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. 


Danny Denhard

Get Ahead Of Your Competition – Read These 5 Must Reads

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 48 – 12 Lessons From The “Trillion Dollar Coach” Bill Campbell​

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 Sundar 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. 


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

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 45 – Professional Injuries & Rehab

Professional Injuries & Rehab 

Dear leaders, I trust you had a good weekend. 

As I have mentioned before, I love coaching and mentoring. I currently have two great coaching clients and it is the highlight of my week whenever we sit down, zoom and run through coaching sessions. 

Something that came up in a recent mentoring session was being conditioned by a previous experience and it having a lasting impact on their career. 

I for one know I have many battle wounds and mental scars from previous workplaces and I am open to telling many of these to help to share and show we all have them and let them know being vulnerable is part of the process with us. 

Something many managers forget is the professional injuries our team members suffer or have suffered at previous companies or under previous management.
Truth be told some might be impacted by our management styles today. 

Yes, being busy is a part of it, an (important) however, not being close enough to the team and choosing to be a coach or mentor vs not having to be specific people’s manager is not taught and rarely discussed in management books or courses. 

Like athletes, injuries take a tremendous toll on us, physically and mentally and are often triggered by repeat events or similar results from a similar approach. 

This is one of the reasons why I recommend more coaches and mentors than managers. Coaches improve performance and recognise weakness that needs more personalised coaching. Managers rarely have the skillset for this.

We need rehab, we need to retrain and strengthen, what is different in the workplace especially large corporations, this is often left to the individual to work through, professional assistance and training is not promoted or recommended by managers or management teams. 

It is the time to balance this, help your team or department members seek professional help or self start and find a coach or mentor to help work on their injuries and improve our reliance and our strength. Training budgets should be used to train and retrain. 

I highly recommend updating your leadership principles to include developing your colleagues with coaching and rehab.

This week consider how you can take forward your colleague’s professional injuries or scars and look to offer a chance for them to rehabilitate. It doesn’t have to cost a huge amount of money or time but the benefit for you, your colleague and the business in a short period of time will be huge. 

Have a great week and take the time to list of a couple of your own injuries and how you might rehab them.  Professional 1-2-1 coaching is only an email away.


Danny Denhard 

Focus Founder 

Five Important Reads To Read & Share 

  1. Return to the office checklist – reduce the anxiety around returning to the office 
  2. Recording mico-moments – this should be a micro moment   
  3. Offsites to reconnect as a team – need to reconnect with your team? An off-site or on-site done well with help you win the next two quarters  
  4. Fight, flight or freeze – changing the default reaction of teams
  5. Time for a co-pilot? – Is it time to revisit whether you need more support or the team needs a different pilot?
Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 5th March

This week’s Friday Focus I will be sharing five leaders letters (the Focus leadership newsletter) you should read to help improve your leadership.

1: One problem two solutions is a letter for leaders to help their teams with problem-solving and being able to present two solutions in an orderly manner to help the business progress.

2: Three questions is a leaders letter to help build better connections between teams and between manager and their teams.

3: Working from home has been a struggle for many, here is a way to run a workshop so leaders can improve working from home and plan for the hybrid office.

4: Soft skills are often seen to have lower importance vs the traditional more measurable themes of work on a spreadsheet, here is a way to measure and improve your business and your leadership by embracing softer skills.

5: Leadership principles are not new but are rarely rolled out in organisations. Leadership principles help shape the future leaders and hold existing leaders accountable for their behaviour(s) and decisions.

Important Follow Up Reads

Anonymous Career Advice

Failing To Get My Message Across

In this weeks anonymous career advice, we tackle a problem many managers and leaders face, not being able to get their message across.

Dear Focus, I seem to struggle to get my message across to my company. My leadership team suggests it’s down to how I communicate, how can I improve?

For almost every leader, internal communications and landing a message has never been as challenging as it is today.
Why? Today there are too many channels to send and land a message, emails go unread, internal instant messengers are often ignored or skim read and there is no sense of urgency or importance.
Then there is the challenge of choice of language and more often than not sentiment can be difficult to understand and land as one message for everyone.

Over the past three years, there has been a shift to creating richer content when these communications are not made in person, typically video has been something many leaders have tried to embrace but the delivery mechanism is still email or instant messenger.

Questions to ask yourself?

