Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 77 – Two Up x Two Across Matrix 

Dear Leaders, Frameworks and documents are the most popular leaders letters. 

This week I have a matrix (simple framework) I have adopted over time and something many managers might benefit from. 

It is the:

Two Up x Two Across Matrix. 

Moving laterally aka across does not mean a demotion or non-promotion it actually means you are helping to shape their career and moving them towards the right long term career for your team member. 

Keeping your team members happy is a huge challenge, in which in “The Great Resignation” is going to be harder for you and the company. Therefore, this matrix might be an asset to have and use before the end of the year. 

What is it? 

Two Up

The next two levels of promotion within the team or department. This works up until the C-suite level. 

This is the most natural movement, you move up the ranks within your own department, potentially mapping out replacing yourself as the Department lead or helping the team member understand their next step may be Head of or Director of, or moving into a generalist department head role. 

Two up requires deep thought, an ability to build out organisation design and map out succession plans and replacement plans. Alongside working with other leaders and potentially your HR function. 

Two Across

Two across is helping your team member realise their potential, either based on their skills or based on their desire. 

What is evident in most businesses is individuals want to want in different teams, different departments and grow. Many examples of this are when a Marketer moves in Product, when Product move into Operations and when Customer Support moves into Product and/or Marketing. 

A Personal Anecdote:

Some of the best hires I ever made were internal hires and dare I say internal poaching that worked out particularly well. 

One today is an absolute Marketing superstar and another has gone on in the creator economy and working through their passion. 

Both knew the timeline, both knew the plan to move them into the role and the steps we both needed to take to ensure they were supported, coached and had a mentor to help them move. 

“The Squilly Career”?

Becoming a Team or Department Lead, taking the next step to VP or SVP or joining the leadership team is not the only future for team members, although most are conditioned to believe this, in the future I truly believe specialists and leads will help reshape businesses and coach those around them to benefit their careers and those who they work alongside and work.  

Lastly, remember this will take teamwork and connections between you as the team or department lead and other leaders across the business, you should also note you will want to continue the mentor or coaching relationship with the team member who might move across not just up. 

The two up two across matrix will help hold important conversations, improve subculture within your team and connect with other department leads to improve the company. 

Good luck and keep on developing as a people (culture) and performance (strategy) leader. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard 

PS Remember my saying, always be Marketing, always be Auditing, December is the ideal time to audit your department plan or developing your management team, do get in touch for help. 

Important Company Culture Resources:


For more information on the squiggly career – watch below

Categories
Company Culture Leadership

Why HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah Is Right About Doubling Down On Your Strengths

Over the past six months, there seems to be a great increase in the quality of podcasts where founders and co-founders speak openly and honestly about their experiences and the reasons why there is a trend for many business leads to suggest they are not great managers and shouldn’t be a people manager.

Conditioning

We are taught from early on in our careers we should become managers and this is the path to promotion and the natural evolution of your career.

Throughout my career, I have seen founders and c-suite execs who are terrible people managers and actively shouldn’t have any of their business reporting into them.

The impact this has the company culture and success of the business is hugely negative and leaves many with a bad taste in their mouth and many bad glassdoor reviews.

There are so many startups that rely on founders and cofounders to take themselves out of people management for the sake of their business growth, unfortunately, due to the conditioning and ego, this rarely happens.

Dharmesh Shah commented on the MLM podcast (which is part of Hubspot via an acquisition) that he is not a good people manager and has no direct reports.

This is uncommon, not just to admit this but also to not actually have a big line of direct reports.

Many more should speak out on this. Especially those who know it is their weakness.

Play To Your Strenghts Or Speciality?

If your strengths are Product and Product development like many founders, then why would you not double down on this? If you are a specialist and do not have the time or energy to invest in becoming a good people leader, why wouldn’t you bring in someone with better people skills and more time and skills for this?

Good Managers Are Hard To Find

Some of the best managers I have ever worked with are specialists and with the coaching and management team development and executive training, I have incorporated this and many years of experience to build these learnings into organisational design and exec development.

The Question To Answer For Leaders

This should be a question many people ask themselves now, and each quarter, should I be a people manager and if not, how do I go about organisation design to replace myself and bring in the right manager for this department or bring in a specialist manager.

