Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 157 – 3-3-3

Dear leaders, when you get a puppy, people (not always experts) suggest there are three milestones. 

3 days

3 weeks 

3 months 

The 3-3-3 milestones are: 

  • 3 days are based on getting to know you, starting to understand you and the new environment and any rules 
  • 3 weeks is when they are feeling more comfortable, they start understanding the routine and they start to bed into their new environment and they get to know you 
  • 3 months is when they know it’s their home, the bond is there and they trust you, and if you’re lucky they’ll come and want to spend much more time with you  

Luckily in the first months, we have experienced these and an early onset of adolescence. 

Work’s 3-3-3s 

I often compare this to the business world. 

Especially more recently the onboarding process we have within a new organisation and 3-3-3 applies when you are a consultant and as a leadership coach

The 3 steps in the onboarding process 

  1. The moment the new companies jargon makes sense and you start to use the internal buzzwords to hold and form a conversation with these words included (likely to be in 3-10 days) 
  2. When you take on a project as a lead and the team clicks and just before the delivery you know you’ve all done a great job and you’re going to hit or surpass that big goal and trust in you and the team spreads in the organisation (likely in first 30 days) 
  3. Finding that person you know will be a partner in crime, a sparring partner and a supporter. (likely after day 60)

As a consultant, you have 3 milestones you need to hit:  

  1. A quick soundbite or a nugget of advice that lands well – forming signals to trust you and your expertise (likely in week 1)
  2. Delivery of a project (you or the team) and it gains some traction – a strong signal to trust you (likely by week 6) 
  3. A significant change in performance, this goes a long way to building the relationship and often is when you are fully trusted or they continue your contract  (likely around week 8)

As a coach, I have also found there are 3 milestones that come up 

  1. The early lightbulb moment, when you help the “player” find the light switch and offer the ability to use your knowledge and your coaching techniques to switch on the light themselves (likely in session 1 or 2) 
  2. The true lightbulb moment, when you enable the player to unlock something they already knew but have locked away or forgotten about said power or knowledge, seeing the lightbulb go off and celebrating the micro-moment is essential (likely in sessions 3-4) 
  3. When the player knows they can face the marathon again, the moment cannot be ignored and as a coach, you should capture this and help the player to bottle up that feeling and open it back up when they need to or feel like they need that extra. (likely in sessions 5-7)

Q» Are there 3 moments or 3 themes you and your business could apply or revisit onboarding to enable a great onboarding experience? 

This week’s focus item is to know the 3 moments in your work processes to improve the team’s experiences and enlighten other leaders of the 3-3-3s. 

Have a productive week and remember to sign up to receive this newsletter in your inbox each and every week 


Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 156 – The 5 Questions To Ask Ahead Of Q3

Dear leaders, this week marks the third year anniversary of Leaders Letters. Thanks for being a part of it by reading the newsletters weekly, sharing across social and replying and even challenging my leadership advice. 

I look forward to landing in your inbox every week and love debating with readers if they like the post, dislike the newsletter or feel you could add more to that week’s topic. 

I have a dedicated newsletter coming soon to break down my learnings and share some of the insights from the last 3 years. With a focus on those who I have collaborated with and worked with through this leadership newsletter

The Q3 Questions To Tackle 

With Q3 starting in just a couple of weeks, here are the most pressing questions to ask internally to help with people (aka company culture) and performance (aka the company-wide strategy) and drive change for the future months.

The hints below are there to help you think slightly differently or position the points internally

  1. How are we scoring with company performance and our people’s performance?
    Hint >> Score out of 10 and where do we need to improve the score by 1 or 2 points? 
  2. If we were to change 3 things to improve our working environment, what would they be and how would they improve performance? 
    Hint >> Don’t just think office environment, think of all working environments (remote, hybrid, etc), look at reviewing meetings, look at how you are encouraging cross-functional collaboration, look at reviewing how your skip meetings went, and look at reviewing the exit interviews and onboarding flows. 
  3. What three themes (bigger than trends) have we seen this quarter we need to address and build for the future?
    Hint >> AI is definitely in there already, but what else is happening within your space or with your customer spending / customers new habits that you need to address and refactor 
  4. Are we in the place to accelerate growth?  
    Hint >> Find where you have some seeds planted with small bits of traction and question how much water we might need to get it to grow or where we might place more resources to really take this to the next level. Anything with say 6/10 traction is already in plan and in flight and often causes confusion if you push too hard on what people are already aware of. 
  5. What two areas of the business are struggling most and what is the next quarter plan to address these or remove these?
    Hint >>  This could be from a hiring perspective, this could be from a retention POV or could be performance related and if you might need to:
    keep (the activities that are doing well but could do with some extra attention),
    kill (stop the work on it, it won’t work again),
    cure (optimise or tweak elements of existing tactics or plans)
    or copy (copy features or styling) from others. 

