There are three current states of work, the traditional, fully remote and hybrid.
The question is for many, will this stay and why they could or could not work for the business.
The three sections will help you shape your thoughts and understand if this could work for you or your business.
Existing / Traditional
“09.00 – 17.30”
Ideal for: workers who like the only one way to do it, who like their desk, their mug, their routine. Understand that proximity bias is important and meeting culture is part of the game. Typically struggles to work from home.
Implications: We will see a good % of employees move roles or move companies to find a better balance and working situation for them. Many large and existing businesses will welcome the turnover. If you are unsure of going back to the traditional set-up, consider how quickly you could change your current hybrid work patterns and how long it will take before old bad habits and behaviours creep in.
Will this last? Yes, in many traditional industries and many businesses trying to force change to their organisation after lockdowns and slow periods of productivity.
Dear leaders, I wanted to share something I have been doing for over a decade that I know will add value to your weeks.
I call it the one slot, one shot per week, it is one one hour slot booked out in my calendar per week for random (yes random) meetings. This can be for ‘coffee walk and talk’, for a video call or for a meeting in person.
Yes, before you ask – you could tweak it to one per month.
Why the name? One slot is simple and one shot is if you could drink one shot of espresso (plus milk I’m a latte person) in the meeting.
Why do I do this?
When I was working through what I wanted to do around ten years ago, I was often reached out to on LinkedIn or asked to be introduced to someone by a friend or old colleague.
Some of the best relationships, the best work opportunities and the smartest people I have met and kept in contact with is from the one slot meetings. It’s something I openly look forward to and actually when there is a chance I take a meeting to help someone who has reached out.
I am not the only person who offers this sort of calendar slot. Professor BJ Fogg (Tiny Habits is a must-read/listen) who I have written about offers this for 15 minutes and only ever has one meeting per person, it is usually someone pitching an idea and he says whether it will work or not and what they could do. Get in line for that shot as he has taught James Clear, the Instagram co-founders and many other prominent leaders.
Recently I took a 30-minute chat with someone who is looking to develop in their role and they were super smart, ambitious and looking to see if they were on the right track, they took notes, asked smart questions and followed up quickly with a nice note of thanks, some notes from the call and a clever question, which to be honest is something that rarely happens.
I know many of us are pushed for time however making 30 minutes a month to have a conversation away from your current work and often not requiring too much thought could be something you look forward to and actively develop an impressive network over the next year ahead.
Have a think about how you can develop your network or your own concept to connect. I bet you could recommend this to one of your fellow leaders and they find value in it…and yes it could be internal but making it forced removes some of the beauty of this exercise.
You may have noticed in the in-person conversations you are having, in the shares received in your iMessage or WhatsApp groups, embeds in media articles and the super quick trends within your workplace, the one common theme – TikTok.
TikTok has had an incredible journey from an unknown app to a lip-syncing app (Musically) to an entertainment powerhouse, ever since September 2016, it has been the app that approached usage differently and created a product that entertained segments of time.
At the end of December (2021) Cloudflare announced that TikTok has now overtaken Google as the most popular site online.
TikTok’s strategic steps are fascinating to trace and is the shining light into the modern world of time and the desire to remove boredom and turn creative people into creators.
Musically: By creating a new app that enabled you to lip-sync with your favourite song and share, the simple shift from photo first to video first proved the use case in the East and the West and generated the use case would work across multiple cultures.
Advertising: The TikTok team famously spend $1b in 2019-2020 to market the app in the US, this is almost unheard of.
Once critical mass was hit TikTok could reduce the high advertising cost.
Selecting Influencers: The TikTok team hand-selected a number of everyday young American’s using the app daily and promoted their content into the feed of millions of users, turning them into international superstars overnight.
Many of the TikTok specific stars now post a lot less and entered into other pursuits, which suggests the power TikTok offers.
Product Rethought: Removing The Need For Follower and Friend Graph: Something that TikTok moved towards that many others are now following is the removal of the need for you to bring your contacts to the app and reducing the friction of needing a network to share your content to first. One of the biggest shifts in social media is removing the friction that you need an audience, whereas, TikTok serves content to the relevant audience based on usage. This is why the “For You Feed” is the default feed vs discover on other apps.
Remix Culture: TikTok’s remix culture is in my opinion the most powerful feature, enabling users to duet and remix others content natively on the app drives huge engagement and creates sharing loops and collaborations from its newest users to the celebrities joining the app. The remix culture is something so many other networks have struggled to enable and support safely.
