Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 25 – Google’s Answer To Preventing Burnout, No Meetings Week


Dear Leaders,

2020 has been one hell of a year. Hopefully, we will not have to live through another nine months like we have had to again.

December is notoriously difficult, wrapping up projects, delivering the most critical product rolls outs, historically December is when companies start turning profits and when staff can feel the pressure the most and work-related illness increase double digits.

This week Google announced their approach to preventing employee burnout.
The first is providing those who ‘can’ with two extra days off, the second is no meetings week.

Both sound like good measures right?
From a headline perspective these sound good measures and potentially the right steps to take, unfortunately having lived through both options there are some downfalls and here are a few things to consider when looking to roll out similar within your teams or organisations.

Extra Days Off:

  • Extra days off work if your colleagues are in a place to take the time off and can finish their work, if not you add additional stresses and can feel particularly unfair to those who aren’t in a place to take the extra days off.
  • Many colleagues struggle to use up their annual leave additional days annual leave requires more management and processes. Does your organisation allow days to be rolled over? Consider how this could be helpful within your business. Is there a way you could reward staff with afternoon’s off?
  • While working remotely the line is blurry, the pressure to check emails, instant messages and check-in are found to be much higher, it is important as leaders you manage this and allow colleagues to actually take the extra time off.
    The always-on generation struggles to shut off as do many leaders.
  • Recommend Action: Proactively manage these steps and allow colleagues to take the time off and manage expectations that they will likely have to finish projects and campaigns before they take these extra days off.

No Meetings Week:

  • Have you worked in organisations where no meetings day work? The likelihood is they struggle to make these stick or work, the typical reason is like I call out in the Focus Manifesto this is where so many decisions are made or the only way decisions are made. Help your teams know how you are going to replace decision making and how you will let your colleagues know what the decision is and how you are going to collectively action it.
  • The question for many businesses will be what constitutes a meeting and what doesn’t. Especially in the remote world of work we operate in currently, anything on Zoom, Teams or Hangouts would appear to be a meeting. Help the teams to know what a meeting is and is not and how to replace. A meeting subculture can often have a long term effect on company culture.
  • Help your colleagues to understand how to communicate your actions if meetings are used as status updates and the actions you are taking for the week ahead. Standup’s, sitdowns, wrap up’s, are all technically shorter meetings so think about how you could replace with video or audio updates and centralised.
  • Management teams have to follow this and have to proactively promote following the no meeting week. Without this, you will see meetings take over again.
  • Recommend Action: With meetings etiquette, even the most forward-thinking companies have meetings and follow similar patterns to the most traditional and out of date companies, consider this an opportunity for a small SWOT team to come together to rethink meetings for 2021 and how to reduce reliance on meetings and roll out recommendations to address meeting fatigue and burnout.

I applaud Google for openly calling out these steps to reduce burnout and burnout within their companies, there will no doubt be many smart people who consider the first to third order effects within Google.

Moving forward many of your colleagues will likely read the headline, share internally and feel like this is something you should be following, manage expectations, explain why this likely won’t work within your org and how you are tackling to make it better within your own business and the steps you will be taking to reduce burnout in December and for 2021.

Thanks and take some time to consider your approach to burnout and optimising the end of the year for a better more proactive 2021.

Danny Denhard

P.S, Read my hybrid perks should be on your agenda ASAP

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 23: Remote Work Influences On Company Culture


Dear Leaders, 

I trust you had a good weekend and feel refreshed for the week ahead. 

Company culture is difficult, it is a process and something we all strive to improve. 

In what company culture is I dive into what company culture is and what company culture is not. 

A framing and a guide are always going to be helpful to businesses setting out to improve their company’s culture and embrace the important journey you and your colleagues need to go on.

Numerous leaders have commented that remote work feels more transactional. This negatively impacts the company culture and productivity.

What leaders mean by this is having meetings and getting straight to the point and onto the next meeting.

You miss the hallways conversation, you don’t get those brilliantly timed breaks between meetings, you miss that time with the team where you might spitball an idea and it turns into a campaign or a product tweak. 

You have less time and opportunity to talk for three minutes before or after a meeting and you often have to virtually dash between back to back videos calls without making time to talk to your colleagues outside of the product or project you are working on.

I have heard from leadership teams outside of SMT’s, their team meetings and 1-2-1’s leaders are not getting to check in with those who they might have spoken to or actively sought out when in the office previously. 

