The Official Rotating Role Of The Contrarian “Leader”

The majority of businesses are shaped in the same way, businesses typically set up in the way they have always done it and often hire traditional leadership style teams and organise their management teams around department lead, versus, hiring good leaders to add different dynamics to leadership teams and add different values to the business. 

The Devils Advocate  

Playing devil’s advocate can be fun, it can however be exhausting and often certain “leaders” become known as that person.

There is something about the person who always plays devil advocate, it is one of the known tactics consultancies use to help their clients to think differently. 

When management consultants take senior roles within businesses, they will often take on the role and play devil’s advocate, some will often be the person who asks “is this the next $x million opportunity‘ or “is this big enough?”. 

Combative Contrairain? 

One of the core issues with having a contrarian is they often enable combat (not conflict) within the company especially within their own team, their approach is often mocked and will often have knock-on effects for the business and subsequently can have a negative impact on the company sub culture.

Being known as contrarian often has an underlining negative connection to it.

The Contrarian Challenge 

Very often this can be grating on the management team and particularly when teams pitch at the “lead” and they create friction by always playing their contrarian role. 

An important point here is to understand that the contrarian is either something that you enable and support the combative side of the contrarian approach.
Or you acknowledge and address it as a role (opportunity) people play. 

Disagree To Commit Or Commit To Agree

The contrarian is a role that can be challenging, it can be the role that many management teams look to remove to ensure they have a team that agrees and commits quickly to the plan they co-create.

Each business is different, however, the approach of removing the contrarian is often a deliberate and intentional one, especially to gain alignment quickly.

This is not right for every business but often it can be an effective one if you need to move fast and reduce friction.  

Executive Leadership Team Contrarian 

If you do not have that role within your management team or you have someone who asks the devil’s advocate or acts as the contrarian, a successful way to approach having the right balance is to before meetings or strategy sessions is to appoint a contrarian and their job is to smartly ask the challenging questions. 

It is to challenge the idea or point being pitched and to get to the bottom of the issue or the pitch to truly enable your teams for success. 

The idea of the contrarian isn’t just to be seen as challenging but to ensure the best possible outcome is considered and then followed up with a detailed and actionable plan. 

Your Next Steps

In the next few weeks look to create a rotating role as the contrarian and introduce a way to challenge ideas, concepts and challenges in a different way to get the best out of people and create a more rounded, evolving leadership team. 

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Management Advice For Improved Department & Company Success

Here are twelve dedicated and proven management pieces of advice to improve the success of you and your department, alongside improving communications, connections and department performance. 

  1. Insights Over Dashboards: Dashboards are typically numbers without insights and campaign commentary. Without you speaking to your team, a dashboard won’t report the human vitals 
  2. Win Weekly: Create a win of the week for the team that everyone celebrates together
  3. Unsung Hero: Create an unsung hero of the month, celebrate those who go over and above, who consider it their job to deliver 
  4. Failure Is Not A Fail: Create a managers personal fail of the month – this breaks down barriers and enables failure to be discussed and recognised 
  5. Create Your Own Phrases: Have a set of keywords and phrases that mean important themes within your department or team, this allows you to understand the importance or severity of the issue 
  6. Time Ownership: Block out three ten minutes slots throughout your day. Have 30 minutes to build and reflect. (1) at the start of your days, arrange your day. (2) Before lunch to review the morning and plan the afternoon and (3) at the end of your day write down what went well and what to pick up tomorrow. 
  7. Is your team not communicating enough or need to cut through the noise? Ask for weekly stand-ups and sit-downs in audio or video format, this will help to create a richer media format and enable personalities to come through over written text. Slack and Teams both offer support for voice or video. 
  8. Internally Market Talent & Team Numbers – Rotate who updates the company on the performance numbers, campaigns and ideas.
    Give everyone a platform, not just the same people. Have a smaller team? Create 
  9. Templates Work – Create templates that help remove starting afresh every time. More than just PowerPoint or Google Slides templates, think: meeting agenda’s, decision document, one problem two solution framework, get to know me template, professional SWOT template,    
  10. Borrow From Miltary with BAR & AAR
    Before Action Reviews, review what you need to achieve, what you did well in previous campaigns and not so well and set yourselves up for success.
    After Action Reviews – instantly after a campaign, project or workshop is over, review the successful parts, the unsuccessful parts and what you need to do to optimise, and what is essential for the next campaign.  
  11. Create Collective Habits:
    Create a breakfast lunch and learn programme. Invite inspiring stories to be told.
    Share internal stories.
    Have a podcast listening club.
    Watch powerful Ted talks
    Select conference talks to watch and break down collectively.
    Internal conferences are often the best things you can do and help to co-coach and co-learn away from individuals hoarding knowledge from their solo conference experience. 
  12. Roadmap & Documentation: Keep a roadmap of all the important projects you have on and update constantly. Link to mockups, tests, results and after-action reviews 
Company Culture Leadership