Removing Boredom: Eastern apps are designed around time and time slots, not around traditional use cases, this allowed TikTok to capture specific times where they could serve different content and push different content to the users at different times of the day, morning commutes, lunchtime slots, evening commutes and endless scrolling at night.
Trump Bump Aka Potential Ban: President Trump famously wanted to ban the app in 2020, this was a cultural war that dragged on and was ultimately banned. Was this something that actually aided TikTok’s growth, likely and paired with how it created fear in the younger generation, it helped to create a fresh set of eyeballs on the app.
Timing: Coinciding with covid and lockdowns, TikTok really had the opportunity to reshape entertainment. TikTok allowed a creative outlet for all of its users and become an outlet for many expressing their views, whether that was positive or negative against corona, vaccines and lockdowns.
Sound As The Hero, Video As The Superhero: Unlike other apps, TikTok understands that the sound of the video creates trends, sounds are the magic ingredient to help start quick turnout trends and drives a huge cycle of content creation, in turn, this powers a huge amount of the videos being created.
Brands Pay From Day 1: Pay to play is almost unheard of from day 1 of an app’s popularity. Brands always look for ways to leverage new platforms and for free. Unlike other apps, TikTok understood that if you want ‘reach’ and engagement you pay for it in the form of hashtags and advertising.
Start Short Then ToLonger Form Content: When others zig you are taught to zag, with stories content it has a short form time limit, while TikTok had everything between 15 to 30 seconds, it pushed to 3-minute content while the other apps pushed to shorter form content to copy and recycle their model.
Sponsoring Large Sporting Events: TikTok has become the brand that becomes the default sponsor or preferred partner, particularly making smart moves into football (soccer) and offering different challenges and look behind the scenes.
Copy, Share, Download: What’s the secret sauce behind TikTok, knowing internally they do not have to be an app downloaded on the phone to know you are experiencing TikTok, being shared across Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, iMessage, WhatsApp etc while not having to leave that native app while the timestamp is on said content.
Many people know what TikTok is and can view copied links within the browser and highlight who the specific share came via highlighting the account that shared that video on the bottom left-hand side.
Everyone As A Creator & Influencer: TikTok worked out there should be a potential of any video to gain views and enable you to become a creator or feel like an influencer. On other platforms, this felt exclusive to the top %, on TikTok with one video it can make any of its users feel like an influencer.
High Profile Users: TikTok became the new platform for many high profile celebrities and artists to join and be part of trends.
Status: TikTok’s removal of needing an audience of friends has created a whole new status game unlike on other platforms. Creating new a status create a new set of rules to play in and creates new (potential) opportunity for creators.
Allowing anyone to feel like an influencer or expert has worked for TikTok (however many companies have struggled under the pressure of driving eyeballs to footfall.
Product Breakthroughs: Whether this was deliberate or something the algorithms enabled was specific products and cooking recipes went viral in certain Toks (bubbles).
Serve Skippable Ads: Once TikTok hit critical mass and north of ~300m worldwide users they added a skippable ad as soon as you opened the ad. Great for views data and great for brands who need the large number of views of their brand for awareness of a product or service.
Next? Appearing In Google Search Results: Something Google struggles with walled social networks is surfacing the content within their search engine result pages, Google is plotting to surface TikTok videos right inside of Google result pages. This move for Google is smart but this plays into the ‘entertain everywhere’ mission TikTok is on. Serving trending content within one of its indirect rivals is a critical play in a distributed play.
TikTok On TV: In the US TikTok is now a TV app, enabling TikTok to be enjoyed on the bigger screen, a genius move to connect more devices and a device that still controls the shape of the shared living space. TikTok’s biggest win is becoming a platform that multiple eyeballs enjoy at once, this may seem like an older approach to distribution however building connection and affinity around its app is a strategically smart and creative move.
Pre Built For Scale: Many apps and websites struggle with scale, not TikTok. TikTok doesn’t suffer from outages, it doesn’t suffer from lack of content, it can serve content from many different Tok’s (self-selected subcategories within the app) and learn from your entertainment levels.
As of the start of 2022, TikTok has 1b users (The Chinese version of TikTok is named Douyin and works slightly differently), the average time spent is the highest of all apps and despite only having around 10% of users as creators it is driving 90% of passive (aka lurkers) to spend more time and engage more frequently. These elements are core learnings for many new companies and existing businesses needing to step up and grow their usage or user base.