If you cannot answer these questions easily, consider building management pods for ownership and tackle these together with their teams.

This week’s focus action is to add these five points to your next management or leadership meeting and help to progress the company forward.

Thanks and have a great week and I’ll see you with one of my favourite newsletters to date, titled 3-3-3. 

Danny Denhard

Recommended 5 Essential Must Reads For This Week

>> Strategy is baking a better cake

>> Annual Strategy Template

>> Strategy Cheatsheet

>> WTF is strategy really?

>> Your Infected MOAT Is An Internal Disease

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 153 – Critical Distance & The Power Of Creating Space

Dear leaders, do you ever give yourself the chance to take a step or two back and gain critical distance away from a situation or an ongoing problem at work?

The answer likely is no and not as much as I’d like. 

This week let’s change that. 

In my coaching, the theme that comes up most often other than being too busy is actually how do I not get bogged down by the detail or the potential pressure of a situation?

The question often is qualified to – 

Will I ever get enough space or a chance to get away from a situation and tackle the problem with a different point of view to help move the business forward?  

Leaders Lead: Some of the greatest business leads I have ever worked for or with have this ability to create a way to step back (even in the moment) and understand the landscape and give themselves critical distance

I heard critical distance come up in a recent podcast with BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti. He commented on a question about being able to understand a situation differently and he said he didn’t have the critical distance to have a different perspective. 

A little trip down memory lane: I remember being pulled from an interview (I was conducting) with a potential senior management candidate because there was a PR fire happening and they needed my input. 

I asked for a 60-second breakdown as I walked to the “war room” and then asked the team to add their expert opinion and boil down our options into my previously shared one problem two solutions

When listening to the team and their solutions, I knew many were too close to the problem and couldn’t step up, step back or step out of the problem to see the most obvious solution. 

As I listened I wrote the suggestions on the whiteboard everyone was saying different words but all had the same sentiment about the potential problem, me having the time and critical distance to digest and replay what I heard the solution was simple, let it play out for another hour and we regroup with changes.

Guess what; Over that next hour nothing had damaged us, almost everything kept the same apart from our customers supporting us across social media and the sh*tstorm subsided with the brand coming out better than before. 

Fortunately, the candidate was brilliant for the ten or so minutes I had left and even made themselves another drink and set up their presentation for the follow on.  

With the speed of change and the demand to constantly tweak and grow, I am sure critical distance will be a competitive advantage for many leaders so…
This week’s focus action is to train yourself on being ok and know it is ok to speak to trusted colleagues or to step back, step out or step above something, give yourself the critical distance to digest something and come back with what you believe to be the right solution moving forward.
I actually believe these types of leadership behaviours create strong bonds and enable the teams to mimic this behaviour and positively ripple through company culture.  

Have a great week and remember often ‘write it and keep in draft’ and take an extra five will help keep your sanity and likely keep the company moving forward. 

Thanks and remember to subscribe for me to land in your inbox every Monday morning,

Danny Denhard

hybrid office Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 151 – The Top 6 Findings & Lessons In Hybrid Culture Consulting & Coaching

Dear leaders, ever wondered how or why hybrid divides so many opinions and is embraced in some companies but failed in others?

Which side has it fallen on with you and your business?

The newer way of working (aka Hybird) is one of the most popular topics to be covered in tech and business press and yet it causes more friction than almost every other topics I can remember in and over my two-decade career.

Many business leads are blaming “disengagement” and ongoing cultural issues on hybrid work and the request for more days from working outside of the office, this is actually missing the point and requires much better analysis and removal of former working styles and leaders’ own biases.

So, this week I wanted to share the top 6 findings and lessons from my coaching and consulting with leadership teams.