Watch the 2-minute video (below) perfectly explaining why senior execs do not need to be people managers and why they shouldn’t be.

One note to take onboard:
Bad managers who think they are good managers rarely will remove themselves, look to review your teams feedback and ask for peer feedback on your management skills.

So ask yourself: Am I a good people manager and should I look to remove myself and work to my specialities.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 75 – Ending First In Last Out Mentality

Dear Leaders,

During my career, I have worked in house, agency side and had my own consultancy and a few unsuccessful side hustles. 

When you work agency side, it was (and mostly still is) as someone senior you have to be visible and has to be perceived someone whos committed – basically be there late. 

In the majority of startups you are expected to work more than the core hours and available, do what is necessary. 

When you become senior within organisations there is an unspoken and unwritten rule you should almost always be available. Whether that’s on the phone, late-night emails, long slack threads and early morning and late-night Zoom’s with other regions.

Is any of this effective?
Is this efficient?
Is this right? 

No! 

I have spoken previously on the internal dilemmas work ethic can have and how I used to think my ability to outwork colleagues was a superpower, it isn’t as it is not scaleable. 

The best companies I have worked in or worked with enable people to thrive by working smartly, rewarding working hard and celebrating others around them.

Great company culture should guide values and behaviours, reward behaviours and never ever reward bad behaviours. 

So why do so many businesses reward people looking like they word late versus working effectively? 

Can you scale and grow as a business with fear around ineffective working schedules and hours? And are you breeding the right environment for those to thrive? 

Rethink how you may be rewarding the old way of thinking, reconsider how you might embrace scheduling emails, not sending that non-urgent late-night instant message or how you may be suggesting there is a dominant office or timezone for calls and video conferences. 

Please remember: 

Scaling and maturing businesses do not win by appearing to be working more hours, it is working in an environment that promotes great work, great collaboration and great problem-solving

Never let your commitment be questioned because you are effective, work differently or deliver great work within your working hours.

This week consider how you develop your business out and move away from old ways of thinking. 

Danny Denhard

PS Maybe Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk might agree, but the small and agile are making waves and taking market share across all business sectors.

Great Related Resources

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Should We Re-onboard Our Teams?

Dear focus, we are a series a startup, we are inviting our teams back into the office, something we are struggling with hybrid is how do we get everyone connected, will onboarding help make us efficient? 

It is great to see you are setting the new norms today.

The short answer is Yes! The secret to success for any business in covid is always and regularly re-onboard. 

The new office environment should likely be an arena vs being your traditional office, even in countries where people have returned to the office frequently, the office operates for more collaboration and performance vs headphones in trying to concentrate like many offices were in early 2020. 

As suggested in the return to the office guide

You should always re-onboard teams who are re-entering the office and entering the office at different times. The key with any return to the office is understanding that hybrid is multi-location and generally working online as location really should not be a point of contention in the hybrid work world. 

Playbook For Success

This means when returning into the ‘central space’ you require autonomy, you require the right guidelines and the most important question to answer is:
Why you are inviting teams in on a specific day or for specific reasons?  

One of the core flaws many businesses are operating in with hybrid is when teams are coming into the office they are doing it to have everyone face to face as they believe this builds more trust, reconnects teams and allows teams to get to know each other. 

Some of this is true, some are not as true, particularly when you take into consideration status games and hierarchy, personality types and how familiar teams are with working in person, many have always worked indirectly and asynchronously. 

Sales will naturally crave returning to the office, whereas Dev and Product teams may prefer not to return. Marketing may enjoy a couple of days per month, whereas Finance might prefer working remotely. Those whose roles are collaborative may actually have a new cadence that works best for them remotely, especially ticket-based activities vs being pipeline based. 

Guidelines = Win

Guideline 1: Written rules work best. 

Guideline 2: Create clear guidance for your teams coming back into the office: 

  • Pre read including 
  • Objective 
  • Agenda 
  • What success looks like from hybrid and being in the office 

Guideline 3: It is essential to ensure any important decisions are made are documented and shared officially with hybrid colleagues or those unavailable to come into the office. Wiki’s and knowledge centres are always best. 

No Tier 2 Systems

You have to have inclusive work and never a two-tier system of citizen a (who can come into the office) vs citizen b (those who cannot attend) and be flexible for commute times etc. 

