Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 29 – Rally Cry


Dear Leaders,

This is the 29th leader’s letter of the year. Thank you for reading every week.

You have likely had your remote or virtual (zoom based) Christmas (or seasonal, festive or end of year) party, you have likely written and read your speech to your department or to your company and you have hopefully signed off the budget and the action plan for 2021.

The end of the year is something we all look forward to, there is something about finishing up for the year and being able to rest, recharge and come back fresh, with renewed fight and optimism.

The time between Christmas and New Year is often a quieter time and ‘admin time’ for those who continue to work.
For others, it is ‘returns session’ after what was likely the busiest online Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas period for your company.
However, for most, it is the time you truly know how your end of year numbers came out and I hope you can celebrate with momentum into the new year.

Looking Back Leader: For certain leaders, they like to look back, recap and celebrate the achievements, with a thank you for your work, dedication and flexibility for 2020.
Next year is the next fight but needs a refresher mind and clarity of thought on the 4th of January to rally the troops.

Looking Forward Leader: For others, they like to only look forward, driving forward with more energy, more intensity. The rallying cry is for more, for better, for bigger.

Neither is wrong, but being able to say thank you and know your plan for 2021 is set and going to provide many different possibilities and avenues is something to look forward to and gather around.
Sharing that one-page strategy plan between Christmas and New Years might just be the difference between a flat first few weeks back and a joined-up company ready to stand together and win 2021.

2020 is the year that will stand out for all of us, the year we didn’t know the answers, we were unsure of what the next week looked like and the year we learnt so much about our friends, colleagues, managers and bosses.

2020 was the year of some good, some bad and a lot of ugly.

2021 Rally Cry

2021 has the opportunity to be brighter, an opportunity to challenge the status quo, to build something new, something different or even build something yourself.
2021 has to be the year you own, you lead, you empower and a little challenge, where you can; seize the day as many times as possible. You shake up your management teams and implement management pods.

Set up mentorship, set up coaching sessions, entrust givers not takers, set yourself up for success by performing your personal and professional SWOT and find your hidden leaders embrace them and empower them to take your company up another level, optimise your meetings, help people become smarter not harder and commit to communicating clearly, lastly do not forget to listen to your future seers. Why not action 21 for 2021.

Thanks for reading and supporting leaders letters this year, go and have a great Christmas break.

My own personal rally cry and the north star of the focus manifesto:
I will fix the broken world of work.

Yours sincerely,

Danny Denhard

PS if you agree, give this newsletter a share on Linkedin or to your leadership team on Teams or Slack.

Friday Focus

Friday Focus – Friday 18th December

Today’s Friday Focus is how to get ahead for 2021 with five quickfire tips.

  1. Write down a list of all the important tasks you need to pick up upon your return to work. Create a list, categorise, write a due date, a priority and an owner, this ensures you don’t forget the essentials and the agreed owners over the festive period.
  2. Write a thank you note to your team, quick, snappy, witty if you can and thank person by person. Celebrate the note together.
    Write your team a letter is a good read if you need inspiration.
  3. Arrange personal development plan meetings for the first week of January, this ensures your teams know you are thinking about their progress and enables you to check in on their breaks personally. Ensure you book a 45-minute slot with an agenda shown so there will be no anxiety for an unspecific meeting in the new year.
    Optimise your meetings will be an important read to help with poor meeting etiquette or management
  4. Manage your 2021 calendar today: Block out times in your calendar for the new year, habits start small and you create habits by starting early, building a prompt and creating the behaviour. Start by blocking out times for deep work (if you are a morning person book out 90-minute slots in the morning, if you are an afternoon person block out 90 minutes after 15.00).
    It’s also a great time to start planning the Q1 2021 offsites and management team training.
  5. Annual reviews re-reviewed: Annual reviews can be productive or counterproductive, what makes one party happy often makes the other frustrated. Book in a re-review session in the new year to review the annual review and offer three clear steps for the more negative elements more proactive for your team member or team. It is essential that you build trust and set expectations from your leaders to make everything proactive and actionable.
    A good follow up to read is: what leadership is
    Hidden leaders is a good read if you would like to understand your teams and your people better and uncovering your brilliant secret weapon.

End the year in the right way, start the new in the new way that will help your colleagues and teams deliver excellence and feel like 2021 is their year.

Read the 21 actions for 2021 to help you get ahead and enhance your company culture for 2021 and improve your business performance.

Business Performance Company Culture

The Focus 2021 Predictions

Here are the 2021 Focus predictions, focusing in on company culture and improving your business performance.

The Focus 2021 predictions recommend the five most common business elements to tackle that arise throughout 2020 and have been regular talking points with teams and clients in Q4.

