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Anonymous Career Advice

Leadership Team Issues

This week’s anonymous leadership advice comes from a new leadership team member who is struggling with the purpose of the leadership team and their role on the leadership team:

Dear Focus, It’s the first leadership team I have sat on and I’m struggling to work out the dynamics and what’s important. There’s a lot of talking and not much action. What should I do? 

Management teams can be hard work. They can be exhausting. 

S-Teams can seem daunting, they can seem aggressive, typically passive-aggressive and create an atmosphere where many appear not to like each other personally or professionally. 

It is rare these are friendly but asking difficult questions are essential to make progress. 

Many start out with good intentions, unfortunately, many turns into environments some thrive and others struggle with. 

This is where game playing has a huge step change and understanding the rules of this game is critical to your success. 

Something to keep in mind in your situation is what function are the meetings serving and what function am I serving on this leadership team? 

It is important to remember most Management Teams are particularly bad at onboarding their colleagues on the leadership team and worse at explaining the what, the why and the how.  

The essential factor in MT’s or ELT’s is not to condition those around and below you to copy your behaviours and roll out this into the company wide culture.

Management Team Buddy

One important lesson I learnt and recommend to businesses of any size is to create a buddy system with someone else you trust on the leadership team and build upon that relationship and understand the unique set of rules you have in your meetings and understand how you add value to the meetings and to the company as a whole. 

Understanding the unique dynamics and the HiPPO rules will be important milestones for you to set out and understand. 

New Management Team Member Guidance

In your role as the newest member of the LT or ELT is holding your colleagues accountable and ensuring the business delivers guidance and keeps ahead strategically. 

This can often be lost in the noise and the routine that management team meetings can become. 

Tip To Keep Front Of Mind

One tip you will struggle to find elsewhere is to remember not to become too defensive or protective of your team or business line and allow the numbers to do the talking and introduce your team members to present their numbers, their feedback or ideas to the group where possible. 

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Over Indexed Voices

Something I have observed on different leadership teams is if you are a sales-driven business, you will over-index too much into the sales team voice without balance.  

if you are a product based company (driven by product direction and usage) you can lean into the product teams vision and “their strategy” too much without hearing from valuable partners like Marketing or customer service and success. It is important to keep on top of this and ask for more input from those partners.

If the CFO / FD or CEO / MD speaks too much, you will be part of a HiPPO driven business and this will cause numerous friction points within the leadership team. 

I recommend reading is it time for management pods article. 

What is important to ask your colleagues: 

  • What are your management meetings for? 
  • Who controls and holds colleagues accountable? 
  • Why are you meeting in this cadence? 
  • Why do we meet for this length of time? Can we optimise this process? 
  • What function are you all serving? 
  • What role do I serve on this leadership team? 
  • How do we inform our colleagues and teams of upcoming projects and campaigns? 

Once you either ask your colleague and answer or undercover and answer the quicker you will feel part of the management team and the closer you will get to adding value. 

Good luck on your leadership team journey. 

Danny Denhard 

If you are in need of management team training or executive coaching or need a professional mentor get in touch below:

Important Leadership Resources:

The Hybrid Work Guide

The top 20 good managers vs the 25 bad manager examples

5 leadership books to read in 2021

Business lesson from Jeff Bezos

Elon Musk’s Business Rules

How to fix bad company culture

Taking over from a bad manager

Do yave your own question you would like answered?

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Anonymous Career Advice

Anonymous Career Advice – Company Breaking Apart?

This week’s career advice is also business advice.

The Big Question: Is My Company Breaking Apart?

Dear Focus, there are a number of people leaving my company, we used to be so close, how can I keep my colleagues with me and complete our mission? 
— “Anon” Startup Founder  

This is common in every business, regardless of size, people leave businesses for many different reasons, one of the main reasons is career progress, the other main reason is the company has changed or changing in a direction staff just don’t align to. 

The Great Resignation?

We are about to see what some people are referencing as ‘the great resignation’ is a large number of talent will be looking to refresh their roles and change roles for career progression. 

You are likely experiencing some of this and then a blend of a changing culture.

Communications Is King, Queen & Everything Inbetween

As a startup founder, you were likely close to the team and then had to move away or actively decided to distance yourself from the team or departments. 

Being deliberate in this step was important however with focused comms around this move this can cause friction and disconnection. 

