Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 134 – 5 Leadership Essentials With Sharon Aneja

Dear leaders, happy new year!

This week I bring you an in-depth interview with Sharon Aneja from Humanity Works Consultancy, you may remember Sharon joined me on fixing the broken world of work podcast, where she shared her incredible back story and the great work she is doing in the burnout and wellness space.

Sharon and I go deep into how to improve your EQ, burnout, company culture and why apps won’t fix burnout.

Q1. What do you think are the 3 essential steps every leader should take to improve emotional intelligence throughout 2023? 

  1. Leaders need to think about the shadow they cast in terms of their leadership. There are two important elements: 
    (1) How self-aware are you of how your behaviour impacts others?
    (2) How do people experience your leadership?

    Your shadow is easily tracked: The important thing to do is to give yourself space, keep a journal, think about how you have reacted to situations and how you have come across to others.
    This will tell you a lot about yourself and improve self-awareness.
    Rethink and reevaluate the shadow you cast, think about how you make people feel. 
  2. Be aware of how your mood influences everyone around you. We talk a lot about the contagious leader, leaders have a lot more sway and influence on those around you than we realise.

    We should never be happy robots, but we should help to positively shape people and think about how we are shaping them with our daily interactions and gestures.
  3. Practise your listening skills, if you want to improve your EQ (emotional intelligence) skills. Give people space to express themselves, to feel safe and understand what’s happening to them.

    When you practise active listening this is a great way to listen and become more aware of those around you and you as a leader.

Think about the ‘stay interview’, not the exit interview – really listen to what people are actually saying – just listen and then decide on how you interact.

This is a really good method to understand and develop your EQ and improve the experience you and the team around you have.

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou

Q2. 2022 was a rollercoaster for so many, what is the best advice for leaders to handle their own burnout for this year?

What I always say to leaders who are experiencing burnout – check out the 12 stages of burnout 

Leaders really need to understand that to prevent burnout in themselves and in their teams, the solution is never just self-care, it’s mainly about caring for each other.

Burnout can never be fully addressed by the old advice of “Take a break” or use your annual leave or the more modern approach “use this app for this mindfulness” – to stop burnout we need to address the root causes of toxic workplace cultures that leave people feeling devalued, under appreciated and not respected. We need to change the narrative on burnout!

Checkout the six organisation causes of burnout to truly understand the value mismatch and if you’re exercising the sense of belonging that people need to feel appreciated and valued at work. 

The strongest leaders are those who bring out the best in their teams, remain curious, compassionate and are inclusive.

Really look at YOU:
How are you measuring success as a team and how are we showing up and how are we treating each other? How connected are we as a group? 

Also, importantly look at your own behaviours and the boundaries you set for the team. 

Look at the examples you set, and role model the behaviours to prevent burnout.  

As a leader within your business, use that power to create a better workplace – you have the power to push deadlines and how people experience work. Question: Am I using my leadership effectively to support my people and my team’s performance in a sustainable way?  

Remember to look at all of your options, get some coaching support if you cannot address these behaviours alone and work to change the narrative around burnout in the workplace.  

Q3. Culture is something we both press leaders on and help to reshape, what two areas of  business need to change to prioritise a healthy culture?

Question: How do you measure success within the organisation?

  • Is it projects over people or people over projects? If the main focus is just sales, delivery or performance and you’re not measuring how people feel, their wellbeing levels and how much you all trust each other, you will only ever end up with a narrow view of success and one that is not sustainable. This isn’t what it takes to build a modern successful workplace.
  • Look for the important signals: Turnover rates, sick rates, poor communication, low levels of psychological safety, etc these things are telling you that just focusing on the bottom line is harming your productivity and people and is a one way ticket to burnout. 

Question: are we holistically measuring the right behaviours in organisations? 

  • Promotions – are we promoting people with toxic behaviours? When we do this we normalise a toxic work culture and this creates burnout, disharmony and disunity. 
  • Accountability – how are we holding ourselves accountable as leaders within the workplace?