The Top 6

  1. No Change To How People Worked Or Were Working – this was shaped around in-person work not incorporating hybrid meetings and working together within documents or systems
    — This is still happening today.
    Hint: Create and have clear working styles for the whole company, agree on how we work while in the office and working from home (remember to rename to workplace home and workplace office to remove such friction with WFH)
    Free Resources: 
    Company Wide Values&Power Half Hours

  2. No Agreed Ways Of Working Or Having Dedicated Working Principles 
    1. Think of: This is how we work when not in the same building 
    2. Think of: This is what success looks like (shouldn’t be different but is currently treated this way) and how often do we check in and celebrate wins
    3. Not embracing working asynchronously with a better store and better flow of information
      — This is still happening and creating wider divides
      Hint: create working principles and ways of working.
      Free Resources:
      Agreed Departmental Principles & Leadership Team Principles,
  3. Did Not Change The Tools To Make Hybrid Work, Work – forced to work in the same tools as in person and they were selected mostly by IT. There was no re-onboarding to the office and this hurt the majority of companies and they are playing catch up to reset expectations and working styles. 
    — This is still happening and many are using non-company or department-wide tools creating friction in editing and centralising data 
    Hint: Review your tools and ensure you are making the most out of company-wide wikis, documentation and creating canvas where people can work collaboratively while in the open (and allowing invite-only spaces)
    Free Resources:
    The Hybrid Software Guide, Full Free Hybrid Guide, & Hybrid Meeting Guide

>> A Good Reminder: In the office, Remote and Hybrid are all very different working styles (aka modes) and approaches and all need to be clearly defined and organised accordingly. You cannot use the same tools and work formats as if nothing has changed. If you did not re-engineer and re-think the office space and how the office is being used, you will always see resistance and struggle with creating workspaces that work for the teams, not just a shell where people put on their headphones and cannot concentrate on delivering their work.

  1. Poor Work Etiquette, Not Being Addressed, ‘meetings’ were called to talk, catch up and provide status updates not to make progress or make important decisions, they defaulted to sloppy, meetings had no agendas, not what success looked like and no accountability. Brainstorms didn’t work as everyone had no idea of how it would work moving forward & miro etc became the new recycling bin
    — This is commonplace today and many employees want more clarity
    Hint: Review your meetings, enforce agendas to meetings (ask why should this be a meeting), create follow on action and template for the team to use
    Free Resources: 
    What Hybrid Isn’t Working For You & 40 Ways To Improve Work For Everyone
  2. Not Listening To Feedback being provided by the teams and forcing decisions without any explanation. Feedback provided suggested: Management didn’t make themselves available, was unclear on decision making were unavailable to discuss why decisions were made.  
    — This goes unaddressed and is likely to continue without centralised understanding and agreement on the one company-wide strategy and filtering into departmental plans
    Hint: Create a decision document to explain your big decisions and take regular Q&A.
    Free Resources:
    The Decision Document & Time For A Calendar Audit
  3. Poor Feedback Loops – feedback was stored rather than given in real-time or just after events when they required better forms of feedback. There was also a fear of delivering feedback over tech tools. 
    — Some have attempted to fix this, while others have got to a point where it is hard to address and created friction in feedback
    Hint: Address feedback within a set window of time, if it needs to be delivered in person or just after the moment, make the time to discuss, don’t be vague and create an open feedback culture.
    Free Resources:
    The Strategy Cheatsheet, The Best Company Culture Books To Read & Is It Time For Management Pods

While we request more office attendance and more regular face-to-face work within the office, you have to consider these six points and concentrate on where you need to improve.

This week’s focus action: find the 3 to 4 actions you need to take from my 6 findings, assign owners and create a plan to make hybrid actually work for you and your business, while you might be behind until you address this you will be losing team members slowly and surely.

Have a good week,


Danny Denhard

» To get in touch around coaching or consulting email me on danny @focus dot business

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 145 – Career Care & Showing You Want More For Your Team Members

Dear leaders, I often receive replies to leaders letters asking specific questions, typically around an issue or an experience and for my take, last week I received an email about “showing I care for my team members”. 