Questions to ask yourself:  

  • Are there patterns happening? 
  • Are there key internal influencers who have left the business? 
  • Has our company culture taken a hit with the change? 
  • Were we too close? 
  • When working remotely did teams drift apart? 
  • Have we brought in a new layer of management recently?
  • Is performance suffering? 
  • What motivates my current team? 
  • Is there data to show that staff are hitting the time-based limit? 
  • Are exit interviews highlighting any outliers? 
  • Which was the biggest change you made and how long before staff left? 
  • Am I struggling to hire? 

If there are patterns and data suggesting there were some steps that might have created disconnection, ask yourself are you moving forward as a business and are you creating something people will want to join in the short term and in the long term. If yes, this might be a business phase you fight through some of the growing pains. 

Business growth can be hard and many times has to be seen as a marathon, not a sprint. 

Team Not Family

Although this came under question, the CEO of Shopify Tobias Lütke suggested that your business is a team, not a family. It is likely time you consider the internal framing of your business and understand that a team comparison is far more representative than a family. Despite it might feeling like a dysfunctional family, families particularly in the startup space create connections when broken are too hard to rebuild or readdress. 

Shopify Email Quote
“Shopify, like any other for-profit company, is not a family,” “The very idea is preposterous. You are born into a family. You never choose it, and they can’t un-family you. It should be massively obvious that Shopify is not a family but I see people, even leaders, casually use terms like ‘Shopifam’ which will cause the members of our teams (especially junior ones that have never worked anywhere else) to get the wrong impression.”

“The dangers of ‘family thinking’ are that it becomes incredibly hard to let poor performers go. Shopify is a team, not a family,”

Learn From Success Startup Leaders

Remember businesses that are close have to have agreed leadership principles, one important tip to borrow from Whitney Wolfe Herd CEO at Bumble, is that you are making the decisions for the best of the business and if you are friends this should not hinder your judgement and actually be best for the business. 

Good luck and remember even the best and top talent leave the biggest and well-paying companies. 

It is how you react and lead in creating the best business for your customers, shareholders and importantly for your current teams and talent coming into your business.

Danny Denhard 

My Personal Recommended Reads:

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Anonymous Career Advice

Is there a better way of quarterly planning?

In this week’s anonymous career advice column we tackle the dreaded planning phase, a team lead asks how to improve their planning

Dear Focus, When it comes to planning my team hate it, they struggle to complete the required documents and prefer just to do it. Is there a better way of planning? 

Almost every company has a slightly different approach to planning, whether thats campaign, projects, monthly, quarterly, annual or long range planning. 

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Anonymous Career Advice

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

This week’s anonymous career advice question:

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

Dear Focus, Our office has been told they are expected back in the office in the coming weeks. My department’s performance has dropped and you can see cracks appear. Do you think this will help our department get back to performing? 

This is going to be a big question for many department heads and leads in the coming months. 

If there is a performance issue it’s likely not simply down to being remote and video call fatigue that we have all heard about in the last six months. 

It’s likely down to many more factors of work: 

  • The general blurring of work and life, 
  • Relationships falling apart 
  • Colleagues leaving 
  • A change to furlough or headcount 
  • A team subculture that requires more than a bandaid or an away day. 

Here are just a few categories of questions to ask yourself and your team around what the causes are and answer collectively. 

Bonding 

  • Has there been a breakdown in communications? 
  • Has there been a project, product or campaign that has failed? 
  • Has there been turnover or lack of refill of headcount? 
  • How do you propose to bring the teams closer together if there are numerous fractions or your internal influencer or secret weapon is unhappy?

Proximity 

  • Proximity is an important factor within interpersonal relationships but does it apply or add value in 2021?
  • Being close or within one office doesn’t mean better communications and the old bad habits won’t come back. 

Something I always recommend to read and develop out is the Allen curve within your business, as the study shows the closer and more frequent you are by proximity the better relationships were.

Here is a good LinkedIn post to understand more of an updated review. 

Being a good leader from anywhere 

  • Asking if this was going to be full time back in the office? 
  • Have there been consistent communications? 
  • Regardless of where your team are located your role shouldn’t have to change, often remote can be easier to manage times and interruptions 

Resentment for having to come back in

This is something many team members are expressing. 

Likely voicing their concerns or frustrations around having to return to the old way of working. 

