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Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 160 – 10 Of The Best Ways To Improve “Team” Subculture

Dear leaders, In recent weeks I have shared insights into how to think about your team, management and leadership levels and how to connect to those around you. 

In a recent presentation to a C-suite, I suggested that they were confusing everyone: how? They had:  

  • C-Suite – CEO, COO etc 
  • Leadership Team – C + SVPs
  • Management Team – Department Leads + HR 
  • Next Gen Team – The Heads of 
  • They also had an X-team for good measure too – that was their executive team and advisors in a big group who mostly spoke about the numbers and performance (very similar to the C-Suite) 

The difference for most is a title and how they are tiered internally. 

For others it is how they represent the company, which teams they might serve and who is the first team, this first team principle is something that has been around in management training for years, it’s the team you spend the most time with and who you often operate alongside most. 

If you are on the C-suite your team is 99% of the time, the C-Suite team or if named differently the Senior Leadership Team. 

If you are a department lead, your team is most likely the team you manage. 

When you are senior and trusted you will likely be across numerous teams and that’s when your time is precious you need to understand which team is your primary and which is your secondary and so on.  

I am a big believer in there are actually numerous cultures within organisations, there is one but they are influenced by the ongoing micro cultures of your company. I tend to refer to these mirco cultures as sub-cultures, each team or unit of people are big influencers on the wider company culture, big decisions do change how the people within your company operate and will impact how they perform. 

I have been in challenging times when the most senior leadership team is in dispute or has long-term conflict and it really impacts those around them, underneath them and can creep into one-to-ones and departmental meetings. This is where seasoned operators use and abuse their political intelligence and sends the wrong waves through the organisation.  

Team Subculture Advice

I’m usually asked for specific details of how I’ve helped my teams in the past so here are ten common recommendations I make to clients today.  

Leadership Team Level 

  1. All Company Stand-Ups – These are optional standups for the whole company to attend; this included weekly performance and revenue numbers, it included top-level information of what we discussed at the leadership team meeting (to allow the team to understand how we are tackling issues, discussing the future and where we see opportunities etc) and our actions and we invited anyone to ask questions and present their take. 
  2. Friday Stand Down – as a leadership team, we were all relatively new to each other. We had an informal debrief every Friday afternoon before we left and it was what we needed to blow off steam, have a laugh and connect on a personal/professional level. In most leadership teams you rarely have a chance to laugh and it’s incredibly important you find your mutual humour zone and what is acceptable within your team. 
  3. Meeting Captains – there’s nothing more annoying if you are that person who always takes notes, I introduced a rotating meeting captain who would lead meetings and be responsible for agendas, action points and notes, it was a way to share respect and responsibilities and not just be on the “leader” to lead meetings. 
  4. Extra / Management Fika – a coffee and a snack together following the Swedish tradition. Fika worked well with leaders who don’t work together often or have less of a personal connection. Fika can work well and can work remotely – it’s worth exploring how you can introduce time blocking to encourage Fika. 

Management Team Level 

  1. Onboarding – Very often you will work with people on the MT who is new to the company or new to the management team; they very often need onboarding to the management team, they need to understand how this management team works and what success is for them on the management team. Onboarding is essential and almost always overlooked – I created the onboarding flow and a cheat sheet alongside a record of important items we had discussed recently and how we made and got to decisions. 
  2. Decision Documents – I have recommended a number of times on leaders letters; the decision document helps the company to understand how decisions were made, how, who and why. It’s an invaluable tool for transparency and takes minutes to update and share with the org. This is an open document everyone has access to. 
  3. Up-and-comers lunches – a virtual or in-person lunch where up-and-comers within the business could be taken for lunch and discuss the company, and get to know senior execs. This isn’t just for the up-and-comer it is for the leaders to get to know their colleagues and understand how the level or two below are operating and understand any concerns they may have.    

D Team Level 

  1. Reverse Mentorship – Mentorship isn’t always senior mentoring the “junior”. Reverse mentorship is the smart way to help spread knowledge and insights across the business. It is a way for less senior members or discipline experts to help more senior people understand how the company is operating lower down, understand the discipline and learn from internal experts. Be mindful of the time and how many reverse mentorship sessions you have or enable.
    There is an upcoming leaders letter around your 160 hours of work per month and making the most out of time management.   
  2. Champions Presentations – Champions are experts in their field, aka subject matter specialists (Super ICs as it has been referred to recently) who go into management and leadership meetings and present rather than the Department lead. This is important for exposure to the environment, training on what is expected and tolerated in these meetings and giving the Champion the opportunity to connect with senior leadership. Historically this may have been seen as Departmental management not to present on the behaviour of your team, however, empowering your team members and bringing in champions will improve how important tactical layers are thought through and delivered on (alongside being a time-saving exercise). 
  3. Cross Champions Training – this was something that I rolled out as long as 14 years ago. Inviting international colleagues to the U.K. and having a few days going through plans, learnings we came across and sharing knowledge whether that’s day-to-day essential cross champions like excel training, latest tools to use and how to use them to one example was someone was a popular external keynote speaker and provided speaking training to the department. 

This week’s focus item is to implement the most applicable pieces of advice, I always strongly recommend rolling out a decision document, champions presentations and meeting captains for the quickest impact and lowest effort. 

Have a good week and I’ll land in your inbox next week,

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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