Political Intelligence – The Third Intelligence In Business

The 3 “Intelligence” States Within Businesses – Introducing Political Intelligence

There are two intelligence states we openly discuss across the business world currently, IQ (Intelligence quotient) and EQ (Emotional intelligence). 

The Simple Difference Between IQ And EQ? 

IQ is how smart you are, how you can learn from situations and develop yourself. IQ is typically about you rather than those around you. 

EQ is how good you are with people, in people first situations and how you enable and develop the people around you, professionally and how empathic you are towards their development. EQ is as much about you as much about others. 

These intelligence states are explained at great lengths, the issue with this is although both help you within the business world, the third state that goes unreferenced is political intelligence. 

Introducing PQ – Political Intelligence

Being political and playing the game can be dismissed by many people writing best practice guides, however: 

Political Intelligence is arguably the savviest intelligence to have and develop. 

PQ is about understanding which skills you have to use when you need large scale change, when you need to apply pressure, when to navigate difficult colleagues and combative behaviours of fellow managers and executives. 

Some of the best advice you will receive in your career and on your development track is to learn how to play the game and know how to influence those around you. 

An essential skill to master: 

When to use IQ, when to leverage EQ and when to apply PQ. 

PQ is an unfortunate byproduct of the business world, however, PQ is critical: 

  • If you are a high performer, 
  • If you are on the ‘fast track’
  • if you are an experienced senior manager and making progress within your business or looking to move onto your next challenge. 

Experienced executives are hardened to political intelligence, they have experienced first-hand or very often learn from being on the receiving end of PQ. 

When PQ is used, it is critical to understand the difference between personal PQ and professional PQ, this comes from experience and applying EQ blended with IQ. 

Hybrid PQ

In the near future, when asked what makes a great hybrid leader, we will have to be frank as a leadership team, being politically intelligent is going to be a core skills pillar to have and then develop their team around them to become politically smarter. 

Many execs do not (necessarily) love the political games and being victims of their colleagues’ political intelligence but the more experienced you become the more you have to develop your PQ.  

Play The Game

As answered in our anonymous career advice column, is playing the game necessary? playing the ‘game’ and being politically savvy are important skills you have to understand and develop. 

When applying PQ into your workflow and developing in your team, something that is essential to keep in mind is how to understand when this creates a negative subculture within your business. For all those who apply a negative PQ (this is common), you will need to know how to address and fix a toxic work culture.  

In the coming weeks an activity to undertake is to score yourself in a professional SWOT, apply the three intelligence states IQ, EQ and PQ and rate yourself out of ten and then develop the three intelligence pillars.

hybrid office Leadership

What Makes Great Remote and Hybrid Leaders

The burning 2021 and beyond question to answer:

What makes a great remote and hybrid work leader?

In the move to hybrid work, we have seen many reports suggest hybrid and remote work is going to hinder performance, we will see company culture become toxic, it will slow the development of younger members of staff and we will encounter higher staff turnover while having to completely change the way things are done. 