Although it doesn’t sound to have been easy or plain sailing many people have realised this way of working works better for them and their situation. 

Can you adapt this for a team member?

Swamped in routine 

One common mistake is not mixing up routines and not listening to feedback. 

Old routines won’t likely improve the issues that occurred while forced working from home environment. 

Is this an opportunity to change the routine? I would suggest this is a great time to revisit and restructure routines.  

Cost of over-communication

Many businesses were telling teams to over-communicate, this was one of the common mistakes over the last year. 

Communications have to deliberate. 

There has to be for a reason and managed by channel. 

Can you reduce friction by reducing communication or more likely over communication? 

Ability to deliver anywhere

  • The question everyone seems to struggle with, have we set our teams to succeed and deliver from anywhere? 
  • Do you actually have one rule that applies all within your business? 
  • Where your team set up to succeed? 

Best of luck with your move towards going back into the office, as we suggested the office should be rethought as an arena and this is an important read to help reshape your office while returning to the office safely. 

Helpful Reads To Improve Your Management

Good Manager Examples

25 Bad Manager Examples

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Anonymous Career Advice

Broken Promotion Track

This week’s anonymous career advice column is closely connected to a previous question submitted is playing the game necessary?

Dear focus, at my company the promotion track is broken. It seems to be who shouts the loudest and who has more time with the local CEO. What can I do? 

This is one of the questions I am asked in different ways quite a lot in my coaching

Interestingly as much from those at ‘the top of their hierarchy’ to those in Heads of and Director roles. 

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Anonymous Career Advice Friday Focus

Friday Focus: Anonymous Career Advice

Each week Focus answer’s questions anonymously submitted questions.

Since February 2021, we have answered career-based questions, how to battle internal issues, company culture questions and stress-related questions due to back to back meetings.

Here are the six most read articles

1/ How To Handle Back To Back Meetings
Why Read? Reduce your and your team’s stress

2/ Knowing Its Time To Leave vs Having Unfinished Business
Why Read? Find out if it is time to leave your company or you actually have unfinished business there.

3/ Broken Promotion Track
Why Read? Understand if your promotion track is broken or you need to play the game.

4/ How To Get Back On Track
Why Read? How to get your career or focus back on track when you have lost some motivation.

5/ How Do I Get Unstuck In A Stagnant Job
Why Read? Many people hit a point and stagnate or their role just freezes in time, find out what you can do about it.

6/ Tackling Disruptive Executive Hire
Why Read? Hired a bad fit or a disruptive leader? It happens a lot more than you think. Here’s what you should do next.

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Anonymous Career Advice

How To Get Back On Track

In this week’s anonymous career advice column, we tackle:

How do you get back on track when you feel like you have lost focus?

This is something many of us struggle with on a weekly basis, even someone who prides themselves on focus and productivity we all have times where we get off track or lose our focus and need different methods and techniques to combat “focus fatigue”.  

Short Term 

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Anonymous Career Advice

How do I get unstuck in a stagnant job?

This week’s anonymous career advice is something I am confident 99% of people have faced and a large number of people are facing today, not just because of the job market and business climate, but down to how we all face career crossroads every few years of our working lives. 

Dear Focus, How do I get unstuck in a stagnant job? 

There is a time in any job when you feel like you, the role and/or the business is stagnating. It’s one of the most common discussion points in my coaching services

One of the more painful truths in business is roles do actually slow and stagnate, one of my truths I let people know is if you feel like something is stagnating you have the power to evolve in and around a role, don’t let the company or the role hold you back.

You have the power to understand your strengths and weaknesses, you have the power to find resources online to help you (the internet has brilliant free resources), you can find an internal mentor or find an external mentor to help you develop. 

If you need help to understand your professional strengths and weaknesses, read this it’s time for a professional and personal SWOT leaders letter for guidance and how to address some of your concerns. 

If you feel like this is a professional injury or you need rehab from previous situations, read this professional injuries and rehab leaders letter and speak to your manager or step up as a leader and help those to progress around you. 

One of the most important aspects here is to uncover what is stuck, where do you feel stuck and what opportunities are there for you. This could be taking on broader projects, stepping up and taking over an area of the business that is underperforming or needs more guidance or assistance.

Something many people take on as a challenge is a side hustle or a passion project. In a lot of my own personal career, a side hustle taught me more about business and operations than many large businesses I worked in or with.