Something to keep front of mind: some teams will want to and proactively opt-out of wanting to come back to office even if it is just for a day a week or makes less sense for their teams, if you decide it is some teams or departments in and some out – you have to remove proximity bias and create a deliberate communication and feedback loop based company. Companies that will succeed in hybrid work will be deliberate in communicating, typically moving forward asynchronously.

Important areas to keep in mind throughout the re-onboarding process: 

  • New work tensions – these are natural upon the first few times of reconnecting and meeting new team mates 
  • New relationships – there will be teams who have brand new colleagues and have to form brand new relationships it is essential you let these grow organically. Many who formed a strong bond online often struggle in real life, consider this. 
  • F2F – First time face to face for team members are often the hardest, be prepared to offer a game or an exercise to go through. Potentially consider the get to know me 4 question game
  • Team bonding can be organised – but the balance to enabling it to organic. There should be as much bonding as work for the first two meetings 
  • New locations within the office or specialist neighbourhoods – there will be many offices that look different, they operate differently and many have been reshaped, it is important that this is my desk or this was my desk to be addressed and discussed if you are rolling our hot desk only. 

Blending IRL and online first is going to be a challenge for every business, building the hybrid company culture norms is going to be key to your success. 

Good luck in your return to the office and remember if you work out quickly that the office just is not working, you can 

Important elements to also keep in mind in hybrid 

Reduce mirror anxiety 

Hybrid politics 

What makes great remote leaders

Designing the hybrid office

Will a strict return to the office work?

Categories
Trust

Are You Struggling To Connect With The Team Or With The Leadership Team

How to connect as a manager or department leader with a simple game

Do your team(s) think you just sit in management meetings, don’t know how the latest tech works and you ask repetitive questions and just cannot relate?

If you are being serious, at some point in your career you thought this and the chances are some of your team members think this right now.

The lack of face time, the lack of chances to get to know you and what drives you often causes disconnections and fear within teams. Department leads and heads are often disconnected by one to four managers.

Your disconnect or distance may be by design, however, it is important you build deeper and richer connections based on IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence). The old saying people don’t leave company’s they leave managers is true, but often this is indirect because your influence as a department lead is to be the inspiration point for the department and often your role as a leader is to be the active connector between your managers and their staff.

Categories
Company Culture

Front’s 4 Day Work Week Approach – Flexible Fridays

Why flexible Friday’s may just be the next natural step for forward thinking brands with 4 day work weeks.

There are currently three big work themes:

  1. The Great Resignation
  2. Hybrid Work (vs remote work vs forced return back to the office)
  3. The potential move to 4 day work weeks

None of these has easy answers or is easily addressed without intentional and deliberate planning and critically smart testing.

The great resignation is an important moving theme, the US is experiencing huge shifts of employees leaving their roles. In the UK and EU there are bigger challenges to actually fill open roles. Many candidates are experiencing recruiter ghosting at a record rate.

Move to Hybrid? With the ‘forced working from home experiment we have all experienced over the last 18 months, hybrid work is one of the easier themes to test and roll out.

The 4 day work week is picking up momentum, many companies believe with smart planning and fewer meetings there will be opportunities to reduce work from five to four day work weeks.

With all of these themes, trust and proximity bias are driving forces for companies defaulting to the old ways of working.

Front is doing it differently, smartly addressing pain points. Front is a communication platform that enables teams and customers to feel more connected through shared inboxes. 

Recently Front tested and reviewed their approach on four day work week. They dubbed it Flexible Friday’s.

What Is Flexible Friday’s?

Rather than enforcing four day work weeks, they enabled Friday’s to be flexible, offering the employees a choice between:
(a) if you would like to work – designed for deepwork
(b) if you would like to spend time with your family
or
(c) a blend of both.

The results (listed below) are not surprising, if anything they show why six months tests are smart testing periods and highlight why working through and optimisation is so important in workplace management and organisational design.