I was really disappointed by the letters from Mark Zuckerberg (Meta lay offs memo) and Patrick Collison (Stripe lay offs memo), how are we holding these tech leaders accountable for their so-called “over-optimistic” recruitment strategies and vital strategic business errors? How do we hold these people accountable for over-promising and not adding value back to the business? They made a lot of people redundant with no accountability for these leaders and certainly no consequences?

There would have been signs that action was needed before having to let all of these people go? Where was the board? Where were the other leaders calling out these signs?
Their letters were merely a PR show, and they don’t show that these leaders are going to change at all.

Q4. If you could change one area of bad work environments with a click of your fingers, what would it be and why?

  • Low trust without a doubt.
    Low trust work culture, where people cant be themselves, where cannot speak up without fear of recrimination, this creates bad and toxic work environments. 
  • Really work on the ladder of psychological safety and set up high-level trust environments. Letting opinions count and matter helps to reshape the work environment.
  • Really work on the important core factors: Trust and psychological safety.
    It is time to coach your leaders on how to create a psychologically safe work culture. That’s not a nicey-nicey culture. Safe is not the antithesis of high performance. It is the foundation of high performance. 
  • Work on cultivating belonging beyond just the EDI lens, focus on addressing psychological risks – that’s how you build a thriving work culture.  

Q5. What’s the one overhyped trend leaders should be mindful of for the year ahead?

A digital app won’t take away stress or burnout. You have to attack the causes, the primary causes. 

In our workshops and surveys, we find out the causes of burnout, no one is saying Ukraine, the cost of living, covid etc, the answer is always bad management, the management doesn’t understand my needs, there is no connection, I feel isolated, if you really want to be proactive in making a difference, don’t fall into the trap of wellbeing washing or the trap of sending people onto an employee assistance program or send people on mental health courses, work on the actual causes and the culture around you and the culture of your team, these all help unlock performance. 

You cannot yoga or mindfulness your way out of stress of burnout.

Think more carrot than stick and don’t fall for the trap of apps fix these problems. Default to: We are all in this together, how are we going to address the root causes of stress, anxiety caused by the workplace within our business.

Go and connect with Sharon on LinkedIn and see some of the great work her consultancy is doing.

Listen to Sharon and I discuss how we are fixing the broken world of work

Thanks and best of luck for the week ahead.

Danny Denhard

Read the other 5 leaders questions series with business leaders:

Leaders Letter 133 – Leadership & New Years Resolution

Leaders Letter 131 – 5 Questions With Tim Grimes

Leaders Letter 129 – Space-As-A-Service With Caleb Parker

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

Leaders Letter 126 – Leadership Lessons From Agency CEO Paddy Moogan

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 59 – Beware the empathy trap!

Happy Monday leaders.

This week’s leaders letter comes from a friend of Focus and Positive Psychology coach Sharon Aneja. Sharon will be breaking down the empathy trap and why you should put on your own mask first.

Have a great week and over to Sharon’s gems:

Leaders: Beware the empathy trap!

By now you will have heard a million coaches telling leaders to be more empathetic, show more emotional intelligence and practice active listening.

You’re expecting me to say the same. I’m not here to do that.


Well, there’s an old adage: “Nice guys finish last”.

OK, I don’t totally subscribe to this loaded statement. Besides, Alan Sugar’s style of 80’s leadership has that pretty much covered.

What I am saying is that there is such a thing as being too empathetic a leader which can be detrimental to the team.

Company Culture hybrid office Leadership

July 19th – Time For Leaders To Lead

Important Leadership Tips For Returning To The Office 

Your teams will be nervous about July 19th, there will be many who look forward to the old normal, there are many who are used to this normal and enjoy working remotely, and there are many who expect a hybrid office approach.

Here are the leadership tips to follow to ensure smooth sailing for July 19th – back to the office day.