Anonymous Career Advice

What Makes A Great Business Leader?

In this anonymous advice column, we tackle what makes a great business leader.

Dear Focus, I want to understand what makes a great leader?

For me and with two decades of work, a great leader is someone who knows the importance of the following:

  • Unwavering ability to push a vision and help those around them guide their teams 
  • Have compassion for their staff and teams 
  • Inspires in almost every message 
  • Storyteller 
    • Never appears to be bored in pushing direction and acting as the compass for the company 
  • Leads from the front when they know that what the company or departments need 
  • Understands when to manage, coach, mentor or train  
  • Knows when to drive or be the passenger 
  • Knows when to 
    • Create time
    • Apply pressure  
    • Speak from the heart
    • Speak from the head 
    • When to ask the big question
    • When to ask the small questions – the why, the how, the when 
    • Take a step back when others cannot, see and guide the BIG picture  
    • (importantly) Knows when to ask for help and guidance on those they are not as knowledge

Typically, not one leader has all of these components, however, great leaders work towards improving daily, having goals to improve themselves and those around them.

Actions To Take:

Thanks and best of luck.

Danny Denhard

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Anonymous Career Advice

Disconnected Leadership Team

Today’s anonymous career advice comes from an “anonymous COO” from a “well-known internet company”, who’s ELT has become disconnected and fractured since working remotely.

Dear Focus, since we have moved remote and WFH, the leadership team has become disconnected and we rarely agree on the direction and what is most important. I feel like it is impacting my career. What should I do to help?

I would imagine you and 50% of management and leadership teams are feeling the same and facing very similar issues.

Having spoken to a number of c-suite members over the last six months, many leaders feel they have lost connection with their fellow management team.

The common complaint or cause is the number of meetings they are all attending, the lack of progress being made and the friction of not having clear goals and objectives as a team.

When it comes to your own career, it will only impact you if you feel disconnected from the work and you and your team performance are being impacted. As a COO your role has likely never been as important for your firm’s long term success.

For additional context, a very senior ELT member recently suggested in their 30+ year career and the last decade on leadership teams, he has never seen as much friction while working remotely. Their answer was to book a “work through everything day”.

It is important to remember you are not alone, however, addressing your particular management team would require direct action from your team.

Questions To Answer:

  • Do your fellow leaderships team feel the same?
    Speak to the CEO to see how they feel. If you have close relationships with your CMO or CTO they will likely feel similar.
  • Has anyone attempted to call out or address the elephant in the room?
    Often this just takes someone to raise this. As COO you would be in a trusted position to raise this.
  • What are the common pain points?
  • Where do you commonly fall down?
  • Are the leadership protecting their teams vs trying to be proactive and come together to address the issues?
  • Is there a running theme where meetings and discussion fail?
  • Do you follow the same meeting patterns?
  • Is there one or two members of the management team who are internal influencers who create friction or could help to collaborate to improve this?
  • Is this a wider reflection of your company’s culture?


I would create a dedicated meeting to discuss this, have an agenda to call out common issues and then create a timeline with your fellow management team to address these issues. An external consultancy or external management coach will be able to facilitate and help reduce friction and create an action plan whilst reducing the stress on individuals to lead this internally.

If there is an internal conflict between a couple or a few of the members of the leadership team, the Focus power half hours will be a good methodology and tool to follow.

In a recent Focus management training sessions, a ten-person leadership team and I ran through a number of exercises to get to know each other, created workshops where they reviewed their workdays, meetings, reduced down meeting recovery syndrome and introduced a management pod system connecting the ELT with each other, sharing knowledge, increasing the amount of time they spend together and reporting back and tackling issues together.

Just remember most conflicts take a number of months to work through effectively and up to six months of no change to work at optimal levels for a team.

Good luck.

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Anonymous Career Advice

Failing To Get My Message Across

In this weeks anonymous career advice, we tackle a problem many managers and leaders face, not being able to get their message across.

Dear Focus, I seem to struggle to get my message across to my company. My leadership team suggests it’s down to how I communicate, how can I improve?

For almost every leader, internal communications and landing a message has never been as challenging as it is today.
Why? Today there are too many channels to send and land a message, emails go unread, internal instant messengers are often ignored or skim read and there is no sense of urgency or importance.
Then there is the challenge of choice of language and more often than not sentiment can be difficult to understand and land as one message for everyone.

Over the past three years, there has been a shift to creating richer content when these communications are not made in person, typically video has been something many leaders have tried to embrace but the delivery mechanism is still email or instant messenger.

Questions to ask yourself?

