Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 166 – The No Passengers Principle

It Is Time To Remove The Passengers From Your Business

Dear leaders, if I said no passengers within your team what would I be referring to? 

A passenger (to me) is someone who always sits back, does just about enough and doesn’t strive to push their work forward or importantly improve the company’s status quo.

Passengers are in every business, in almost every team and are often hidden away by a lack of people management (managers this is on you, if you catch the early onset of passengers you can address it, if stays after six months it’s hard to reset) performers or by performances from their colleagues. 

Having Potential & Good Is Different To A Passenger 

I believe you can have brilliant performers who can take their foot off the gas from time to time and can have a lot on to keep up their high standards, however, allowing long-term mediocrity is going to have a hugely negative impact. 

Middle managers have a hard job and motivating passengers can be almost impossible. It’s critical in management and leadership you know who’s adding value and whos detracting from it. This is where you can proactively score performance and output and then address them regularly. 

Blending quant and qual with real work examples is critical to influencing, improving performance or replacing passengers.  

Passenger True Impact 

Passengers are often hindering your department’s performance, they are coasting, and passengers often rub off in the wrong way and then bring on others for their ride and it can then spill over into other members of the team. Remember team members mimic behaviours especially hard and high performers who feel they are being taken advantage of. 

Why A No-Passenger Principle? 

Principles are what people can get behind, and agree on and they can lead behaviours. 

Long-time readers will know I am a huge supporter of principles, I have: 

Principles Over Pointers 

When you look to create your principles or look at revisiting your principles (it’s annual planning for most larger companies in August), you should question what you really need and what makes the business better and why no passengers are critical to reset expectations and drive the business forward at every given opportunity.  

Principles are written up, formalised, put up in the office and shared so frequently the whole company should be able to repeat on request without any effort or hesitation. Being a pointer isn’t enough and this is when HR will likely have to be called in to help when principles are there to support managers and colleagues. 

This week’s focus action is to consider adding a no-passenger principle to your business and being clear on what behaviours work within your business and which behaviours will not be accepted. 

Have a great week ahead,


Danny Denhard

Read the last 3 weeks newsletters

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 165 – Energy Control

Dear leaders, we are entering into the period of the year when we need a real break, and many counting down to holiday/vacation. 

We are hitting the breaking point and a rest is what you need and the doctor likely ordered. 

In my coaching and workshops, I have numerous recommendations and a theme of recommendations I supply towards summer and into the autumn/fall session:  

  • Mid-year burnout 
  • How to control your energy 
  • How to leverage knowing your energy levels 
  • Understanding how your department members gain energy and lose energy 
  • How your team leads are motivated 
  • And where everyone’s energy levels are 

Here is how I break energy down further 

Ramp Up For Important Meetings 

  • I am a person who is full of energy in the morning but mid-afternoon I have a harder time doing my best work, I attempt to book important meetings earlier in the day and restrict my caffeine intake to coincide with the most important meetings 
  • I have been known to get hangary, which means I need to eat fairly regularly and need energy from the food to help me post lunch. Knowing which foods provide you energy and which reduce energy, it will be important to improving your output and being present in meetings and when making important decisions 
  • I ramp up with caffeine, I ramp up with preparation for the meetings and often I will walk to bring up the heart rate and help you to think more clearly. 

Energy Matching 

  • As a coach you are either supposed to bring the energy and take levels higher or match the person you are coaching. Very often I will match coaching clients’ energy to ensure it aligns with how they feel and then raise if they need to take part in more specific skill drills 
  • Many video-based meetings can feel like a slog, there is a lot written about zoom fatigue and mirror anxiety but a small shift and delay can feel like a lot, it is important to call this out and match the energy or call it out to try and ensure everyone is equally invested (hard I know but in trust-based organisations, this is not a too far removed)
  • Walk-and-talk meetings are often a great way to energy match and equal the conversation. Walk-and-talk meetings are often an easy way to remove any tension and matching strides is a simple way to energy match 

Energy Zapping 

  • We have all been in meetings or when working in the office and someone’s negative demeanour or negative attitude wipes out the team’s energy, it is important to learn what zaps your energy and who can zap your energy.
  • Being able to talk to your colleague with negative energy can be challenging, if you can discuss this, please do directly, if not attempt to help them recognise they might not be helping the collective (seek HR help required
  • When you are sat in a bad meeting you can feel frustrated and see your energy level deplete, MRS aka meeting recovery syndrome is an essential area which many are unaware of and do not control by scoring and reflecting on the quality of the meeting. Ensure poor meetings and frustrating meetings are addressed and you personally make personal reviews and notes on meetings that create MRS. This is where I recommend conducting a calendar auditand being ruthless in owning your time and energy levels.  

