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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

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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:

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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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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 73 – Setting Your New Norms Now

Dear Leaders,

There is something unrivalled about being ahead of the game and being able to be proactive than being reactive. 

Planning can be stressful however knowing you are ahead and driving the business forward is something many crave but rarely own.

There are many newer ways of working we have now become accustomed to since March 2020, whether that’s right or wrong, we are now in a place to design a better set of norms.

We have become accustomed to too many videos calls, too many instant messages and too many meetings. 

Isn’t it time to address these and help set up a better hybrid workplace

Being reliant on synchronous communications and video calls is something so many are fatigued by and without the right structure are really struggling with. 

This newsletter goes out to leaders across The Americas, Europe, Africa and Australasia, we are all in slightly different phases of returning to the office and with hybrid being the future, how about you set your new norms for the next phase and rethink the tools and the systems you are using currently. 

Here are a few hows to consider: 

More deep work – Remove the constant distractions and enable teams to use statuses to embrace deep work and block out times. Dropbox has set times for deep work, how about you embrace this too? 

Less reliance on video calls – Fewer video calls to make decisions. Making decisions should never be left to video calls or a number of video calls. Consider how you embrace different technology and wiki’s and knowledge centre’s to enable better, more streamlined conversations. 

Fewer videos updates – Feedback from almost every company suggests that many companies are just relying on video as every communication channel, this can be reduced by introducing more audio-only updates, better documentation and introducing better communication practices. 

A move to asynchronous communications – Many businesses have struggled to introduce or reintroduce the right levels of written and documented communications. Having deliberate thought and documents helps to share knowledge and cut through misunderstandings and delivery issues fair quicker than several video calls or having to organise real-time attendance. 

Keep in mind: Improving company culture is imperative, if you are in a place to hire a dedicated headcount, a culture community manager will be essential to improving EX (employee experience) to improve CX (customer experience and success).

Having the right tools is essential, onboarding and coaching on how to use these tools are essential. Ensuring you have agreed working principles will help you to shape your business far quicker than dumping more rules and tools and expecting teams to embrace these. Departments need fewer tools but better tools. Cross functionally departments need to share updates, insights and knowledge to help move your company forward and make real positive change. 

Have a great week planning a better norm.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Please remember if you have any disabilities please ensure all of these updates are relevant and can be used. 

Important Supporting Resources 

Categories
Strategy

The Key To Winning Business – Be The Power P: The Partner, The Platform, The Piping

Why The Three P’s Is Winning & Will In The Future

Throughout time, businesses have had to evolve past just selling widgets. 

We went from specialists selling a smaller number of SKU’s, to selling huge amounts of SKU’s just to compete. Many then moved to rely on everyday people to sell their products on your platform to compete on search engines and drive enough people to drive another round of investment or keep the lights on. 

Many of these changes were necessity, rarely strategic and survival becomes the name of the game, while slowly killing development, product improvements and investment into true growth levers

In the age of the internet, faster more convenient apps and prime expectations, we have seen the way we browse, broker and buy evolve quickly and many times we did not see the landscape shift and change, why? Because of how discreet and smart these new players are. 

In today’s market, we have seen the three P’s step up and win as operating models: 

The Partner 

The Platform 

The Piping 

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Anonymous Career Advice

How To Connect Company & Company Leadership Team

In this week’s anonymous career advice column, we hear from someone who is facing common struggles many of us do. 

Dear focus, many of the company is struggling with connecting with their bosses and the ELT. They are disconnected and really wrestle with being approachable and being able to commit to the direction we are going. Any tips?

Thanks for sharing your experience today. I will take a guess this has happened for a prolonged period of time and likely started before the forced work-from-home experiment. 

There are five givens within businesses who are going through a phase of change, it sounds like you are experiencing three: 

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 69 – Why It Is Ok To Be On The Fence

Dear Leaders, recently we have learnt the lesson that life is often too short. 

Something that is often questioned in upper management is people’s commitment.
Is our team fully committed?
Are they on the bus?
Do they bleed the company colours?

For years I was a BIG believer in this, I was a big advocate of: are you in or are you out? 

Until a few years ago when I had to really consider what it meant to be in the middle, not fully in or fully out.
And you know what, it was and is ok. 

My Experience: 

On one occasion, in an away long-range planning session, I was called out “for being on the fence”, a set of the leadership team were not convinced I was fully committed. 

Why?

I was fully committed to doing my job and getting the best results for the business, however, I had pushed myself to the brink, I pushed my colleagues to step forward to take on important projects and I knew we were up against a challenging period and I knew deep down I was not going to be able to give my usual 110%. 

I was however aware at that business I was not progressing at the same velocity I had for a few years before, the company openly couldn’t match my ambition and importantly, I was not 100% brought into the lack of vision and I would often question a number of decisions we as the leadership team were making. 

I was often pushing for different (in mind much smarter) outcomes vs wanting to just “disagree and commit” as the others did. 

