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Anonymous Career Advice

Leadership Team Issues

This week’s anonymous leadership advice comes from a new leadership team member who is struggling with the purpose of the leadership team and their role on the leadership team:

Dear Focus, It’s the first leadership team I have sat on and I’m struggling to work out the dynamics and what’s important. There’s a lot of talking and not much action. What should I do? 

Management teams can be hard work. They can be exhausting. 

S-Teams can seem daunting, they can seem aggressive, typically passive-aggressive and create an atmosphere where many appear not to like each other personally or professionally. 

It is rare these are friendly but asking difficult questions are essential to make progress. 

Many start out with good intentions, unfortunately, many turns into environments some thrive and others struggle with. 

This is where game playing has a huge step change and understanding the rules of this game is critical to your success. 

Something to keep in mind in your situation is what function are the meetings serving and what function am I serving on this leadership team? 

It is important to remember most Management Teams are particularly bad at onboarding their colleagues on the leadership team and worse at explaining the what, the why and the how.  

The essential factor in MT’s or ELT’s is not to condition those around and below you to copy your behaviours and roll out this into the company wide culture.

Management Team Buddy

One important lesson I learnt and recommend to businesses of any size is to create a buddy system with someone else you trust on the leadership team and build upon that relationship and understand the unique set of rules you have in your meetings and understand how you add value to the meetings and to the company as a whole. 

Understanding the unique dynamics and the HiPPO rules will be important milestones for you to set out and understand. 

New Management Team Member Guidance

In your role as the newest member of the LT or ELT is holding your colleagues accountable and ensuring the business delivers guidance and keeps ahead strategically. 

This can often be lost in the noise and the routine that management team meetings can become. 

Tip To Keep Front Of Mind

One tip you will struggle to find elsewhere is to remember not to become too defensive or protective of your team or business line and allow the numbers to do the talking and introduce your team members to present their numbers, their feedback or ideas to the group where possible. 

Over Indexed Voices

Something I have observed on different leadership teams is if you are a sales-driven business, you will over-index too much into the sales team voice without balance.  

if you are a product based company (driven by product direction and usage) you can lean into the product teams vision and “their strategy” too much without hearing from valuable partners like Marketing or customer service and success. It is important to keep on top of this and ask for more input from those partners.

If the CFO / FD or CEO / MD speaks too much, you will be part of a HiPPO driven business and this will cause numerous friction points within the leadership team. 

I recommend reading is it time for management pods article. 

What is important to ask your colleagues: 

  • What are your management meetings for? 
  • Who controls and holds colleagues accountable? 
  • Why are you meeting in this cadence? 
  • Why do we meet for this length of time? Can we optimise this process? 
  • What function are you all serving? 
  • What role do I serve on this leadership team? 
  • How do we inform our colleagues and teams of upcoming projects and campaigns? 

Once you either ask your colleague and answer or undercover and answer the quicker you will feel part of the management team and the closer you will get to adding value. 

Good luck on your leadership team journey. 

Danny Denhard 

If you are in need of management team training or executive coaching or need a professional mentor get in touch below:

Important Leadership Resources:

The Hybrid Work Guide

The top 20 good managers vs the 25 bad manager examples

5 leadership books to read in 2021

Business lesson from Jeff Bezos

Elon Musk’s Business Rules

How to fix bad company culture

Taking over from a bad manager

Do yave your own question you would like answered?

Categories
Leadership

How To Remove Proximity Bias Guide

With the continued move towards returning to the office and the continued pressures and requirements for businesses to move towards hybrid work, we are starting to hear how in-office vs hybrid and remote have very potential different biases. 

We have seen businesses only consider office space and not consider redesigning their office as a hybrid environment, we have seen organisations struggle to rethink perks in the hybrid world and favour a mass return to the office vs developing a true hybrid workforce that will work for everyone. 

Proximity bias (aka a bias to being in person) has had a huge impact on the way some organisations have handled remote work and it has centred around more communication, enforcing more video meetings and meetings were the only way for some teams to get work done.

In the office is how many managers are primed, it is something that every workforce has been conditioned and brought up in and is the way in ‘the line of sight management’ has “worked” for many across decades of working. 

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Anonymous Career Advice

Will a strict return to the office help my team get back together?

This week’s anonymous career advice question:

Will a strict return to the office help my team get back together? 

Dear Focus, Our office has been told they are expected back in the office in the coming weeks. My department’s performance has dropped and you can see cracks appear. Do you think this will help our department get back to performing? 

This is going to be a big question for many department heads and leads in the coming months. 

If there is a performance issue it’s likely not simply down to being remote and video call fatigue that we have all heard about in the last six months. 

It’s likely down to many more factors of work: 

  • The general blurring of work and life, 
  • Relationships falling apart 
  • Colleagues leaving 
  • A change to furlough or headcount 
  • A team subculture that requires more than a bandaid or an away day. 

Here are just a few categories of questions to ask yourself and your team around what the causes are and answer collectively. 

Bonding 

  • Has there been a breakdown in communications? 
  • Has there been a project, product or campaign that has failed? 
  • Has there been turnover or lack of refill of headcount? 
  • How do you propose to bring the teams closer together if there are numerous fractions or your internal influencer or secret weapon is unhappy?

Proximity 

  • Proximity is an important factor within interpersonal relationships but does it apply or add value in 2021?
  • Being close or within one office doesn’t mean better communications and the old bad habits won’t come back. 