Front’s full blog post is a genuine must-read for business leaders and HR heads, here are my highlights:

  1. Patience – it’s going to be tough going and a big shift for all employees, for the most junior and to the most senior.
  2. Coverage – help teams to be successful and enable communciation and sharing of the most important information. Internal communication is something that requires delibarate design and guiding principles.
  3. For The Long Term – this move was for long term retention not just to address the short term issues. Flexible hours and 4 day work weeks have to designed and have an agreed understanding it could cause issues earlier in the test.
  4. 4 vs 5 – 4 day work stress is the same or worse as 5 days if you do not help teams adapt and know they can be flexible and successful. Something that many businesses are failing with is cramming the same number of meetings into fewer days and it is causing no time for deepwork.
  5. Positive Impact Surveys – By leveraging feedback and surveys there were two positive feedback loops that enabled Front to offer Flexible Friday’s and want to continue the experiement.

If you are looking to trial Flexible Friday’s, or remove meetings to help with burnout and workload’s it is essential you:

  • List all existing issues, pain points and concerns
  • Have a plan with guidelines and how to be successful
  • Agree on behaviours that are accepted and allows the business to understand how you are doing right and a good job
  • Communicate the work flow and cadence – colleagues should know if you are working or not. Simple accountability and easy tracking of who is working and who is not is essential
  • If employees need to be in a location or an office

Below is the full LinkedIn Update from their CEO Mathilde Collin (link to the LinkedIn post)

We’re rethinking the work week at Front.

For now 2 quarters we’ve been experimenting with Flexible Fridays, a dedicated day where there is no expectation to respond to messages and no scheduled meetings. 

How is this different from a 4 day work week? Flexible Fridays gives everyone the option of a day of deep, uninterrupted focus or a day they could take for themselves. It’s our happy medium between ensuring our business and service to customers was not disrupted while promoting a healthier work/life balance for Fronteers.

Here are some of the results from our experiment so far:

  • In our survey, 89% of Fronteers say they work happier because of Flexible Fridays. 
  • 95% of Fronteers say Flexible Fridays have had no impact on collaboration with their colleagues.
  • And the stat I’m most proud of: 87% of Fronteers say Flexible Fridays have positively impacted their desire to work at Front for the next two years. 

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response, success with our experiment wasn’t instant. It took some patience and adjustments to get this model to work. But I’m loving the feedback we’re seeing and count this as a success for our team now. I wanted to share these results for others to see the benefit increased flexibility can have for teams. If you decide to try this for your team, let me know how it goes. I’m excited to continue experimenting with what ‘work happier’ truly means for our team and beyond.

Read About The Other Companies Attempting To Design Work Differently

Categories
Strategy

December Resolutions

Why Wait Until The New Year To Create A Resolution? Build Better Resolutions Today

We apply so much pressure on the New Year’s, a fresh start every year, we set up a long list of things we want to improve but rarely do we hit them. 

Often they are broken by the first week of January and that’s likely down to habits or not creating the right tiny habits (Professor Fogg’s book and framework is a priceless companion) to set you up for success. 

Simple Habits was believed to take 21 days to form, a more recent study found it took up to 66 days. 

There is more research to suggest it can take up to 88 days to form and automatically take on complex habits. 

How are you doing to set up or stop something on January 1st? 

Something we have all experienced since March 2020 is a need to look forward to something.

Something small, something meaningful, something that we haven’t done in a while, something new or something familiar but in a different setting.  

So why wouldn’t you set up a December resolution?

Why wouldn’t you start a month earlier to create a better set of habits? 

Why shouldn’t you spend December building better the plan to build habits to improve 2022 for you and your business? 

Habits are often solo, you rarely gain help with these from partners or friends, whereas WW (Weight Watchers), Peloton, Noom and many other businesses know it is about the support from people doing the same activities that help you move forward and make progress (alongside becoming a habit and buying into the company and continuing to use their products). 

Get ahead of bad resolutions and bad planning for 2022 and get ahead with better habit building and better ways of addressing your bad habits or weaknesses.

A good company strategy is planned out meticulously and is fixed, tactics can change and adapt, pair this and include it into the right set up and your company culture is set up for long term success.


Focus Must Listen:

The podcast below with BJ Fogg and Nike trained podcast is one of my secret weapons of sharing it will help to guide and shape your habits and product building.

Categories
hybrid office

How Are You Reducing Mirror Anxiety?

Recently Stanford researchers coined the phrase mirror anxiety, it is the concerns and anxiety that has surfaced in looking at ourselves on video conferencing all day. 

