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 

Business Performance Company Culture

Replicating 10 Rules

Kobe Bryant was a basketball legend, a LA Lakers hero and someone known for being hyper-driven. If you have ever seen Kobe play, you would have seen it from training, pre-game, during the game, to post-match press conferences and leaving the arena.

In one of my favourite leadership and management books; Eleven Rings, Phil Jackson former LA Lakers coach discussed how challenging it can be having such a brilliant and driven player, especially when he and the other star Shaquille O’Neal just didn’t get on for a number of seasons.

Being driven can be seen as a negative, however, the best colleagues and managers in my twenty-year career have been driven, had their own style of rules and deliberate in their steps.

Kobe was driven to be the best and is well know for having had ten rules he followed. This is similar to having shared team principles, the drivers of your team, department or company.

It is rare we see this sort of insight from the elite professional players.

Kobe Bryant’s 10 Rules Were:

  1. Get better every single day 
  2. Prove them wrong 
  3. Work on your weaknesses 
  4. Execute what you practised 
  5. Learn from greatness
  6. Learn from wins and losses 
  7. Practice mindfulness 
  8. Be ambitious 
  9. Believe in your team 
  10. Learn storytelling 

My personal favourite is: Learn from wins and losses.  

As a huge believer of rules and personal drivers, when offering c-suite mentorship and executive coaching and management team development I ask for leaders to write down five of their rules.
This is an exercise many executives struggle with.

Why? This is typically down to management teams and leadership teams never writing down their own rules, guides and principles, it is just something that is ever taught or developed.

How To Make & Use Your Own Rules?

The Exercise

  • Set aside and dedicate thirty minutes to write down five of the principles or rules that guide you and your career
  • Rewrite the list for clarity,
    • Once as a list – A sentence, aka a short rule
    • The second as something you expand into two sentences. The secret is explaining as a short sentence and why
  • Use a design tool (Can be Word, PowerPoint, Keynote, Canva etc) and create the fives rules as one page with images to associate with.
  • When you next have a team meeting ask the team to follow the same steps.
  • Ask the team to share their one non-negotiable rule and consider how you could use these personal rules as team drivers.
  • Sharing the individual rules are important, aligning these to their colleagues really help the team understand their drivers and what makes their colleagues tick or keeps them doing what they do.

Moving forward I strongly recommend you and your team get to know each other by replicating Kobe’s rules and sharing as a team. The most important element of this, revisit the rules, allow them to guide you and enable yourself to grow and update when you grow personally and professionally.

Watch Kobe’s Rules Video

Important Recommended Reads

Company Culture

The Department Joker

joker card
Photo by Akshay Anand on

There is an art to building a great set of individuals to make a great team or department.

As a department lead you are ultimately responsible for building out a set of teams that can deliver a good working environment where people feel safe, valued and they have played their own part and recognised for it.

Juggling Act

One of the most challenging aspects of this is balancing personalities, abilities and interpersonal connections.

Informal Roles

Everyone had a job role but unlikely there is an informal and unwritten role assigned to them within a team or department.

Looking back two decades of my career, there is one role that is often overlooked but undervalued.

The role? The team or department joker.

The Role Of The Department Joker

The joker often is the smartest on their feet, witty and can create a relaxed and humour-led environment.
When the environment can be tense or stretched, many colleagues look towards this person to lighten the mood or play their part in releasing the tension or offering a rest bite.

Like a hidden leader, there are some environments where this role can be overlooked. In many traditional setups, their role is downplayed, misinterpreted or dismissed.

I have found that the joker or humorous role plays a vital connector within the team and despite the odd side note or comment actually can align teams and drive them forward.

Company culture can thrive with the right blend of people including department jokers.

Develop The Joker

If you work closely with the joker, they are smart, they learn quickly and typically want to learn. They are usually good communicators and can gain cut through where others struggle. Learn from them, develop them, leverage their core skills.

In the remote world of work, the joker is harder to have an impact and release tensions but it is important as a leader you know how to keep engaged and playing to their strengths.

As I recommended in writing a letter to your team the value that the joker brings should be called out with praise within the letter and in the in-jokes should be enjoyed department-wide.

Maybe A Secret Weapon

Maybe the secret weapon within your company is a specialist, maybe actually it is the joker, maybe they act as the glue where if there weren’t with your firm anymore you’d potentially lose that extra layer in company culture.

Moving forward, I recommend you embrace your department joker, you work with them to help them develop their skills, help you learn from them around communication and insights and you create a team that can thrive with this person.