If you are looking to take inspiration from TikTok’s strategy “Entertain Everywhere“, here are 12 elements you should consider:
Culture: Understand the new cultural element you can provide – understand the cultures you are going in to and the news cycle in those markets. For instance knowing TikTok’s mechanics would have worked in the Western world, whereas many of the Chinese features in Douylin would not work.
Hold Firm On Vision: Entertain everywhere is something I created as a guiding principle (vision for the company to build around), if TikTok had changed their vision they would have been shaped far more and would have become a very different offering in 2022. By playing in SERP’s, by serving content across different platforms (away from walled gardens of Facebook & Instagram) and on TV TikTok becomes the entertainment void for many instances.
Evolve Don’t Pivot Quickly: Unlike other entertainment and social networks TikTok evolved from short to long form, they didn’t pivot or restructure their app or mechanics. Longer form helped shift metrics from time to engaged attention
Easy To: Make the app consumption = easy to learn, easy to use, easy to share, easy to personalise, this allows users to work out if the app is for them on the first two uses. Learn that your site or app has to be sticky and serve enterainment or use cases.
Rethink To Reshape: Look at rethinking the x of you business vertical. In TikTok’s case; they rethought entertainment in time slots and developed out content to serve and worked out what entertained you
New New: Rethink the core concept of serving content in the way everyone else does – reframe it or offer it differently. Instagram is slowing and becoming less used because it just cannot recycle product features from all of it competitors.
Duet & Remixing: The web moved from reader mode (access to content), to writer mode (anyone can add content with low barrier to entry), to creator mode with video (and importantly, ease of editing) remixing and editing other people’s content was vital, a copy and paste approach works for most products, learn from behavioural economics, something that is started already is far more likely to be completed.
Spend On Marketing & Advertising: Look to advertise across the board and be smart in targeting, TikTok took a huge bet on mass advertising (to everyone, everywhere) knowing it would pay off as the product was sticky enough and served the right content and learnt from it users to make it something important
Social Proof 2.0: Use social proof from your users to enforce or approve the content shared. Know that your users will want to share content across where their network is, why not add the stamp and their profile name and imagery. Think about how products and services actually spread.
Hero: Consider how you help to make every user the hero of the product, whether they are a creator (poweruser) or a passive user (lurker)
Sidekick: When users decide to share help them to appear as a sidekick – TikTok made the content become the hero and the sidekick is the person who created it or shared the content
Partnerships: Partner with brands that naturally resinate with your target demographic and customers. Be proud of the partnerships and ensure you gain traction and positive association from said partners.
Plan & Centre Around Long Term: Have grand long term plans – think 5 years ahead, plan 3 years, action 1 year, TikTok have delivered important updates to their app continuely since it’s inception
Dear leaders, with the end of year reviews likely happening I thought it might be time to give you a different perspective.
I had a funny conversation with a friend recently, where they questioned if they were too old to launch something at 41.
It is only a recent phenomenon that founders of companies were actually under the age of 30. Tech has obviously broken the older traditions and accelerated how young founders and company leaders can be.
If your product is good enough and you bring the right people around you, age is just a number.
Responsibility is obviously a big influence on making the choice on whether you go for an idea or not, with the way of the world, you are never too old.
Here is a list of highly successful companies from founders that were over the age of 40.
Vera Wang, Vera Wang 40
Robert Noyce, Intel 41
Diane Greene, VMware 43
Sam Walton, Walmart 44
Jim Sinegal, Costco 47
Adi Dassler, Adidas 48
Rudolf Dassler, Puma 50
Bernie Marcus, Home Depot 50
Gordon Bowker, Starbucks 51
Charles Flint, IBM 61
Col. Sanders, KFC 62
If your idea is good enough and you have the right timing, sprinkled with luck and of course hard work, you have a chance at any age. (obviously, the younger you are the likelihood is you have fewer responsibilities and don’t need as much sleep or caffeine)
Maybe revisit these the next time you are considering your options or you have an itch you cannot stop scratching.
Every year businesses set up their teams to fail by asking them to build their action plan or playbook for the year ahead.
Why? Because often it is no one’s specific job to own or the owner has only ever done it one way in this business and do not know the ingredients to list on their recipe, aka the right template for the company strategy.
Remember how the best companies win is by having one company-wide strategy, not departmental strategies.
Time For The New Template
Without specific guidance or a template every department across a business does it differently, they rarely collaborate and the business then has 5-10 different departments with different formats making it nearly impossible to understand what the teams are doing and why their actions are important.
