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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 48

12 Lessons From The “Trillion Dollar Coach” Bill Campbell​ For You To Apply This Week.

Dear leaders,

I trust you had a good weekend. 

In 2016 I was told about a legendary coach in Silicon Valley named Bill Campbell who had just passed away. 

A TLDR backstory of Bill:

Bill was a coach of an unsuccessful sports team for Columbia, Bill then moved into the business world and had successes at Kodak and Apple before becoming the go-to c-suite coach. 

Bill’s coaching roaster is a who’s who of Silicon Valley. Bill helped the likes of:

  • Google’s former chairman Eric Schmidt, founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and current Alphabet CEO Sindar Pichai,
  • Apple’s leaders including co-founder Steve Jobs, long-serving exec Phil Schiller and even current CEO Tim Cook.
  • Ex CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer
  • The current COO at Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg
  • Alongside leading Intuit’s Brad Smith and business hero Amazon’s chairman Jeff Bezos (read the business lessons from Jeff Bezos).

Bill’s life and legacy are told in a brilliant biography Trillion Dollar Coach by Former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Google’s Comms leader Alan Eagle and SVP’s of Product Jonathan Rosenberg. 

I took a stack of notes and have applied a number of these lessons to a number of my coaching clients. 

So, here are the 12 most applicable lessons from the biography and you can apply daily: 

  1. Don’t be the hero 
  2. Don’t be a fixer 
  3. Ask questions and push those towards the answer 
  4. Don’t assume employees respect you because of your title 
  5. Lean into the hard problems 
  6. Guide people to opportunities – many don’t see it myself 
  7. It’s not about you – it’s about the team 
  8. Listen to what people want and give them a process to an outcome 
  9. Never give people the answer 
  10. Park your ego – constantly put it in check 
  11. Treat everyone with dignity, even in failure
  12. Get rid of people with bad attitudes. You need people that care about the outcome 

I highly recommend reading the full book, if you don’t think you have the time, this video from The Tim Ferriss podcast with Eric Schmidt is worth the watch. 

The message: Don’t think you do not need help, you will benefit from a coach.

Good luck with rolling these out and remember often it’s about guiding people and offering a light at the end of the tunnel than giving the answer in success and in failure. 

Thanks, 

Danny Denhard  – Focus Founder & Head Coach (I offer management and executive coaching, start your career development today)

Categories
Focus News

Announcing The Future State Of Podcast

The Future State of podcast is a series of conversations between Nick Walter, the CEO of an extended reality* company Vortic and I.  

Nick and I have known each other for over ten years and often have numerous phone calls and long message threads about the state of an industry and how we think and how we would tackle that industry moving forward.

Nick and I have worked in bootstrapped businesses, successful startups and large organisations we have a good perspective on what’s happening and where the industry is and potentially should go.

The Podcast Explained

Nick and I deep dive into important and up-and-coming business areas, we discuss the current state of that particular business area, we debate what the important areas are, the opportunity in the market and then we provide our hot takes and the future state of that industry.

The podcast is weekly and typically goes live on Thursday’s.

Research & Insights Driven

We take a number of hours each week to research and talk to business minds within the space to be able to tackle rich and immersive topics.

The Future State podcast was built to provide more than just what is happening in the news or what you can read with a quick Google search, we break down each episode with our full notes not just show notes and we share our notes and insights via email so you never have to take too many notes and never miss an episode.

Why Listen?

Nick and I don’t hold back on opinions and potential actions so it’s not just another bland business podcast without personality or qualified opinion.

The First Three Episodes Cover:

  1. The future state of brand endorsements and brand partnerships.
    Why Anthony Joshua and Revolut might just be another Instagram deal
  2. The future state of football.
    Why the business side of the European Super League is so important and overlooked
  3. The future state of conferences
    Why large conferences might have died and why going niche might just be the answer for the organisers, the attendees and the speakers.

Sign Up & Get Insights & The Podcast Delivered To You

Or visit thefuturestate.co.uk and read (and listen) to the full industry breakdown.

