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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 48

12 Lessons From The “Trillion Dollar Coach” Bill Campbell​ For You To Apply This Week.

Dear leaders,

I trust you had a good weekend. 

In 2016 I was told about a legendary coach in Silicon Valley named Bill Campbell who had just passed away. 

A TLDR backstory of Bill:

Bill was a coach of an unsuccessful sports team for Columbia, Bill then moved into the business world and had successes at Kodak and Apple before becoming the go-to c-suite coach. 

Bill’s coaching roaster is a who’s who of Silicon Valley. Bill helped the likes of:

  • Google’s former chairman Eric Schmidt, founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and current Alphabet CEO Sindar Pichai,
  • Apple’s leaders including co-founder Steve Jobs, long-serving exec Phil Schiller and even current CEO Tim Cook.
  • Ex CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer
  • The current COO at Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg
  • Alongside leading Intuit’s Brad Smith and business hero Amazon’s chairman Jeff Bezos (read the business lessons from Jeff Bezos).

Bill’s life and legacy are told in a brilliant biography Trillion Dollar Coach by Former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Google’s Comms leader Alan Eagle and SVP’s of Product Jonathan Rosenberg. 

I took a stack of notes and have applied a number of these lessons to a number of my coaching clients. 

So, here are the 12 most applicable lessons from the biography and you can apply daily: 

  1. Don’t be the hero 
  2. Don’t be a fixer 
  3. Ask questions and push those towards the answer 
  4. Don’t assume employees respect you because of your title 
  5. Lean into the hard problems 
  6. Guide people to opportunities – many don’t see it myself 
  7. It’s not about you – it’s about the team 
  8. Listen to what people want and give them a process to an outcome 
  9. Never give people the answer 
  10. Park your ego – constantly put it in check 
  11. Treat everyone with dignity, even in failure
  12. Get rid of people with bad attitudes. You need people that care about the outcome 

I highly recommend reading the full book, if you don’t think you have the time, this video from The Tim Ferriss podcast with Eric Schmidt is worth the watch. 

The message: Don’t think you do not need help, you will benefit from a coach.

Good luck with rolling these out and remember often it’s about guiding people and offering a light at the end of the tunnel than giving the answer in success and in failure. 

Thanks, 

Danny Denhard  – Focus Founder & Head Coach (I offer management and executive coaching, start your career development today)

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 47

Virtual Interviews & Hybrid Hiring Tips 

3rd May 2021,

Dear Leaders, 

Over the past couple of months, I have been working with a number of businesses that are in a good position to grow and invest in their staff and ramp up hiring again. 

I have been lucky to interview a number of great candidates virtually, it was something I experienced before I created Focus, as a c-suite candidate you have a large number of rounds of interviews, with numerous committees, the experience was long, complicated and challenging for both parties, especially with time zones. 

Although I have not perfected the art yet, here are a few ways you can improve virtual interviews and hybrid hiring to improve the experience for both you and your candidates. 

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 46

My Go To Operational & Organisational Tips 

26th April 2021,

Dear leaders, I trust you had a good week and ready for the week ahead.

Some of the most popular leaders letters are me sharing my way of work and the frameworks I use.

So here is a select series of my operational ways of work:

Split out your browsers, inboxes and messages 

  • One for work 
  • Home for another. 

Helps you prioritise, maintain and apply prioritisation. 

Take and keep notes but have a system  

  • I am a huge note taker and keeping a record, especially of micro-moments, select one way of taking notes, often in person pen and pad works best, type up (or scan and copy text), 
  • Categorise and link to other notes. Think of the 1:2:1’s, the department notes you have to keep and actions you have given and the ideas you have on an ongoing basis.
    These are all-important to take notes, check in on progress and revisit. 
  • Revisit the Decision documents, company typically only work when ‘centralised knowledge’ is kept, updated and shared. 

No pointless or boring meeting rules

  • Meetings always have an owner – clearly called out and run by said owner
  • No attendees leave a well organised intentional meeting – be intentional and explain why they should attend and what their role is in this meeting and moving forward
  • Always have a no leaving rule (no leaving early or no leaving because you were invited to a bad or unorganised) – roll this out company-wide so it sticks 
  • Meeting feedback is a gift – offer an open document for feedback. Many businesses can operate with silent start meetings, meaning they have centralised documents and share their thoughts and feedback and then discuss with one chair who updates and then the notes are reviewed and discussed.