  • Are you the best person to send the message?
    • If no, who would be the best to deliver the message?
  • Who is the best person at delivering a message in your organisation?
    If someone else is better, leverage them and their connection with the teams.
  • Have you watched any important speeches or watched free materials on speech rating or internal comms?
    There is a lot of free content that will help you deliver your messages
  • Can you use a mix of audio, written and video?
    It can seem like more work, however, making your message apply across different formats helps the message to land and will become shareable internally like it would on social networks.
  • Do you have a set of communication communications within your business to understand important communications and how urgent they are?
    Remember an email from the HiPPO does not mean it is important.
  • If you had to pick just one channel to deliver your message, which channel would it be?
  • Which channels land for you and your colleagues?
  • Do you explain the essential communications in the most simplistic and understandable way possible? Do you sense check any of the language you include?
  • Are you using any localised words which do not translate well?
  • Have you looked at the time you send these messages?
    The time that emails are sent are often too late or at busy times and can be ignored. Choose early, just before lunch or towards 16.00 (timezones are a pain to compete with).
  • If this was delivered by a large company as an advertising campaign, what formats would they use?
    What can you learn from this?

You have plenty to think about, I would consider leveraging free content online to help you become more compelling, speaking to those who can land a message and working with them on delivery and speaking to the team around you to help them spread the information in a multi-person comms attack vs trying to deliver one knock out punch.

If you are looking for a quicker fix, I would concentrate on:
(1) what you want to say – consider writing post-it notes out and then typing up or recording,
(2) how you want to deliver it (text-based vs video vs audio recording, email vs messenger) and
(3) how you ask for feedback
(4) how you follow up.

Best of luck.

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Anonymous Career Advice

Complete Change In Career

Today’s anonymous career advice post is common for many people with a desire a complete career change.
Although today’s question is super-specific the recommendations apply to many other situations.

Dear Focus, I have been working offshore in the Oil and Gas industry for 13 years now. Never really worked a job on land. But I feel that this chapter of working offshore has to end. My problem is I have no idea what to do next.

Changing your career is always a big change, it can seem daunting but often it is something you can break down piece by piece.

Not knowing what to do next is not uncommon, the majority of us have no idea of what we would want to do next. You have the opportunity to build towards your next step.

One thing you should do is make the time in knowing what the next career move ideally is.

Firstly, your skills are always transferable, many skills seem specific on the surface but once you evaluate you will see how they often apply to so many roles.

Most of the skills I learnt in part-time work when I was 17 and working in QSR still applies twenty plus years later.

Your industry is a specialist industry and might seem unique however almost all of your skills are transferable and it is something for you to explore, map out and explore.

The question to ask yourself is what role do I want to do and what makes me great for that role. These are going to be the first questions the hiring manager and HR team will ask.

Below is a series of actions you should take:


  • Find areas of new work you will want to work in
  • Review places like Glassdoor for reviews of interviews and the workplace
  • Review LinkedIn for people who have these roles and their backgrounds, often you will see there isn’t always obvious steps to the roles they have
  • Create a hitlist of jobs, roles and levels you are applicable for
  • Find as many people within that sector that would make time to discuss the job and their roles with you
  • Write a detailed pros and cons list of the role and your fitting
  • Write a SWOT analysis and be brutally honest, you will be surprised how many strengths and opportunities you
  • Start writing or recording content about the subject matter and the area you would like to go into – clearer thoughts and ideas will really help you
  • Look at free online courses and take as many as possible in your spare time
  • Write a standout cover letter, explain why you are relevant, these are questions you will have to answer before they question you
  • Create bespoke CV/resume for each role – this is something many fail to do
  • Lean into the free resources available, dive into webinars, YouTube is full of useful content
  • Self-learning is essential, show how you have developed yourself and those around you

This list should help you understand the steps to take and how you will be more applicable than you think.

Best of luck.

Read The Previous Anonymous Career Advice Articles:

Anonymous Career Advice

Career Going Backwards

In this week’s instalment of focus anonymous career advice, we cover something many of us face, is our career going backwards?

Dear Focus, I feel like my career is going backwards, I have not been promoted for two years, my manager cannot answer why this has not changed, unless my boss leaves I won’t get a title change, what should I do?

This sounds like an issue so many people face, you have hit your ceiling within your business and there is nowhere to go unless you feel like they leave.

There are a couple of sides you should consider:

– Have you evolved in the last two years?
– Are there any development opportunities within the company?
– Can you arrange a skip meeting with your bosses boss and discuss what potential steps there are?

The more obvious the question, the more important it is to answer the question.

Something that is important to keep front of mind and something you should continually ask yourself is what have I learnt and have I evolved?

Personal development and being the person who evolves your career is the easiest hack, you have the ability to learn from millions of resources online and the option to ask for specific training courses from your company. Not developing yourself in this situation is holding yourself back.