Listen To The First Three Episodes:

The Future State Of Work The Future State Podcast

The Future State Of Work 👩‍💻The future of work has been a hot topic for the past three years, the pandemic has really shifted how many businesses operate and highlighted how slow some companies have been to change their old ways of working. The future state of work is going to be led by a few but followed by many, even the big companies are struggling to keep staff engaged let alone happy. This week Nick and I discuss: The future state of work Why micromanagers are going to have to change Why so many managers have been shown upWhy HR isn’t the right team to lead The impact of a new hire – the culture community managerWhy hybrid is going to be a tougher choice for employees and businesses The challenge for old school managers to change with the times The investment required for businesses Some future thinking hot takes that you will want to hear including company currencies, the importance of mental & physical health being equal & Why part-timers & side hustles might be the choice for many Supporting Podcast Links Company Culture LinksAre you creating the right company cultureWhat is company cultureThe Hybrid office e-bookDesigning the hybrid office guide✚ Why you should listen to feedback – Funny TikTokNew tools to improve hybrid around.co – campfire video tool with integrated notes that send after the meeting and is floating head based so can work and conference call at the same time Butter.us – a way to ideate, brainstorm or present in a better way gatheround.com – better way to bring people together based on Q&A  Basecamp IssuesOriginal Story (link)Follow Up with 1/3 of senior workforce taking buyout (link)Open letter from ex member of the Basecamp teamSummarised on this week in startups (YouTube link)A Reminder: What Is The Podcast? The Future State – Modern business & future trends explored by Nick Walter & Danny Denhard. 
  1. The Future State Of Work
  2. The Future State Of Conferences
  3. The Future State Of Football – The European Super League

Subscribe on your Podcast app of choice: Apple // Spotify // Amazon Music // Listen Notes // Mixcloud // Deezer // Simplecast // or via RSS.


*What is XR

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Virtual Interview Failures

In this week’s anonymous career feedback, we tackle virtual interviews and how to handle potential difficulties and how to impress,  

Dear Focus, I keep stumbling at interviews, what can I do to improve my virtual interviews? 

Interviews are difficult, whether they are in person, completely virtual or in the future hybrid, some in-person others virtual.

Virtual interviews should not be too much different to in-person interviews, however, the feel and flow can be offputting and each internet connection and quality of connection alongside the quality of headphone, the quality of your sound via your microphone, the background distractions and how good your webcam is can feel like competitive edges or a negative from the first hello, how are you. 

In 2021 the majority of interviews will be virtual, or virtual first with a second or third in person, if you have worked for a large international business or in a senior role this process has not changed but for many less experienced in these scenarios will feel daunting and hard to gage. 

No interview is ever the same, some interviewers are bad interviewers, some interviewees have off days or days they struggle to interview well. Like a good video meeting or session, there are components you can control and set yourself up for success rather than failure.

The best advice we can provide is: 

Pre-Interview 

  • Be prepared
  • Write down the questions on a notepad so as not to flick between screens or applications 
  • Ask clarifying questions before the interview during interview can take any flow away the interview and talking openly 
  • Arrange your desk and camera so you are looking at the camera and having “dedicated eye contact”
  • Do your research – let the interviewing panel know you have prepared 
  • Get yourself a drink and anything you might need like a tissue etc 
  • If you have a mac switch on do not disturb, there is a similar mode on PCs
  • Download the web client natively, browsers can be slow or need processing 
  • Join on time 

During The Interview 

  • Eye contact as much as possible 
  • Remember you are on camera 
  • Focus on the interview, not interior distractions 
  • Let the interviewers know you are taking notes 
  • Go through your list of questions, it is completely fine to take notes and ask numerous questions 
  • If the tools or software struggles call this out early and recommend logging back in or using another tool, do not struggle through with, own and lead interviews 
  • Answer as openly and honestly as possible 
  • Show you know the deck or document you have created, reading each slide bullet by bullet doesn’t show you are prepared or confident 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and let interviewers know there could be a delay 
  • If you have been asked to prepare anything consider how you can leverage third-party tools to record the video or send a copy of the information before the interview like you might with an important pitch or strategy session 
  • Ask about the company culture and recent failures – this shows you are interested and you ask important questions 
  • Think timelines, budgets and delivery – these are typically the three sections and story arch you have to deliver on 
  • Understand what the timeline is you are working towards 
  • If you have other interviews let the team know