Management is hard and getting harder, this is why managers have to choose to lean into IQ and EQ (and teach PQ aka political intelligence where applicable) and decide to go further, this is what I call career care. It is how to prove you are looking to support a team member’s career, not just when they are in your team. The sign of a good manager is how many of your team proactively ask you for specific feedback on mid and large projects and how many ex-team members reach out when they need support. 

Here is a list of actions you can take to show you care: 

  • Build long-term relationships with them: offer insights, and stories and introduce efficient 1-2-1’s and consider lunch and learns. Be formally informal, have coffee breaks, have walk-and-talks, and don’t make it always ultra-formal, you need to know them and their motivations, in formal settings these are lost. Sitting in a meeting room or just over video calls can feel too formal when situations can and do need more personal touches. 
  • Introduce internal or external mentors: that will help guide them when they need to bounce ideas, consider new approaches and have a mentor process that guides you both 
  • Act as a sponsor: when its the right moment for them 
  • Listen, Listen Then Speak: it is time to listen not once but twice, listening especially when they aren’t saying anything is a sign of a great manager, this also shows you care. Remember those good teachers, lectures or managers, they reach out when you haven’t said anything and notice change, not the change
  • Encourage coaching: (this is an excellent use of L&D budgets) from the right internal or external coaches 
  • Support decisions: Often a manager can over-coach or dictate what to do when, this is often a bad base to build support and show you trust them, offer ways to support their decisions and help shape their decision-making by offering frameworks like one problem two solutions framework 
  • Spot the spark:  This was my favourite element of being a department and business lead, spotting the spark within team members and helping them drive towards it. Spark is what makes someone interested, invested and keeps them intrigued for the future, spot that spark and help remove barriers, this won’t go unnoticed. 
  • Unleash the superstar: Your job as a manager is to unleash everyone’s superstar, yes this sounds big but it is the best piece of coaching I give managers and department heads struggling. Unleash the superstar in your team member, enable them to be the best they can be. 
  • Clear Paths To Success: As recommended in the previous newsletter two up two across matrix, this focus framework helps you to shape the next two steps up (if available) and two steps across, this is often the way you help a team member progress their career in your department or org or help them progress into another business line and help them to grow. 

Management is an investment in time, energy and most often patience, these three skills are essential for both your success and their success. Making the time and showing your team member they are important and that you are fully committed is essential for you both. 

Have a great week and remember you have the same rights as a leader (even as a CEO you have a boss or board guiding you) to go and seek mentors, invest in a coach and understand how to improve and where you can develop. 


Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 140 – It’s Time For Company-wide Values

Dear leaders, company-wide values are something many organisations have introduced over the last ten years. 

Values to me are your company culture in simple words or phrases to keep you on track. 

Evolution: Values are an evolution, they are centralised beliefs that drive the business forward and are the guide on how to act and connect as professionals within your business. 

Some institutes and professional organisations have had values for decades and they never change. From in the home dressings, to the welcome packs they receive, to the onboarding and offboarding from the organisation. 

In a recent Focus (strategy + culture) workshop, a c-suite leader asked me why values (I prefer principles) are so important to their business specifically. 

My response was simple: 

  • Without values how do your people know they are working in the agreed way? 
  • How do they know they have the working mentality that is rewarded? 
  • How do they know if they can challenge each other or leadership on how they are acting within work? 

One set of values I tend to share with alphas is the England Rugby Values, they are simple, transferable and create a foundation to build on top of. 

England Rugby Values Are:

  • Sportsmanship 
  • Teamwork
  • Respect 
  • Enjoyment 
  • Discipline 

These work because: 

  1. The values cover the sport’s main directive sportsmanship  
  2. It incorporates how important the team is, rugby cannot be won without the whole team. 
  3. In rugby, you have to respect the officials, unlike in football (soccer) the referee has to be respected at all times. You have to respect your fellow players (teammates and your opponents). At the end of a hard-fought match, every player shakes hands and is respectful 
  4. When representing your country is supposed to be the biggest honour. Enjoying playing and representing your country is essential to win 
  5. Being disciplined in a game like rugby is critical, one mistake is often punished and the ability to stay disciplined when opponents might not be playing fair is critical. Showing discipline is a simple but strong overarching value.

I think it is safe to say you could roll a slightly tweaked version of these and be happy with them.  

The key to winning is: values have to be super simple to remember, understand and have guidance on why. 