Many companies have moved to the OKR model, OKR’s work for some, however, OKR’s do not go into the how or generally the why, this creates frictions at KR levels and individuals are faced with the choice of selecting the company or team OKR or having to select their own KR to hit their targets.
This quickly impacts company culture and introduces “me before we” – individuals putting themselves first before their team, department and the company.
This is just one way the system does not enable you to support your team with the right template and creates instant friction from the start of the year.
7 Step Template
This year I wanted to create a free 7 step template for you and your teams to use and help to shape the year ahead for success and provide a chance to present to each other to enable each department to understand the actions you are going to be taking and the demands on that team.
There are two templates available for you to scroll through and then download for free.
To download once in the Google interface, go to:
File >> Download >> Select your format to download.
I created what I called a formation flow, it is 4 F’s that are easy to remember and a flow of importance.
It’s a flow through from: Feel => Fascinate => Future => Flourish.
The 4F Flow is how you enable people to feel part of a “formation” and in this case your community; it is why we see herds of people come together around a big cause or a movement, it is why people build tribes within workforces and around ideas and why fan clubs are created around a club or a person.
4F Framework For Work
This also applies to how people within your business operates and see their role within the business. It’s part of the Focus 2P’s (people (company culture) & performance (1 x company-widestrategy))
Feel: How the people Feel within a team or a project
Fascinate: How people are Fascinated about a problem or a solution they are working on. Often teams will be fascinated by the cause or the mission of the company and need to be fascinated in the future.
Future: Seeing their Future within the company and having a clear picture of what their future looks like and their long term within the business. The most common reason for smart people to leave a business is feeling like they do not have a (mid to long term) future within the business
Flourish: How people’s career is going to Flourish within the business and how you are building a future for them
The 4F’s go in order, make someone feel connected and heard, create fascination around their role and build a vision of their future alongside the future of the business and show how they will flourish and be part of the company flourishing in the future.
Question to ask and answer this week:
Are you ready to roll out the 4F formation to your team members?
Podcasts had another big year in 2021 and with the huge number of business podcasts, it can be difficult to understand which is a good episode and what is a must subscribe and must-listen podcast series.
Below is the best podcast series to subscribe to (and why) alongside listening suggesting the best recent episode from the podcast series.
Invest Like The Best
Why Listen? Brilliant variety of guests with questions that really make what they actioned and achieved, actionable.
Land Of The Giants
Why Listen? Brilliant deep dives into verticals or companies that have changed the world. The Apple revolution is a must listen.
The Knowledge Project
Why Listen? Probably the most bang for your buck podcast, packed full of gems and brilliant questions.
Masters Of Scale
Why Listen? Constantly great guests telling their stories and their approaches, rapid response is a series on the feed which has been a brilliant series in the pandemic and helped understand how other businesses have approached it.
Why Listen? Brilliant short podcasts with incredible guests from all across different industries but one underlining theme, how did the guest become great.
How I Built This
Why Listen? Love stories about how companies started? And how they become successful? Guy Raz is the host and podcast series for you.
Danny In The Valley
Why Listen? Danny is a journalist who has covered tech and silicon valley for over a decade, Danny manages to have diverse guests who really want to answer big questions and inform you of their product usually linking to their mission of fixing something broken.
Why Listen? Peter Kafka is one of my favourite podcast hosts, an informed look at the media landscape with piercing questions and quite often challenges the guests to answer the questions they just won’t want to. Very informative with great guests.
Thinking Is Cool
Why Listen? Host Kinsey (and her cofounder Josh) are on a mission to explore important topics and themes and really help you think or reshape your thinking. This Web3 primer is essential listening for any business looking at the future in 2022.
My First Million (MFM)
Why Listen? MFM divides a lot of podcaster fans, if you like ideas aplenty and breaking down how some businesses have become successful this is for you. If you want inspiration on how new and smaller businesses will explode in the next few months then this is for you. Some business leaders will think this is “bro’s” together but many episodes give away absolute nuggets.
This week I am going to share one of my favourite hacks, the hack is having dedicated code names. Code names are brilliant in creating an internal language (part of building psychological safety) and being able to associate with a project at weird and different levels.