Energy Supplying 

  • Do you have someone within your team (first team or your own department) that whenever you chat or work with them – they boost your energy, they make you feel like you need to take action or can improve something just by spending a short amount of time with them? I can name five on the spot and often wish I could collaborate with them when low on energy. These energy givers are invaluable collaborators and ensuring you match their energy or give back is critical to a high-functioning and performing team 
  • As mentioned earlier, food and drink are vital areas of giving you energy. There are a number of ways you can incorporate this into meetings and working sessions, by providing healthy snacks (allergies to be remembered) and getting the opportunity to add a buffer to get a drink and/or snack (even a FIKA break) to manage levels and give you the energy 
  • Often with away days and strategic getaways you will actively see people’s energy drop and when they hit caffeine walls, most would then dive into the sugary treats and then have a large lunch, this would mean a real crash or slump after lunchtime. There are typically drinks and dinner in the evening the following day will be a write-off for many. It is important you understand this cycle and supply better snacks (fuel), book in breaks (powering through isn’t a smart default) and stop people just sitting around a boardroom table or a hotel’s basement conference room and getting out and stretching your legs, reduce cognitive boredom and improve your oxygen flow 
  • When you set the agendas and running orders you should consider what decisions are made and when and how the sessions can complement energy sources 
  • I used to hate looking at the agenda and knowing my annual strategy presentation or my business lines financial request was after 4 pm. This was knowing everyone would have low energy, and low attention and knowing that the most important decisions are made when people are more switched on and energy levels are higher (despite many late-night emails and chats most decisions are made in the workday apart from in crisis)

This week’s focus action is to understand how to control your energy, how to make other people aware of this and where you can tweak your offsites and workshops to be more energy aware. 

Have a great week and have great energy levels, 


Danny Denhard 

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 160 – 10 Of The Best Ways To Improve “Team” Subculture

Dear leaders, In recent weeks I have shared insights into how to think about your team, management and leadership levels and how to connect to those around you. 

In a recent presentation to a C-suite, I suggested that they were confusing everyone: how? They had:  

  • C-Suite – CEO, COO etc 
  • Leadership Team – C + SVPs
  • Management Team – Department Leads + HR 
  • Next Gen Team – The Heads of 
  • They also had an X-team for good measure too – that was their executive team and advisors in a big group who mostly spoke about the numbers and performance (very similar to the C-Suite) 

The difference for most is a title and how they are tiered internally. 

For others it is how they represent the company, which teams they might serve and who is the first team, this first team principle is something that has been around in management training for years, it’s the team you spend the most time with and who you often operate alongside most. 

If you are on the C-suite your team is 99% of the time, the C-Suite team or if named differently the Senior Leadership Team. 

If you are a department lead, your team is most likely the team you manage. 

When you are senior and trusted you will likely be across numerous teams and that’s when your time is precious you need to understand which team is your primary and which is your secondary and so on.  

I am a big believer in there are actually numerous cultures within organisations, there is one but they are influenced by the ongoing micro cultures of your company. I tend to refer to these mirco cultures as sub-cultures, each team or unit of people are big influencers on the wider company culture, big decisions do change how the people within your company operate and will impact how they perform. 

I have been in challenging times when the most senior leadership team is in dispute or has long-term conflict and it really impacts those around them, underneath them and can creep into one-to-ones and departmental meetings. This is where seasoned operators use and abuse their political intelligence and sends the wrong waves through the organisation.  

Team Subculture Advice

I’m usually asked for specific details of how I’ve helped my teams in the past so here are ten common recommendations I make to clients today.  

Leadership Team Level 

  1. All Company Stand-Ups – These are optional standups for the whole company to attend; this included weekly performance and revenue numbers, it included top-level information of what we discussed at the leadership team meeting (to allow the team to understand how we are tackling issues, discussing the future and where we see opportunities etc) and our actions and we invited anyone to ask questions and present their take. 
  2. Friday Stand Down – as a leadership team, we were all relatively new to each other. We had an informal debrief every Friday afternoon before we left and it was what we needed to blow off steam, have a laugh and connect on a personal/professional level. In most leadership teams you rarely have a chance to laugh and it’s incredibly important you find your mutual humour zone and what is acceptable within your team. 
  3. Meeting Captains – there’s nothing more annoying if you are that person who always takes notes, I introduced a rotating meeting captain who would lead meetings and be responsible for agendas, action points and notes, it was a way to share respect and responsibilities and not just be on the “leader” to lead meetings. 
  4. Extra / Management Fika – a coffee and a snack together following the Swedish tradition. Fika worked well with leaders who don’t work together often or have less of a personal connection. Fika can work well and can work remotely – it’s worth exploring how you can introduce time blocking to encourage Fika. 

