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.

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 54 – 7 Leadership Lessons

7 Leadership Lessons 

21st June 2021.

Dear Leaders, 

I am in the middle of writing a book, well I have been writing it for about six months. 

The truth is, it is a passion project, however, it is connected to my personal leadership learnings and lessons from the last twenty years of working professionally. Including some battle scars.

As you can imagine some of these lessons have been shared in some form with you in leaders letters aka the focus newsletter

Recently I was due to speak at an online event and had an opportunity to speak on any topic, I decided to share 20 lessons in the 20-minute session. Unfortunately, the event didn’t go ahead but here are my lessons nonetheless.

I categorised the lessons and have shared the seven dedicated leadership lessons below: 

The Seven Leadership Lessons: 

  1. Understand the unit economics
    – understand how the business is truly operating, especially when you have multiple business lines 
  2. Be deliberate with EVERYTHING
    – don’t let sloppiness impact you 
  3. Understand roles change and peoples perspectives do too 
  4. Hierarchy is important & so is guidance
    – without guidance hierarchy doesn’t have context or relevancy 
  5. Growth is about 1% increases every day
    Growth is more about the constant improvements than one large push and slump 
  6. No one really understands strategy properly – That’s why everyone calls everything strategy &  every team creates “a strategy”
  7. Some people like and want micromanagement
    – it’s true & they ask for it. It’s how you develop these people away from micro to macro 
Be deliberate with everything

There are many more you will find useful in the 20 lessons and even with a couple of lessons they go against the “expert” advice you will read or watch on YouTube by the leadership guru’s etc.  

For the the full 20 lessons and deck I was due to run through, you can download as a PDF at the bottom of the dedicated blog post. 

Have a great week,

Danny Denhard

PS Here are 3 resources you will want to read:

The five leadership books to read this summer

The Loan System – How to borrow from sports to improve our work

There is a better way to quarterly planning

Anonymous Career Advice

Is there a better way of quarterly planning?

In this week’s anonymous career advice column we tackle the dreaded planning phase, a team lead asks how to improve their planning

Dear Focus, When it comes to planning my team hate it, they struggle to complete the required documents and prefer just to do it. Is there a better way of planning? 

Almost every company has a slightly different approach to planning, whether thats campaign, projects, monthly, quarterly, annual or long range planning. 

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 53 – The Role Of The Rebuilder

The Role Of The Rebuilder 

14th June 2021.

Dear leaders,

This week I was reminded of one of the more challenging roles I have held and some of you will be about to face.

I call it The Rebuilder.

The rebuilder is a manager who is taking over an existing team or department and their job to truly complete is:
To rebuild the team, rebuild the foundations, rebuild the confidence of the team or department and bring back performance throughout the team. 

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 49 – The Catalyst

The Catalyst

May 17th 2021.

Dear leaders, I trust you are ready for the week ahead. 

In hidden leaders and the company secret weapon, I introduced you to the concept that there are often a few people within your organisation that have a huge influence. 

Very often you have hidden leaders who you and most management and leadership teams do not understand their true value or the real role they play within your organisation. 

Today I want to introduce you to The Catalyst, they are the person in a team or a department that seems to be the colleague who kickstarts projects and has the foot on the accelerator regardless of their title and their experience level. 

The Catalyst is often found in teams that have too many thinkers and not enough delivers, they move projects and campaigns along when they see them falter or they understand the importance of the project and push the delivery forward effortlessly. 

The Catalyst is often deliberate, often sniper-like in the way they communicate and they do not always look for or crave the limelight or being called out.

The Catalyst is an essential but commonly the misunderstood part of your company culture and the company’s subculture.
Understanding how The Catalyst sets the standards and behaviours of the project is essential. Collaborating and developing their talents is imperative.

The Catalyst typically exists in every business, however, they are not often given the props they deserve or given the opportunity to grow as they are seen as a do-er. This is a big and common mistake. 

Some catalysts prefer to be under the radar but want to progress and feel they are in a good place to progress their career. 

Other catalysts are stuck under the wrong manager or blinded department lead to progress and they often leave the business because of this, if you do not have someone who springs to mind straight away you might be part of the developmental problem. 

Regular skip meetings and reviewing your managers reviews are critical ways to understand your teams and departments and understand how you can find hidden leaders, secret weapons and catalysts.

This week speak to your management team and uncover your catalysts, equally as important; if you are a catalyst arrange a conversation with your manager or department lead and ask to be considered to be coached or mentored by an internal or external coach and ask if there are fast track opportunities internally. 

Have a good week,

Danny Denhard

If you like finding out about high performers and what it takes here are five brilliant high performance podcasts to listen to or five podcasts to improve your business.

Watch The Hidden Leader 

Anonymous Career Advice

Disruptive Exec Hire

This week’s anonymous career advice highlights an issue we all face, hiring and bringing in the right fit for the business, the teams and the team around you.

Dear Focus, I have recently made a senior hire on my exec team, they are disruptive, combative and troublemaking to the rest of the SMT, how do I make this better?

Hiring is a challenge for any role regardless of the level of the hire.
Finding the right skills, the right cultural fit for the team they will take over and matching that with your exec team is a difficult task.
The right candidate could tick a couple of these boxes but not all. 

Even those who do tick all of the boxes can be impacted by the people and the environment. 

Sometimes matches just do not work. 

Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 9th April

This week’s Friday Focus includes five books we always recommend but the kicker is the quick-fire book review by YouTube channel Productivity Game.