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If you are looking for more information on the hidden leader, this video for Isolated Talks will help you.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 10 – Smarter Not Harder

Smarter Not Harder‍


Dear Leaders,
I trust you had a good weekend and look forward to making incremental improvements this week.

Working smarter not harder is something you have likely heard. Working smarter has always been something I have been an advocate of, however until a few years ago I wasn’t sure what it truly meant.A personal story: I would go into the office earlier than almost everyone, I would have back to back meetings and book time in for deep work.

I would then work many evenings and wonder why I would be shattered and feel like I didn’t deliver my best. What I realised over time was; I was working hard but not as smartly as I could have been. I started to review the schedules I had, the times I was working and the slots where I was productive or not.

I would review my calendar weekly and then categorise the time into themes and work out which meetings could be reduced, could be removed, or could be delegated.

There were meetings that were unproductive and I sort out to address these. Yes, this can sound like extra work but the upfront effort to save your time and sanity is worth its weight in gold. I would make more time for when I knew I was more productive, I would schedule times in with the teams that suited them better and would save some energy as I worked for an American business, mid to late afternoons meant you were due in important management meetings and were supposed to be designed for decision making – these meetings have a higher cognitive load and can be taxing.  

The hybrid office is going to suit many people, there were times where I would work from home in the mornings and dial into “lite’ meetings and then come in for team based meetings or deeper more immersive meetings that worked better in person.

I would book in mentor sessions and catch up coffees where I knew I could recharge and reenergise before lunch. I know personally I get an energy boost from mentoring and could rely on them to act as a refresher.Working harder than everyone is often something you will hear an athlete say in interviews, or I would out work everyone, yes it can work, however, most athletes will tell you coming towards retirement they came close to burn out. Sir Chris Hoy’s explains high performance and the shift in his career really well on this Podcast.

In more recent years, when athletes met sports psychologists, the psychologist would highlight they were running their body and their mind into the ground.

They needed to be smarter with their efforts. The business world is ruthless, time is precious but keeping your sanity in check and knowing how you work and when you work best is incredibly important. This is just one of the many reasons why I built out Focus.

There are going to be times especially when working remotely that feel impossible, or you need to be across every project, however, taking a step back or planning a 30 minute slot to plan, review and optimise is going to save you hours per week.

This is part of the growth mindset that I highly recommend you become a follower of. Matthew Syed has many books that explains the growth mindset. His book is part of my most recommended business book post I wrote recently.  In lockdown, on average, a recent study has found our workdays are 48.5 minutes longer than they were previously. This isn’t harder or smarter, it’s just longer!

This week focus on: Stepping up as a leader, lead by example, help those around you to use their time more wisely, enable colleagues or your team to work smarter. Something you can work through is surveying the company around their meeting habits and seeing if they plan and how they review their week.

Thanks and have a great week.

PS. Here is a quick Matthew Syed Video explaining Growth vs Fixed Mindset

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 4 – Commit To Communicating Clearly

Commit To Communicating Clearly


Dear Leaders,

I trust this week has started off productively and you have identified your future seers.

This weeks point to focus on is communicating clearly and building a clear communicating culture.

The lack of information and ‘transparent’ communications often leads your teams to assume or fear for the worst outcome.
Agree to create a culture that enables and ensures you communicate as clearly and kindly as possible.

As a manager and a leader you will be well aware that the fear and panic amongst your people, your teams and department is often when an important piece of information is not communicate to the group, it is not clear and often sent without second order effects considered.

Focus on speaking to your organisation and the managers around you to ensure you cut through poor communication and create an agreed internal principle you will communicate as clearly and as timely as possible to remove anxiety and fear around the company, particularly with the near future in mind.

This will reduce the amount of questions you will receive, you can encourage improving internal communications and reducing the internal chatter via instant messenger.

Until next week, focus on building clear communication templates you and your teams can use and agree as a company wide principle you will have clear communications across the business.

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 3 – Future Seers

Future Seers


Dear Leaders,

I trust this week has started off productive and you have learned from lesson 1; developing your existing internal leaders and lesson 2; starting off projects and your weeks positively.

This weeks point to focus on is finding the “future seers“. This short five minute video will help to guide you on future seers.

There are many people in your organisation that live in the present and that is ok.
There are actually many more long serving staff members that live in the past and the past glories, who reminisce but struggle to grow and evolve with the future.

There are very few that can see and live in the future, these are the people who will drive your brand forward and guide you through the headwinds all of us will be fighting.

Until next week, focus on finding the future seers in your organisation and enabling them to start co-creating the future of your company and guide those around them who struggle to live in the near future.

Danny Denhard