Management Team Level 

  1. Onboarding – Very often you will work with people on the MT who is new to the company or new to the management team; they very often need onboarding to the management team, they need to understand how this management team works and what success is for them on the management team. Onboarding is essential and almost always overlooked – I created the onboarding flow and a cheat sheet alongside a record of important items we had discussed recently and how we made and got to decisions. 
  2. Decision Documents – I have recommended a number of times on leaders letters; the decision document helps the company to understand how decisions were made, how, who and why. It’s an invaluable tool for transparency and takes minutes to update and share with the org. This is an open document everyone has access to. 
  3. Up-and-comers lunches – a virtual or in-person lunch where up-and-comers within the business could be taken for lunch and discuss the company, and get to know senior execs. This isn’t just for the up-and-comer it is for the leaders to get to know their colleagues and understand how the level or two below are operating and understand any concerns they may have.    

D Team Level 

  1. Reverse Mentorship – Mentorship isn’t always senior mentoring the “junior”. Reverse mentorship is the smart way to help spread knowledge and insights across the business. It is a way for less senior members or discipline experts to help more senior people understand how the company is operating lower down, understand the discipline and learn from internal experts. Be mindful of the time and how many reverse mentorship sessions you have or enable.
    There is an upcoming leaders letter around your 160 hours of work per month and making the most out of time management.   
  2. Champions Presentations – Champions are experts in their field, aka subject matter specialists (Super ICs as it has been referred to recently) who go into management and leadership meetings and present rather than the Department lead. This is important for exposure to the environment, training on what is expected and tolerated in these meetings and giving the Champion the opportunity to connect with senior leadership. Historically this may have been seen as Departmental management not to present on the behaviour of your team, however, empowering your team members and bringing in champions will improve how important tactical layers are thought through and delivered on (alongside being a time-saving exercise). 
  3. Cross Champions Training – this was something that I rolled out as long as 14 years ago. Inviting international colleagues to the U.K. and having a few days going through plans, learnings we came across and sharing knowledge whether that’s day-to-day essential cross champions like excel training, latest tools to use and how to use them to one example was someone was a popular external keynote speaker and provided speaking training to the department. 

This week’s focus item is to implement the most applicable pieces of advice, I always strongly recommend rolling out a decision document, champions presentations and meeting captains for the quickest impact and lowest effort. 

Have a good week and I’ll land in your inbox next week,


Danny Denhard

Five Other Essential Company Culture Must Reads

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 159 – The Company Number 2

Dear leaders, the fight for the number two position has been something coveted for many years. 

I recently received an email from a leaders letters subscriber asking about “the mythical number two role” so I wanted to tackle it in a dedicated leaders letter. 

Being the right-hand person, the next strong voice and then the trusted partner is something many professionals try to acquire and manufacture their way into this converted slot. 

Being trusted by the number 1 (CEO or founder) is a double-edged sword and one you might just struggle with.  

The Expectations 

  • Your expectation is your colleagues around you have to listen
  • Your colleagues will come to you for buy-in and support – improving your position as the number 2 
  • Your colleagues will ripple this news through the organisation and the rest of the business takes this on 
  • The rest of the org will listen to your every word and look to you for answers and additional support 
  • Leverage (leverage the people, leverage the unofficial title, leverage the opportunity) 
  • The validation will create respect 
  • You are next in line  

The Usual Reality 

  • The number two spot is often an impossible position 
  • Your colleagues around the exec table do not trust you, this sends signals to the rest of the org not to trust you  
  • You can be seen as the #1’s puppet – only delivering on their requirements and actions 
  • When there is a requirement to challenge the number 1 you will be torn to protect and defend vs do what is best for the wider org or your department 
  • Your own team’s trust often erodes over time – you become dislocated from your team and your loyalties are questioned constantly 
  • Your own “number two” will take aim at your position and authority and very often unpick your position at the seams while you play an unofficial company number 2 role 
  • The number two often doesn’t take the leaders chair when they leave or are removed 

2 Political 

Very often the number two is posturing, it’s a political minefield and you as the number two have to be so politically savvy, you have to embrace your IQ, EQ and PQ in rotation and this can be exhausting.

The company culture is often manipulated the most by this number two person and can work for and against them, most often going against them as they are in the most questioned position within the business. 

When company culture is so important to your performance many companies make the mistake of entrusting the number two to make the right strategic plays and bets to improve the company culture. Very few will put the company first when their own personal stakes and game plan have been years to play out. 