Post Interview 

  • Ask follow up questions 
  • Ask for feedback 
  • Take the time to send through any links referenced 
  • If you wish you had said something, you can liaise with the team to provide more content 
  • Take the time to collate your thoughts and ideas 

Often your best work is not what the interviewing panel is looking for, often you will go over and above and you miss crucial summaries (exec summaries are priceless) or talk in the language of the panel, everyone has different challenges in interviews it is about being prepared, being able to connect with the interview panel and having a direct point and reference to guide your interview towards.

This year won’t be easy but often practise makes perfect and if you can practise with friends, family or a potential management coach or professional mentor.  

Categories
Business Performance

25 Meeting Recommendations

 

Meetings take up to 15% of all time within work. In very few organisations they teach you how to run successful meetings, how attendees are supposed to participate and what success looks like at the end of each meetings.

Company success is often shaped as much by meetings as their company strategy. 

Bad meetings impact company culture and often are the causes of teams misaligning and interpersonal conflict. 

With the number of meetings increasing, the lengths of meetings reducing but the frequency of repeat meetings, it is essential we reduce the friction of meetings and help to structure, optimise and improve meetings. 

On our mission to fix the broken world of work, we collated our 25 most suggested meeting recommendations to help your organisation to succeed. 

  1. Ask the question: does this have to be a meeting?
  2. Answer: Could this be a memo? 
  3. Whole company agreement: No meetings to have another meeting 
  4. AHA: Always Have Agenda’s 
  5. Keep track of ‘meeting moments and movements’ – centralise all notes, decisions and actions and share across to all invitees and if open allow all to view
  6. Always answer what is the objective of this meeting
  7. Agendas are great for meetings that require structure 
  8. Always have refresh agendas – with 50% of meetings repeat and agendas recycled you are fighting against yourself 
  9. No agenda = No attendance can work if enforce top to bottom 
  10. Agendas remove creativity – think of this when brainstorming and problem-solving 
  11. Always explain to each attendee why they are attending, what their expected role is and how they can help move the meeting forward 
  12. HiPPO’s have to encourage and support employee first engagement 
  13. Have no spectators rules – Steve Jobs would remove people who did not contribute to meetings 
  14. Remove awkward starts to meetings 
  15. If the meeting fails quickly gift people their time back 
  16. Feedback is a gift, survey attendees and asks for feedback sessions in the last five minutes of meetings (open documents for open feedback) 
  17. Always have a social element to meetings, never dive straight in, scientific studies and cultural differences have proven no social elements break social bonds and trust in the work environment 
  18. Meeting recovery syndrome is a hugely under-recognised issue within businesses, reduce the number of meetings and 
  19. Employees need help to manage calendars especially in hybrid environments, help to manage and have a meeting champion to share tips and best practices and offer training 
  20. Hybrid meetings are challenging, applying the same attention to those remote as those in the office, you must follow the no a team (in office) and b team (working remotely). Checking on remote attendees and asking for their opinions will be equalisers. Reviewing meeting notes and document updates will be important 
  21. Have meeting attendance guidelines. The quality of meetings drop the more that attend
    1. Other companies rules:
      1. 10 people (Google)
      2. 6 people (Apple)
      3. 2 pizza rule (Amazon) & 7 people + approval by senior meeting
  22. Remove meetings after 16.00 – least productive and often rushed.
    1. If you are an international or tri-time zone company consider how you can rotate these meetings  
  23. Silent start meetings are great for longer-form meetings requiring insights, discussion and alignment. 
  24. Keep and update your decision document to keep clear communications and a canonical home of decisions 
  25. Remember how we are engineered, information architecture is essential, an easy way to find out information and find relevant historical notes for those who were not at the company helps understand how to be successful.
    Meeting name > Date > Project > Department often works best  

Important Related Reading To Improve Business Performance:

Categories
Business Performance

Reducing Anxiety & Returning To The Office Checklist

We are about to see many companies ask their teams to start planning for the return to the office.