The Process: In that same workshop: 

  • I asked the leadership team to write as many values as possible and then we discussed each and then they selected the top six that they respected and could see driving the business forward. 
  • The values were then presented to the wider team and were expanded upon 
  • They were then added to the onboarding flow for new starters  
  • The six values were added to the entrance wall as you enter their London-based HQ as well as pinned in their slack channels. I believe there is even office swag in the works. 
  • An exercise the leadership team agreed upon was to explain and discuss these values from the first interview and the successful candidates had to agree upon these values as they joined. 
  • The leadership team then associated each value with the leadership principles we co-created and has become a real driving force for the business.  

Like most frameworks, this sounds simple but was challenging and hard work for the leadership team and the wider business to adopt. It takes time, energy and someone apart from the CEO pushing it forward.  

Go Bigger? Another evolution to values is DNA documents – they are becoming a fixture in sports teams and some large organisations have their version that their teams sign up for. Helping them to know the history and the journey they will be going on and where success is. I personally think some organisations will need this and for others, without a long history, this will be a leap too far. 

Boil Down? A mantra based on values: You could even attempt to boil it all down to a single mantra that is lived and breathed. 

Newcastle men’s football team motto/mantra is “intensity is our identity”.  

Everything they do is centred around intensity to play football, attack in their play, gain back possession of the football and drive their opponents back. 

Do you need to roll out values that aren’t just driven by leadership and HR? I would suggest it is an obvious yes. 

Action: It Is Time To Create Your Company-Wide Values

If you would like to roll it out yourself, re-review the process mentioned or get in touch (email me at: 

Thanks and have a great week,

Danny Denhard  

PS Fun fact intensity is our identity this was a tweaked phase from the rival club and Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders book.

Company Culture Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 138 – David Siegel 5 Questions

Dear Leaders, this week I ask five questions to David Siegel. David is the CEO of & led Meetup through the pandemic, for a company that is built around connection and real-life community you can imagine the hugely negative impact and the fight for survival David and his team went through and how they bounced back, through brilliant and deliberate leadership.

David’s book is an essential read, it is my essential company culture books to reads, I also buy it for my exec coaching clients and when I run workshops I enforce the exec team to read Decide & Conquer: 44 Decisions That Make or Break All Leaders.

Onto the Q&A, this is fascinating and brilliant.

Q1. You led Meetup throughout the pandemic in near-impossible circumstances, what is the biggest lesson you took away as a business (and people) leader? 

When the pandemic hit, Meetup faced an existential crisis that could have destroyed our 18-year-old company. Until then, the focus of our business had always been about bringing people together IRL (in real life) to make connections.  When COVID-19 hit, we had to ask ourselves whether our mission was more about meeting IRL or about fostering connections. Our answer was clear: we are a connections company. For the first time in our history, we allowed groups to meet online. And it was so fortunate that we did. Online Meetup events and groups helped millions of our members get through the most isolating periods of pandemic. 

I won’t downplay how rocky that period was. Running a company called “Meetup” in a time when no one was meeting was a tremendous challenge.  We saw decreases in many key metrics including the number of events on our platform and event RSVPs, which negatively impacted our revenue. As a leader, my focus was on transparency. If the company had challenges, my job was to address those challenges head-on so we could find solutions. Building trust during a crisis by sharing the good, bad, and ugly was critical. The crisis is behind us, but our culture of trust and transparency will continue to strengthen the company.

Q2. You wrote brilliantly about your 44 decisions to make and break all leaders, which one do you feel are the most important to start with? 

First, thank you. Of all my decisions for new and seasoned leaders, I think I need to start with what I call “Decision 0,” which is deciding whether you should take the job in the first place. 

One of the most hazardous biases in decision making is the sunk cost fallacy. This is the tendency for people to be biased toward actions because they overvalue the time, money, or other investment they’ve “sunk” into an action. Most of us don’t appreciate that this time spent preparing for anything is gone. Our job is to make the best decision we can. People are often reluctant to reject a job offer after they invested so much time in interviewing. The fact is, the time spent interviewing is gone and it has no bearing on whether the job is a good fit.  

Before I became the CEO of Meetup, I went through no less than 27 interviews with WeWork (our corporate owner), followed by meetings with every Meetup vice president. After three months and hundreds of hours of interviews, it would have been easy to accept the position based on my time commitment alone, but I knew that time was gone. I needed to make a decision based on the facts about the role and the company I’d be working with, and I strongly considered not accepting the role in the first place. 