If you feel like you want to make the move away I recommend reading our recent anonymous career advice, unfinished business vs knowing it’s time to leave

If you need more help or you need help highlighting bigger issues at your company, our anonymous text helpline will help take this forward.  

Good luck and remember this is the time to step up and own your career.

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Anonymous Career Advice

Disruptive Exec Hire

This week’s anonymous career advice highlights an issue we all face, hiring and bringing in the right fit for the business, the teams and the team around you.

Dear Focus, I have recently made a senior hire on my exec team, they are disruptive, combative and troublemaking to the rest of the SMT, how do I make this better?

Hiring is a challenge for any role regardless of the level of the hire.
Finding the right skills, the right cultural fit for the team they will take over and matching that with your exec team is a difficult task.
The right candidate could tick a couple of these boxes but not all. 

Even those who do tick all of the boxes can be impacted by the people and the environment. 

Sometimes matches just do not work. 

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Anonymous Career Advice

Knowing it’s time to leave vs unfinished business

This week’s anonymous career advice is going to be applicable for many people over the next quarter, with more people returning to offices and continuing working in the hybrid environment, we will see staff of all levels question is it time to leave or complete your role at your current company.

Dear focus, I have been in a director of role for the last three years and a director of for two years before this at another company, although I feel like I have Unfinished business, I’m not sure if it’s time for me to leave and take on my next challenge. Can you help?

You are encountering something that many people will be wrangling with over the next six to nine months. 

Regarding your specific question, there are a few layers to unpack.

Service:
The job market has shifted a lot over the last 18 months, there are many businesses rehiring, there are many companies growing and expanding headcount, there are others making the calculated risk to hire and mature their teams with more senior hires. 

Gone are the days in many markets you stay with a company for over a decade most tenure is under four years, so you have been with this company in a senior role for a good time period. 

Service and tenure can work for you and against you, one thing to ensure is ‘have you used up your social capital’ and have you become part of the furniture vs adding real value and being listened to? 

Regularly this can be understood by speaking to those around you and those above you, if your influence has declined and you feel like this is hurting your career, it might just be time to explore and get back to high performance and being valued. 

Title:
Many titles can be misleading, it doesn’t necessarily indicate your influence within the company or the level you operate at externally. 

If you are disheartened about the same title or not being able to take a V title or a c-suite title, there might be ways to ask for the timeline when this might be available. 

Is promotion an important thing to you? Are titles important to you where you are at? If yes, you need to understand the timeline and understand how you are considered internally, often this is harder to gain feedback on, however speaking to your boss, your colleagues on the same level and HR can help you understand this. Be prepared for tough questions and honest feedback loops. 

Know Your Worth?
Something an old boss used to say to me and what Netflix tells their employees, take the meeting or the interview see what you are worth or what might be out there. 

An important question to ask yourself is do you doubt yourself or have you lost some confidence in your current role?

If yes, it’s probably time to look at updating your cv/resume and start having conversations with recruiters and headhunters. 

If you have been unhappy in this role and need some help I suggest reading the professional injuries blog post to help you break down what is happening and why. 

To answer if it is unfinished business or time to leave, you will know in your own mind, you will have a feeling, unfinished business is often a reason why many people stay in their role when they don’t know what they want to do or where they want to go next. 

I would really question if you having doubts, you should start proactively making a change,  start with LinkedIn, CV and start having conversations, external conversations will help you make the right decision. 

Sometimes better the devil you know other times it takes the right step forward to catapult your career onwards and upwards.  

I recommend you to use a Risk vs benefits framework you can easily see what risks you have staying and what benefits you might have.

You can then apply the same risk vs benefit analysis for leaving. 

Once you complete the analysis you will be in a better place to answer this question for yourself and for your future. 

I always recommend writing a professional SWOT when you are at a crossroads. This is likely the time to put yourself first.

Consider introducing interview practice runs into your department as it will help your colleagues and help you prepare for what might be to come. 

If you are looking for other advice and tips for virtual interviews read this leaders letter.

My personal experience is, if you feel like you have unfinished business and you can make the changes required, you should map this out in detail and if you have the feeling it is time to leave don’t leave it too late as you will kick yourself and you may feel like your career has gone backwards. 

Best of luck with your decision, if you are asking the right question – you are on the right track.