One manager commented they haven’t spoken to someone they used to see daily in six months. 

A handful of leaders have said they have felt time and work shift to “being more transactional” less personal. 

On the surface, this might have sounded like a proactive step taken from some organisations to ensure work while being at work, but diving into transactional, what professionals really mean is they are not checking in those they were close with. 

Those who might provide a different opinion or perspective or given a guide on what the impact might be to the group of users they might look after. 

With the way you are working currently, are you alienating a number of team members or stifling cross-departmental collaboration? Or is it personally decreasing your ability to make quick and important decisions away from email or a chat tool? 

Is there a solution to checking in or battling back to back transactional meetings?  

Yes, a couple of simple ideas. 

The first dedicate a section of time to be open in your calendar where you have an open room (Zoom/Meets etc) where people can drop by or bump into you. 

The second would be to book in coffee breaks and buddy up, 10-20 minute slots where you find time to chat, discuss projects and enable different conversations. 

A third might be to use an open document (think shared PowerPoint, Google Slides), a mural or miro where you can have some ideas or post-it notes. 

I trust this is food for thought for you and your leadership team.

Thanks and have a good week,

Danny Denhard

Friday Focus

Friday Focus

In a new series, Friday Focus creates five things to consider for the week ahead:

  1. Culture: Write the unwritten rules down and sharing across your business. This helps to create clarity and dispel any misunderstanding within the organisation.
    Communication is essential to building the best company culture.
  2. Leadership: If you run a department or team, share a few wins of the week for your team and one personal highlight and share one challenge you are facing or the company is and ask for help. This will help to bring the department closer together and will help you and your team to understand where they can help you and collaborate.
  3. Culture: Build a quick team to start an audit (read this AMA Q&A for more info) of performance away from typical reporting, ask the team to dig into the numbers, the market trends and undercover themes that are happening that you are likely missing. Ask for the team to report back with a presentation and share the exec summary across the business.
    Audits should key to company strategy.
  4. Culture: Find one piece of content you can create a club around, this can be a book, a video or a podcast. I recommend you have something that is a series and can be shared and discussed over a thirty minute period.
    Here are the podcasts I do not miss and might help with a recommendation.
  5. Mentoring: Ask three volunteers to step forward and offer to mentor or coach one person each. I recommend you ask for one of the mentees to be someone senior and ask for reverse mentorship, this will improve information flow and improve communication between teams that rarely have the chance to connect.

If you would like to let me know how you get on with these Five for Friday Focus, happily let me know below.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letters 22 – It Is AMA Time For Your Business?

It Is AMA Time For Your Business?


Dear Leaders,

Welcome to the new home of the weekly newsletter.
Back to the usual programing.

Last week I took on the challenge of an AMA, I have done a few AMA’s (ask me anything) in different formats and have always been enjoyable and challenging in equal measures.

Why tell you about the AMA?

Something I regularly recommend to clients is to run an AMA series with their company or agency, AMA’s have to be run regularly (I recommend monthly) from Senior Leaders and to leverage multiple formats, whether it is written (live on open docs, Slack or Teams), on video (Livestream on Zoom etc) or a popular method amongst leaders currently is an audio format like a podcast.

All of these options are great as they can be saved (Shopify have leaned into internal podcasts in a big way) and reshared with a library of content to help your team get the answers they actually want. You can also hold yourselves accountable.

Things to remember with AMA’s:

  • Be Transparent – with numbers, answers and your personality
  • Offer An Opinion – this is where colleagues will connect with you and help to understand you (and the leadership team taking part)
  • Show Vulnerability – essential for building trust, especially when we are facing everything that 2020 is throwing at us
  • Do Not Ignore Questions – offer an answer or insight and if don’t have the full answer, say so. If you do not understand the question, ask what they meant by it
  • Anonymity – Upfront work out if you need anonymous Q&A, it is a good way to offer any question to ask, however it does mean people hide behind and will not explain a question if you do not fully understand it
  • Show Expertise – the questions are there to help you lead and show colleagues you are leading the company forward
  • Empower Others – bring in those who are in a better place to answer the question

AMA’s are also a powerful way to introduce new leaders into the business or refresh leaders who have been with the business for a long time but do not play a front-facing (people facing) role.

Last week’s Leaders Letters AMA included a number of question themes, there were a number of questions that will likely help you on your leadership journey or share with your team or fellow managers. I have shared a number of links in the AMA that will help for more context.