I caution all leaders (and even non-leaders) to make the right decision for you and not be influenced by how much time was spent leading up to a decision.

Q3. The power of community is a key message throughout your book, what do you think CEOs (and their leadership teams) should truly understand about community and then embracing community into their business? 

Hundreds of studies have found that community is one of the most important elements to both a happy work life and personal life. Yet, having a strong sense of community is also on the decline in nearly every country and age demographic. Early humans relied on community to survive and the need for community is hard-coded in us.

Meetup is the ultimate source for building community, whether it’s personal or professional. Many companies—IBM, Microsoft, Google, etc.—use Meetup to enhance their communities and build user networks. Community drives employee retention, motivation, collaboration and ultimately results in greater success. As more companies move to remote work, the importance of community is becoming more evident. It is incumbent on every leader to incorporate community building into their business.

Q4. What are your three leadership non-negotiables for your exec leadership team? 

First, no assholes. The members of my executive team are all kind people. We spend more time working with colleagues than we do our spouses in some cases. I only want to work with high integrity, empathetic individuals. Life is too short to do otherwise.

Second, they must have a data-driven approach. Leaders shouldn’t ignore their instincts when making a decision, but we always need to look at what the data tells us. We need data to size gauge the impact, priority, and opportunity of any choice.

Last, I look for the ability to embrace change. Leadership requires adaptability. And if a leader is not flexible then they won’t be able to steer the ship for their team during times of crisis. The ability to listen and change one’s approach based on data and experience is one of my top priorities when looking for a leader.

Q5. How has your professorship at Columbia university helped you to develop your leadership? 

I’ve always believed that when you teach you have the greatest opportunity to learn. For nearly ten years, I have been teaching undergraduates at Pace University and then graduate students at Columbia in the entrepreneurship and strategic planning program. My former students have gone on to found startups that have helped millions of people around the globe. Having even a small impact on their path to success is incredibly enriching. One of the reasons I wrote Decide & Conquer was due to my interest in helping people beyond the 70 students in my class. The book has now been read by more than 15,000 people and is being translated into Chinese and other languages. I consider the book to be an extension of the concepts we learn in class. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the opportunities to teach and learn that I do.


Go and have a great week and I’d love to hear from you about how you are going to take inspiration from David moving forward.


Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter 137 – 5 Questions With Sonja Nisson

Dear leaders, internal communication and gaining cut-through with messaging have never been as important as it is today. Just ask all those tech companies making mass layoffs primarily through email.

The most important element most leadership teams and “leaders” are messing up on is keeping their people updated, enabling them to make the right decisions and repeating their message over and over again until the whole business can repeat it whenever they are asked what is our strategy and why we have the goals we have for the next 12 months.

So, this week I bring you 5 questions with content and comms specialist Sonja Nisson, her answers will help you craft, reshape and drive your comms forward in whatever state you are in currently.

The Q&A

Q1. You specialise in creating valuable content to communicate with your audience.  What are your three go-to tips for leaders to improve internal communication? 

I know from experience how important, and how tricky it can be, to get internal communication right. I worked as interim head of content design for a large building society through the first wave of the Covid pandemic. We had difficult messages to communicate to our worried teams. My Valuable Content principles came in useful, but it was a tough test. When creating content for an external audience you often don’t know how it lands. With an internal audience, if it misses the mark, you know about it! I learned a lot. 

I think of valuable content as win-win communication: information that’s relevant, helpful and valuable to you and your business (gets your message across, helps you achieve your goal too) and equally valuable to your audience too (answers their questions, helps them achieve their goal). 

Whether you’re communicating a message or creating an article, a video, a podcast, or a talk, to be valuable it must hit the sweet spot between what you want to say and what your audience (be that external or internal) needs to hear.

With this in mind, here are 3 top tips for anyone who wants to improve the value of their communications. 