Waves Of Change 

Despite the largest company trends, over the last 15 years, it has been CFOs transitioning to CEOs, then COOs transitioning and most recently it has been CPO who takes on the CEO role once their boss moves on. 

CFOs, COOs and CROs are often in the number two position, you will see this play out over and over in mid to large businesses and often in smaller businesses or startups you might even see co-founders having to battle it out with external “adults” to take over the reins of the business. 

Very rarely does the internal number two actually take over from exiting founders or co-founders and often the move onto another business is harder for them. 

Likely Outcome – Interim 

Like in sports, you become the caretaker manager, you take temporary charge of the team. You will know quickly how your tenure will go, likely quickly and then you have the fight all over again. 

In business the number 2 can take over as an interim lead, however, it is often seen with resistance and a full-time leader comes in to replace the interim. 

Big change in business is rarely a good thing for the supposed number two and this is often overlooked by them. 

Having been positioned as the number two on a number of occasions it rarely worked out for me – going into any situation like this with eyes wide open will only benefit you and the business. 

Protect You & The Business: Are you the number 2 within your business, how have you protected yourself and prevented many of these called-out issues to protect you and move the business forward? I trust so. 

This week’s focus action is to review how you are positioned within the business and understand how your position might be negatively impacted by the perceived “rank” you are in or represent. 

Thanks and have a great week 

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 144 – Qualifying That “Idea” To Strategic Bet

Dear leaders, I am often asked
“How do we make our big ideas work?” 

The answer is simple really, it is the refining and qualifying of ideas. 

Or the question should be reframed as: This is where ideas have to be transformed into qualified strategic bets

Think Back & Set Others Up To Succeed: We have all been there, we have a brilliant idea, we set ourselves up to pitch the idea, we may have been invited for a slot in the Management Team Meeting and then you are faced with a barrage of questions, the idea feels like it is dashed in ten minutes. I have sat in the management team meeting and clearly remember a great idea full of potential dashed in under 60 seconds. 

You have two options (1) refine and attempt another slot or (2) re-shape your idea into a qualified strategic bet. 

Option 2 is the only way forward.

A quick note: 

Pitching The Right Bet – this is where the right person and right people are vitally important. The structure and the delivery are essential, not only for the bet to succeed and be championed but for you to know who makes decisions to make and how to approach the conversation. 

The reason why an idea is often counterproductive is it’s sounds half baked, it isn’t validated and qualified in your environment. 

What decision-makers need is two simple things
(1) confidence
(2) strong evidence that is shaped and qualified enough they don’t need to invest hours grooming, modelling the finance and re-shaping and re-prioritising existing work streams or roadmaps. 

Move from idea to bet before attempting to pitch to senior management. 

The Focus Idea To Bet Qualification

The Bet Build – Visalise the bet for all stakeholders.
Use words, use imagery, even create a wireframe or potentially a prototype or provide a live example (in or outside of your market) that could enable visual people to understand it or play with it. 

For those with time constraints or typically biased towards excel – add the table with the growth numbers. 

Untold Truth: The better the storytelling, the better the visuals, and the more exciting it is, the more it builds a connection to the idea. 

The more qualified the tables and financial numbers are, the better the response from finance and core business decision-makers, if you don’t get the green light from the founder/CEO and their yes-no person the CFO the likelihood of this bet getting the leadership team’s full support is minimal.  

Create A Definitive Exec Summary: 

Think of an amended Amazon working backwards: 

  • The bet in one sentence 
  • Who is the customer 
  • The benefits of the bet 
    • to customer  
    • & then to the company 
  • The problem(s) being solving 
  • Time to make an impact? 
  • Measurable goals and metrics (show big number to wow moment)
  • Link to FAQ’s of the bet – think of the big questions ahead of time 

Link to Focus Idea To Bet framework as your own Google Doc

Why We Should Stop X And Run Towards This – the important element that rarely anyone suggests to include is: 

  • Why run towards this bet, and what advantages does it have? 
  • Can it replace something already on the roadmap? (hint at projects struggling to make an impact or are earmarked for the future)
  • Or does it deserve people and money budget allocation? 

If you can’t provide a realistic timeline with resource requests here, it is not qualified enough. 

What Would The 3 Main Tasks Be – these have to be clear, they have to be fully thought through and be able to understood by finance, product and marketing alongside other senior members of the company. 

Key Metrics To Success – what are the leading indicators that prove we are on the right track for this bet? What time frame are you suggesting?

Then clearly call out the 3 core metrics you will be using to understand success of the big bet over the first week, first month, first quarter, first year.
This step in the process often will kill creative people’s idea and qualify them as a strategic bet. 