Statuses Work

  • Have work statuses. The ones that typically work for my clients:  
    • Available
    • Away
    • In a meeting
    • At lunch
    • Deep work aka Do not disturb 
  • Ensure everyone understands what to use and when. This is not checking up on colleagues, this is to help understand how to support colleagues time and energy
  • Even if the most senior management team members or the HiPPO contacts you, follow the statuses to manage expectations. 

Clear Internal Comms 

  • IM channels for quick updates not long threads
  • Stories style video updates work, even think about replacing in-person standup (Work in progress meetings definitely can be replaced and shortened)
  • Documents for more in-depth deliberate conversations 
  • One dedicated project management tool (Notion, Monday or confluence all work well)
  • Email for external comms and important internal updates 

Good luck rolling these out, happily get in touch if you have any questions around these points.

Thanks and have a good week,

Danny Denhard


Other Great Leaders Letters:

One problem two solutions framework

Risk vs benefit framework

Three questions to build better relationships

Fewer managers, more coaches and mentors

Commitment: Communicate clearly

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 45

Professional Injuries & Rehab 

Dear leaders, I trust you had a good weekend. 

As I have mentioned before, I love coaching and mentoring. I currently have two great coaching clients and it is the highlight of my week whenever we sit down, zoom and run through coaching sessions. 

Something that came up in a recent mentoring session was being conditioned by a previous experience and it having a lasting impact on their career. 

I for one know I have many battle wounds and mental scars from previous workplaces and I am open to telling many of these to help to share and show we all have them and let them know being vulnerable is part of the process with us. 

Something many managers forget is the professional injuries our team members suffer or have suffered at previous companies or under previous management.
Truth be told some might be impacted by our management styles today. 

Yes, being busy is a part of it, an (important) however, not being close enough to the team and choosing to be a coach or mentor vs not having to be specific people’s manager is not taught and rarely discussed in management books or courses. 

Like athletes, injuries take a tremendous toll on us, physically and mentally and are often triggered by repeat events or similar results from a similar approach. 

This is one of the reasons why I recommend more coaches and mentors than managers. Coaches improve performance and recognise weakness that needs more personalised coaching. Managers rarely have the skillset for this.

We need rehab, we need to retrain and strengthen, what is different in the workplace especially large corporations, this is often left to the individual to work through, professional assistance and training is not promoted or recommended by managers or management teams. 

It is the time to balance this, help your team or department members seek professional help or self start and find a coach or mentor to help work on their injuries and improve our reliance and our strength. Training budgets should be used to train and retrain. 

I highly recommend updating your leadership principles to include developing your colleagues with coaching and rehab.

This week consider how you can take forward your colleague’s professional injuries or scars and look to offer a chance for them to rehabilitate. It doesn’t have to cost a huge amount of money or time but the benefit for you, your colleague and the business in a short period of time will be huge. 

Have a great week and take the time to list of a couple of your own injuries and how you might rehab them.  Professional 1-2-1 coaching is only an email away.

Thanks, 

Danny Denhard 

Focus Founder 

Five Important Reads To Read & Share 

  1. Return to the office checklist – reduce the anxiety around returning to the office 
  2. Recording mico-moments – this should be a micro moment   
  3. Offsites to reconnect as a team – need to reconnect with your team? An off-site or on-site done well with help you win the next two quarters  
  4. Fight, flight or freeze – changing the default reaction of teams
  5. Time for a co-pilot? – Is it time to revisit whether you need more support or the team needs a different pilot?
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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 44

Risk Vs Benefit Framework

April 12th 2021

Dear leaders,

In my previous leaders letters, frameworks have been some of the most popular newsletters and most replied to newsletters. 

This week I wanted to introduce you to different pros vs con’s list I have used for a number of years that helped me to make better decisions, professionally and personally. 