  • What is the key management tip for people in startups? – Link
  • What do you recommend to improve a team? Link
  • Which companies are “getting it right” for Brand, Product, Culture? – Link
  • What are the work podcasts you never miss? – Link
  • Where do you think companies go wrong with growth teams? – Link
  • What was the biggest business lesson you learnt from your most senior role? – Link
  • What is one thing companies don’t do enough? – Link
  • How many times should we revisit our company strategy? – Link

This week focus on introducing or optimising your AMA format. This is different from your stand up or weekly updates and will compliment and open your business up to a more transparent and connected business.

Thanks and good luck with your AMA,


PS. I updated my what company culture is and is not onto LinkedIn and Slideshare, have a read through and let me know if you have any questions

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 16 – No Rules Rules

No Rules Rules – The Netflix Company Culture Book


Dear Leaders,

I trust you are making progress and 2021 strategy is being shaped nicely. 

I recently finished reading Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer’s (author and business professor) book No Rules Rules. 

It is based on the (in)famous Netflix culture and how Netflix set up their company culture for success. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn from their mistakes and how rules become principles and guidelines, empowering their teams to make the right decisions by following “Act in Netflix’s best interest”. 

I will be honest throughout my career I have read the Netflix slide deck probably north of two dozen times, it has been an inspiration and on an odd occasion, it has been a hindrance.

It was inspiring to have candour at their level and admit some people just aren’t good enough. Something that leapt out in the earlier chapters was one sentence, this one sentence that kept coming back to me: 

“When I saw how senior management spends their time. I lost confidence in the company”

This quote actually inspired me to reach out to a couple of previous colleagues in management teams and a few more in senior leadership positions and asked: 

If people could openly see how you and how the senior management team spends their time, do you think it would improve or worsen the company? 

Most answered honestly, and suggested it would actually worsen the company. One was particularly honest. I love how we operate between us and our management team meetings are proactive vs previous roles.

However, we are not leading by example outside the meetings and it shows up in team meetings.  I have sat on a couple of management teams and leadership teams, I have advised a few more and upon reflection, I have to say one would have improved confidence and performance and guided the team. 

Another would have been particularly detrimental and would have instantly lost confidence and respect. Some management teams are thrown together and it requires months of getting to know each other, trusting each other and then respecting the collective decisions. 

For those who I have advised, being organised, deliberate, actionable, accountable and transparent are non-negotiable essentials and everyone has to sign up to these behaviours. 

These sound obvious, however, internal politics and personal ego’s come into play and ruin the hard work up front and then have numerous ripple effects throughout the business.

Over the coming week focus on asking yourself and your leadership team how we are spending our time and how is it improving performance, morale and accountability of the company? 

Thanks and have a great week, 

PS if you are struggling as a management team or need help with management team development let me know. 

Want a TLDR of the book, here is a 5 minute mini pod for you to review

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 5 – Beliefs And Bets

Beliefs and Bets


Dear Leaders,

I hope you had a positive weekend and ready for the week ahead.

Believe it or not, it is now Q3 and with more businesses opening up again, this week’s message is to revisit your beliefs and bets for the rest of 2020.

This year has been a challenge for everyone and business right now feel like they are constantly being dealt bad hands in poker.

There is a lot of luck needed but calculated risks and understanding of the game is essential.

I am currently reading Annie Duke’s ‘Thinking in Bets‘ and it aligns so well in business and in the current situation.

Beliefs are key to any business succeeding, what do you believe to be true, what do you believe will happen, where do you believe the industry will go and why.

Your bets should be the 3-5 big bets you are betting on and have confidence in delivering for the rest of the year.

Revisit the top ten (yes 10) beliefs, revisit your top 3 bets for the rest of the year and clearly and concisely articulate your belief and bets to the whole organisation.

Have a home and hub explaining the beliefs and bets and get creative in having a 101, FAQ’s and ensure it rolls up to your Focus Metric.

Focus On: Achieving buy-in by reintroducing the beliefs and bets and talking collectively about these.

Ensure everyone understands the ten beliefs and three to five bets, ask for total commitment to deliver these and by the deadline you and your teams create.

The mid way of every year is typically when people take their breaks and holidays so fatigue is setting in and this is the time for leaders to step up and energise the team.

Happily let me know how you map out your B&B’s and if you have any troubles, happily email me for support.

Thanks and have a great week ahead.

Danny Denhard