  • Are you the best person to send the message?
    • If no, who would be the best to deliver the message?
  • Who is the best person at delivering a message in your organisation?
    If someone else is better, leverage them and their connection with the teams.
  • Have you watched any important speeches or watched free materials on speech rating or internal comms?
    There is a lot of free content that will help you deliver your messages
  • Can you use a mix of audio, written and video?
    It can seem like more work, however, making your message apply across different formats helps the message to land and will become shareable internally like it would on social networks.
  • Do you have a set of communication communications within your business to understand important communications and how urgent they are?
    Remember an email from the HiPPO does not mean it is important.
  • If you had to pick just one channel to deliver your message, which channel would it be?
  • Which channels land for you and your colleagues?
  • Do you explain the essential communications in the most simplistic and understandable way possible? Do you sense check any of the language you include?
  • Are you using any localised words which do not translate well?
  • Have you looked at the time you send these messages?
    The time that emails are sent are often too late or at busy times and can be ignored. Choose early, just before lunch or towards 16.00 (timezones are a pain to compete with).
  • If this was delivered by a large company as an advertising campaign, what formats would they use?
    What can you learn from this?

You have plenty to think about, I would consider leveraging free content online to help you become more compelling, speaking to those who can land a message and working with them on delivery and speaking to the team around you to help them spread the information in a multi-person comms attack vs trying to deliver one knock out punch.

If you are looking for a quicker fix, I would concentrate on:
(1) what you want to say – consider writing post-it notes out and then typing up or recording,
(2) how you want to deliver it (text-based vs video vs audio recording, email vs messenger) and
(3) how you ask for feedback
(4) how you follow up.

Best of luck.

Have your own question or need advice? Submit yours below

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 32 – Make A Difference, Whatever Your Situation


Dear Leaders,

Monday’s are not always anyone’s favourite day. Sunday night blues kick in, you realise you probably have numerous video calls that fill you with dread or only going to bring problems not solutions.

There is something I believe you sign up for when you join a company or sign up to be a leader and that is:

Make a difference.

Make a difference seems simple enough but many of us are wrapped up in the day, we are brought into another back to back or we are brought into other people’s political fights and we move away from making a positive difference.

Previously I wrote to you and confirmed it is always ok to move on as a leader, so today even if you know it is time to move on or you know you want to start looking for your next challenge, remember to question what difference can I make in the time before I leave?

Making a difference can be with the company as a whole, it could be making a difference for your team, it could be making a difference in someone’s career by helping them to improve or they deserve your time with coaching or mentorship.

Decide to make the difference today, take 30 minutes to identify how and where you can and take it on as a personal project to make the difference in the next few weeks.

Have a great week making a difference.


Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 31 – Interview Training & Practise


Dear Leaders,

Today I am writing to you to help you think a little differently about personal development and team development.

We will see a reduced amount of hiring for most businesses, we will see the number of jobs available reduce by around ~50%, the first order is less staff turnover, this provides a great opportunity to improve company culture, especially with your teams to get to work better and ideally more effectively together.
Remember experts suggest it takes six months of no change (no new staff or staff leaving) for a team with training to be able to operate at the highest level.

The second order is how this will impact your team and personal development of your teams. Less interviewing means less development, less gained experience, less finding out what you and your staff are worth.

Netflix is huge advocates of understanding your value and knowing the market rates (Read The Netflix Company Culture newsletter for full info). Netflix even encourages staff to take interviews, which many companies have a fear of but the way Netflix is set up is to embrace this and allow their teams to know they are paid at the top of the market as they are the top of the market.

This process is likely not happening within your business, your teams will be stuck in their way of doing things and will struggle to ask great questions when hiring is back on the agenda.

I strongly recommend you and your best-interviewing staff alongside HR, arrange internal interviews, build out on a selection of questions, share and co-develop a selection of tasks and presentation to interview each other on and run dummy runs.

Some of the best organisations I have worked in or programmes I have created is around creating great interview questions, creating exciting and challenging tasks and personalising interview question and techniques to improve your departments.

This week start putting together a training guide for interviewing. Ensure you add interview training into everyone’s personal development plan and help people of all experience levels to improve their experience and their interviewing techniques. Some of the worst interviewers are the most senior staff, keep this in mind when setting up these activities.

Something to always keep in mind, you might be an attractive brand to work for, you might be well known but your interview processes is what will convert someone who is interviewing at many companies to someone who will want to work for you and your organisation.

Have a good week and let me know if you have any brilliant interview challenges, questions or tasks.


Danny Denhard

PS, my favourite interview question ever asked is what pizza toppings are you and why? Remember bland can be good or bad, you will understand how you got on instantly with your answer and the social cues received even virtually, so keep alert to these.

Recommended Reading: Ten ways to improve your remote management skills.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 27 – Review Your Managers Reviews


Dear Leaders, Happy Monday.

You likely have only three more Mondays of 2020 left.

This weeks leaders letter concentrates on reviewing your team of managers feedback from their team.

Performance can be tricky to understand. As a leader, your performance is based on how the teams underneath performance and how close you are to the targets you set at the beginning of the year.

You have likely heard of skips, skip catch-ups and skip 1-2-1’s are commonplace in large organisations but have you considered how you review monthly reviews and quarterly reviews?

Something that can be frustrating is how you can understand how your management team and the set of managers underneath are performing. It is also an area many busy managers don’t see as important as attending more meetings or replying to more emails.