Revenue Impact With Confidence – this is often the falling down of big bets within companies, being able to get into the excel master sheet, get into the existing budget or financial plan and apply other people’s logic into the idea and show how this will grow revenue (use common internal metrics like downloads, daily usage, churn reduction, number of qualified leads etc) broken down month by month. Unfortunately, this is also the issue most people have it is likely a guess as it might be brand new or it might be unproven in your market, arm yourself with confident data points and make realistic impact numbers. 

The essential point to take away here is, unfortunately, even with the best prep, best financial modelling and brilliant pitch, the odds of an investment into bets can be low. Even as a c-suite leader your strategic bet might not make the cut. 

This week, empower your teams by improving their working practices and creating the ability to pitch the highest qualified strategic bets to the business. A bank of brilliantly qualified bets is better than a recycling bin and miro boards full of post it notes. 

Thanks and have a great week focusing your business,

Danny Denhard

Other Focus Frameworks

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 141 – 5 Questions WIth Jason Allan Scott

Dear leaders, this week I am bringing another brilliant 5 questions leaders letter.

This week’s leader is Jason Allan Scott who is company helps businesses and business leaders with their podcast presence. Jason works with the likes of the space-as-a-service leader and 5 questions leader Caleb Parker and many others in helping to tell better audio stories and help brands stand out in crowded markets.

This is why I wanted to reach out and ask Jason to share his wisdom to help you improve and deliver better messaging in more authentic ways.

Today you will learn from some brilliant gems:

  • How to improve your audio presence (whether for yourself or your brand)
  • Where not to go wrong (many are right now)
  • How to get your personality across well (this is what makes you stand out)
  • Why Podcasts are way more than just an audio file now and how you should step up
  • Getting the most out of your podcast experiences

If you’d like to know why I recommend internal podcasts, (re)read this leaders letter on why to roll out an internal podcast.

The 5 Questions —

Q1. You help companies create, produce and land their audio presence (with podcasts), what do you think most companies miss when it comes to podcasting and creating a branded podcast that lands? 

There are several elements to creating a branded podcast that lands for business. You need to focus on the central idea  ( while remembering that people want to be entertained first and educated second) while telling stories. 

“We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

Remember that you have an audience, an audience you can turn into ambassadors and clients for your business, so you need to play to them constantly. For shows to hit home they need to have a “product” a show that is regular, that follows a formula and has a strong structure delivered with Authenticity. 

Q2. Where do leaders go wrong with their podcast appearances and how could they create actual authentic thought leadership with their own podcasts? 

Most leaders go wrong with their podcast appearances due to not listening to the questions asked, not knowing the format of the show and who the show serves. Almost all podcasts have an approximate recording length they are trying to hit. For my shows, it’s 27 minutes. As a podcast guest, you indeed want to tell good stories, but wherever possible keep your answers punchy and tight. This gives the host(s) air time and allows them to ask more questions and get to their standard segments, etc. without running short or having to rush the show. Wanna sound authentic, laugh. Laughter is contagious, even when spread via audio. Lead the laughter and lighten the mood for the listeners.

You don’t need to speak perfectly when in the “spotlight”. If you stumble over your words, feel free to make fun of yourself. Again, speaking like yourself will translate far better than trying to sound like someone else.  Also as a bonus tip use the host’s name when you answer the questions.

Q3. Podcasts can be hard for many inexperienced leaders to put across their personality and importantly the business messages for their companies, is there an ingredient in your secret sauce you could offer that would help founders and c-suite execs really land podcast appearances? 

The podcast is an ingenious digital marketing tool, offering an alternative — and highly effective — means of promoting your brand, demonstrating your authority, and reaching a captive audience. Over the last few years podcast consumption is on the rise with over 57 million active listeners. 

Although your podcast is targeted at a specific audience, you should assume that listeners know very little about the topic you’re covering. Use clear language that they’ll understand and avoid blanket statements at all costs. Many people use podcasts as background noise and mentally tune in and out, so it may be helpful to redefine terms from time to time.

Podcast guests, thought leaders, should listen to at least two podcast episodes of the show they are going on. You want to have a feel of the cadence of the show. Get an understanding of the flow and bits of the show and see how you can authentically be you in those moments. Write down a description of the typical listener and why he/she or they listen. This is as important to the host as it is to the guest but if you understand the audience and their motivations for listening. Take time to write down a persona description of the representative listener, or avatar. Prepare at least 3 stories you can unfurl at any time. The truth is that being a great guest or host is the same, its about telling stories. Always have at least one to three things the listener can use after they stop listening to the show. 

Q4. Podcasts have become way more than just audio, with an explosion across visual and video platforms like TikTok and Instagram, how do you guide busy leaders to get the most out of their appearances on industry podcasts? 