With all of these points reported, there are very few resources that offer advice on what actually makes a great remote manager and a great hybrid leader. 

Here are the five categories and qualities that make brilliant distributed and hybird leaders:  


  • Helps to guide and direct teams
  • Connects work together with teams  
  • Champions the team and their connections 
  • Builds better internal networks – constantly looking to improve the nodes between the department’s networks particularly cross-functionally. 


  • Keeps the heartbeat going throughout the business 
  • Ensure work progresses at the right pace 
  • Sits across workstreams and keep ahead of the potential issues or jumps into action when required 
  • Check’s in and check’s out at the right amount per team member 
  • Understands when there will be a requirement for personnel change, to bring in the right external consultancy or add or replace the supporting agency
  • Ability to be aware if a Team A and Team B mentality starts within the business and removes any issues
  • Helps to monitors how people are feeling alongside their performance 


  • Helps to set the right priorities 
  • Helps to realign or prioritise where required 
  • Helps to shape deadlines and is available for when their teams need guidance 
  • At hand to review the team’s task list when struggling or hit a large bump in the road(map) 
  • Coaching and mentoring those around them pairing awareness and connection 
  • Understands when it is time to train team members in their new environment or when it might be time to let their team member go for performance issues 


  • Applies EQ and IQ and understands when to apply 
  • Is happy in doing (delivering the tactics) and thinking long term (keeping up with the company-wide strategy) 
  • Is alongside the team in getting things done and helping to set the right goals 
  • Knows when to step away or step up for their team and the project they are delivering 


  • Good writer, detailed and deliberate comms in an asynchronous world helps  improve the flow of communication and wins in the hybrid workforce 
  • Understands when to send a detailed update, when to create a short, articulate deck or to speak to those people “face to face”
  • Understands that a quick self-recorded video will land better and have more  impact with their team members than rely on a long email chain 
  • Can understand when a video meeting (zoom, teams etc) is going to be important vs an audio-only meeting or a walk and talk meeting 

These five categories will help guide you and your management team to build out better teams and improving managers in the hybrid and remote work world. 

Two Invaluable Resources 

Company Culture Leadership

Why Sports Clubs Are Using DNA Documents and Team Trademarks As Guiding Principles

Over the past few months, we have seen large companies request staff to return to the office, to a hybrid work environment and suggest culture is impacted by proximity (proximity bias), mere exposure effect and the Allen curve

Whereas professional sports at large has been working throughout lockdowns. 

For front line workers, teams have had to work in brand new and unique conditions, pushing them to record levels of anxiety, fatigue and unfortunately in many cases burnout. 

Every different work environment and industry have had various stress and anxieties to deal with throughout the pandemic, for many it has been a forcing function.  

Enter Agreed Principles

Here at Focus one of the core recommendations, we provide to any business of any size is to have leadership principles. Guiding and agreed on principles that everyone across the business follows to know they are making the right choices and to empower them to make the right decision. 

Recently Rugby league club Leeds Rhino’s stripped their captain for “behaviours not aligned to team trademarks”. 

For many this would seem unusual, trademarks is not a phrase commonly used and sports is typically a winner takes all business and typically captains and stars of the team tend to be given special dispensation vs the rest of the team. 

This is great leadership from the club, poor “leadership” from the ex-club captain. 

Leadership principles are a brilliant way to align management teams and hold yourselves accountable. 

What Leeds Rhinos did here was suggest their club and their beliefs are bigger than any player and their behaviours have to be aligned to their agreed principles. 

New Zealand Rugby has some brilliant rules for their players including:

  • No d*ckhead rules – The All Blacks New Zealand rugby team motto 
  • Sweeping the sheds – leaders clean and tidy the locker room
  • The principle of ‘Whanau’ which translates to ‘our family, our friends, our tribe.’