Often managers cannot answer these tricky questions, for many reasons, often this is because they are concerned for their role, for the competition from you, for losing you to another business and you are a secret weapon or hidden leader and rely on you more than know.

Many businesses have top-down company culture, meaning your boss has far more influence on you than the business around you, it is important to understand if this is happening across the business or just in your situation. Be delicate in asking these questions, for yourself and so this does not fed back to your boss.

Something that Netflix openly encourage is for you to understand your worth and take external interviews, taking an interview or interviews will help you to understand where you are at, what other companies are looking for and if you can take a step up in another business. Often this is a great way to know if you are undervalued or underachieving or frankly in the wrong business.

Ceilings are everywhere, as the number of headcount and senior people has to be limited (despite some companies feeling the opposite).
This does not mean there are not any other opportunities or leadership roles internally or options to own other projects outside of your current roles and progress within this organisation.

Many times businesses are looking for leaders to step up and move laterally to improve the company. This is common in many of the larger orgs and something I and many others have benefitted from.

The harder truth might be, to develop or gain a promotion, you will likely have to move on or wait for your manager to leave, this is not a foolproof plan.

For what it is worth: Titles do not really mean as much until you look to leave a role, often titles are overly internally focused that what internal title you have is completely different externally.

Good luck with this, I would recommend having the open conversations with your boss or bosses boss, look for interview opportunities to understand where you are and consider how you might take the step up by taking on different projects.
The key here is to be super proactive and drive your own career forward.

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Anonymous Career Advice

Stealing Ideas

This week’s anonymous advice column is quite common and something you will likely face, stealing ideas and passing them off as their own.

Dear Focus, one of my colleagues steals ideas and passes them off as their own. It happens multiple times a year, what do I do to ensure the company know they are mine or my team’s ideas?

Firstly, I am sorry you are experiencing this, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence and is something that I would imagine that everyone goes through once or twice a year.

What worries me if it happens multiple times per year and if this is an occurrence of the last couple of years, it is either
(a) they do not know they are repacking ideas,
(b) they know they are doing it as you have not brought it up with them or
(c) potentially they are in a better position to push this idea forward.

We are always taught to apply the best intentions first, I imagine in this scenario the best way to address this is to arrange a meeting and raise these ideas with dates and how they have taken them on and packaged as their own. Conflict is difficult for many staff members especially between colleagues, however, you have to address it.

Many businesses are built so the best ideas bubble to the top and brought forward for the best of the company, this is something to keep in mind and ensure you remember whilst having the conversation and response you may receive.

Importantly, moving your career forward you will come across this situation and resolution in most companies, the way you deal with it is addressing in a positive manner and the first move is to raise and then address this. In times of conflict, many will see the best of you, versus the worst traits of you.

If the ideas are being repackaged and they are aware, this is where you have to make a decision, bring the best ideas to the right management team or action these ideas in your team and write the specification to bring other teams into the project.

Working transparently and showing off your work and ideas are essential, not only for more transparency within your business but for colleagues recognition but personal development within the business.

It’s important to remember the jobs in this situation:
– Your job is to make the company successful.
– If you have a manager or fellow leadership team, this is their job to take notice, attempt to address or be made aware of this is happening and how you are going to resolve this while making the company progress.
– The company’s job is to push these business decisions forward and enable success.

Good luck with address this, if you cannot address this personally, I would recommend bringing in your manager and showing examples but keep in mind this is likely going to raise more questions. I would recommend not raising this issue with the management team unless you are in the MT and consider how you work transparently and present ideas.

Best of luck.

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Anonymous Career Advice

Dear Focus, Anonymous Career Advice

Over the past twelve months, there has been a number of professionals who have struggled with the newer ways of working.

Being disconnected from colleagues, reduced interactions and being disconnected physically away from your team has seen a number of new challenges and led to a number of your colleagues questioning their role at your company and questioning if it is a good time for a career change.

The forced remote world of work we have experienced has challenged the least experienced to the most experienced.
From seeing colleagues leave, furloughs, redundancies and having to pick up more work with less support around us.

Even in recent CEO mentorship sessions and CMO coaching sessions, experienced leaders have asked for career advice which if anonymised it would be applicable to many others in similar positions.

It is imperative we set everyone up for the future of work and workforce and often you just do not have the support network you require for the problems you encounter.

So today, I am announcing Dear Focus, an anonymous career advice column, send in your questions and we will write up as a blog post to offer career advice and provide support. Please remember this is anonymous unless you decide to include your email and will send the article when live.

If you would like advice please complete the form below.

Leaders Letters (AKA Focus Newsletter) That May Help In The Meantime: