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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 84 – One Slot One Shot Meetings

Dear leaders, I wanted to share something I have been doing for over a decade that I know will add value to your weeks. 

I call it the one slot, one shot per week, it is one one hour slot booked out in my calendar per week for random (yes random) meetings. This can be for ‘coffee walk and talk’, for a video call or for a meeting in person. 

Yes, before you ask – you could tweak it to one per month.

Why the name?
One slot is simple and one shot is if you could drink one shot of espresso (plus milk I’m a latte person) in the meeting. 

Why do I do this? 

When I was working through what I wanted to do around ten years ago, I was often reached out to on LinkedIn or asked to be introduced to someone by a friend or old colleague. 

Some of the best relationships, the best work opportunities and the smartest people I have met and kept in contact with is from the one slot meetings. It’s something I openly look forward to and actually when there is a chance I take a meeting to help someone who has reached out. 

I am not the only person who offers this sort of calendar slot. Professor BJ Fogg (Tiny Habits is a must-read/listen) who I have written about offers this for 15 minutes and only ever has one meeting per person, it is usually someone pitching an idea and he says whether it will work or not and what they could do. Get in line for that shot as he has taught James Clear, the Instagram co-founders and many other prominent leaders. 

Recently I took a 30-minute chat with someone who is looking to develop in their role and they were super smart, ambitious and looking to see if they were on the right track, they took notes, asked smart questions and followed up quickly with a nice note of thanks, some notes from the call and a clever question, which to be honest is something that rarely happens. 

I know many of us are pushed for time however making 30 minutes a month to have a conversation away from your current work and often not requiring too much thought could be something you look forward to and actively develop an impressive network over the next year ahead. 

Have a think about how you can develop your network or your own concept to connect. I bet you could recommend this to one of your fellow leaders and they find value in it…and yes it could be internal but making it forced removes some of the beauty of this exercise. 

Thanks and have a great week ahead,

Danny Denhard 

Essential Reading

Three Resources To Read This Week

  1. 25 Meeting Recommendations
  2. The Hybrid Work Guide
  3. The Best Hybrid Work Tools & Software
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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 82 – The 4F Framework: Feel, Fascinate, Future, Flourish

Dear Leaders, Happy New Year. I trust you are rested and prepared for the year ahead.

The first leader’s letter of 2022 is:

The 4F Framework: Feel, Fascinate, Future, Flourish

In a keynote presentation from Q3 2021, I presented the idea of fan clubs, tribes, communities and herds

I created what I called a formation flow, it is 4 F’s that are easy to remember and a flow of importance. 

It was:

It’s a flow through from: Feel => Fascinate => Future => Flourish.  

The 4F Flow is how you enable people to feel part of a “formation” and in this case your community; it is why we see herds of people come together around a big cause or a movement, it is why people build tribes within workforces and around ideas and why fan clubs are created around a club or a person. 

4F Framework For Work 

This also applies to how people within your business operates and see their role within the business. 
It’s part of the Focus 2P’s (people (company culture) & performance (1 x company-wide strategy))

  • Feel: How the people Feel within a team or a project 
  • Fascinate: How people are Fascinated about a problem or a solution they are working on.
    Often teams will be fascinated by the cause or the mission of the company and need to be fascinated in the future. 
  • Future: Seeing their Future within the company and having a clear picture of what their future looks like and their long term within the business.
    The most common reason for smart people to leave a business is feeling like they do not have a (mid to long term) future within the business 
  • Flourish: How people’s career is going to Flourish within the business and how you are building a future for them 

The 4F’s go in order, make someone feel connected and heard, create fascination around their role and build a vision of their future alongside the future of the business and show how they will flourish and be part of the company flourishing in the future. 

Question to ask and answer this week:

Are you ready to roll out the 4F formation to your team members?

Have a great first week back at work.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 81 – The Secret Power Of Code Names

Dear Leaders, 

Celebrating the small wins is one of the many hacks most overlook when building and rebuilding teams. 

I have shared a number of frameworks and hacks to help to inspire positive change within your culture and business. 

Your favourites have been (from internal data)

  1. improved culture with agreed principles,
  2. risk vs benefit framework,
  3. one problem two solutions framework,
  4. two up two across framework,
  5. the handover hand back framework, calendar audit.  

This week I am going to share one of my favourite hacks, the hack is having dedicated code names. Code names are brilliant in creating an internal language (part of building psychological safety) and being able to associate with a project at weird and different levels. 

Below are three examples from my past:

(1) Vicki
During a big software launch, there was a huge investment into a new software system, it was a huge shift and investment for the company and rather than creating a boring software name, the internal code name was selected as Vicki.
Why? it was actually named after the owner’s first girlfriend and it was a connector for the team working on the roll-out (software house + IT team) and the name specifically became an ongoing discussion point. Speculation from the company of why the name and what the name’s significance was around the software kept so many people guessing. It helped a rough rollout to become more palatable and stuck as the official name for the software. 

(2) Nostalgia
More recently, while running a new business line, when rolling out big product sprints and product enhancements, the team created code names in reference to late 1990’s football (soccer) players, typically from Arsenal and Man Utd players.
For some, it meant having to do a bit of research (which is actually an important layer to bonding) and for others, it was a core piece of nostalgia.
FWIW Keane and Vieria were selected for the hardest and biggest projects. 

(3) Friends
Most recently, a team were big fans of the classic tv show Friends and the big projects were given character names like ‘fun time Bobby’, Mr Heckles, Janice and Gunther. It was important they were not the names of the main characters. 

You’d be surprised how projects are then given names associated with how much they like or loathe the project, a bad project might be called Emily (in reference to a British character who got married to Ross) or Charlie (Wheeler) if they liked the project (in reference to the palaeontology professor who dated Joey and then Ross, who was always funny).  

It’s important to note: Hacks work for a certain period of time, once it becomes commonplace the playful element may diminish, however, it is important to remember you are trying to build layers of improved connection, therefore ensuring hacks roll up into other tactics to continue the connection and build trust in what you are trying to achieve. 

One last hack before I leave you, creating meme’s as a hack will also help to lighten the mood and tension around larger projects and campaigns and enable people to remix the meme themselves and continue the hack. 

Thanks and have a great new years,

Danny Denhard 

» Want to connect further? LinkedIn // Email // Twitter

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 80 – 5 Tools To Use Before Christmas

Dear Leaders,

I thought with it being Christmas coming up, it would be a good time to share five different tools you could use in the last few days of Christmas to connect with your team and help to improve communication. 

These tools are mostly free and require low effort with quick rewards, therefore this should be a good resource for now or the first week back in January. 

Burnout Quiz 

Better Internal Video & Audio Calls 

  • Around 
  • Free 
  • Where? https://around.co/
  • Why? Better option to zoom, enables a better and more workable solution to work and working solutions vs just sitting on another zoom or teams call. The echo terminator is a great feature. 
  • With Who? Your company 

Internal Asyncronhous Communication / Wiki

  • Notion 
  • Free to $8 p/p 
  • Where? https://www.notion.so/
  • Why? So many conversations are happening on email and on slack/teams and the knowledge is stuck in private chats and inboxes. Notion (and many equivalents) is built to share knowledge and enable communication and conversation away from closed and private inboxes. There are many integrations that allow you to embed, collaborate and edit within one workplace system. 
  • Who Who? Your company 

Internal Communications 

Personality Types

  • 16 Personalities 
  • Free 
  • Where? https://www.16personalities.com/
  • Why? Do you feel like you do not know your team well enough or do not know what truly motivates newer members of the team? This is a well-known tool that many have used and likely will help you connect with your team and see how your team will help share this throughout the company. 
  • With Who? Your team. If you are in a leadership position and struggling to connect with fellow leaders, this is the test for you

I trust you find these useful. I know many have when recommended this year.

Have a great festive break and keep an eye out for a special leaders letter next week with my favourite hacks.

Stay safe and go well,

Danny Denhard

Must Read Articles Before The New Years

  1. Five roles for 2022
  2. How to win hybrid office politics
  3. Microsoft’s Metaverse
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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 79 – Improve Culture With Agreed Departmental Principles

Dear leaders, I trust you had a good week. 

This week I want to offer a way to improve your company culture.

I have discussed the importance of frameworks, it was great to hear that quite a few were going to roll out the two up two down framework.  

I am known to almost preach the benefits of asynchronous work, specifically knowledge centres and agreed principles, particularly leadership principles to be held accountable for. 

In a standout discussion this year, I spoke to a company that struggled with department leads driving their teams forward, while they navigate their move into hybrid work. Many are struggling with this. 

Department leads are there for the two p’s I discuss regularly; 

People (culture) and Performance (strategy delivery). 

I ran one of my go-to power half hours and then a remote culture workshop, here are some of the best (tweaked) ideas that were disclosed and then agreed upon – 

  1. To have an environment where we always feel safe 
  2. To be seen (acknowledged)
  3. To be heard (ideas, feedback etc)
  4. To be respected (rank does not matter)
  5. To coach (Regular and reverse coaching and mentoring)
  6. To debate; to get the right answer not to win (an argument)
  7. To have well thought through opinions listened to 
  8. To have fair and regular feedback 
  9. To enable anyone to pitch ideas and solutions (never just for senior titles) 
  10. To collaborate to win 
  11. To deliver work we are proud with 

Gaining sign off and consensus can be challenging, at the start of these workshops it is vitally important to have a list of good, bad and ugly traits and work through them together and agree ideally on ten principles. 

The wording and framing are important as they should be clear for everyone to understand. 

These agreed principles should be clear for new starters and applicable to every member of staff. Yes, even the CEO or the founder. 

It is important to note you will likely need a few sessions to get to a place of agreement and where people feel good about them versus feeling like they had to disagree through peer pressure. 

if you leave a workshop tired but happy (likely with homework), that’s a sign of a great workshop. 

The question for today; is the last task for 2021 or the first task for 2022? 

Thanks, 

Danny Denhard

Other Focus Frameworks To Implement 

Now listen to how to improve your workplace with breathwork and meditation

Briony Gunson On Fixing the broken world of work podcast
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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 78 – It’s Time For Your Calendar Audit

Dear Leaders, this week’s newsletter is here to save some of your sanity and time. 

Do you look at your calendar with pure dread? 

I bet you have signed off or left a meeting and think – this was a massive waste of time? 

There are two options you have:
(1) Take that your time is taken from you 😞
or
(2) Actually take action and do something about it 💪

An important step many executives do not take is actually reviewing and scoring meetings. 

Busy is not a badge of honour and should never be an excuse.

Many leave meetings with a sour taste in their mouth, often mentally noting that a colleague or two are good or bad (or worse need to leave the business) and then having to recover from MRS (meeting recovery syndrome). 

There is an action (much more than a hack) to help save your sanity and review your calendar to make a real difference. 

This will take an hour’s work to save ten’s of hours in the coming weeks and months. 

A Calendar Audit 📅

  1. Review your calendar: look back over the last six weeks  
  2. Colour code the meetings into group meetings, recurring meetings and one to one’s 
  3. Create a meeting scoring system. 1-10 (10 being great, 1 being worst) – the maths is an important dimension here 
  4. Flag and review any recurring meetings first.
    Score these meetings, use: 
    (1) effectiveness for work, (2) time efficiencies and (3) participation levels as success factors.
  5. Review group meetings and project meetings, please then score accordingly 
  6. Review 1:2:1’s particularly on how successful you were either as the leader or the participant
  7. Fire up Excel or Google sheets and score the meetings in groups, you will see many patterns. 
    There is a common theme here, important notes and keep scores
  8. Review your notes from these meetings and really be self-critical and critical of meetings and drive change. Always provide feedback and look to reduce meetings. 
  9. Understand if you need to keep meetings, cure meetings or kill meetings.
    You should not only edit and audit your time but provide people’s time back. This is a huge gift!
  10. Feedback the information, kill or cure meetings and reorganise the time and save the energy of your colleagues. 

You will be surprised by the benefit to performance and the positive impact on company culture this will have. 

Remember The Focus Rules For Meetings: 

  1. Always call out why this meeting should not have been an email 
  2. Set an agenda 
  3. Explain why each meeting attendee was invited and how they can add value 
  4. At the beginning of the meeting remind what the objective of the meeting is and what success looks like 
  5. Have a chairperson taking notes and keeping you to agree on timeframe 
  6. Have the chairperson call out what the notes were, what the decisions were and what the follow-up actions are and by when 
  7. Always provide time for meeting feedback and if the meeting is able to finish early, enable everyone to have their time back 

Good luck rolling this framework out, it will take a couple of attempts to really hit your stride, in the near future you will be able to have open and honest conversations and save many hours of wasted time and negative time use. 

Have a great week,

Danny Denhard 

Two Other Proven Methods

Here is the hybrid guide to remote meetings chapter that will drive improvements to your meetings and your business. 

Look to roll out the NDA meeting framework for taking notes, logging decisions and the actions you and the team need to take.  

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 77 – Two Up x Two Across Matrix 

Dear Leaders, Frameworks and documents are the most popular leaders letters. 

This week I have a matrix (simple framework) I have adopted over time and something many managers might benefit from. 

It is the:

Two Up x Two Across Matrix. 