Create, Curate and Repurpose. 

Create the content on a podcast, clip out the magic moments, the parts that you want people to remember and the parts that you know will resonate. Then take those clips and make them into small snippets for the various platforms. Put it on YouTube and take off the transcript and put it into ChatGPT and ask it to summarise into long sentences and 15 points the show. Then make a newsletter and send that over LinkedIn. And then create a twitter thread with the same content you used on the newsletter but add images, memes and gif’s. 

Q5. What three things can you suggest for leaders to land more podcast appearances within their niche? 

Ask, ask and ask. 

If you’re looking to be a guest on a podcast, you have several options:

  • reach out to podcast hosts directly
  • connect via podcast guest placement services
  • market yourself as a podcast guest and wait for creators to reach out

you should first assess whether a podcast is actually worthy of your time. 

Follow the steps below to identify which podcasts are worth pitching to.

  1. Look at the reviews – Looking at the reviews of a podcast should give you an indication of whether listeners are raving – or ranting – about the podcast. While some brands may hold the belief that “Any publicity is good publicity”, it’s worth considering how being on a particular podcast could affect your brand’s reputation.
  2. Google Top Podcasts in Your Industry – The simplest way to find podcasts that are relevant to your industry is to do a quick Google search. You can use key terms like “entrepreneur podcast”, “cooking podcast”, “finance podcast”, and the like to explore podcasts that may be looking for guest speakers like you. Then, shoot the podcaster an email to see if they are open to guest interviews.
  3. Master your messaging – Make sure you have your messaging down, and if you’re trying to sell something, be sure it’s relevant to the podcast’s audience. Consider offering a freebie or discount to that audience, which you can track via a unique URL or affiliate platform, so you can see which podcast appearances are actually driving sales.

A huge thanks Jason for sharing so much value, reach out and connect with Jason

I’ll be back next week with another must-read leaders letters.

Until next week,

Danny Denhard

PS below is a good vodcast with Jason about how to make money from podcasts if you are looking to create your own.

The 5 Follow Up Must Reads For This Week

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 136 – What Are The Factors At Play (With Free Framework)

Dear Leaders, the most under-respected and most under-discussed element within leadership meetings and around the boardroom is “what are the factors at play” and how do we influence and then action them. 

Knowing The Factors At Play: I recently discussed the forces at play with a new business unit with a large organisation’s leadership team and they struggled with being able to know what were their forces at play, how to find them and then understanding which were internal forces and then external forces. 

Forces at play are often out of your control, there are shifts within markets or industries that you can never influence but will greatly impact your business for a number of years ahead. 

Economic Factor: Right now we are all experiencing a tough economic environment and many customers have done the wise thing for them to cut their spending, there is a however, not understanding the nuanced factors at play is almost criminal to how you operate and how you then review teams performance and company performance.

Covid Chaos To Crisis: If you have read or listened to recent quarterly earnings (since Q2 of 2020) they have had to blame external factors, when then pushed many CFOs and CEOs struggle to articulate what the deeper factors were (apart from supply chain issues) and how they could change these and influence positive change without many layoffs or numerous rounds of layoffs. 

Layoffs for big tech have unfortunately been necessary for most, however, addressing the people side of balance sheet management only doesn’t often change the actual performance of a business, often just the spreadsheet view and you will bad practices, poor decision-making and other operating holes too late and then more misses for quarters to come.   

Action: Making Factors Work – Understanding the factors, then categorising them and creating a plan of action (applying to your one company-wide strategy) and then through each departmental plan helps you to reshape and reframe issues. 

Here is how you can categorise factors and work out how to reduce anxiety and friction and those you have to take action on:  

  • We Influence
  • Can Influence 
  • Want To Influence 
  • Don’t And Can’t Influence 

More Than Just Another Unactionable List

Company Factors Template

This framework works on whiteboards, spreadsheets, miro boards and notion boards, you should keep a running weekly to monthly record (often asynchronously works best) and this enables you to make smart decisions and address/readdress issues and lagging indicators more frequently rather than having to jump straight to headcount freezes and layoffs. 

Essential To Truly Know: Dashboards and your internal data often only tell you the surface-level information, the analysis section is imperative and this is where your factors come into their own. Storytelling takes you to the next level.

FYI: Executed right, these factors will appear on your transparent decision document, letting your company know you (and the leadership team have heard and acted upon ideally collaboratively) have made important decisions and then how you got there and why these factors matter, with the actions required to address said issues. 

This week consider how you add this framework and workflow into your management meetings, empower department leads and your business analysis (data insights etc) team to feed in weekly or even ad-hoc and discuss these factors regularly, 

Thanks and I’ll land back in your inbox next week

Danny Denhard 

Want someone to step up as a leader? Let them know to subscribe here 😉 

PS/ It is well worth reading how Charlie Munger refers to the forces at work and how he operates with or against them. 

