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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 17 – What Leadership Is

What Leadership Is

28/09/2020

Dear Leader, I trust you had a good weekend.

In recent years we have seen and heard many versions of what leadership is.
I was asked this week:
What leadership is and what does leadership look like today?

One of my recent goals was to speak to great leaders. I have been speaking to many leaders from healthcare, education, finance, app-only businesses and leaders from the world of sports, and one essential piece learning for me and the leaders interviewed…leadership is changing for the better.

For me, gone are the days where the leader is the person who intimidates the company the most, they are not the person who shouts loudest or has the final word.
The leader can be more introverted, they can be quieter, leaders can and should be calmer natured, and to borrow the Matthew Syed phrases, they can be a prestige leader, not a dominance leader.

I re-read a list of quotes I have saved and this leadership quote from the Everton Football Club men’s manager really does solidify what leadership is.

“My approach is born of the idea that a leader should not need to rant and rave or rule with an iron fist, but rather that their power should be implicit. It should be crystal clear who is in charge, and their authority must result from respect and trust rather than fear. ”

– Carlo Ancelotti 

For those who are unfamiliar, Carlo is one of the most successful football managers of all time, he was also a very successful player too. Carlo has played under some of the hardest and most dominating managers from football, he has also managed the biggest clubs and stars in sports. This quote really highlights how things can shift.

This week focus on: When you question what is leadership and what makes a great leader, I challenge you to rethink the old stereotypes and what you have been conditioned to believe and attempt to grow this type of leadership.

Have a great week!

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter 16 – No Rules Rules

No Rules Rules – The Netflix Company Culture Book

21/09/2020

Dear Leaders,

I trust you are making progress and 2021 strategy is being shaped nicely. 

I recently finished reading Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer’s (author and business professor) book No Rules Rules. 

It is based on the (in)famous Netflix culture and how Netflix set up their company culture for success. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn from their mistakes and how rules become principles and guidelines, empowering their teams to make the right decisions by following “Act in Netflix’s best interest”. 

I will be honest throughout my career I have read the Netflix slide deck probably north of two dozen times, it has been an inspiration and on an odd occasion, it has been a hindrance.

It was inspiring to have candour at their level and admit some people just aren’t good enough. Something that leapt out in the earlier chapters was one sentence, this one sentence that kept coming back to me: 

“When I saw how senior management spends their time. I lost confidence in the company”

This quote actually inspired me to reach out to a couple of previous colleagues in management teams and a few more in senior leadership positions and asked: 

If people could openly see how you and how the senior management team spends their time, do you think it would improve or worsen the company? 

Most answered honestly, and suggested it would actually worsen the company. One was particularly honest. I love how we operate between us and our management team meetings are proactive vs previous roles.

However, we are not leading by example outside the meetings and it shows up in team meetings.  I have sat on a couple of management teams and leadership teams, I have advised a few more and upon reflection, I have to say one would have improved confidence and performance and guided the team. 

Another would have been particularly detrimental and would have instantly lost confidence and respect. Some management teams are thrown together and it requires months of getting to know each other, trusting each other and then respecting the collective decisions. 

For those who I have advised, being organised, deliberate, actionable, accountable and transparent are non-negotiable essentials and everyone has to sign up to these behaviours. 

These sound obvious, however, internal politics and personal ego’s come into play and ruin the hard work up front and then have numerous ripple effects throughout the business.

Over the coming week focus on asking yourself and your leadership team how we are spending our time and how is it improving performance, morale and accountability of the company? 

Thanks and have a great week, 
Danny 

PS if you are struggling as a management team or need help with management team development let me know. 

Want a TLDR of the book, here is a 5 minute mini pod for you to review

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Leaders Letter 15 – Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors

Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors

14/09/2020

Dear Leaders,

This weeks letter is a challenge to set yourself and your leadership team. With all the businesses I have worked in and on, and with the businesses I have spoken to recently, the more I question the way we have set up work to succeed.

The most common question I ask:
“Why do you think you need more managers?”.

Very rarely do I receive an answer that backs up hiring more managers or another manager.

Hierarchy can be good for company progress and taking active steps to mature your startup or middle management team, however, what you likely need in this period is more coaches and more mentors.

These, of course, could be internal (and should be happening organically) and could be external, you will likely benefit more by leading through coaching the team and guiding them long term with specific mentors. Keep this in mind: Both are specific skills and different disciplines.

Coaching can take many forms, the best form of corporate coaching is based on skills gaps, coaching on identified tactical areas of improvements and developing better muscle memory will more likely help teams and departments to perform better together or more resiliently than adding another manager into the chain of command.

A question to ask yourself: 

Do we have the right coaches internally to help the skills gap or should we look to hire a few specific coaches?

Mentoring is essential for those who need longer-term development, a lighter touch with more time to discuss, guide and mould your staff. Pairing mentors and mentees are essential, if you feel like you have someone to take ownership of internal mentorship, great, if not I would recommend looking to bring in external mentors for specific individuals or pairs that would benefit most from it.

Headcount will likely be tight for the foreseeable future, so consider how you can develop hard and softer skills including; confidence, professional development, reactions and your people over another layer of hierarchy.

As always, promote the right candidate and replace exiting managers if these are essential, however, really question and consider: What does our company require?
How is our business is going to improve performance? Not just manage people.  

A challenge for you:
Can you breed a team that proactively coaches and encourages your team to seek mentors and seek mentees?

This week focus on reviewing your hierarchy, department structures and how you can introduce a coach or coaching into the weekly flow and where and who could benefit from mentoring.

Especially those senior members who would greatly benefit from reserve mentoring. So many senior leaders are so disconnected from the floor and the teams they instantly benefit!

Have a good week and let me know by reply how you reconsider management and development.

Thanks,
Danny

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Leaders Letter 14 – Your Secret Weapon

Your Secret Weapon

07/09/2020

Dear Leaders,
A short and sharp letter for today.

There is something I run through in every organisation I work with, it is called find your secret weapon.

In every organisation, there is a secret weapon. It can be micro-behaviours, a specific person, it can a department, it can be the unprompted coffee and snack break teams just do.

A number of times it is a behaviour but more recently it actually is a person, an internal influencer (as I call them) who really and truly drives people forward.

In a recent conversation, I asked a business leader to go find her company’s secret weapon, she found out by speaking to her leadership team it was the number of rising stars they had and that came from “great recruitment” and “great internal coaching”.

When I challenged the leader if they could scale (or power) up the secret weapon she replied with a huge YES!  
Have a guess what they are now concentrating on for the next 15 months?

It is more internal coaching, identifying internal talents and developing more rising stars through more coaching.

I challenge you to go a step further: I highly recommend you add a further proactive step, decide how you will then turn your these internal influencers into your next leaders, maybe reread letter 1, develop leaders.

This week focus on finding your business secret weapon and then identifying and developing the next phase of leaders.
It will be the best investment of H2 2020!

Thanks,
Danny

P.S. If you are a sports fan, I highly recommend Spurs’ All or Nothing on Amazon Prime (i’m an Arsenal fan and I shouldn’t say this, but, it is great) to understand how the sports world have these and how coaches leverage their secret weapon(s) too.

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Leaders Letter 13 – Fight, Flight, Freeze

Fight, Flight, Freeze

31/08/2020

Happy Monday.
Tomorrow is September, have you started Q4 and 2021 planning yet?

You have likely heard of fight or flight, there is a third called freeze. From twenty years of professional work and working with leadership teams over the last ten years, it is important we apply these human reactions into the business world.

Fight is the best when you are winning and needing to pick up performance. Fight can have negative consequences if poor culture or lack of agreement on strategy and direction, however, these tend to show that people care and want to succeed.

Flight can be typically associated with staff entering and leaving the business.
Flight is not always a bad reaction or reflex, it can actually be positive. Remember one toxic person can impact a team, department or business for a number of months.

Freeze is likely one we do not frame in the right way, I think of this as performance anxiety, when teams do not know how to shoot or delivery anymore.
Freeze is probably the current default reaction within your teams especially with lockdowns, current performance or after a long tiring year.

These reactions all have a performance impact and knowing what phases project, campaigns and teams are at will help drive the business forward.

Focus on: Stepping up as a leader and address Freeze, consider how you could change help the team, bring in a coach or mentor (or agency).  

Have a good week and speak to you next Monday,
Thanks,
Danny

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Leaders Letter 12 – Idiot With A Plan?

Idiot With A Plan?

24/08/2020

Dear Leaders,
Are you ready and raring for this week?

I recently started creating a list of quotes, it got to over 60 and many of them are actually well worth sharing, so I started to tweet them daily at 8.30. Quotes can have many reactions (they either resonate or they flop) but one that will always stand the test of time in business is from Warren Buffet.

For all of the strategic sessions, I have sat in, proactively participated in the earlier phase of my career, to co-creating on leadership teams, to leading company-wide strategy is; everyone within organisations needs a centralised plan, they need to access it and feel they were a part of it and be connected to it.
“An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan.”
-Warren Buffett

I have a strict rule when consulting with businesses, you have one (yes just one) company-wide strategy, you have three pillars you are going to concentrate on for the year and then a series of bets that are driven by a number of beliefs.

These are all driven by one Focus Metric that guides you through making decisions to reviewing are we on track?  
Each team then have their own action plan that rolls up into the company-wide strategy and must connect with the other teams regularly to ensure they are all on the same page throughout creating the action plan to rolling these out.

This connection and co-creation are essential. Surprises are what hits business hardest. Believe it or not, some businesses do not operate with a formal plan and do not share formally with their teams. Many leaders talk about their plan to their leadership team and forget to share and talk through.

Surprisingly one meticulously created company-wide plan can shock even the most experienced leaders, often responses are ‘everyone knows the plan’ or ‘we just get on and do it’ – well as Buffet states an idiot with a plan can beat a genius without one. Are you an idiot with a plan (I hope not) or a genius without a plan?

This week focus on starting to plan for Q4 and 2021 and putting together a meticulous plan. If you would like to discuss strategy and adopting the Focus approach to Strategy happily reach out.

Thanks,
Danny Denhard

PS – If you missed leaders letter 5 beliefs and bets newsletter it is well worth a read regarding bets and beliefs.

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Leaders Letter 11 – Bad HiPPOs

Bad HiPPOs‍

17/08/2020.

Dear Leaders,

I trust you had a refreshing weekend.

I know from speaking to a number of leaders recently they felt like August used to be the slow period but August 2020 has been unrelenting. With this, there is a lot of onus on leadership teams.

Unfortunately, there are many management teams that are top-down or CEO/founder lead aka led by a HiPPO (a reminder a HiPPO is “highest-paid person’s opinion” or the “highest-paid person in the office.”).

There are many people within organisations that suggest they do not know why they are asked to do the work that they are or the way they “have to” work as the boss told them to do it or do it this way.

I have worked in organisations where the most senior by title feels like they have to make the decisions and they want to be seen to lead so they refuse to listen, these organisations fail for many reasons but one of the main long term reasons they fail is HiPPO’s acting like this.
They kill the business by their actions.  This inspired me to break down the ten (yes ten) HiPPO’s that are ruining your business.

I recommend you review the 10 HiPPO’s and hopefully find out you are not one of them. I highly suggest you look out for if you are “The This Is My Way HiPPO” or “The Dominant” as you are likely killing morale.

As a bit of fun I recommend sharing this post to your leadership team and wait for feedback, if you do not receive any, you are likely one of the ten.

This week focus on: Connecting with your team, understand if they believe they are a HiPPO and how they are impacting your business. Consider how you can delegate more effectively and if there are decision-making frameworks you can introduce to take the onus off you and improve trust across the business.

If you need some HiPPO training or you need management team training, happily reach out by replying to this email or emailing here by clicking here

Thanks and have a great HiPPO free week,
Danny  

PS I have written two important posts, traits of a good manager, and the traits of a bad manager.

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Leaders Letter 9 – Personal & Professional SWOTs

Personal & Professional SWOTs

10/08/2020.

Dear Leaders,

I trust you had a good weekend and have made some time to find those future seers and your internal motto has been rolled out.

This week I took a couple of mornings away from creating workshops to focus in on personal and professional SWOTs.

When leading a previous business, I would often make the time to take a step or two away from delivery and dedicated into planning and reflection.

Reflection is great to understand where you are currently, why you might have missed something and what can be improved and what you should ultimately improve on.  
Planning is vitally important especially when the world is in constant flux.
Jeff Bezos didn’t get to his famous ten year strategy by not reviewing his personal and professional life.

I personally find frameworks help me and frameworks help many people frame problems in different ways and allows adjustments in their approach to a task or important future decision making processes.

We all strive to improve but until we can review and decide to either build new skills or products or double down and excel at something we are often in limbo.

So why personal and professional SWOTs?

SWOT’s aren’t just for executive presentations and analysing a specific business situation, they are opportunities to honestly review yourself and your professional work.

Personal and professional are interconnected, although many experts suggest you are not different, many people want to be and act differently at home and at work.

Personal SWOTs are great to review where you are at, what you see as achievable opportunities and where you can remove any weaknesses or threats.

The trick I have found is to think two fold, the first as you and the second as your critic. This will enable you to address the differences between the two.
If they aren’t very different I’d suggest you have a start over.

SWOTs always start out easy but should be challenging to complete and action.

Professional SWOTs are great to drive you forward as a leader and helps to drive the team forward.

Right now professionally you will likely have a few more negatives than positives however this is to be expected and is an opportunity to address and pick sections of your business that might want to optimise or drive forward.

As remote management is vitally important, take the opportunity to focus on personal and professional development.
This can be exercises you go through with your team.

Here are ten remote management tips to improve your remote management experience and help guide your team.

Thanks and have a good week.
Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter 10 – Smarter Not Harder

Smarter Not Harder‍

10/08/2020

Dear Leaders,
I trust you had a good weekend and look forward to making incremental improvements this week.

Working smarter not harder is something you have likely heard. Working smarter has always been something I have been an advocate of, however until a few years ago I wasn’t sure what it truly meant.A personal story: I would go into the office earlier than almost everyone, I would have back to back meetings and book time in for deep work.

I would then work many evenings and wonder why I would be shattered and feel like I didn’t deliver my best. What I realised over time was; I was working hard but not as smartly as I could have been. I started to review the schedules I had, the times I was working and the slots where I was productive or not.

I would review my calendar weekly and then categorise the time into themes and work out which meetings could be reduced, could be removed, or could be delegated.

There were meetings that were unproductive and I sort out to address these. Yes, this can sound like extra work but the upfront effort to save your time and sanity is worth its weight in gold. I would make more time for when I knew I was more productive, I would schedule times in with the teams that suited them better and would save some energy as I worked for an American business, mid to late afternoons meant you were due in important management meetings and were supposed to be designed for decision making – these meetings have a higher cognitive load and can be taxing.  

The hybrid office is going to suit many people, there were times where I would work from home in the mornings and dial into “lite’ meetings and then come in for team based meetings or deeper more immersive meetings that worked better in person.

I would book in mentor sessions and catch up coffees where I knew I could recharge and reenergise before lunch. I know personally I get an energy boost from mentoring and could rely on them to act as a refresher.Working harder than everyone is often something you will hear an athlete say in interviews, or I would out work everyone, yes it can work, however, most athletes will tell you coming towards retirement they came close to burn out. Sir Chris Hoy’s explains high performance and the shift in his career really well on this Podcast.

In more recent years, when athletes met sports psychologists, the psychologist would highlight they were running their body and their mind into the ground.

They needed to be smarter with their efforts. The business world is ruthless, time is precious but keeping your sanity in check and knowing how you work and when you work best is incredibly important. This is just one of the many reasons why I built out Focus.

There are going to be times especially when working remotely that feel impossible, or you need to be across every project, however, taking a step back or planning a 30 minute slot to plan, review and optimise is going to save you hours per week.

This is part of the growth mindset that I highly recommend you become a follower of. Matthew Syed has many books that explains the growth mindset. His book is part of my most recommended business book post I wrote recently.  In lockdown, on average, a recent study has found our workdays are 48.5 minutes longer than they were previously. This isn’t harder or smarter, it’s just longer!

This week focus on: Stepping up as a leader, lead by example, help those around you to use their time more wisely, enable colleagues or your team to work smarter. Something you can work through is surveying the company around their meeting habits and seeing if they plan and how they review their week.

Thanks and have a great week.
Danny

PS. Here is a quick Matthew Syed Video explaining Growth vs Fixed Mindset

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Leaders Letter 8 – Is Sleep Really A Competitor?

Is Sleep Really A Competitor?

28/07/2020

Dear Leaders,

Happy Monday.

For many of us it is holiday season.

It’s almost August, how are you feeling month one of Q3 has already gone?

I was recently discussing the Netflix approach of naming competitors and having an alternative view on who competitors are.

Netflix is famous for suggesting sleep (yes sleep) was a competitor. The framing is smart and grabbed the business world’s attention.

In NFLX’s recent share holders letter, Netflix specifically praised TikTok,

“TikTok’s growth is astounding, showing the fluidity of internet entertainment. Instead of worrying about all these competitors, we continue to stick to our strategy of trying to improve our service and content every quarter faster than our peers. Our continued strong growth is a testament to this approach and the size of the entertainment market.”

Something that really leapt off the page for me and hopefully leaps out to you: “We continue to stick to our strategy of trying to improve our service and content every quarter faster than our peers”.

Trust me when I say one large competitor or emerging competitor can send shockwaves through organisations, for years I had Facebook as a competitor and it can really sidetrack senior execs and confuse teams if they do not have clear objectives and goals of concentrating on the customer.

By “managing via press release” Netflix have made it crystal clear to The Street but more importantly to their staff that they are going to concentrate on offering the best service and stay focused on their long term strategy.

This week Focus on aligning the teams on shared goals, aligned to the strategy you and your teams painstakingly put together and producing the best possible product or service not on a competitor or a new entrance into your market.

Have a good week leaders,

Thanks,
Danny Denhard

PS Read the company culture Netflix built newsletter.