Moving laterally aka across does not mean a demotion or non-promotion it actually means you are helping to shape their career and moving them towards the right long term career for your team member. 

Keeping your team members happy is a huge challenge, in which in “The Great Resignation” is going to be harder for you and the company. Therefore, this matrix might be an asset to have and use before the end of the year. 

What is it? 

Two Up

The next two levels of promotion within the team or department. This works up until the C-suite level. 

This is the most natural movement, you move up the ranks within your own department, potentially mapping out replacing yourself as the Department lead or helping the team member understand their next step may be Head of or Director of, or moving into a generalist department head role. 

Two up requires deep thought, an ability to build out organisation design and map out succession plans and replacement plans. Alongside working with other leaders and potentially your HR function. 

Two Across

Two across is helping your team member realise their potential, either based on their skills or based on their desire. 

What is evident in most businesses is individuals want to want in different teams, different departments and grow. Many examples of this are when a Marketer moves in Product, when Product move into Operations and when Customer Support moves into Product and/or Marketing. 

A Personal Anecdote:

Some of the best hires I ever made were internal hires and dare I say internal poaching that worked out particularly well. 

One today is an absolute Marketing superstar and another has gone on in the creator economy and working through their passion. 

Both knew the timeline, both knew the plan to move them into the role and the steps we both needed to take to ensure they were supported, coached and had a mentor to help them move. 

“The Squilly Career”?

Becoming a Team or Department Lead, taking the next step to VP or SVP or joining the leadership team is not the only future for team members, although most are conditioned to believe this, in the future I truly believe specialists and leads will help reshape businesses and coach those around them to benefit their careers and those who they work alongside and work.  

Lastly, remember this will take teamwork and connections between you as the team or department lead and other leaders across the business, you should also note you will want to continue the mentor or coaching relationship with the team member who might move across not just up. 

The two up two across matrix will help hold important conversations, improve subculture within your team and connect with other department leads to improve the company. 

Good luck and keep on developing as a people (culture) and performance (strategy) leader. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard 

PS Remember my saying, always be Marketing, always be Auditing, December is the ideal time to audit your department plan or developing your management team, do get in touch for help. 

Two Important Free Frameworks To Use

Important Company Culture Resources:


For more information on the squiggly career – watch below

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 75 – Ending First In Last Out Mentality

Dear Leaders,

During my career, I have worked in house, agency side and had my own consultancy and a few unsuccessful side hustles. 

When you work agency side, it was (and mostly still is) as someone senior you have to be visible and has to be perceived someone whos committed – basically be there late. 

In the majority of startups you are expected to work more than the core hours and available, do what is necessary. 

When you become senior within organisations there is an unspoken and unwritten rule you should almost always be available. Whether that’s on the phone, late-night emails, long slack threads and early morning and late-night Zoom’s with other regions.

Is any of this effective?
Is this efficient?
Is this right? 

No! 

I have spoken previously on the internal dilemmas work ethic can have and how I used to think my ability to outwork colleagues was a superpower, it isn’t as it is not scaleable. 

The best companies I have worked in or worked with enable people to thrive by working smartly, rewarding working hard and celebrating others around them.

Great company culture should guide values and behaviours, reward behaviours and never ever reward bad behaviours. 

So why do so many businesses reward people looking like they word late versus working effectively? 

Can you scale and grow as a business with fear around ineffective working schedules and hours? And are you breeding the right environment for those to thrive? 

Rethink how you may be rewarding the old way of thinking, reconsider how you might embrace scheduling emails, not sending that non-urgent late-night instant message or how you may be suggesting there is a dominant office or timezone for calls and video conferences. 

Please remember: 

Scaling and maturing businesses do not win by appearing to be working more hours, it is working in an environment that promotes great work, great collaboration and great problem-solving

Never let your commitment be questioned because you are effective, work differently or deliver great work within your working hours.

This week consider how you develop your business out and move away from old ways of thinking. 

Danny Denhard

PS Maybe Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk might agree, but the small and agile are making waves and taking market share across all business sectors.

Great Related Resources

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 73 – Setting Your New Norms Now

Dear Leaders,

There is something unrivalled about being ahead of the game and being able to be proactive than being reactive. 

Planning can be stressful however knowing you are ahead and driving the business forward is something many crave but rarely own.

There are many newer ways of working we have now become accustomed to since March 2020, whether that’s right or wrong, we are now in a place to design a better set of norms.

We have become accustomed to too many videos calls, too many instant messages and too many meetings. 

Isn’t it time to address these and help set up a better hybrid workplace

Being reliant on synchronous communications and video calls is something so many are fatigued by and without the right structure are really struggling with. 

This newsletter goes out to leaders across The Americas, Europe, Africa and Australasia, we are all in slightly different phases of returning to the office and with hybrid being the future, how about you set your new norms for the next phase and rethink the tools and the systems you are using currently. 

Here are a few hows to consider: 

More deep work – Remove the constant distractions and enable teams to use statuses to embrace deep work and block out times. Dropbox has set times for deep work, how about you embrace this too? 

Less reliance on video calls – Fewer video calls to make decisions. Making decisions should never be left to video calls or a number of video calls. Consider how you embrace different technology and wiki’s and knowledge centre’s to enable better, more streamlined conversations. 

Fewer videos updates – Feedback from almost every company suggests that many companies are just relying on video as every communication channel, this can be reduced by introducing more audio-only updates, better documentation and introducing better communication practices. 

A move to asynchronous communications – Many businesses have struggled to introduce or reintroduce the right levels of written and documented communications. Having deliberate thought and documents helps to share knowledge and cut through misunderstandings and delivery issues fair quicker than several video calls or having to organise real-time attendance. 

Keep in mind: Improving company culture is imperative, if you are in a place to hire a dedicated headcount, a culture community manager will be essential to improving EX (employee experience) to improve CX (customer experience and success).

Having the right tools is essential, onboarding and coaching on how to use these tools are essential. Ensuring you have agreed working principles will help you to shape your business far quicker than dumping more rules and tools and expecting teams to embrace these. Departments need fewer tools but better tools. Cross functionally departments need to share updates, insights and knowledge to help move your company forward and make real positive change. 

Have a great week planning a better norm.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Please remember if you have any disabilities please ensure all of these updates are relevant and can be used. 

Important Supporting Resources 

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 72 – Where Are You Placed When Consolidation Happens?

Dear Leaders, consolidation is about to happen and it’s imperative you are on the right side when it happens. 

There are two ways of doing business, bundling and unbundling (the famous Jim Barksdale quote has been proven right many times over the last decade). 

What tends to happen in both scenarios is consolidation, you see something ripe for unbundling, many flock to unbundle a large incumbent and then phase two of acquisitions and mergers take over. 

We see disruption, we see innovation, we see lower prices or more convenient services come to market and as consumers (particularly the early adopters amongst us) we love it. 

The next phase is messy and can get bloody. 

We race to zero and that’s not a fight for the faint-hearted. This phase influences careers, impacts even the strongest company cultures, it can also create short to mid-term obsessed business strategies that reshape your business and the industry.  

Businesses end up having to consolidate, they have to sell or go through a sale to ensure the company survives or can compete for the long term. 

Why? Consumers end up with too much choice and have to vote by selecting their side, their default and truth be told, the most convenient, the cheapest, or the biggest perceived brand. Being the brand in your market is often the most underdeveloped action taken by businesses in the last five years.    

We saw this with apps on your phone selling to larger companies, the music industry saw independents selling to large companies and to the tech and social platforms, we saw social networks buy up chat apps, photo sharing apps and live streaming platforms. 

We are about to see this with podcasts (exclusives, first listens, only available on x), TV (we have too many services with +), ride-hailing (Uber vs Lyft in the US, Uber vs Bolt in EU) and apps on our smart devices and gaming. 

I have been in two markets that ended up consolidating quickly and it actually killed off competition and creativity across the board, not just in the companies I operated in.
It has a real impact on your company’s performance and you lose that thing that drove your business on and that spark in your culture that was that extra versus competitors.  

The question for many over Q4 and into Q1 of 2022 is what side are you going to land when consolidation happens in your market?
Are you in a place to acquire or are you going to be on a larger companies shopping list?
Are you preparing the business and the people to understand what consolidation means for the business and their careers? 

Action Needed: If you are unsure where you are landing in your role, find out quickly and prepare yourself and those around you.
Consolidation should never be a surprise. 

For many this is an opportunity phase, for others, it’s a phase of threat and concern. Work out what side you are on and help to share the knowledge with your management teams and help them support their teams around them. 

This Q4 is going to see the largest numbers of people needing help and suffer from a record amount of burnout, consider how you help your teams, don’t just stop meetings like Google did or roll out meeting-free days, think about how you support mental wellness apps, therapists and bonus afternoons off that’s designed for people to organise their time and work around it. Consolidation will create some fear and heighten concern if not handled correctly.

Have a great week ahead.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Important Reads For Your Week Ahead