Company Culture Leadership

The Corporate Buzzword Bingo Card 2023

Each year we adopt new words, new corporate jargon and buzzwords that we end up bringing into the business, not just being used but often many internal jokes made from the words we use and the style we say them in.

The 2023 corporate jargon card includes many that will be used in the boardroom, across multiple slack and team chats and often in leadership meetings, AOP and QBR meetings.

Read more: The Corporate Buzzword Bingo Card 2023

The new words for 2023:

  • Economic headwinds
  • Low performers
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Quiet Quitting
  • Return to the office aka RTO

Have fun and remember to share in your slack or teams (copy and paste –

Company Culture Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 131 – 5 Questions With Tim Grimes

Dear leaders, this week’s 5 questions are with Tim Grimes, Tim is on a mission to improve work, so embracing and pushing flexible work, hybrid work, and helping companies to facilitate 4-day work weeks

An important workstream that Tim and his company offers is their site offers new filter roles with over 20 different flexible working options.  

Tim’s answers are great and super actionable for the new year. If you are struggling with being flexible and moving to more modern ways of working, Tim’s answers will help you rethink your approach or guide your company forward. 

Q1. You are flying the flag of flexible work and making it work, what are the 3 ways leaders can make flexible work, work? 

  • Transparency: Leadership must be upfront with employees and candidates around flexibility; be it flexi-time, compressed hours, remote working, phased retirement or career breaks. Only once a candidate/employee knows their options, can they make informed choices on whether it’s right for them. It’s also critical that leaders commit to these ways of working; ideally contractually. During the pandemic many organisations bought on new staff under specific flexible circumstances, only to backtrack, which causes retention problems.
  • Individualisation; leaders must remember that flexible work is never one-size-fits-all. Every individual has different circumstances that require someone to work flexibly; for some, it can be a preference; for others, it can be a life circumstance. For myself particularly, it was a life-event that made me realise how important work/life balance is, whereas I’ve haven’t got a requirement such as childcare. Regardless of circumstance, everyone should be treated equally, which creates an inclusive culture, built on trust and autonomy. 
  • Trust & Autonomy: To make flexible policies thrive, leaders must create a culture that’s built on trust and autonomy. Many leaders have a disconnect with their team around productivity, which is primarily due to the lack of trust. 

Q2. Implementing a hybrid working model has been challenging for many businesses; what are your tips for making the most of this model? 

Since pivoting to hybrid working, many companies are still struggling to adapt or have simply failed. And there’s a reason, most organisations have attempted to continue their pre-pandemic 5-day office model into 2-3 days. With teams utilising the office on different days, and workplaces focused on desk space rather than shared space, it’s incredibly difficult to foster a productive and inclusive working culture. However, there’s a way to make it work, something Nick Bloom has built; the seamless hybrid working model: 

  1. Source feedback and data to understand your team’s existing and preferred working patterns (don’t do this company-wide); 
  2. After establishing your team’s working pattern, ensure everyone comes in on the same days; 
  3. Make sure you front-load office days with in-person meetings and events – employees come in for collaboration; 
  4. Promote wider departmental video meetings and ‘deep thinking’ work on remote days; along with building out internal tech resources to bring people together remotely. 
  5. Newer team members should come in an extra day each week / fortnight for mentoring. 

During the limited collaboration days, there’s no point in employees attending the office just to sit on video calls. Companies must focus on collaboration done correctly, and built for the new world of work. 

Q3. What is the one trend you are predicting for 2023 that every leader should be building towards from today? 

In the new world of work, every leader needs to understand the era of adaptable personnel and explore new models of working. 

It’s time to build out nimble and dynamic teams, with individuals working differently; be it part-time, reduced hours or a 4-day week. For example, before hiring, managers need to move beyond the mindset of ‘full-time default’; this allows organisations to access wider and diverse talent pools. 

These different working arrangements provide businesses with lower fixed costs, whilst still giving them the opportunity to grow. Leaders have a duty to become more adaptable & open to new ways of working.
This mentality shift could future-proof many businesses, avoiding layoffs, which ultimately protect the livelihoods of their employees.

Q4. There have been huge numbers of layoffs impacting professionals across the world, what are the most important learnings others can apply to make this period better for both those impacted and those left in their roles? 

Being made redundant can be one of the most challenging periods for anyone, and leadership must treat any period with time and consideration. You can’t and shouldn’t expedite a redundancy process; leadership and management must be given enough time to make educated and informed decisions. 