Below are three examples from my past:
(1) Vicki During a big software launch, there was a huge investment into a new software system, it was a huge shift and investment for the company and rather than creating a boring software name, the internal code name was selected as Vicki. Why? it was actually named after the owner’s first girlfriend and it was a connector for the team working on the roll-out (software house + IT team) and the name specifically became an ongoing discussion point. Speculation from the company of why the name and what the name’s significance was around the software kept so many people guessing. It helped a rough rollout to become more palatable and stuck as the official name for the software.
(2) Nostalgia More recently, while running a new business line, when rolling out big product sprints and product enhancements, the team created code names in reference to late 1990’s football (soccer) players, typically from Arsenal and Man Utd players. For some, it meant having to do a bit of research (which is actually an important layer to bonding) and for others, it was a core piece of nostalgia. FWIW Keane and Vieria were selected for the hardest and biggest projects.
(3) Friends Most recently, a team were big fans of the classic tv show Friends and the big projects were given character names like ‘fun time Bobby’, Mr Heckles, Janice and Gunther. It was important they were not the names of the main characters.
You’d be surprised how projects are then given names associated with how much they like or loathe the project, a bad project might be called Emily (in reference to a British character who got married to Ross) or Charlie (Wheeler) if they liked the project (in reference to the palaeontology professor who dated Joey and then Ross, who was always funny).
It’s important to note: Hacks work for a certain period of time, once it becomes commonplace the playful element may diminish, however, it is important to remember you are trying to build layers of improved connection, therefore ensuring hacks roll up into other tactics to continue the connection and build trust in what you are trying to achieve.
One last hack before I leave you, creating meme’s as a hack will also help to lighten the mood and tension around larger projects and campaigns and enable people to remix the meme themselves and continue the hack.
In the end of the year instalment of anonymous career advice, a leader asks an important question to kick off 2022 well.
Dear focus, I want to kick off 2022 well. What are three things I can do as a mid-sized business leader?
In most businesses the leader has to show the direction you are headed, why you are looking forward to the year ahead and how the departments and teams will be leading from the front and where they will be collaborating.
In all of the businesses I have worked in, worked with or consulted on, there are a number of selective characteristics that are run through. All involving direction setting, thanking and ensuring you reference the importance of your people and their performance (collectively and individually).
Remind yourself of the two P’s when creating the 3 action points below:
The three actions below can be live or can be pre-recorded. Pre-recorded allows you to practise and get it to where you are happy. Powerpoint, Google Slides and Keynote all offer recording and inserting video per slide or across the presentation.
Live is great for connection building, pre-recorded will benefit those of you looking to manage the time and asking for Q&A and being able to prep.
Only you as the leader will know what works best for you and your style (personality type).
Have notes and links to hand to send across post three actions.
1/ Personal Statement
A quick statement of the company, what you are looking forward to seeing, what you are excited for and what behaviours you love to see and are agreed across the business that will likely be rewarded.
Slides will help you here.
FYI: There is nothing more awkward than asking for each member of the leadership to have comments or offer their one minute to ten-minute statement.
2/ Quick Positive Review Of 2021
Here is a breakdown of what to include and flow through:
A reminder of the journey you went on (timeline)
What did the team do well?
What made you proud?
Any stand out examples of cross-functional collaboration and delivery
Was there any big campaign, releases or launches?
Were there important milestones hit and which milestones were hit?
Remove all mad and sad parts of the review, glad (happy and proud) is the most important to concentrate on and start with a micro-moment.
3/ Walkthrough the company-wide strategy for 2022
Here are 4 steps to include and run through quickly. Double click on the elements you were weaker on in 2021 and requires more work. This should be informed from the staff feedback throughout 2021:
Strategy: What beliefs do you have, what bets are you making and what pillars are going to guide the teams
Action points ahead: The key sections of work from different departments
Product roadmap overview: top level don’t go into long details just key points and what you are looking to release or deliver by when (use the think big, act small, by when framework if required)
Milestones: The milestones you would like to hit and how you are looking forward to the teams developing this out
Remember To Resight Metrics: If you have a number of metrics you have signed off on and agreed upon, share this on one slide presentation or a short image you will share post-presentation / speech, this way you will create a guidepost to allow the company to understand their targets and what they are building towards.
Remember the longer it takes to sign off-targets and north stars the more difficult it is for the teams to hit the ground running and get ahead of the hard tactical battle ahead.
Something to keep in mind, Steve Jobs was the ultimate internal sales and marketing person for Apple and this role is vital for success any year, none more so with such uncertainty people look for leadership with direction and trust signals. Drive this by driving the business forward on day 1.
Best of luck and have a good end to 2021 and a successful 2022.
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