The areas to tackle are:

1. Improving internal communication

2. Reducing screen time

3. Teaching where the line between home and work is

4. Enabling physical and mental health support within your teams

5. Ability to offer external support and advice when those are struggling with mental health, grief or anxiety from 2020.

We recommend four problematic areas to look to remove and provide guidance on:

1. Zoombie’s aka zoom and video fatigue

2. Personal conflict

3. Reliance on stealing each others time with meetings

4. Uncertainty for the future

We answer five important questions we feel are most important:

  • Q1. What will be the new role/job created for 2021?
  • Q2. What will happen in company culture in 2021?
  • Q3. What hires will be most important for 2021?
  • Q4. How will the role of the manager change?
  • Q5. Will businesses return to normal (working in the office)?

Our 10 quick but essential tips are:

  1. Company Culture: Put as much into company culture as company strategy
  2. Design Better Meetings: Design your meetings, question should this be a meeting, agenda’s as standard, reading materials, why people are attending, the expectations of the meeting, the follow up actions and owners and the delivery dates.
  3. Time: Help colleagues co-manage their time and the line between work and life. Enforced remote work has been a challenge even on those who had experience with it or had to help everyone adapt to remote work
  4. Develop: Build personal development plans in December and January and ensure you stick to quarterly outputs 
  5. Training: Champion internal training – arrange external & online training 
  6. Clear Company Strategy: Create a strategy one-pager, and a company playbook with all plans of actions from each department and team 
  7. Connect & Align: Constantly align and connect teams, assign owner and provide clear ownership boundaries  
  8. Better Communication: Asynchronous communication over chat tools 
  9. Talent: Talent retention will be harder, more colleagues will be looking at their options and looking for new or better challenges. Talent acquisition will be harder, bigger talent pool won’t mean easier to hire. 
  10. The Next Normal: Build your next normal, be proactive don’t wait for surprises 

Friday Focus

Friday Focus – Friday 11th December

This weeks Five for Friday, is five important reads, listens and watches from company performance, leadership and company culture.

  1. 2021 actionable predictions: 21 predictions for 2021
  2. Rethink the title vs job description dynamic: leaders vs manager vs manager vs coach vs operator
  3. Remote First: Is there such a thing about productivity working virtually? The Table Group Podcast
  4. Business Scale: How to scale your go-to-market – Google Slides
  5. Leadership: Daniel Ek the Spotify CEO joins Tim Ferriss

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to sign up to the leaders letters, coming out every Monday morning.

This Monday’s The Management Cult of CCF (confusion, chaos, fear).

Business Performance

21 for 2021

2021 is just around the corner and many companies are deep in the planning cycle.

I have 21 predictions to help you and your company for 2021 and beyond.

The predictions include company culture, mental health support, building and adapting to the hybrid office, company strategy and experience-based on-sites vs offsites.

  1. Company Culture is taken seriously and treated a dedicated recurring workstream throughout the year not just quarterly
  2. Staff happiness and development will be treated as business-critical. Businesses have to evolve away from sending more pulse-based surveys into more actionable and trackable methods. 
  3. Culture community managers are formally hired or existing staff member moved into the role 
  4. Company culture because a pillar in company strategy 
  5. Flexible schedules vs traditional 09.00 to 17.00.
    There will be a fundamental shift away from one schedule fits all, this will means more and better flexibility for teams, departments, offices and companies. Flexible will mean communication has to improve and calendar management is taught. 
  6. The hybrid workforce is built out and developed, hybrid requires real investment from leadership teams, the staff at all levels and tech investment and positive shift away from forcing in-person work into the existing tools 
  7. Remote first continues – while 20% of staff work in remote locations not from home. This will be key for managers of all levels to understand and build out flexible tools and methodologies to support their teams and departments.
    in 2021, businesses have to work out how to manage this safely and work with external providers and tools to manage this and support staff safely. 
  8. Satellite office spaces are scoped out – centralised HQ will be essential but smaller geo focused areas will need to be scoped out and offered to truly answer all of the requirements in the modern work environment. 
  9. Office Design: On sites will replace traditional off sites – on-site in the office, reconnecting with the space (the office), the identity and the people will be vital, off-sites were often used as a break away from the small four walls, now many will need their feet in their base. There will be a need for training and workshop consultancy to ensure high quality outputs
  10. On sites will be arranged every month to replace poorly co-ordinated video calls 
  11. Experience-based on-sites and off-sites will be introduced, vs sitting around a large conference room table, we will see more outdoor spaces utilised  
  12. Small project(s) on sites and QBR will be selected to take place over away from video, where permitted safely.  
  13. Remote offsite sessions and more traditional team-building getaways will be selected to bring teams closer together. Leadership teams will create bi-annual getaways to address strategy 
  14. The virtual HQ will become popular for a small set of tech-minded companies. Colleagues building their own avatar within a virtualised HQ where you meet in the kitchen, in breakout spaces and 
  15. Video calls are not optimised for more than three participants – we will rooms and gestures to talk move forward 
  16. The move away from ‘chat first’ based apps to asynchronous communication starts to develop 
  17. Phone calls – walk and talks replace recurring video calls. Typically for one to ones and meetings / stands not requiring screens or multiple screens 
  18. Gesture-based apps are integrated into chat (Slack, Teams, Workplace) tools to add benefit to presenting remotely 
  19. Pre-recorded video’s, pre-recorded audio will become commonplace vs long-form written content, pre-recorded video will become one way we reduce reliance on poor presentations and multiple voices and questions over video 
  20. Mental health support and large double-digit investment by companies into external partners and apps 
  21. Colleagues will require more emotional support and have formal times where they can take burnout and mental health time. This requires many companies to adapt and change their HR policies 