Some large banks and institutions have already asked for their teams to be back in the office full time. In many businesses, a return to the office is something many teams are dreading and have had many personal changes since March 2020.

There is a high percentage of anxious people who have fear about returning to the office or actually want to stay working at home or move to a flexible and the next normal, the hybrid office (our free hybrid office ebook is a must-read).

It is now time for businesses to become flexible and ensure work works for everyone and more flexibly.

If you are anxious or feeling concerned about this, there are a number of steps you (as an employee) can take & questions to ask. 

Managers and senior leaders will have concerns and be nervous, particularly with the extra responsibility they would have had to take on and now understand how they manage a team in a hybrid set up.

At Focus as we are on a mission to fix the broken world of work, it is essential we break our recommendations down for both leaders of a business and the staff members who may be nervous and have anxiety about returning to the office and how to get the best for both parties.

For Leaders For Staff 
Have a detailed plan to share for the return to the office plan If you have not received a plan, ask for the work in progress plan and timeline of when you are likely to have to return
Demonstrate with imagery and videos of how the office has been amended to include more space and how you are limiting the attendance in the office.

Include capacity numbers and links to the software you will be using for booking in and booking to work remotely
Ask how the business has taken the steps to make the office have more space, more distance and more protection, alongside how to liaise with your manager to enable remote work
Have a dedicated HR stream for those who require more specific requests or have had their commitments change or been impacted by COVIDLiaise directly with HR on how they are going to support you in your personal situation, especially if you have been disconnected from your manager or team
Prepare to offer a dedicated long term mental health and mental wellbeing helpline(s) and support groups Ask for details of mental wellbeing support being offered by your firm.

If this is not yet an option ask HR how you could go about claiming sessions back until there is a formal policy  
Have one policy for why certain people or teams are returning to the office Ask for the workings out around the staggered return to the office policy and why you and your team need to return
Show how you have invested and improved the technology set up, more connective equipment, better audio and more camera’s to connect in the hybrid office.

The office as an arena is an important concept to consider and share internally.
Ask questions to understand the steps taken to improve technology to help remote and in-office teams to be one team, not have an a team (in office team) & b team (those working remotely)
Set up regular Q&A sessions to keep teams up to date with changes and reduce stressKeep a track of important follow-up milestones and questions and ask for regular updates from the management team
Show the hybrid guidelines and the principles for communications and how to be successful in the new hybrid office.

Have principles around informing colleagues that you will be in the office or working remotely  
Ask to understand if there is a way to book in and out of the office and software. Many software still do not talk to each other have an agreed status on instant messenger tools to enable colleagues to know you will be in or out of the office

Ask if there are a minimum or maximum you can work from home or work from the office
Have a decision document to show how decision were made and offer transparency to discuss through Ask questions at the decision level and ask questions to calm down your fears.

If you are a people manager look to collate questions from the team and answer with fellow decision-makers
Offer back to the office training sessions online before the return to the office.

Many system and processes will have changed and it is important to align everyone
Ask what has changed and what are the requirements for training sessions.

How long they will be and the benefit of these sessions.

Online training and online zoom sessions have caused fatigue, explaining the why is really important here
Reduce anxiety by having a traffic light system of those who have reservations or commitments and treat as a way to help manage anxiety and flow into the office. Ask what the requirements are for:

– Red (highly concerned). Requires one to one discussions. Will require a personalised run-through of the amendments, the process that will be followed and discussions with the department lead to reduce fears and consider how highly anxious people can return in the near future.

