Dear Leaders, every year I write a dedicated newsletter from lessons to take the year closing. This year is no different, with 22 lessons and lessons to learn from.
The 22 are from conversations with company leaders, department leads struggling or parts of AMA or talks I have given to companies through 2022.
Where there are free frameworks or supporting guides I have linked, so do click through, download and apply internally.
- PR Not Leadership: Leadership PR became a political tool both externally and internally, with very few coming out looking good. Especially helping their internal teams with mass layoffs.
> Lesson to learn: If you have been told to use spin and PR, learn how to use and when to use otherwise it will blow up in your face.
- Bad Leadership 101: Elon Musk highlighted what is wrong with outdated management ideas and approaches. Elon might have numerous fanboys, however, he really isn’t helping his or big tech cause(s).
> Lesson to learn: Understand what is really needed within your business and provide updates directly to the company and the teams. Any big changes needed to be communicated internally, especially with firing and hiring.
- Professional Ghosting: Ghosting is a real issue within business and many defaults to ghosting because they are not trained to deliver bad news.
> Lesson to learn: People do not forget bad behaviours, especially from brands they interact with. Deliver bad news or if you have no update you should keep people updated.
- Leadership training or development is not happening: Many are finding leadership is getting harder and without coaching and support it is going to become harder and you will then have more reliance on HR.
> Lesson to learn: Invest in yourself and spent dedicated time slots where you develop and train. Hire a coach (either yourself or through the business) and develop as a professional and as a manager.
- Over-communication is not smart: Most are not using templates and frameworks to help others improve and keep communication flowing in the right direction.
> Lesson to learn: Help everyone be smarter, help the teams to develop frameworks and share across the business, stop bad meetings early and have detailed agendas to help everyone align.
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- Lack Of Effective Planning: Many business leaders this year have fed back that their planning has not been and is not effective and often is ignored by April. Effective planning and understanding of what strategy is and is not, is imperative. Strategy is understanding what you are not going to do and packaging strategy so everyone understands and uses as the compass is the difference between a list of tactics and tick box exercises and a strategy that departments (and the teams) can build their annual plans into.
> Lesson to learn: Whatever your planning cycle is truly understand your beliefs, the bets you will make from your informed beliefs and build into pillars so these act as important navigation points when people feel like they need to challenge these.
- Same Office Same Bad Environment: The office is a place where most didn’t redesign, change or make a place for collaboration – this has led to default to bad behaviours and many not wanting to go into the office.
> Lesson to learn: Improve your office environment to produce the best environment to work in for everyone, tailor your office design for library rules, collaboration stations or areas and remove the friction of meeting rooms create.
- “Proximity Is Power”: Proximity bias is still a real issue for many, particularly for middle managers and untrained managers who did not enjoy forced working from home.
> Lesson to learn: Embrace hybrid work, understand the cadence you need to check in with your team members and ensure you fully commit to the 1:2:1’s and look to book in sessions where you as the leader can meet up in person. An organised or arranged coffee together or grab a lunch together in person will help rather than forcing people into the office.
- Old Habits Don’t Die: Conditioning runs deep, old habits beat out new habits as it was easier to conform than inform and improve work
> Lesson to learn: Create a list of old habits and new habits and review them as a leadership team and say which are rewarded behaviours and that are bad behaviours. Call these out and create leadership principles to take ownership and hold the leadership team accountable.
- Hybrid Work For Most: Hybrid is a work in progress and most did not drive change when embracing hybrid work, many reporting it doesn’t work for them. Whereas the real issue is when there is a divide between those who go into the office and those who don’t regularly, you create a tiered system, this has to be removed and difficult choices will have to be made by the leader to embrace hybrid work or look to place in the structure.
> Lesson to learn: Remove the “them vs us” with hybrid work, you either have to embrace it and create structure and guidelines or you reduce it down and have firmer companywide guidelines. Those who decide you are 3 in +2 or 4 in +1 you will likely see this impact you when hiring and especially in core areas like Engineering, Product and Marketing.
- Real Time Everything: Real-time work and meetings are default hindering time to get work done. This has created busy as a badge of honour and stolen hours of time and working time from colleagues. Especially those with pressing deadlines.
> Lesson to learn: Remove the demand for attention to every meeting, remove having to work in real-time and in person and move to async work that enables more thoughtful work and collaboration across schedules and time zones.
- Async Is Not Happening: Asynchronous work has been ignored by the majority of companies. For years many companies have struggled to invest in training to help move people towards writing documentation to help those around them, aysnc work and creating documentation is often a very different operating system. Many have become so accustomed to having working meetings they struggle to work more effectively within documents and canvasses.
> Lesson to learn: Really audit your time in meetings and work out how much time you are wasting in real-time status updates and trying to force working sessions into meetings, this can be done async and have documentation to improve future campaigns and refer back to. They also will have the opportunity to run before-action review and after-action reviews, constantly improving work and approach to work.