Risk vs Benefit framework enables you to breakdown big decisions and questions in a repeatable framework.

RisksBenefit


  
   
  


You have two options.

Are you pen and pad or type and table? 

Pen and Pad: Write down on paper, half an a4 sheet, risks one side, benefit the other. 

Type and Table: Or in a table, excel, sheets, notion, apple apps and write down and explain in detail. 

Risk – Anything you face as a risk, anything that could be put at risk or a big red flag that needs to be called out. 

Benefit – Anything that will benefit you, the team, the company.

The more detail you include, the better in helping you to understand the first, second and third-order effects of your decision and the better decisions you ultimately make.

Simple yet effective. 

I tend to keep these risks vs benefit tables and revisit, optional but connected to micro-moments and making better long term decisions.  

This week, take a look at the risk vs benefit framework and consider how you will make better, more informed decisions. 

Have a great week and thanks for the recent replies to the newsletters.

Danny Denhard

3 Recent Must Reads

  1. Is it time for an off-site?
  2. Culture As A Service Movement
  3. Why The World Of Work Is Broken
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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 43

Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?

April 5th, 2021.

Dear Leaders,

For the past few months, I have been working more regularly with more founder-led businesses. 

Founder led businesses are notoriously more difficult if you do not know how to ask the right questions and you answer their questions quickly and concisely with a focus on delivery. 

One question that has bubbled up with each founder 

Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?

The answer is 90% of the time, no, the 10% are the more open and transparent and typically say yes. 

The yes answer is good, they are aware of where they are and know they will be pushed to step back and challenged to understand where to let go.

The 90% have a few more sessions to go, they are unaware of having to control not boss each situation.

The 90% then split into two camps, those who want to change and those who want to control. The controlling group are those who need more coaching and guidance, you need to show where they are being too hands-on, too overbearing, too much talking nowhere near enough listening. 

So the question for you to ask is have you been the boss for so long, you attempt to boss everything? 

If yes, step back, challenge yourself to listen more and understand where you need to take a leap back or leap into action and where possible bring in external help or hire more people to remove some friction. 

Have a good week and remember being the boss doesn’t mean making every decision and kicking every ball it means knowing when to bring others to the table, bringing support in for you and the team and then being clear and concise when delegating. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 42

Recording Micro Moments & Micro Events

March 29th 2021.

Dear Leaders,

Over the last few weeks, I have been talking to c-suites, agency leads and departments heads about recording micro-moments. 

A micro-moment to me is when you feel a spark, you feel a move or a moment that is breaking through something, a moment you feel has pushed you, a colleague, a conversation or a project forward. 

Micro-moments to me are positive, especially at the time you don’t know how positive it is. 

As previously suggested I truly believe that notes taking, having knowledge centres and personal wiki’s help you run effective project, campaign or product launches.

Taking notes, sharing these notes and actions and being deliberate with reviewing micro-moments allows you to see signals, understand patterns and build out more micro-moments.  

I like to hand sketch these moments out in a diagram, follow the chain and review very briefly. Seeing the chain reactions as a timeline or as ripples is a great way to demonstrate to those around you.
Across my career, 95% of the time, scribbles or sketches beats 500 words or spreadsheets. 

One micro-moment I had this week was rolling out brand new software to a client who struggled to connect people with software, I knew it was a micro-moment as the team were surprised how quickly we got through the meeting, how many actions we had completed, how the small number of follow-ups could be completed asynchronously and how we all called out how it felt like real progress was made and the reduction of discord messages. 

The important part of reviewing micro-moments or micro-events is being able to teach these signals and patterns and then celebrate your micro wins (small wins). 

I know the phrase celebrate the small wins is a little overused but micro-moments need calling out and celebrating.

In the coming weeks, try to make notes of the micro-moments, the processes you followed and the feeling it gave to the team around you. 

Celebrate this micro moment with me! 

Cheers to this week and have a great week,

Danny Denhard

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Three Must Read Follow Up Articles

  1. The Four Questions To Build A More Informed Company
  2. Ghosting – A Real Business Issue
  3. How To Improve Virtual Meetings
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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 41

The Four Questions To Build A More Informed Company

March 22nd 2021.