In the upcoming hybrid work world, do we need to be staring at a screen and part of multiple synchronous video-based conversations to make decisions, to gain consensus and to develop out ideas? 

Is this something you truly believe is right for your business? 

Or is there a better way of addressing this? 

Although this seems to be individual concerns, this is having negative company culture issues.

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Is An External Profile Important As A Leader?

Dear focus, is having an external profile important as a department or business leader? 

This is a question that is not asked enough and one many will not have a chance to consider if they are not proactively looking at developing out their career. 

An external profile is something you have to craft, build, stay active with and balance alongside your workload. 

In recent years, a spokesperson or a company rep has interchanged from external spokespeople to an internal spokesperson or selected people.

Demands constantly change but the representation of brands and industry leaders will always be an important pillar. 

Categories
Company Culture

11 Simple Tips To Improve Company Culture 

When defining the key ingredients for company culture, there are four pillars that will always guide you towards building a good foundation.

The 4c’s of company culture are:
1/ Campfire
2/ Competition
3/ Community
4/ Collaboration  

Here are eleven of Focus’ top tips to improve your company culture

  1. Agreed Principles & Approved Behaviours – the best companies understand the boundaries of each team and understand the principles that drive them forward and the agreed and approved behaviours are universally agreed are driving the people and company forward. Knowing that humans are designed to understand guidance (remember many believe rules are made to be broken) and boundary lines will help all employees from the least to most experienced.
    Key for success: review and update agreed principles and behaviours every six months
  2. Eat Together: Have a food you all can eat and eat together, whether in person or virtually. The connection that is made around eating at a campfire setting is priceless.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  3. Drink Together: Enable rotating “coffee chats” across the business, this should be randomised and connect colleagues from all areas of the business, including the “most senior and most junior”.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  4. Show & Tell: Create a company show and tell – enable departments to demo what they are working on, encourage departments to create games and interactive elements to explain what the department does and how they feed into the business
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  5. Forums: Regular Forums focusing on show and tells – take it a step further than standups and recurring meetings, enable teams (not just departments) to show their work and demonstrate the value.
    Have this open to the whole company, these forums could be optional to attend for companies with over 350 employees; if you can record these, share and have a record on your wiki these drive companies to create connections, coach, collaborate and curate collectively.
    Keep for success: ensure feedback is provided (not opinion) and there is applause. Applause creates herding  
  6. Games: Create a company-wide game that teams are mixed up for, so they can compete against each other and build bonds with colleagues they rarely work with.
    Key for success: Small disposable games not touraments work best
  7. Captain: Use a captain system in meetings, rotate the owners of regular meetings and intros a captain who steers the meeting. This helps to remove HIPPO’s owning the meeting, it can remove status games, it helps to evolve individuals and places respect at the heart of the meeting. I have gone so far in buying a captain armbands and ensuring the captain wears the armband in each meeting. Visuals help, thats why flags exists, thats why unforms work, thats why adding ranks to uniforms exist, thats why captains wear armbands in sports.
    Key for success: Ensure everyone supports and respects the captain in every meeting
  8. Caring & Causes: Create a cause the company supports and creates squads to dedicated days to supporting the agreed cause. Awaydays supporting charity and non profit days are popular, curating how many of the team go together are important and varying how they can support is important. Connecting smaller groups of people to support these together is important, creating mini herds of teams drives movement within your business.
    Key for success: Report back with videos and images of the cause each herd supports  
  9. Storytell Failure: Create failure of the month storytelling – when failure is discussed and openly understood, companies can move forward and help a learning culture to develop and remove stigmas against failure. Companies who celebrate together in the good and the bad have the best company culture.
    Key for success: Thank the storyteller and engage with their failure  
  10. Unsung Heroes: Something that is rarely celebrated but should be are the unsung heroes in your business, the ones who go over and above the roles to ensure success happens, not just on projects but with developing and mentoring others.
    Key for success: Call out unsung heroes formally and informally
  11. Agreed Anthem: Have an anthem (a song, a sound or even a poem or film clip) that whenever played recreates a connection.
    Key for success: Refer to the athem and play regaulrly  

Best of luck rolling these out for your business, remember you can roll out some at a time to help start the ball rolling.