- Playbookless: There is no template or playbook for many companies to copy-and-paste with hybrid or remote first work so it became the wild west for many companies. Companies need to own hybrid to make it work for them. Assign an owner and build into company culture.
> Lesson to learn: Build out playbooks and templates for your people and teams to roll out and introduce cross-functionally, without this many will see essential work streams take longer and negatively impact the business
- Confidence Low: Throughout my coaching, confidence is at an all-time low and many do not know what is going to work – this is something we can work on and have small wins to help rebuild. If you are a confidence low or dropped lately, find out what you can do to improve performance or ask for feedback on something you and your team have delivered that had a true impact
> Lesson to learn: Confidence changes throughout the year, especially towards the end of the year, work on positively influencing your own confidence and teams around you, and build up collective confidence with small wins and micro moments
- No Actual Strategy: Many Department leads do not know how to build a plan and connect it to the company goals. Many leads struggle to build a plan that sparks inspiration throughout the team, especially when pushed on why are we doing this. Build out your beliefs, bets and pillars, this will help your team to buy in and see a why when they are told performance is falling behind
> Lesson to learn: Not everything can be a strategy, not every department should have their own strategy, they should have their departmental and team plans that roll up into strategy not just a list of tactics
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat: Many CEOs struggle with repeating the same x pillars to keep the teams on track, and many struggle to be confident in their plan that flows through the organisation
> Lesson to learn: Each year and every quarter create a schedule to replay and repeat your strategic pillars and why they are important. Don’t wait for quarterly events, be a little ad-hoc, vary the channel of comms to enforce the message. When you are bored of being bored about repeating these, know you have to change the words to make this stick. If the teams cannot repeat it and make a little joke about it you aren’t doing it enough.
- Bad Behaviours = Culture: Bad behaviours have crept back into the office and hybrid work, especially in working sessions that are disguised as meetings; with no or bad agendas, no explanation of why this is a meeting, what success looks like etc
> Lesson to learn: Remove bad behaviours and roll out change with meeting agendas, tell people why they are part of meetings and what type of session or meeting this is.
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- Remember Culture Never Stops Evolving: Many are finding out that Culture is always on, always evolving, not a workstream that has to be managed, understood regularly and checked in on
> Lesson to learn: Have a culture community manager, ideally away from HR that is trusted and can feel the change happening and helps to shape and reshape culture.
- Bad Tech = Bad Progress: Many are defaulting to old and bad technology and are force fitting to work in old ways not finding better software for hosting workshops etc
> Lesson to learn: Stop blaming old tech and bad tech choices for force-fitting old behaviours into existing tools. It is time to review your tools and toolkits and either invest or remove bad use cases and bring in better tools for the jobs to be done.
- Burnout Happening Everywhere: Burnout is a continuing theme many are not addressing and refuse to get to the root cause. Most leaders experience this more often than they realise and the negative impact is huge.
Lesson to learn: Stop making burnout something people do not know exists and stop relying on mental health apps. Burnout is a much bigger theme within all businesses, be smarter and get ahead by building programs around the triggers.
> Learn from Burnout Coach Anish Hallan on addressing why mental health cannot be a perk and ways to address it
- Misselling Perks Business: “Perk-based culture” has died for almost all companies and many haven’t attempted to address this and actually reconsidered what company culture is and is not,
> Lesson to learn: Although perks are an important part of differentiating many companies, perks = culture ideology has to stop and stop from being pushed from the HR and management teams. Learn to grow your company culture, look at how you can be different and better and grow up as a business as the perks as culture movement is going to limit companies progression and stop internal hiring referrals
- Time Is Being Stolen: Time is precious, we are told this from a young age, yet many are struggling with time management and many leaders have influenced those around them that sitting in meetings is work and a good use of time. Meeting Recovery Syndrome (MRS) also impacts how time is spent or wasted post-meetings. The ripple effect is much bigger than people realise. Your time is your time, learn to time block or remove bad recurring meetings, poorly planned working sessions and over-emphasis in real-time status updates that only add value to one of the people joining the meeting. This also happens when people believe slack or teams chat is work
> Lesson to learn: Remove your time being added into your calendar that doesn’t have agendas, remove recurring meetings that add no value to you and the business and reduce other people’s frustration when you are not caught up with performance as you have not prepared or looked at their updates. Hint: If you want a new years resolution, you should consider scoring every meeting and understand how useful it was for you and the attendees.
Thanks for reading again this year and I look forward to adding more value to your day every week.
Focus Frameworks to check out
One Problem Two Solutions Framework – how to frame problems and pitch the solution and a backup solution
Companywide Decision Document & Framework – how to explain decisions to the company and receive better questions on decisions made by leadership
Get To Know Each Other Framework – struggling to get to truly know your team or colleagues, this will help set a base of questions and understand others’ triggers
25 Meetings Recommendation – How to optimise and improve your meetings within your business