Dear Leaders, 

In recent times the majority of companies start by solving a problem or particular customer need and then build out on top of it. 

Some smart businesses solve a need by combing a few needs together, the package and branding create a desire for that particular product or service and then it catches on, gains referrals and gains tractions. 

The Large Company Example: Apple

Apple is the most famous at this. Steve Jobs for all of his known management and people management faults obsessed with only three things at one time and answered customer problems while packaging them together like a magician.

Apple famously followed this magic many times, firstly with the iPod, created a whole market with the iPad and most specifically with the iPhone, it’s been that way for fourteen years.
Given the choice, the majority of users would move across to the Apple ecosystem and then buy up and keep buying into the ecosystem once they are in.

Most recently Apple created a multi-billion dollar operation in the AirPods. Yes, Bluetooth headphones that most first thought was not much better than their parents Bluetooth headset for driving. How wrong were they?
There is an argument to be made it is down to age, brand power and equity, however, Apple is known for their quality, known for creating inspiration and aspiration in their product and marketing, but also, knowing where they can make smaller improvements in their core products that last without having to launch numerous products but large leaps in existing problems and releasing at the right time.

The New Entrance Example

Startups do well as they start small, niche and the bigger companies do not fear one problem being solved, what startups and smart companies do well is understand customer needs and builds out their solutions.
By the time the startup builds up and answers more problems, the incumbent struggles to defend and cannot attack.

You have likely been in one of the two positions, you could have been in the third, the thick middle aka the hardest fight, where you cannot seem to compete with the big player but the smaller more agile startup starts eating your dinner too.

Over Subscribes

Most recently the shift to subscriptions has seen many businesses move towards valuing their product or service monthly and suggesting to customers you have the choice to look around but the pain point and friction to leave is going to outweigh the price difference or the value difference. 

With all this said and experienced, this has helped me to ask questions that open up leadership teams and make them face the battles they have likely ignored or not made time for.

Consulting with a number of companies most recently, there a few questions many if not all struggle to truly answer. 

The four questions many just cannot answer are:

What are you uniquely good at? 

What problem are you truly solving? 

If you turned off all marketing – would anyone come directly to you and still buy?

What is your internal secret sauce?

These questions are designed to be easy to answer however they are crafted to make you rethink who you are, what you do and how you do it.

Great leaders have to be able to ask and answer these questions, not alone but with their departments, with the smart people around them and know if they are struggling to answer these type of questions to bring in the right support or external agency or consultancy to help improve their company.

Survive is not a strategy and is not something that helps teams buy into the company or the leadership. Survive is the bare minimum, despite how hard it feels this is only going to result in you creating an uninspired and unhappy workforce.
Going from survivor => compete => thrive can feel like a long battle however as a leader it is essential you and the company know how to and when to ask these important four questions.

As Q2 starts this is typically the best time to ask these questions and gain market intel on competitors to inform some of the reshaping of the business.

If you are struggling to answer these, you are not alone, however answering these four questions will help to shape your company’s requirement to improve product, improve training, improve internal communications and external messaging and refresh how you approach problem-solving.

Why not add these questions to your next management meeting or ELT and prep time for you and your colleagues to discuss this at length.

For one business, we created an internal motto; more deliberate direction = less reaction, more action. This was then added to the leadership principles.
Consider how you leverage both pieces of advice to progress your company this month.

Good luck for Q2 and keep driving forward.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 40

Starting A Meeting With A Get To Know Me Question

15th March 2021.

Dear Leaders,

In the current state of work, working remotely and tackling meeting and video call fatigue, we have two options, keep going as is or change it.

Staying as is, is not really an option. If you were to poll your company or your team you will see quite quickly things aren’t working.

Not everyone enjoys small talk, however, small talk is an important part of team building, a foundational level of company culture and a way to kick off work positively.

Younger staff can suggest they dislike small talk, however, hearing a senior member of the company open and recommend something builds connections and compassion towards the leader they have not connected with previously.

Over the past year, leaders letters were created with three themes in mind:
(1) improving personal and professional performance
(2) improving company culture
(3) ensuring work is more deliberate and the world of work is less broken.