Being able to proactively review and receive unfiltered feedback can be difficult but not impossible. Your teams are likely providing feedback to their line manager in the form of a monthly or quarterly review.

Something I am a huge advocate of is opening up and reading your direct reports reviews and the feedback provided by the team. You will see a variety of feedback you likely don’t see yourself and you will see how they interact with the different members of the team, especially when in their one to ones and behind closes doors / closed video calls. This will work for teams leads, department leads and management team members.

You may also undercover your hidden leaders, those in management positions or those speaking up and informing their managers of potential issues and where to drive the business forward.

This approach could help with mentoring and coaching opportunities, a way to proactively improve company culture and an opportunity to improve company-wide communications.

You will likely see patterns of feedback, often ignored by your managers, these are areas you cannot overlook and have to proactively manage and nurture your managers into the right areas or bring in external experts to help evolve your business.

Moving forward consider in on focusing in on making the time to review the direct feedback your managers are receiving and help them to improve their management styles, their management approach and improve the working environment for your middle management and their teams.

Your next set of leaders and the teams around them deserve your time and experience to guide the people and company forward.

Thanks and have a proactive week.


P.S. If you are looking to improve your team, reach out to develop your management team.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 17 – What Leadership Is

What Leadership Is


Dear Leader, I trust you had a good weekend.

In recent years we have seen and heard many versions of what leadership is.
I was asked this week:
What leadership is and what does leadership look like today?

One of my recent goals was to speak to great leaders. I have been speaking to many leaders from healthcare, education, finance, app-only businesses and leaders from the world of sports, and one essential piece learning for me and the leaders interviewed…leadership is changing for the better.

For me, gone are the days where the leader is the person who intimidates the company the most, they are not the person who shouts loudest or has the final word.
The leader can be more introverted, they can be quieter, leaders can and should be calmer natured, and to borrow the Matthew Syed phrases, they can be a prestige leader, not a dominance leader.

I re-read a list of quotes I have saved and this leadership quote from the Everton Football Club men’s manager really does solidify what leadership is.

“My approach is born of the idea that a leader should not need to rant and rave or rule with an iron fist, but rather that their power should be implicit. It should be crystal clear who is in charge, and their authority must result from respect and trust rather than fear. ”

– Carlo Ancelotti 

For those who are unfamiliar, Carlo is one of the most successful football managers of all time, he was also a very successful player too. Carlo has played under some of the hardest and most dominating managers from football, he has also managed the biggest clubs and stars in sports. This quote really highlights how things can shift.

This week focus on: When you question what is leadership and what makes a great leader, I challenge you to rethink the old stereotypes and what you have been conditioned to believe and attempt to grow this type of leadership.

Have a great week!


Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 15 – Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors

Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors


Dear Leaders,

This weeks letter is a challenge to set yourself and your leadership team. With all the businesses I have worked in and on, and with the businesses I have spoken to recently, the more I question the way we have set up work to succeed.

The most common question I ask:
“Why do you think you need more managers?”.

Very rarely do I receive an answer that backs up hiring more managers or another manager.

Hierarchy can be good for company progress and taking active steps to mature your startup or middle management team, however, what you likely need in this period is more coaches and more mentors.

These, of course, could be internal (and should be happening organically) and could be external, you will likely benefit more by leading through coaching the team and guiding them long term with specific mentors. Keep this in mind: Both are specific skills and different disciplines.

Coaching can take many forms, the best form of corporate coaching is based on skills gaps, coaching on identified tactical areas of improvements and developing better muscle memory will more likely help teams and departments to perform better together or more resiliently than adding another manager into the chain of command.

A question to ask yourself: 

Do we have the right coaches internally to help the skills gap or should we look to hire a few specific coaches?

Mentoring is essential for those who need longer-term development, a lighter touch with more time to discuss, guide and mould your staff. Pairing mentors and mentees are essential, if you feel like you have someone to take ownership of internal mentorship, great, if not I would recommend looking to bring in external mentors for specific individuals or pairs that would benefit most from it.

Headcount will likely be tight for the foreseeable future, so consider how you can develop hard and softer skills including; confidence, professional development, reactions and your people over another layer of hierarchy.

As always, promote the right candidate and replace exiting managers if these are essential, however, really question and consider: What does our company require?
How is our business is going to improve performance? Not just manage people.  

A challenge for you:
Can you breed a team that proactively coaches and encourages your team to seek mentors and seek mentees?

This week focus on reviewing your hierarchy, department structures and how you can introduce a coach or coaching into the weekly flow and where and who could benefit from mentoring.

Especially those senior members who would greatly benefit from reserve mentoring. So many senior leaders are so disconnected from the floor and the teams they instantly benefit!

Have a good week and let me know by reply how you reconsider management and development.