– Amber (concerned), what would the requirements be and how can your manager or department lead (alongside HR) help to reduce any concerns

– Green (ready to return)

Best of luck with your return to the office plan. Happily get in touch directly if you need consultancy.

Important Related Reads

  1. Will an off-site reconnect my team?
  2. Planning the post pandemic return to the office
  3. The culture as a service movement
  4. Recording micro moments and micro-events
  5. It is time for management pods to improve leadership teams
Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 43

Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?

April 5th, 2021.

Dear Leaders,

For the past few months, I have been working more regularly with more founder-led businesses. 

Founder led businesses are notoriously more difficult if you do not know how to ask the right questions and you answer their questions quickly and concisely with a focus on delivery. 

One question that has bubbled up with each founder 

Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?

The answer is 90% of the time, no, the 10% are the more open and transparent and typically say yes. 

The yes answer is good, they are aware of where they are and know they will be pushed to step back and challenged to understand where to let go.

The 90% have a few more sessions to go, they are unaware of having to control not boss each situation.

The 90% then split into two camps, those who want to change and those who want to control. The controlling group are those who need more coaching and guidance, you need to show where they are being too hands-on, too overbearing, too much talking nowhere near enough listening. 

So the question for you to ask is have you been the boss for so long, you attempt to boss everything? 

If yes, step back, challenge yourself to listen more and understand where you need to take a leap back or leap into action and where possible bring in external help or hire more people to remove some friction. 

Have a good week and remember being the boss doesn’t mean making every decision and kicking every ball it means knowing when to bring others to the table, bringing support in for you and the team and then being clear and concise when delegating. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Categories
Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 2nd April

This week, here are five podcasts from the brilliant leader and researcher Brene Brown.

Here are the five best Brene Brown podcast – Dare to lead. Grab your phone, put in your headphones and take a walk and enjoy these powerful podcasts.

Brene with former President Barack Obama

Armoured Leadership & The Power Of The Right Questions

Adam Grant & Brene Talk The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

Dr. Sarah Lewis & The Uncontrolling Power of “Failure”

The Heart of Hard Conversations

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 42

Recording Micro Moments & Micro Events

March 29th 2021.

Dear Leaders,

Over the last few weeks, I have been talking to c-suites, agency leads and departments heads about recording micro-moments. 

A micro-moment to me is when you feel a spark, you feel a move or a moment that is breaking through something, a moment you feel has pushed you, a colleague, a conversation or a project forward. 

Micro-moments to me are positive, especially at the time you don’t know how positive it is. 

As previously suggested I truly believe that notes taking, having knowledge centres and personal wiki’s help you run effective project, campaign or product launches.

Taking notes, sharing these notes and actions and being deliberate with reviewing micro-moments allows you to see signals, understand patterns and build out more micro-moments.  

I like to hand sketch these moments out in a diagram, follow the chain and review very briefly. Seeing the chain reactions as a timeline or as ripples is a great way to demonstrate to those around you.
Across my career, 95% of the time, scribbles or sketches beats 500 words or spreadsheets. 

One micro-moment I had this week was rolling out brand new software to a client who struggled to connect people with software, I knew it was a micro-moment as the team were surprised how quickly we got through the meeting, how many actions we had completed, how the small number of follow-ups could be completed asynchronously and how we all called out how it felt like real progress was made and the reduction of discord messages. 

The important part of reviewing micro-moments or micro-events is being able to teach these signals and patterns and then celebrate your micro wins (small wins). 

I know the phrase celebrate the small wins is a little overused but micro-moments need calling out and celebrating.

In the coming weeks, try to make notes of the micro-moments, the processes you followed and the feeling it gave to the team around you. 

Celebrate this micro moment with me! 

Cheers to this week and have a great week,

Danny Denhard

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Three Must Read Follow Up Articles

  1. The Four Questions To Build A More Informed Company
  2. Ghosting – A Real Business Issue
  3. How To Improve Virtual Meetings
Categories
Company Culture

Why The World Of Work Is Broken

At Focus we are on a mission to address the many foundations of the broken workplace.