How To Decide – Annie Duke

Annie Duke is my go-to author, her previous book think in bets is probably the best book on decision making with real-life examples out there.

Grit – Angela Duckworth

Angela’s TED talk is also a brilliant watch.

How To Negotiate – Chris Voss

Chris’ masterclass is a brilliant workshop from his book and years as an FBI negotiator.

Deep Work – Cal Newport

Cal is a brilliant thinker, author and podcaster, his latest book dives into why email breaks the hive mind and is not fit for businesses.

Atomic Habits – James Clear

Student of habit building and habit forming, James Clear is a brilliant writer and a one-person media empire. My go to resource for James Clear is 1% better everyday video, a must watch.


5 Timeless Lessons From Industry Leaders

In the summer of 2020, I went on a leadership mission, I spoke to as many leaders from as many fields as I could. This was a way to improve leaders letters, it was a way to learn from leaders to improve the leaders and leadership teams I work with but to also share these experiences. 

The leaders I interviewed came from many different and diverse backgrounds, including banking and finance, military, teaching, traditional business owner, a Chief Medical Officer, co-founder of a large remittance company and experienced startup leader. 

I took away many lessons and I hoped to turn the series into a Focus leadership podcast (maybe in the future), I thought I should share five of the lessons I took away from the brilliant conversations so you could ponder or implement. 

Lesson 1: Military Leader

“Outcomes for the group is essential: the mission for the team, the objective for the unit, crystal clear task for the individual.”
This cycle has to be understood completely, with no fussy or blurry lines. This then has to be understood at the team, unit and individual level. Often it is life and death and the most vital pieces of information have to be clear, concise and as up to date as possible. 

Lesson 2: Head Teacher

“Always have an open mind”, always learn from other sectors, increase your reading, share and empower those around you with your learnings and take feedback from whoever it is. Staff, parent, governers and then walk that walk.
There is a lot packed into this but so many lessons to take away and apply. 

Lesson 3: Co-Founder Remittance Company

“Ask for advice – is not a weakness!” Many leaders truly believe asking for help is a weakness, it is not it is a strength, especially when those around you or seeking those in a better position will drive you and your business forward.  

Lesson 4: Chief Medical Officer

“Replace ego with empathy – Read between the lines (there is always an agenda) find out what is really going on and explore together.” 

Lesson 5: Serial Startup Founder

An essential job for the founder is recruitment, it is to create the right environment for the organisation to thrive by blending people, positions and passions. 

These five lessons are all actionable across leadership at any level, all of these resonated with me for different reasons but mostly because leadership is about being clear, understanding and delivering instructions, asking for help, replacing your ego with empathy and the culture you create impacts your team every day. 

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 40 – Start A Meeting With A Get To Know Me Question

15th March 2021.

Dear Leaders,

In the current state of work, working remotely and tackling meeting and video call fatigue, we have two options, keep going as is or change it.

Staying as is, is not really an option. If you were to poll your company or your team you will see quite quickly things aren’t working.

Not everyone enjoys small talk, however, small talk is an important part of team building, a foundational level of company culture and a way to kick off work positively.

Younger staff can suggest they dislike small talk, however, hearing a senior member of the company open and recommend something builds connections and compassion towards the leader they have not connected with previously.

Over the past year, leaders letters were created with three themes in mind:
(1) improving personal and professional performance
(2) improving company culture
(3) ensuring work is more deliberate and the world of work is less broken.

I always enforce meeting agenda’s, quick reminder of my rules:
(1) knowing the objective of the meeting,
(2) understand what success looks like at the end of the meeting,
(3) always take the notes and actions, centralise and share. I call it the DAN framework, what are the decisions, what are the actions and what were the notes you should share openly and to those in the meeting, those who could not attend and those who did not attend.

These are critical elements in the equation for successful meetings.

You may remember in leaders letter 20, I laid out ways to optimise your meetings.
Here is a free tip to add to team or departmental meetings.

This week, my recommended focus area is adding a new agenda item to team meetings. This means kicking off a meeting with get to know me questions, on the agenda, agree it is for this specific purpose, then a five-minute rapid-fire conversation around a connecting topic, trivial questions designed to connect colleagues together.

Some of the questions you can include:

  • If you had to select one cereal to eat every day for the rest of your life what would it be?
  • Ideal holiday / vacation?
  • Favourite pizza topping?
  • Coffee shop order of choice?
  • Favourite animal?
  • Your spirit animal?
  • Hidden talent?
  • One app you couldn’t live with?
  • Favourite memory in the company?

You will find this will set the meeting off positively (remember Bob Iger’s business lesson number 1), you will learn more about your colleagues and where there is a tie in you can bring into future meetings, the food discussed, remember and share the drinks suggested by your team and apps to download and use.

If you read any of the company culture books, including the stables, the five dysfunctions of a team, the culture code and Netflix’s no rules rules, the key message is relationship building for many (outside of the US) cultures wins the internal business battle, not diving straight into business.

So don’t be a bad HiPPO and create better and more connective meetings. Remember, to keep a mental note of the small and quirky and keep coming back to them and throw in a surprise, you will be surprised how far this goes.

Thanks, be well and have a great week.

Danny Denhard

Focus, Founder

PS here are some of the most important reads for improving company culture :

  1. Your secret weapon
  2. Find and embrace your Hidden leaders
  3. No Rules Rules – The Netflix company culture guide
  4. Fewer managers, more coaches and mentors
  5. How remote work impact company culture
  6. How to review forced work from home

Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 5th March

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Follow Up Reads