Something I always recommend to read and develop out is the Allen curve within your business, as the study shows the closer and more frequent you are by proximity the better relationships were.

Here is a good LinkedIn post to understand more of an updated review. 

Being a good leader from anywhere 

  • Asking if this was going to be full time back in the office? 
  • Have there been consistent communications? 
  • Regardless of where your team are located your role shouldn’t have to change, often remote can be easier to manage times and interruptions 

Resentment for having to come back in

This is something many team members are expressing. 

Likely voicing their concerns or frustrations around having to return to the old way of working. 

Although it doesn’t sound to have been easy or plain sailing many people have realised this way of working works better for them and their situation. 

Can you adapt this for a team member?

Swamped in routine 

One common mistake is not mixing up routines and not listening to feedback. 

Old routines won’t likely improve the issues that occurred while forced working from home environment. 

Is this an opportunity to change the routine? I would suggest this is a great time to revisit and restructure routines.  

Cost of over-communication

Many businesses were telling teams to over-communicate, this was one of the common mistakes over the last year. 

Communications have to deliberate. 

There has to be for a reason and managed by channel. 

Can you reduce friction by reducing communication or more likely over communication? 

Ability to deliver anywhere

  • The question everyone seems to struggle with, have we set our teams to succeed and deliver from anywhere? 
  • Do you actually have one rule that applies all within your business? 
  • Where your team set up to succeed? 

Best of luck with your move towards going back into the office, as we suggested the office should be rethought as an arena and this is an important read to help reshape your office while returning to the office safely. 

Helpful Reads To Improve Your Management

Good Manager Examples

25 Bad Manager Examples

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Is Being Visible And Playing The Game Necessary?

This week’s anonymous career advice we received a big question that is a simple one-word answer but requires more explanation and a deliberate decision to be made by you.

Dear focus, a simple question:
Is being visible and playing the game necessary?

A simple but important question!

The TLDR answer is YES!

Unfortunately, it is more necessary than many people realise. Every business I have ever worked in has had levels of the internal political game, some at low-level others it is all about playing the game at full speed.

The Important Truth

The truth that many companies will not tell you or do not onboard you with and empower you with the most important piece of information: How to succeed in this business.

This is months of detective work, asking questions and for many trial and error. This is where you need to build a strong and safe network around you and understand the motivations and drivers of those around you and above you.

Positive Being Visible

There are often times you will think being visible is a negative but actually being visible can be and should be seen as a positive for you, your career and your team.

Being visible often means you are keeping people informed, you are communicating well and you have ideas, insights and feedback (not just opinions) that will progress the company.
These are all important traits that leaders typically seek out.

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Taking Over From A Bad Manager

This week in the anonymous career advice column, we tackle something many managers will encounter when taking over a team or a department.

Dear Focus, I have recently taken over from a bad manager, they have dented the team’s confidence and they have zero trust, what should I do?

One of the guaranteed occurrences in management careers is we take over from a bad manager.

However good a manager you believe you are there will be certain aspects of your management style that will remind someone of their previous manager and open professional scars or wounds that need to heal.

Almost all management styles differ, especially when you come in from another company and take over an existing team that have worked closely together for a year.

The best approach is to create a simple transition plan for the team to move forward and become a trusted part of the team and the company.

Our recommended approach is to listen and ask a number of questions and address these concerns and previous experiences:

StepAction
1 – Ask for insightsAsk your team for insights and examples of poor management. This should not be considered a session to be completely negative but a step towards a proactive therapy session
2 – Acknowledge poor leadershipOne of the most important steps is to identify and highlight there were a number of issues and recommend how you can work to improve this collectively.

Be clear everyone has shortcomings and you will try your hardest to remove these behaviours from your management
3 – Identifier your style and talk it through with the teamOne important step almost all leaders I have worked under or with has called out their style and talked through what they are good at and what they are bad at and how they like to work, especially now you are armed with important information.
4 – Create space The most important step is to take a step back and observe how the team performs and look to come to you with any issues or how they work through their issues when they think no one is watching.

Trust is built through experiences but also knowing they can come to you when they need to. It is vital to be available when they need assistance
5 – Ask for open feedbackOnce you have given the team space and become approachable, ask for open feedback in a form you can keep a record of and show you have made progress.

Recording feedback and keeping open dialogue gives you a way to encourage more open communication.

Know when to take it offline or move to one to one
6 – Meet monthly and celebrate Something that many good sports coaches do is meet with their players and teams directly regularly, this is also a trait some of the best people managers I have worked with or feedback I have received directly.

The next step: celebrate as a group and as a team to build more trust and recognise there has been both business performance improvements and personal developments.

When there have been examples of behaviours being repeated or removed, call it out early.

It is important to note: Good managers set behaviours, set their teams to succeed and help to guide company culture and improve organisational health, bad managers set environments and often create poor cross-functional collaboration and internal fighting. Bad managers can also completely by accident create strong team bonds – this can be great news for you or a challenge to be aware of, tribal behaviour can be combative against a new leader.
Learn when to guide or when just to get out the way.

Best of luck with removing the negative energy and previous leadership issues, this won’t be an instant problem to solve but one with a couple of positive steps and then a giant leap will be made. Think of the first few weeks as a hangover period that will clear and lift and clarity and delivery ensue.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

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.