Simply put, here are the most common broken elements to the workplace.

Company Culture

  • Bad and toxic cultures
  • Company Culture is seen as a soft skill
  • Company Culture is shaped by the wrong people, leadership and HR are too far removed and dictate, don’t hear or feel what is broken
  • Company Culture is not traditionally connected to company performance – this is incorrect

Communication

  • Bad communication habits became the default
  • Under communicating important decisions and why actions were taken
  • Hiding behind statements and buzzwords – rather than being deliberate and taking the time to write clearly
  • Communication live and die by the spreading of the most valuable pieces of information, being kept in private channels, chats and emails do progress businesses forward

Strategy

  • Lack of one company-wide strategy
  • Everything became a strategy to become important
  • Tactics and action plan is mistaken for strategy – this is confusing teams, departments and companies
  • Deliberate plan of actions that do not connect, it breaks companies progress

Leadership

  • Leaders are too busy to lead, let alone manage
  • Managers have no leadership training or coaching
  • The best staff members are often promoted to become a manager to lead people, when they are not capable of leading
  • Leaders do not manage, they do not coach, they do not mentor – this is not leadership

Busy

  • Lack of feedback and open conversations lead to everyone being busy and people being deliberate
  • The badge of honour everyone has had to wear
  • Busy became an excuse to not deliver
  • No one has owned removing busy to become effective

Bad Meetings & Too Many Meetings

  • Default to decisions being made in meetings
  • Back to back meetings have become a hiding place for staff of all levels
  • Virtual meetings happen to update poor managers
  • Status updates that have to happen in a meeting as blinded by meeting culture

These are just four examples per broken functions of work.

The Focus mission is to fix the broken world of work and help businesses evolve.

Find Out About Our Service Fixing The Broken World Of Work

Important Related Reads To Help You Improve The Broken World Of Work

Prefer watching videos? Here is the focus manifesto

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Categories
Leadership

5 Timeless Lessons From Industry Leaders

In the summer of 2020, I went on a leadership mission, I spoke to as many leaders from as many fields as I could. This was a way to improve leaders letters, it was a way to learn from leaders to improve the leaders and leadership teams I work with but to also share these experiences. 

The leaders I interviewed came from many different and diverse backgrounds, including banking and finance, military, teaching, traditional business owner, a Chief Medical Officer, co-founder of a large remittance company and experienced startup leader. 

I took away many lessons and I hoped to turn the series into a Focus leadership podcast (maybe in the future), I thought I should share five of the lessons I took away from the brilliant conversations so you could ponder or implement. 

Lesson 1: Military Leader

“Outcomes for the group is essential: the mission for the team, the objective for the unit, crystal clear task for the individual.”
This cycle has to be understood completely, with no fussy or blurry lines. This then has to be understood at the team, unit and individual level. Often it is life and death and the most vital pieces of information have to be clear, concise and as up to date as possible. 

Lesson 2: Head Teacher

“Always have an open mind”, always learn from other sectors, increase your reading, share and empower those around you with your learnings and take feedback from whoever it is. Staff, parent, governers and then walk that walk.
There is a lot packed into this but so many lessons to take away and apply. 

Lesson 3: Co-Founder Remittance Company

“Ask for advice – is not a weakness!” Many leaders truly believe asking for help is a weakness, it is not it is a strength, especially when those around you or seeking those in a better position will drive you and your business forward.  

Lesson 4: Chief Medical Officer

“Replace ego with empathy – Read between the lines (there is always an agenda) find out what is really going on and explore together.” 

Lesson 5: Serial Startup Founder

An essential job for the founder is recruitment, it is to create the right environment for the organisation to thrive by blending people, positions and passions. 

These five lessons are all actionable across leadership at any level, all of these resonated with me for different reasons but mostly because leadership is about being clear, understanding and delivering instructions, asking for help, replacing your ego with empathy and the culture you create impacts your team every day. 


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