For many leadership teams, 2021 can feel daunting and uncertain, however, by building the right plan of action and running through these questions will enable you and your company to succeed and reduce the stress and anxiety that will seep through your company.

Happily reach out to discuss the future.

Business Performance

The Five Roles For Success In 2021

Back in September I wrote the 5 roles for success in 2021 to help business plan their hiring and prepare their Q4 and Q1 2021 for success.

The roles were

  • Culture Community Manager
  • Retention Marketer
  • Project Manager
  • Growth Specialist
  • Innovation Specialist

The reason why I wrote this was to drive a different thought process than just hiring what your team managers are thinking about looking around their teams but instead look at the gaps in most businesses and drive cohesion and delivery.  

The Case For A Culture Community Manager

Within your business you have someone who knows: 

The pulse of the company, the temperature of how it is operating and how people are feeling, importantly they understand your people.

They understand the business, how it operates, they want to know the numbers, and what makes the business tick (or in some cases, what used to make it tick) 

They have trust amongst colleagues and the most important aspect, the respect of the business (ideally they have the support of the leadership team)

They most likely don’t work in HR and likely are not part of the senior leaders, they understand why these things matter but haven’t been given the right company-wide role to formally influence the business. 

This is who should be your Culture Community Manager.
If you cannot identify them quickly, go and find them ASAP.
For the last two years, I have been a big advocate for this role.
Speaking to numerous businesses and understanding their ongoing issues, the next most important role the most important upcoming business issues are likely within culture, staff retention and happiness. It is essential to keep in mind, this is a political role, this is a role that takes time to formally bed in but a lot less time to influence change, it requires good IQ and high levels of EQ. It also needs a lot of self-confidence and backing from leadership and HR to build out the highest level of trust to drive change within your business.

Having worked with companies and helped to roll this role out, it is important this person is already in your business and likely one the secret weapon

As I suggested in no rules rulescompany culture is something Netflix was very deliberate with and they had senior management (the top 10% of the company) were always focusing on culture and the inner workings. 

Another role I believe that will be essential is the Project Manager. 
In many organisations the Project Manager fell out of fashion, it was not about delivering to a set date, it was when the product was as close to perfect as possible. Or rolling out a MVP that isn’t something that a Project Manager typically owned.

As I have stated before, in business we have lost our focus and it is time we bring back focus and direction and an owner who drive projects to delivery and keep everyone up to date with the right information. If you have ever worked with a brilliant PM you will truly know their influence and the importance of well communicate, good delivery on time. 

Upon reflection, I noticed these roles are actually intertwined:

  • Culture Community Manager to look across the company and connect people with teams, connect cross-functional projects, build connections and layers of support, all connecting with the strategy and goals of the company. 
  • Retention Marketer role to connect with customers and existing customers, helping the customer to come back and stay engaged, this will help the company to stay connect and aligned with their users. 
  • The Growth Specialist job is to help persuade, encourage and tip those users in your product to actually use it and get the most benefit, Growth and Retention go hand in hand.
    These roles should connect with the Culture Community Manager to help them talk confidently about the customers and help these to connect to the strategy and the mission you are on.
  • The Project Manager helps to deliver vital updates and programmes while keeping everyone to date
  •  The Innovation Specialist is then to be the future seer and drives development in and out of the company. These roles build trust, executes on delivery, builds direction and build trust throughout the organisation and with the customers. 

These links build out on some of Focus’s foundations for success: 

Communication ➡ Culture ➡ Trust ➡ Delivery ➡ Strategy

I highly recommend you and your business have a think about the roles you need within your organisation or agency, understand there are likely people within the org you can shuffle into some of these roles and identify which roles you are short on and help decide how you shuffle your company around or how you re-shift your 2021.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 13 – Fight, Flight, Freeze

Fight, Flight, Freeze


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,