  1. First, be crystal clear what it is you want to say. What’s the big idea – the main message you want to get across and why? Get that straight from the start. NB: Don’t try and say everything in one communication, focus on one message at a time. 
  2. Next, work out who you’re writing for and where they are at. What questions do they have in their mind around this topic? How can you answer those through your communication? Put the reader and their hopes, questions and fears at the heart of the piece of content you’re creating. Empathise and address these in your content. Make it more ‘you, you, you’ than ‘we, we, we’.
  3. Make it actionable. It helps the reader to do something new or to change hearts and minds. So what’s the purpose of your communication? The goal? What do you want your audience to think, feel or do differently? Decide on the goal, and make that clear in your content. Tell people what you want them to know, think or do.

Q2. You help brands get clear on their story. What is one ingredient to your secret sauce in helping brands become clearer on their story? 

I’d say, go back to your roots to find the essence of your story. Founder stories are personal, powerful, memorable and magnetic. Good companies are born out of conviction, a quest to right a wrong or do things differently and better. Go back to the beginning to find the source of your story.  

Here are 3 examples:

My co-author and long-term collaborator, Sharon Tanton has some great tips to help you sharpen your origin story:

Q3. What is the best piece of advice you would give to leadership teams trying to gain cut through with their brand?

Work out and communicate what you believe in and stand for as a brand. Make your brand mean something with a single, inspiring, meaningful message at its heart. Find your north star – it’ll all flow from here. 

To help you get clear, it can help to frame this as a question – what’s the big question at the heart of all you do? Create content that answers that question for your audience. 

As a starting point to that clarity and cut through, I’d recommend conducting research with people outside your organisation. It’s all too easy to become inward facing. Listening to your stakeholders – your clients, partners and other supporters – is the most useful exercise you can undertake to understand your business, from the outside in, to see how your brand message lands. 

“Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.” Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap

This type of external brand research is a powerful catalyst to help you confidently shape your future direction and message, so you cut through and deliver your mission with greater impact. You’ll be amazed at the value of the insight you get back. 

Q4. Brands are increasingly losing their brand identity, is there a common theme that leaders should look out for at the start of the year? 

Recognise that the world is changing fast. Your business will have evolved and changed a lot over time too. I think the start of the year is the perfect time to assess how you’re seen by the outside world. Is your brand still relevant?

I’m a big fan of the work of Al Reis and Jack Trout, and their book – The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (summarised nicely here). Law #12, The Law of Extension rightly highlights the irresistible pressure to extend what you do and the equity of your brand. 

“The key is to be the best in your niche, and not try to be all things to all people. Less is always more. The narrower the focus, the better you’ll be able to fortify your position in the mind of the prospect. In order to address new markets, create a new brand, rather than extending the equity of your current brand into the new market.”

I think leaders should use this opportunity to carefully review their brand and positioning. Is it still relevant? Is it focused enough? Is it inspiring – for people inside and outside your organisation? Time for a refresh and renewal?

Q5. We live in a content overload world. What are your three top tips to cut through the noisy feeds and really land?

If you want to connect in the sea of noise you have to really push it on the value front these days. Create and share stuff that’s “inherently valuable, surprisingly human or unexpectedly useful.” That was Joe Chernov’s advice in a recent interview and I think he’s so right.

  1. Get your intentions right and your actions will follow. When it comes to creating and sharing content ‘help don’t sell, talk don’t yell, show don’t tell’ is the very best mantra to hold in mind. I’ve found that there’s a paradox at the heart of all good communication: the more you help, the less you ‘sell’ your idea, the more impact you’ll have. To truly connect you have to genuinely care about those you’re communicating with.
  2. Be warm, personable and relatable. People want to hear from humans, not corporate robots. Share your excitement, your hopes, but also your fears. Intimacy and vulnerability is a trust-builder. Not just the polished corporate version of yourself but the human side too – real, messy stories with genuine authenticity. 
  3. Write for one, help many. Have a real person in mind with every piece of content you produce. Can’t think of WHO it’s for and how your content will help? Then the content is unlikely to connect. Write for someone, always. If what you create helps or inspires one person then chances are it’ll help many others like them too. But write for everyone and it’ll fall between the cracks. It always helps to have someone in mind.

Yes, the content game – internal or external – is not an easy one but that’s an opportunity, not a blocker. You can do this. You CAN create meaningful content that makes a real connection.

NB: You’ll notice that my first 3 tips involve doing some thinking upfront. I’m a big believer in planning before you start writing. I have a simple Valuable Content Planning Template to help you here – if anyone would like it, please just shout.  