What this made me realise was this and something I teach in my coaching sessions

  • Commitment is a two-way street – you and the company have to show you are both committed 
  • You can be a professional and disagree with decisions but still get your job done right and keep pushing and developing those around you 
  • Some companies will never match your own ambitions – this is for you to work out or work through — or leave 
  • Being all in or all out is more poker than real working life, having the right beliefs and making the right sets of bets is best for the company 
  • Companies evolve, as do professionals, sometimes you drift apart – this does not mean you do not want the best for the company 
  • Vision is a big part of leadership, if some struggle with vision or sharing a long term vision, then that’s a personal discussion to have or a point to discuss as a management team 
  • It is then natural for people to assume you are interviewing, hearing about other roles and taking other opportunities when you take a step back from being in every conversation or taking on more projects others who know you will notice – you must deal with this and a challenge coming
  • There are risks and benefits to being in a company for a prolonged period of time – on many occasions salary is just not going to be enough for your sanity
  • It is ok to know there is more out there and for you to pursue opportunities – as an individual you have to decide if you discuss this with your line manager or CEO, be wary this will 99% of the time play against you.

Unfortunately, my commitment being questioned did ultimately help me decide to leave for another opportunity that was right for me and my future.
However, when someone is on the fence in your business, it doesn’t mean they are working against what you want, or what your business needs to achieve, it can mean they are opening up potentials for them and the business. 

This week I recommend you think about your own situation, you consider how you and the company might be pushing people to consider their options and lastly, ponder how you could actually benefit from different discussions and reconsidering leading with paranoia when your colleagues are considering their next steps, it could be the best for the company and enable you to bring in someone else to refresh the management team. 

Have a great week. 

Danny Denhard 

PS if you and the business are always doing strategy and AOP the same way, you have to read this strategy article.


Other Leadership Articles To Improve You As A Leader:

Why the next big business will be people-powered 

Why Management Pods will help you improve your leadership

Why a rotating contrarian role will help your leadership team 

Why Microsoft CEO thinks Hybrid is a paradox

Watch my keynote presentation on fan clubs, communities, tribes and herds

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Podcast

Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Colin Newlyn

Colin Newlyn – Decrapifying Work

Colin and I were introduced by the previous guest Sharon Aneja, Colin is on a mission similar to my own, his mission is to de-crap-ify work. Yes, simple but effective, to it make it less crap.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/2NPsetE4whj72s7rgTNnyY?si=K8JWZLQGS7Wd4q8CMqHSbg&dl_branch=1

Why Listen: Colin is on a mission to decrapify work, Colin has had a great career and has set out to improve work by breaking down the general issues of the work day and workforce and helping individuals by ensuring they put themselves first and understand if they do not proactively try and make the change, you can’t expect others to know how bad a time you are having.

What Colin and I discuss:

  • Decrapyifying work 
  • The top tips to decrapify work 
  • How leadership is about leading 
  • Why we should be more pirate 
  • Should we rethink the whole work week, should we even have a commute? 
  • Policing from managers 
  • Why politics and proximity still dictate success 
  • And how to rethink and realign our people, heart first leadership 
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Anonymous Career Advice

How To Win At Hybrid Office Politics?

Today’s anonymous career advice is around the upcoming issue many are going to encounter, hybrid office politics, concern over conversations that happen in person or was had in person while you are working remotely or from home and impact you, your department or the direction of an important project.  

Dear Focus,
I’m struggling with the ongoing leadership politics and the political shifts while working hybird, how do I keep up and stay on top? 

This is going to be an important lesson for many professionals to understand and decide how they tackle the new political battle. 

Something to remember, being political is always an option, there are many executives who can operate without being consumed and they concentrate on their teams delivery. 

With that said, unfortunately, (PQ) Political intelligence is usually a vital skill many do not develop and keep on top of the political pulse within their business. 

Some businesses are built on politics, it’s how it operates and likely was bred into the management subculture. 

A thought process to go through, can you reduce the demand for you to get involved? 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Should Every Team Have A Roadmap?

This week’s anonymous career advice is a good question asking should every team have their own roadmap?

This is an important question around being transparent, collaborating and being a collective in changing and adapting how you work for the success of the company.

Q: Dear focus, should every team actually have a roadmap?
And should we connect to the company roadmap?
 

This is a great question! 

I talk about this topic a lot and the process of creating a roadmap for most teams is something I am a fan of.
Anything that actually moves teams away from a finger in the air Gantt Charts is a step in the right direction and takes a list of work and turns it into more deliberate work. 

In the recent strategy articles, I suggested in WTF is strategy and why strategy is often misunderstood for tactics, strategy is the overarching plan of action for the whole company to get behind and work inside of.
Strategy is the important guide for your company, adding in the successful boundary lines. Roadmaps are the same.

Like strategy, a roadmap has to be clearly defined and understood, there should be no misunderstanding of what a roadmap is and is not, what it includes and why these important items are included.

Like strategy, the activity of planning and reviewing is about what you are not going to do and why these handful of items made the cut onto the roadmap. 

Typical product roadmaps need improving but helping to guide new teams will be essential to helping your business to succeed