

Storytell with words or imagery

It’s not just the way to have a vision, the best at vision are those who can sell with words or by imagery, by painting a picture of the future others can then see the same or similar picture and want to join 

Ability to envision the future

This is a rare ability to not only see a future state but a way to envision it and the steps you need to take not just a big idea from an aha moment. 

Knowing a timeline and time matters

Those with vision know that timing matters and know how important a timeline is to create and deliver on the vision

Chance and Change

Understand there is a chance to build something. Or a chance to make a change or change something to make a bigger impact. Often starting small to take a chance to make that change. 

Risk & Reward

Those with vision are not blinded that there will be an associate risk to the upside and the reward of this bigger vision. 

More isn’t vision

The smartest people with vision know that more is not the answer, it’s unlikely just to sell more, just to build more or to just rely on optimisation. 

How do you stack up? How do your colleagues stack up? Does the founder or CEO of your business show these elements to prove they have vision? I hope so. 

This week consider how you can develop some of these skills and share your vision. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Essential Follow Up Materials

The Strategy Cheatsheet

The Difference Between Mission, Vision, Strategy & Tactics

Your Business Moat Is Infected

Stripe’s Inspiring Vision (Aka The Stripe 2021 Letter)

Can You Confidently Say What 2027 Looks Like?

What Is TikTok Competitive Advantage? Executing Its Vision

What is the metaverse?

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 97 – Your Infected Moat Is An Internal Disease

Dear Leaders, Over the last decade, a moat (business moat / economic moat) is what every business has been searching for and attempting to build. Believe it or not, it is a lot harder than most executives think. 

“A company's moat refers to its ability to maintain the competitive advantages that are expected to help it fend off competition and maintain profitability into the future.” - Source

As someone who has been an operator on the Product, Marketing and Growth sides, I have heard and used moat hundreds of times. 

In a recent coffee catch up, a couple of industry friends and I discussed an important area that goes unspoken, and what I dubbed “the infected moat”.

When the believed competitive advantage blinds your company-wide strategy, it infects your internal messaging and affects your company so much it starts to hinder the business performance and your company culture

Misleading and blinding your people is one of the most damaging aspects of company culture and can cause decay to the foundation of the business. 

You stop building, you rely on optimising the final steps of the funnel and you reduce your budgets and hiring based on infected beliefs and data. 

One of the most common infected moats is believing you have network size or quality of data which means you have the best product in the market. 

You rely too heavily on your data, you rely too heavily on the algorithms and you become a Blackberry (vs Apple), Yahoo (vs Google) and most recently an Instagram (vs TikTok).  

This comes down to the management of the company, the misunderstanding of the influence of the brand, the power of the product and the state of the market or a blind obsession with competitors versus being informed by your customers and competitors. 

Something I recommended is to audit your business, audit your product, audit your marketing, audit your growth activities and go deeper than reviewing just top-level insights and competitors’ actions. 

Don’t allow your moat to become infected, impact your people and performance and don’t develop a blind spot that is of your own doing. 

This week focus on reviewing your moat, auditing it and planning to evolve. 

Thanks and have a great week,

Danny Denhard

Essential Strategy Reading

Categories
Leadership Strategy

Can the Stripe community letter create guidance for you and your company?

Stripe released a brilliant and smart seven-page letter for their community, it was an update on the company, what they drove In 2021 and where their next steps are and where they see opportunity. 

At first glance, you can tell this has taken a number of iterations but the most impressive element of the letter is how detailed and directive it is, not just for Stripe (taking a leaf from Bob Iger’s book: lead from press release), its partners and those wanting to be in the fintech community but for the industry as a whole. 

A letter is a format I have written about before, the letter of writing a letter is personal, intentional and provides a map for those who struggle to see a vision through presentations and videos. 

Everyone can create a presentation or a deck with aesthetically pleasing graphs and numerous words but a letter is a statement of intent, a way to appeal to many without death by PowerPoint and donning their caps to the likes of Jeff Bezos who mastered the art of the shareholder letter and Warren Buffett’s excellent shareholder letters, read the four giants section from 2021 letter

What can you take inspiration from for your letter? 

Impact

A brief look back at what you achieved, the product solutions shipped with mentions of partners you are proud of and the impact you’re having. 

Stripe 2022 shareholder letter

Direction

Setting clear product and industry direction is vital for any letter, internal or external. Stripe sets a direction for the industry who have built on its piping and for those wanting to grow moving forward.

Reduce the fears

Cybersecurity and hacking are areas many have unfortunately experienced issues in and are a fear every online business has. Acknowledging the problem and highlighting how you are working on this briefly shows you know your customer and offer peace of mind for your partners. 

Show you understand the future

The creator economy is something many businesses are desperately attempting to be part of and Stripe is part of the foundational layer, be inspired by how they reference and show their part of the largest subscription shift in history. 

Ability to focus

Despite being one of the only companies in the world that can be the partner, the piping and the platform, Stripe has an ability to connect the dots like very few and focus their community on their two core business sides the consumer and the businesses playing their space. The way they word their letter is something to analyse and implement in your writings. 

Reference what people know

Unlike many, the Collison brothers are self-aware and reference what others know and discuss and are an important anchor point for many other founders and leaders to leverage. Turn a perceived negative into a positive. 

Stripes mission

Mission

Stripe’s mission is to grow the GDP of the internet. That means both helping existing economic activity migrate to the internet an$ enabling completely new undertakings that couldn’t exist in an offline world.” Stripe’s mission is aligned with business growth and making everyone successful, if you are a marketplace or offer products with solutions for the customer this is something you will want to borrow and drive people towards. 

Moving forward be inspired to get into a room or shared document and write your thoughts, reference the past, highlight the future and showcase your work while celebrating other successes. If you cannot show your mission and vision know you are going to be looking in the rear mirror and the likelihood is you will struggle to bring the company and potential partners into the future with you. 

The TLDR: Inspire the internal and external customer by writing a brilliant letter showcasing your achievements, your past and the provide a bright future for you and your ecosystem.

Read the full letter below

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 96 – Remove Constant Content & Content Noise!

Dear leaders, are you an inbox zero or 100s of unread notifications person? 

It appears we fall into these two camps, the one common theme is the constant stream of noise, notifications and content. 

With the constant noise and demand for our attention, how do you cut through with essential information? 

Many businesses have adopted more = better. 

More slacks, more calls, more meetings, more decks, more…more…more. 

A quick why: I believe this has happened:
(1) the chat-ification of work happened and we have been conditioned to message more and
(2) we are hit with more noise and more notifications as we live in a feeds driven world and we believe what most companies and departments are doing – sending more. 

More doesn’t mean better. 

More comms is more noise and means your message won’t land. 

Like the person in meetings who just talks without saying anything and constantly has to add their opinion, not their feedback. 

Let’s commit, to being better, not more. 

Focus on sending better communications, get everyone together and has rules on what is important communications, where you send them and what communications you will have to read. 

Gone are the days every email is read from the big boss, from your own boss and not every important document with essential information is read, therefore, create a process that everyone understands. 

Deliver the most important message with fewer comms, not more. 

Use a blend of storytelling techniques; audio, video and written numbers to hit the right message. 

Ask for confirmation of reading/viewing and ask for feedback, not opinion. 

In the very near future, less is more. Especially in the world where asynchronous work and hybrid work are what many demands and few are really delivering. 

This week commit to communicating more effectively, improving performance and culture by improving your internal communication.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Be inspired by the stripe letter

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