Please go and connect with Sonja:  

On her website // On LinkedIn // Or get her book

Have a great week actioning Sonja’s great advice and I’ll land back in your inbox on Monday morning.


Danny Denhard

Here are 5 leaders letters you have to read today

Leadership Hack: The Pratfall Effect

Business Direction: Where are you when consolidation happens?

Leadership! It’s Never Too Late, You’re Never Too Old

Cultural 101: Cultural Shift To Beard, Hoodies & Sneakers

Culture Development: Fika – State Of Mind Coffee Breaks

Hiring Hack: What Is Your Talent Density?

Business Performance hybrid office

What Bob Iger Thinks About Remote Work, RTO & Hybrid Work

Returning Disney CEO Bob Iger has announced that Disney employees are to return to the office (RTO) four days a week from the end of February.

Bob Iger recently appeared a A16Z crypto podcast with Chris Dixon and Sonal Chokshi. Bob answered a number of big questions from his career, to acquisitions, battle with Netflix, expanding operations in China and through to impact of covid and the next phase in web3.

Here are some of the highlights from what Bob Iger regarding the modern day workplace:

  • Company culture is impacted by remote and hybrid work 
  • Remote work and hybrid work is incredibly difficult to take place on zoom and slack.
  • Creative work and feedback requires nuance like body language in full feedback sessions
  • Why proximity matters, for performance and mentorship
  • And remote work is likely a generational requirement

Hear what Bob says in a 60 seconds explainer below

In Person Creativity & Connection: The broader podcast really dives into what has worked for Disney and what Disney adopted from their Pixar acquisition, for instance the reason why in person might be so important other than experience is Disney creates a dedicated space per movie and everyone works closely in this space from the beginning to the end of the movie and is vitally important for the process and what Disney lacked and was a tactic Pixar had that helped them leapfrog Disney before the acquisition.

Manage By Press Release: A tactic mentioned in ride of a lifetime, Bob’s autobiography is manage by press release and leveraging distribution of his important messages via the press and outlets. Is could be an example that Bob is using to align and send a message to his team(s).

Listen to the full podcast

Whatever our own personal preference is for remote and hybrid work, many older and powerful CEOs will default to what used to work and the current expectation of investors is work is better in person.

Essential Follow On Reads

The Hybrid Work & Hybrid Meetings Guide

LinkedIn New Hybrid Office The New Office Standard?

Why Hybrid Is Not Working For You

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: The Hybrid Work Paradox

Company Culture Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 135 – 5 Leadership Team Questions To Develop On Top Of For Q1 2023 (Free Template)

Dear leaders, this week’s leadership quest is for me to get you to think differently and answer five questions you have unlikely thought of or ask yourself or your leadership team. 

These are specifically designed with my focus 2P’s in mind, people aka culture and performance aka strategy and designed for you to go deep into these areas, not just scratch the surface like most will in one leadership meeting as a tiny agenda item at the end that will be deprioritised.

The issue you are solving by taking this exercise is to make management teams useful and actionable, as well as connecting as a unit again, most won’t until Q1 QBR (quarterly business review). 

So, make your management team meeting or leadership meeting (however you frame at your business) actionable with these questions, answer, actions, owner, and expected result(s) template. 

The Questions:

1. How are we evolving our EQ as a leadership team and within team members? (People aka Culture)




Expected Result(s): 

2. Where are our weaknesses and how do we improve on them to improve people and company performance? (Performance)




Expected Result(s): 

3. What are the 5 most important key performance indicators and how do we discuss these to move us forward? (Performance)




Expected Result(s): 

4. If we were to add one person to the leadership to improve decision-making and our performance, who would it be and why? (Culture)




Expected Result(s): 

5. How do we remove politics from our cross-functional decisions? (Performance




Expected Result(s): 

» Want these questions as a workable template? Click here for a copy.

The business world is going to be harder for most and more challenging most weeks within the MT/SMT/ELT meetings reduce this anxiety and be proactive by answering these 5 questions in a workshop-style session. 

Hint: If you find yourself struggling with question 4, flip the question on its head and think about who you might remove to improve it. 

Thanks and have a great week,

Danny Denhard 

P.S Want to improve your habits, here is a great video from James Clear and Tim Ferriss