DNA Documents

We have also seen football clubs like Hibs reference their DNA document, what they want their DNA to be so their staff and their players can understand what it means to at Hibs. 

This also acts as a guiding document and informs some of their most important decisions, especially when to comes to buying players and negotiating transfer fees. 

Company culture is most often the behaviours when no one is watching and the glue helping to make the right decisions for the company. This is where DNA documents and team trademarks really help keep accountability and actionable. 

Guide Behaviours

Businesses big and small need to go over how to be successful, what behaviours are rewarded and those which are not. Creating an agreed guide is essential in the way we working particularly with the move towards the hybrid office and guiding the next generation of leaders within your business. 

Actions You Apply Within Your Own Business

  1. Create your own guiding principles for your business – requires business leads and HR
  2. Create a DNA document of who you are, what you have been and where you are headed – requires the leadership team 
  3. Create leadership principles where you show what leadership is and how you are accountable – requires the leadership team 

Five Related Resources 

Leadership Strategy

Andy Jassy’s Masterpiece Memo

Andy Jassy took charge as the Amazon CEO on July 5th, one of his first acts as CEO was to send a powerful internal masterpiece, his memo to his colleagues.

What is most interesting is the language he uses, the tone he influences with and the number of we and brand references Andy makes.

This is a brilliant masterclass of internal communications and a way to align the company around his vision and how they will get there together.

Andy Jassy centre’s the memo around the past, the present and the future by referencing the team that made it possible and how important workplace culture is to him and the organisation moving forward.

In the email memo, Andy Jassy uses brand references (in orange below) to form togetherness, he uses strong connecting language (in red) to reinforce how important the brand is and how far the company has come as a collective.

Andy makes references to speed (an essential characteristic of Amazon and highlighted in blue) and references former boss and now chairman of Amazon Jeff Bezos (read the focus lessons from Jeff Bezos)

Company Culture hybrid office Leadership

July 19th – Time For Leaders To Lead

Important Leadership Tips For Returning To The Office 

Your teams will be nervous about July 19th, there will be many who look forward to the old normal, there are many who are used to this normal and enjoy working remotely, and there are many who expect a hybrid office approach.

Here are the leadership tips to follow to ensure smooth sailing for July 19th – back to the office day.

hybrid office Leadership

Anxious About Returning To The Office?

Are you based in England and concerned around July 19th return to the office?

The future of work should be flexible and hybrid (consider reading our free hybrid office ebook), however, we have seen many businesses default to a return to the office.

Here are the questions to ask your leadership teams on how they are thinking and how they made the key decisions.


How To Remove Proximity Bias Guide

With the continued move towards returning to the office and the continued pressures and requirements for businesses to move towards hybrid work, we are starting to hear how in-office vs hybrid and remote have very potential different biases. 

We have seen businesses only consider office space and not consider redesigning their office as a hybrid environment, we have seen organisations struggle to rethink perks in the hybrid world and favour a mass return to the office vs developing a true hybrid workforce that will work for everyone. 

Proximity bias (aka a bias to being in person) has had a huge impact on the way some organisations have handled remote work and it has centred around more communication, enforcing more video meetings and meetings were the only way for some teams to get work done.

In the office is how many managers are primed, it is something that every workforce has been conditioned and brought up in and is the way in ‘the line of sight management’ has “worked” for many across decades of working. 


How the IKEA effect is a guide for building better relationships

The IKEA effect is something many would not know how to put a phrase on it but once said is obvious. 

Yes, the Ikea effect is a labour of love. 

We value IKEA furniture more as we have to invest time into reading those instructions and then the stress of assembling it. 

We have a sense of achievement, we brave the store, we pick the furniture, we spend hours building it and then we can enjoy it because we spend those hours into it. 

In the original experiment the test was building IKEA boxes, folding origami, and constructing sets of Legos, the reason why Ikea won out in my laymans ways of explaining: humans had to invest more labour into the connection with Ikea products.