I always enforce meeting agenda’s, quick reminder of my rules:
(1) knowing the objective of the meeting,
(2) understand what success looks like at the end of the meeting,
(3) always take the notes and actions, centralise and share. I call it the DAN framework, what are the decisions, what are the actions and what were the notes you should share openly and to those in the meeting, those who could not attend and those who did not attend.

These are critical elements in the equation for successful meetings.

You may remember in leaders letter 20, I laid out ways to optimise your meetings.
Here is a free tip to add to team or departmental meetings.

This week, my recommended focus area is adding a new agenda item to team meetings. This means kicking off a meeting with get to know me questions, on the agenda, agree it is for this specific purpose, then a five-minute rapid-fire conversation around a connecting topic, trivial questions designed to connect colleagues together.

Some of the questions you can include:

  • If you had to select one cereal to eat every day for the rest of your life what would it be?
  • Ideal holiday / vacation?
  • Favourite pizza topping?
  • Coffee shop order of choice?
  • Favourite animal?
  • Your spirit animal?
  • Hidden talent?
  • One app you couldn’t live with?
  • Favourite memory in the company?

You will find this will set the meeting off positively (remember Bob Iger’s business lesson number 1), you will learn more about your colleagues and where there is a tie in you can bring into future meetings, the food discussed, remember and share the drinks suggested by your team and apps to download and use.

If you read any of the company culture books, including the stables, the five dysfunctions of a team, the culture code and Netflix’s no rules rules, the key message is relationship building for many (outside of the US) cultures wins the internal business battle, not diving straight into business.

So don’t be a bad HiPPO and create better and more connective meetings. Remember, to keep a mental note of the small and quirky and keep coming back to them and throw in a surprise, you will be surprised how far this goes.

Thanks, be well and have a great week.

Danny Denhard

Focus, Founder

PS here are some of the most important reads for improving company culture :

  1. Your secret weapon
  2. Find and embrace your Hidden leaders
  3. No Rules Rules – The Netflix company culture guide
  4. Fewer managers, more coaches and mentors
  5. How remote work impact company culture
  6. How to review forced work from home

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 39

Is it time for a co-pilot?

Dear Leaders,

In the 39th letter to you, I have one simple question for you to answer:

Is it time for a co-pilot?

Why the question now? In the latter stages of Q1, you should be well on the way to understand where your business is and how you will need to recruit or internally promote the most deserving members of staff.

What is a co-pilot?
“A qualified pilot who assists or relieves the pilot but is not in command”

A co-pilot has a lot of responsibility, they know how your aeroplane works, they know how to fly the plane, they have been taught how to command and control the operations.

Seeing a co-pilot as a number two can be dangerous thinking, you want them to feel like they are in control when you need them to be and have complete confidence, often a number two is not considered this highly.
The role of the co-pilot is to co-lead and lead when required.

You will likely have the co-pilot within your team, they will likely be the hidden leader who should be formally recognized.

Timing is imperative for you and the co-pilot, if you are a mid-level manager do need you to take the step up and away from the day-to-day or do you need to make room to evolve and let someone else take the team or department forward while you improve and concentrate on other elements of the business?

If you are a senior leader, you might have recognized your weaknesses from your personal and professional SWOT’s, you may have noted you are not supporting your team to the level you would like to, for many, it is knowing you likely need additional support and concentrate on certain areas of the business that you cannot focus on “while in the weeds” or just it is time for someone better positioned to take over the team and help drive the direction week to week.

A co-pilot is an investment of money, an investment of time and the largest investment of handing over responsibility and trust.
Trust is the most important element here, trust in and for the team, trust for you and trust for the co-pilot.
If the trust is lost or broken it can be difficult to take back the team and the trust.

Tactically a co-pilot can be the best internal promotion or external hire for the business and can free many leaders up to step up and tackle issues that are business-critical and require the right leader and team on it.

This week, consider if you need a co-pilot, how the business would benefit, how you would change a number two into a co-pilot, if you have someone internally who could be the right co-pilot and if you will be improving trust and commitment across the business. Remember this is what leadership is.

Have a great week.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard