Categories
Trust

How To Tackle Work Burnout

It is coming to the end of the year, we have had another year of uncertainty, a year of constant change and for many working from home has been more challenging, especially for those who are extroverted. 

For others who have been able to work in the office, this is the first year of hybrid work and this brings its own set of issues and challenges. 

There are many methods to counteract and try and address burnout, here are a number of simple ways you can reduce and tackle burnout for you and your team.  

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 76 – Time To Rethink Training Budgets?

Is It Time To Rethink The Way You Are Spending Your Training Budgets?

Dear leaders, for years we have accepted staff going on many different forms of courses as acceptable ways of spending training budgets. 

We have to trust our people to make the right decisions for their training.

Over the last decade, we have seen the majority of people move their training budget to attend conferences. 

We trust they have learnt and rarely do we get to see the direct results from this. 


There are many conferences that make sense for individuals, there are many which are geared towards networking, this is not wrong but is this really going to improve your people and their performance? Maybe… 

Attending conferences at the early stage of my career, I created a set of success criteria that really did help me to find those talks that added value, the why and the how were my criteria, if it wasn’t a talk with the why they did it and the how they did it specifically I would feel short-changed and ultimately added no value to me or the attendance price.
Mid to this point in my career, the majority of conferences are now designed to be big brand logos to attract the audience, big brand logo presents a big case study, the sticking point; they can rarely go into the why or the how, it’s the what and if you’re lucky some numbers that have been signed off to use. 

Over the last seven years and leading departments, I have encouraged people to find courses (and/or conferences) that will help them to develop, I like fundamental training, the courses that teach a core set of frameworks and skills. 

Most big businesses set out a training budget and you get to go wild on LinkedIn courses or equivalent online software. 

There were two outstanding team members who took traditional project training and they tremendously benefited from this, just because agile and waterfall is in vogue, this doesn’t mean structure and operational excellence will ever go out of fashion, particularly in larger organisations that need operating excellence. Most mid-level employees will understand more agile methods, it is because they have lived it and have to operate in it because another person has said it is best. 

Another example is signing off a senior Marketers request to have formal financial training. Why? Budget management and understanding how finances flow-through businesses is a core skill everyone should learn. Hint most team members just never understand why headcount is often shuffled or removed and it’s driven by the CFO or CEO. 

2022 for most will be from ‘survive to thrive’, it will be about seeing the bigger picture again and delivering excellence alongside learning core skills. 

The training many actually required is a coach, most specifically a performance coach. Someone to help shape their career, help to shape thinking and importantly sharpen skills, it won’t be attending how big brand x did big campaign y through spending z millions of dollars – you will be able to reverse engineer or hear the same story on podcasts. 

I predict many c-suite execs will need formal coaches, more than just the CEO or the COO. Formal and professional coaches who drive the business forward. Like Bill Campbell with execs from Apple, Google and so many other firms.


A c-suite example: A formal CMO coach to help reshape their knowledge and drive their organisations forward and be able to understand the 2 critical P’s, their people (culture) and their performance (strategy –  Focus) and then enable performance coaching underneath them. 

Your team’s training budget should be the best ROI within the business, it will likely be the best ROAS for staff retention and staff development helping them to attract better candidates in the process. One important tip, the more people learn from coaches, the more you should encourage a coaching loop. 

Have a good week thinking about how you can repoint and restructure your training budget and how potentially it becomes a coaching budget. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Get Ahead Of Your Competition – Read These 5 Must Reads

Categories
Strategy

5 Smart Ways Businesses Rethought The Work Week

Here are five different companies who really rethought the work week and the problems we face every day to get different and better solutions.

Front’s Flexible Friday.

This is their approach to the 4 day work week.
Making Friday’s optional, you can work, you can take it off or blend of work and rest. The results and feedback are impressive and well worth reviewing.

Google’s 20% Time

Google introduced a working scheme called 20% time.

It was 20% of your working time that was allowed to be allocated to tests and ideas to create great products or rethink how products were being built.

Google News & Gmail were actually products born out of the 20% time experimentation.

3m 15% Time

3m allowed up to 15% of the workweek to be allocated to alternative ideas and projects.

The most successful product from 15% time allocation? The Post-It Note. Probably the most underrated tool within each business.

Asana’s No Go Wednesday’s

No Go Wednesday’s => No Meeting Days!

It is company-wide guidance to enable deep work and projects to move forward without the pressure of meetings.

This is important as it enables more asynchronous communications (which Asana preaches as its tool is designed to offer), time to think and write more effectively and reduces the pressures of having to collaborate in real-time.

Real-time decisions and meetings are notorious time-sucks and create more meetings.

NASA’s Open Innovation

NASA had pressures to innovate and struggled to launch anything of significance in the early 2000s.

There was a move to embrace the wisdom of the crowd aka ‘innovate via the crowd’.

This enabled ideas to be submitted by the American people (not just the NASA experts) and then collaborated with internal experts (it is important to note, this didn’t go as smoothly, to begin with – experts don’t like to be stuff to work on) but sped up innovation and created numerous important findings. This allowed NASA to continue receiving funding.

Go On Think Differently

All of these are ideas that took the idea of reframing time and challenging the standard workweek and creating time, space and reshaping the idea of having to be constantly working on projects suggested by the leadership, OKR’s that can overly shape businesses or hit key numbers that were created by a few in long-range planning or in last years annual planning cycle.

Thinking differently helps many businesses to win, thinking differently in 2022 is going to be essential for you to thrive.

Here is the future of work and the workplace:

Here is the ultimate free hybrid workplace guide:

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 75 – Ending First In Last Out Mentality

Dear Leaders,

During my career, I have worked in house, agency side and had my own consultancy and a few unsuccessful side hustles. 

When you work agency side, it was (and mostly still is) as someone senior you have to be visible and has to be perceived someone whos committed – basically be there late. 

In the majority of startups you are expected to work more than the core hours and available, do what is necessary. 

When you become senior within organisations there is an unspoken and unwritten rule you should almost always be available. Whether that’s on the phone, late-night emails, long slack threads and early morning and late-night Zoom’s with other regions.

Is any of this effective?
Is this efficient?
Is this right? 

No! 

I have spoken previously on the internal dilemmas work ethic can have and how I used to think my ability to outwork colleagues was a superpower, it isn’t as it is not scaleable. 

The best companies I have worked in or worked with enable people to thrive by working smartly, rewarding working hard and celebrating others around them.

Great company culture should guide values and behaviours, reward behaviours and never ever reward bad behaviours. 

So why do so many businesses reward people looking like they word late versus working effectively? 

Can you scale and grow as a business with fear around ineffective working schedules and hours? And are you breeding the right environment for those to thrive? 

Rethink how you may be rewarding the old way of thinking, reconsider how you might embrace scheduling emails, not sending that non-urgent late-night instant message or how you may be suggesting there is a dominant office or timezone for calls and video conferences. 

Please remember: 

Scaling and maturing businesses do not win by appearing to be working more hours, it is working in an environment that promotes great work, great collaboration and great problem-solving

Never let your commitment be questioned because you are effective, work differently or deliver great work within your working hours.

This week consider how you develop your business out and move away from old ways of thinking. 

Danny Denhard

PS Maybe Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk might agree, but the small and agile are making waves and taking market share across all business sectors.

Great Related Resources

Categories
Business Performance hybrid office

The Hand Over And Hand Backs Process

Is Your Company In Need To Introduce Formal Hand Backs?

The handover hand back approach works for agencies, consultancies and businesses of any size. 

When you are looking for small optimisations in strategy and consultancy work, you have a few ways to address these, list a number of common problems and tackle them and stack rank the importance or you can go through common occurrences within businesses and optimise frustrations. 

One of the givens within any business is annual leave and long periods where colleagues have to cover each other’s work and ensure projects keep moving and in some cases complete complicated campaigns or deliver on projects and product launches. 

Handovers Win First Battle In The War

One of the best optimisations with holidays (vacations) is the ability to write detailed handovers, one of the common mistakes companies make is not creating a hand back.

This is where your colleagues write a one-pager (or more detailed if required) to enable the returner to understand where they are with their projects and what is critical to know. 

Handover Template

A handover requires the work, the status and the action required and typically the deadline. I personally am better with tables than a long list of bullet points and most businesses run off spreadsheets, therefore I recommend a simple table (example below) – this works best on a wiki or knowledge centre vs a document or a chain of emails. 

Work / Task New OwnerStatus Action RequiredDeadline Date 

The Hand Back Template

The hand back is important for more than just annual leave, maternity and parental leave, bereavement and sickness leave, especially if there was no formal handover a hand back often is going to set up your colleague up to re-onboard and pick up and enable them to pick up work more easily. 

As you can see the hand back template is slightly different, it is important you detail the steps (actions) taken and clearly call out the delivery date.

The important factor especially for long campaigns or project deliveries is to include the report URL and the performance metrics. 

Work / Task OwnerStatus Actions Taken Delivered Date (including report URL)

With the sheer amount of emails, instant message chats and threads, many colleagues struggle with coming back and getting through the number of updates let alone being able to cut through and understand what has happened and the performance metrics associated. 

In the hybrid work world, there will be fewer face to face meetings and many of the updates can be (and should be) asynchronous – consider how you integrated better templates that are more actionable within your organisation to set up colleagues and teams for success – this is ultimately what many companies are missing from building their intentional company culture

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Anonymous Career Advice

Should We Re-onboard Our Teams?

Dear focus, we are a series a startup, we are inviting our teams back into the office, something we are struggling with hybrid is how do we get everyone connected, will onboarding help make us efficient? 

It is great to see you are setting the new norms today.

The short answer is Yes! The secret to success for any business in covid is always and regularly re-onboard. 

The new office environment should likely be an arena vs being your traditional office, even in countries where people have returned to the office frequently, the office operates for more collaboration and performance vs headphones in trying to concentrate like many offices were in early 2020. 

As suggested in the return to the office guide

You should always re-onboard teams who are re-entering the office and entering the office at different times. The key with any return to the office is understanding that hybrid is multi-location and generally working online as location really should not be a point of contention in the hybrid work world. 

Playbook For Success

This means when returning into the ‘central space’ you require autonomy, you require the right guidelines and the most important question to answer is:
Why you are inviting teams in on a specific day or for specific reasons?  

One of the core flaws many businesses are operating in with hybrid is when teams are coming into the office they are doing it to have everyone face to face as they believe this builds more trust, reconnects teams and allows teams to get to know each other. 

Some of this is true, some are not as true, particularly when you take into consideration status games and hierarchy, personality types and how familiar teams are with working in person, many have always worked indirectly and asynchronously. 

Sales will naturally crave returning to the office, whereas Dev and Product teams may prefer not to return. Marketing may enjoy a couple of days per month, whereas Finance might prefer working remotely. Those whose roles are collaborative may actually have a new cadence that works best for them remotely, especially ticket-based activities vs being pipeline based. 

Guidelines = Win

Guideline 1: Written rules work best. 

Guideline 2: Create clear guidance for your teams coming back into the office: 

  • Pre read including 
  • Objective 
  • Agenda 
  • What success looks like from hybrid and being in the office 

Guideline 3: It is essential to ensure any important decisions are made are documented and shared officially with hybrid colleagues or those unavailable to come into the office. Wiki’s and knowledge centres are always best. 

No Tier 2 Systems

You have to have inclusive work and never a two-tier system of citizen a (who can come into the office) vs citizen b (those who cannot attend) and be flexible for commute times etc. 

Something to keep front of mind: some teams will want to and proactively opt-out of wanting to come back to office even if it is just for a day a week or makes less sense for their teams, if you decide it is some teams or departments in and some out – you have to remove proximity bias and create a deliberate communication and feedback loop based company. Companies that will succeed in hybrid work will be deliberate in communicating, typically moving forward asynchronously.

Important areas to keep in mind throughout the re-onboarding process: 

  • New work tensions – these are natural upon the first few times of reconnecting and meeting new team mates 
  • New relationships – there will be teams who have brand new colleagues and have to form brand new relationships it is essential you let these grow organically. Many who formed a strong bond online often struggle in real life, consider this. 
  • F2F – First time face to face for team members are often the hardest, be prepared to offer a game or an exercise to go through. Potentially consider the get to know me 4 question game
  • Team bonding can be organised – but the balance to enabling it to organic. There should be as much bonding as work for the first two meetings 
  • New locations within the office or specialist neighbourhoods – there will be many offices that look different, they operate differently and many have been reshaped, it is important that this is my desk or this was my desk to be addressed and discussed if you are rolling our hot desk only. 

Blending IRL and online first is going to be a challenge for every business, building the hybrid company culture norms is going to be key to your success. 

Good luck in your return to the office and remember if you work out quickly that the office just is not working, you can 

Important elements to also keep in mind in hybrid 

Reduce mirror anxiety 

Hybrid politics 

What makes great remote leaders

Designing the hybrid office

Will a strict return to the office work?

Categories
Trust

Are You Struggling To Connect With The Team Or With The Leadership Team

How to connect as a manager or department leader with a simple game

Do your team(s) think you just sit in management meetings, don’t know how the latest tech works and you ask repetitive questions and just cannot relate?

If you are being serious, at some point in your career you thought this and the chances are some of your team members think this right now.

The lack of face time, the lack of chances to get to know you and what drives you often causes disconnections and fear within teams. Department leads and heads are often disconnected by one to four managers.

Your disconnect or distance may be by design, however, it is important you build deeper and richer connections based on IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence). The old saying people don’t leave company’s they leave managers is true, but often this is indirect because your influence as a department lead is to be the inspiration point for the department and often your role as a leader is to be the active connector between your managers and their staff.

Categories
Company Culture

Front’s 4 Day Work Week Approach – Flexible Fridays

Why flexible Friday’s may just be the next natural step for forward thinking brands with 4 day work weeks.

There are currently three big work themes:

  1. The Great Resignation
  2. Hybrid Work (vs remote work vs forced return back to the office)
  3. The potential move to 4 day work weeks

None of these has easy answers or is easily addressed without intentional and deliberate planning and critically smart testing.

The great resignation is an important moving theme, the US is experiencing huge shifts of employees leaving their roles. In the UK and EU there are bigger challenges to actually fill open roles. Many candidates are experiencing recruiter ghosting at a record rate.

Move to Hybrid? With the ‘forced working from home experiment we have all experienced over the last 18 months, hybrid work is one of the easier themes to test and roll out.

The 4 day work week is picking up momentum, many companies believe with smart planning and fewer meetings there will be opportunities to reduce work from five to four day work weeks.

With all of these themes, trust and proximity bias are driving forces for companies defaulting to the old ways of working.

Front is doing it differently, smartly addressing pain points. Front is a communication platform that enables teams and customers to feel more connected through shared inboxes. 

Recently Front tested and reviewed their approach on four day work week. They dubbed it Flexible Friday’s.

What Is Flexible Friday’s?

Rather than enforcing four day work weeks, they enabled Friday’s to be flexible, offering the employees a choice between:
(a) if you would like to work – designed for deepwork
(b) if you would like to spend time with your family
or
(c) a blend of both.

The results (listed below) are not surprising, if anything they show why six months tests are smart testing periods and highlight why working through and optimisation is so important in workplace management and organisational design.

Front’s full blog post is a genuine must-read for business leaders and HR heads, here are my highlights:

  1. Patience – it’s going to be tough going and a big shift for all employees, for the most junior and to the most senior.
  2. Coverage – help teams to be successful and enable communciation and sharing of the most important information. Internal communication is something that requires delibarate design and guiding principles.
  3. For The Long Term – this move was for long term retention not just to address the short term issues. Flexible hours and 4 day work weeks have to designed and have an agreed understanding it could cause issues earlier in the test.
  4. 4 vs 5 – 4 day work stress is the same or worse as 5 days if you do not help teams adapt and know they can be flexible and successful. Something that many businesses are failing with is cramming the same number of meetings into fewer days and it is causing no time for deepwork.
  5. Positive Impact Surveys – By leveraging feedback and surveys there were two positive feedback loops that enabled Front to offer Flexible Friday’s and want to continue the experiement.

If you are looking to trial Flexible Friday’s, or remove meetings to help with burnout and workload’s it is essential you:

  • List all existing issues, pain points and concerns
  • Have a plan with guidelines and how to be successful
  • Agree on behaviours that are accepted and allows the business to understand how you are doing right and a good job
  • Communicate the work flow and cadence – colleagues should know if you are working or not. Simple accountability and easy tracking of who is working and who is not is essential
  • If employees need to be in a location or an office

Below is the full LinkedIn Update from their CEO Mathilde Collin (link to the LinkedIn post)

We’re rethinking the work week at Front.

For now 2 quarters we’ve been experimenting with Flexible Fridays, a dedicated day where there is no expectation to respond to messages and no scheduled meetings. 

How is this different from a 4 day work week? Flexible Fridays gives everyone the option of a day of deep, uninterrupted focus or a day they could take for themselves. It’s our happy medium between ensuring our business and service to customers was not disrupted while promoting a healthier work/life balance for Fronteers.

Here are some of the results from our experiment so far:

  • In our survey, 89% of Fronteers say they work happier because of Flexible Fridays. 
  • 95% of Fronteers say Flexible Fridays have had no impact on collaboration with their colleagues.
  • And the stat I’m most proud of: 87% of Fronteers say Flexible Fridays have positively impacted their desire to work at Front for the next two years. 

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response, success with our experiment wasn’t instant. It took some patience and adjustments to get this model to work. But I’m loving the feedback we’re seeing and count this as a success for our team now. I wanted to share these results for others to see the benefit increased flexibility can have for teams. If you decide to try this for your team, let me know how it goes. I’m excited to continue experimenting with what ‘work happier’ truly means for our team and beyond.

Read About The Other Companies Attempting To Design Work Differently

Categories
Strategy

December Resolutions

Why Wait Until The New Year To Create A Resolution? Build Better Resolutions Today

We apply so much pressure on the New Year’s, a fresh start every year, we set up a long list of things we want to improve but rarely do we hit them. 

Often they are broken by the first week of January and that’s likely down to habits or not creating the right tiny habits (Professor Fogg’s book and framework is a priceless companion) to set you up for success. 

Simple Habits was believed to take 21 days to form, a more recent study found it took up to 66 days. 

There is more research to suggest it can take up to 88 days to form and automatically take on complex habits. 

How are you doing to set up or stop something on January 1st? 

Something we have all experienced since March 2020 is a need to look forward to something.

Something small, something meaningful, something that we haven’t done in a while, something new or something familiar but in a different setting.  

So why wouldn’t you set up a December resolution?

Why wouldn’t you start a month earlier to create a better set of habits? 

Why shouldn’t you spend December building better the plan to build habits to improve 2022 for you and your business? 

Habits are often solo, you rarely gain help with these from partners or friends, whereas WW (Weight Watchers), Peloton, Noom and many other businesses know it is about the support from people doing the same activities that help you move forward and make progress (alongside becoming a habit and buying into the company and continuing to use their products). 

Get ahead of bad resolutions and bad planning for 2022 and get ahead with better habit building and better ways of addressing your bad habits or weaknesses.

A good company strategy is planned out meticulously and is fixed, tactics can change and adapt, pair this and include it into the right set up and your company culture is set up for long term success.


Focus Must Listen:

The podcast below with BJ Fogg and Nike trained podcast is one of my secret weapons of sharing it will help to guide and shape your habits and product building.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 74 – Have A Wish List Of Roles You Want To Hire For To Reshape Your Business 

Dear leaders, there is something important many of us think about but rarely plan.

It is organisational design, creating a team and wishlist of roles we want to hire for. 

In one of my support networks, a question was asked about how other execs go about reshaping their team(s) and was there a method anyone used specifically. 

Away from old school methods of creating a skills matrix or having to question every January the bottom x% of staff, many thought about it but did not plan or have a plan. 

There are two main components for success for organisational design and reshaping your business to consider: (1) company culture / your own subculture and (2) company performance.

My recommendation is to always plan forward, I have a saying that is:


Always Be Auditing, Always Be Marketing.

Auditing helps you review, plan and understand if you are on the path you should be on and the timeline you are operating on.
Marketing enables you to guide, influence, bring others on a journey, alongside being able to attract talent and great team members and bring in senior leaders into your business. 

Many leadership teams are on a long term journey together and just started their journey, there are CEO’s and chairpeople who follow the adage, you should always look to change 5%-10% of their management team, especially if it is larger than single digits. (A good podcast to listen to on this is with PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejeda on BVP)  

Remember a large leadership team can be great and add more diversity, with more people there is always more bikeshedding (Parkinson’s law of triviality) and more opinions creep in and can become a politically charged status game and each decision can become death by committee. 

Plan: Be Strategic, Not Reactive

The plan can be simple, you ideally would like this role for these reasons. 

You can build out another dimension and create an org chart with names and responsibilities and how you look to develop out the people and reporting lines, some do this with their right-hand person and create a timeline for such moves.

Often the unspoken truth is; the more senior you become the less turnover and change occurs, the longer it can take to improve your senior leadership and the longer teams and company culture can suffer. 

Why not look to plan the people evolution of your business for the next 24 months ahead, this helps you to reshape the business, refocus the teams and create a window where you are the company and the employees openly embrace change.

Remember: Organisational design has to be proactive, never reactive.

This week start planning the two years ahead, what you would like your team to look like and operate like and where you can transfer the next generation of leaders into your business and smartly and proactively evolve your business. 

Thanks and have a great week,

Danny Denhard