An example of where this has failed is during the recent Twitter lay-offs; many individuals were laid-off, only to be asked back a few days later.
Once an employee is made redundant, and let-go, loyalty and trust is severed; bringing people back after is incredibly difficult; something that Twitter experienced.  

For those left in their roles, businesses must do more to protect their employees. I personally don’t believe organizations do enough before lay-offs. Businesses and leaders should be continually reviewing their staff to future proof; and before firing, businesses need to give employees the opportunity to work differently before severance. 

Q5. Culture is going to be the most important factor for many looking for a new role or staying in their current role, do you have any advice to make company culture a priority in other businesses?

Many businesses are simply playing the old culture game. Nearly 50% of job seekers cite company culture as their reason for looking for a new role, yet companies are still approaching culture like it’s 2001. Back in 2001, organizations previously focused on soft perks such as gym passes, dog-friendly offices, free lunches, beer Fridays, ping pong tables; the list goes on.

In the new world of work post-pandemic, priorities have shifted and organizations must focus on people, building a culture around principles of flexible working, autonomy, recognition and trust. 

Employee Growth Culture is about a human value proposition; not giving employees things. If businesses invest in culture correctly, they’ll see a happier, more productive workforce.

Want to get in touch with Tim, get in touch below: 

On WorkYourWay site // Email Tim // or Tim shares regularly on LinkedIn and are always insightful and actionable. 

Leaders, go and have a great week and consider how you will roll out Tim’s recommendations for the weeks ahead.  

Thanks and speak next week,

Danny Denhard – On a mission to fix the broken world of work

Struggling to understand some of the core topics, here are some invaluable resources:

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 128 – Leadership Lessons From CEO/COO William Phillipson

Dear Leaders, this week I want to introduce you to Will Phillipson, Will is one of those leaders who you meet and know he is someone you would love to collaborate with and learn a tonne from.

Will has been a CEO and COO of well known companies and is someone you will learn a great deal from his answers and feel inspired to make positive changes for the end of this year and kickstart next year off in the right way.

Leadership Lessons From CEO/COO William Phillipson

Q1. You’ve led and sold your own business and been COO at well-known businesses, what’s the one leadership trait you have to teach each leader?

Communication. When you’re in the details day to day – especially when you’re at the center of a business – you understand and feel the business like no one else (or at least very few others.) It’s also easy to assume that everyone has the same level of understanding. That’s not the case. So as a leader, you have to communicate, frequently and repeatedly. Explain to the team – with the right level of nuance and transparency for every level of the team – the vision, what’s going on right now, and how it relates to achieving the vision. People who understand the environment, their part in it, and how everyone is working together to make things happen are more effective.

Q2. One of your best traits is being a translator between management and the different departments – what’s the secret to getting everyone on the same page?

I’ve found the secret to be two-fold – first, taking the time to understand what the department / team / individuals do; and second, communicating and relating the vision and action plan to them in the context of their environment.
Doing this reduces misinterpretation – you “speak” the appropriate language to each team – and also gives each team confidence that you understand the value and contribution they bring to the overall mission.

Q3. Is there one common mistake you see company leads repeat over and over that you can share that you’d warn department leads on what not to repeat?

Accountability is huge, and often not thought about until things go wrong – then the blamestorming begins… Part of the communication – part of the vision – needs to be metrics that can be used to measure whether the vision/mission/project has been achieved. If that is part of the formulation, then those metrics can be used by each team – and the company overall – to ensure that progress is being made. And most of all, failures need to be identified, acknowledged, and particularly where the failures impact other teams, those responsible need to be held accountable.

Nothing demotivates team members more than seeing repeated failures go unpunished – or worse, being rewarded… (We all know of those cases where repeated failure has resulted in people getting promoted…)

Q4. What’s the biggest opportunity for businesses in 2023?

Big Tech is struggling. Thousands of high-quality people are available on the market. Consumers are demanding exceptional online experiences and seamless online and offline integration. This all breeds amazing opportunities for disruption and the birth of the next generation of super businesses. 

The businesses that survive will focus on the customer experience – better online user experience coupled with an offline fulfilment that matches the expectations set by the online experience.

Q5. What do you think every leader needs to teach in 2023?

Humility & patience coupled with purpose and vision. The world is chaotic at present and people are worried and often overwhelmed. Leadership will set the tone for the team – treating people with humility and patience will build a culture of respect; providing – and clearly communicating – a purpose will give team members a reason to show up, be present, and drive towards success.

If you’d like to connect with Will on LinkedIn.

Massive thanks to Will for answering these questions and adding a lot of value and a number of actions to move forward with. I’ll see you again next Monday.

Have a productive week!


Danny Denhard