Over the past couple of months, I have been working with a number of businesses that are in a good position to grow and invest in their staff and ramp up hiring again.
I have been lucky to interview a number of great candidates virtually, it was something I experienced before I created Focus, as a c-suite candidate you have a large number of rounds of interviews, with numerous committees, the experience was long, complicated and challenging for both parties, especially with time zones.
Although I have not perfected the art yet, here are a few ways you can improve virtual interviews and hybrid hiring to improve the experience for both you and your candidates.
Dear leaders, I trust you had a good week and ready for the week ahead.
Some of the most popular leaders letters are me sharing my way of work and the frameworks I use.
So here is a select series of my operational ways of work:
Split out your browsers, inboxes and messages
One for work
Home for another.
Helps you prioritise, maintain and apply prioritisation.
Take and keep notes but have a system
I am a huge note taker and keeping a record, especially of micro-moments, select one way of taking notes, often in person pen and pad works best, type up (or scan and copy text),
Categorise and link to other notes. Think of the 1:2:1’s, the department notes you have to keep and actions you have given and the ideas you have on an ongoing basis. These are all-important to take notes, check in on progress and revisit.
Revisit the Decision documents, company typically only work when ‘centralised knowledge’ is kept, updated and shared.
No pointless or boring meeting rules
Meetings always have an owner – clearly called out and run by said owner
No attendees leave a well organised intentional meeting – be intentional and explain why they should attend and what their role is in this meeting and moving forward
Always have a no leaving rule (no leaving early or no leaving because you were invited to a bad or unorganised) – roll this out company-wide so it sticks
Meeting feedback is a gift – offer an open document for feedback. Many businesses can operate with silent start meetings, meaning they have centralised documents and share their thoughts and feedback and then discuss with one chair who updates and then the notes are reviewed and discussed.
Have work statuses. The ones that typically work for my clients:
In a meeting
Deep work aka Do not disturb
Ensure everyone understands what to use and when. This is not checking up on colleagues, this is to help understand how to support colleagues time and energy
Even if the most senior management team members or the HiPPO contacts you, follow the statuses to manage expectations.
Clear Internal Comms
IM channels for quick updates not long threads
Stories style video updates work, even think about replacing in-person standup (Work in progress meetings definitely can be replaced and shortened)
Documents for more in-depth deliberate conversations
One dedicated project management tool (Notion, Monday or confluence all work well)
Email for external comms and important internal updates
Good luck rolling these out, happily get in touch if you have any questions around these points.
As I have mentioned before, I love coaching and mentoring. I currently have two great coaching clients and it is the highlight of my week whenever we sit down, zoom and run through coaching sessions.
Something that came up in a recent mentoring session was being conditioned by a previous experience and it having a lasting impact on their career.
I for one know I have many battle wounds and mental scars from previous workplaces and I am open to telling many of these to help to share and show we all have them and let them know being vulnerable is part of the process with us.
Something many managers forget is the professional injuries our team members suffer or have suffered at previous companies or under previous management. Truth be told some might be impacted by our management styles today.
Yes, being busy is a part of it, an (important) however, not being close enough to the team and choosing to be a coach or mentor vs not having to be specific people’s manager is not taught and rarely discussed in management books or courses.
Like athletes, injuries take a tremendous toll on us, physically and mentally and are often triggered by repeat events or similar results from a similar approach.
This is one of the reasons why I recommend more coaches and mentors than managers. Coaches improve performance and recognise weakness that needs more personalised coaching. Managers rarely have the skillset for this.
We need rehab, we need to retrain and strengthen, what is different in the workplace especially large corporations, this is often left to the individual to work through, professional assistance and training is not promoted or recommended by managers or management teams.
It is the time to balance this, help your team or department members seek professional help or self start and find a coach or mentor to help work on their injuries and improve our reliance and our strength. Training budgets should be used to train and retrain.
I highly recommend updating your leadership principles to include developing your colleagues with coaching and rehab.
This week consider how you can take forward your colleague’s professional injuries or scars and look to offer a chance for them to rehabilitate. It doesn’t have to cost a huge amount of money or time but the benefit for you, your colleague and the business in a short period of time will be huge.
Have a great week and take the time to list of a couple of your own injuries and how you might rehab them. Professional 1-2-1 coaching is only an email away.
Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?
April 5th, 2021.
For the past few months, I have been working more regularly with more founder-led businesses.
Founder led businesses are notoriously more difficult if you do not know how to ask the right questions and you answer their questions quickly and concisely with a focus on delivery.
One question that has bubbled up with each founder
Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?
The answer is 90% of the time, no, the 10% are the more open and transparent and typically say yes.
The yes answer is good, they are aware of where they are and know they will be pushed to step back and challenged to understand where to let go.
The 90% have a few more sessions to go, they are unaware of having to control not boss each situation.
The 90% then split into two camps, those who want to change and those who want to control. The controlling group are those who need more coaching and guidance, you need to show where they are being too hands-on, too overbearing, too much talking nowhere near enough listening.
So the question for you to ask is have you been the boss for so long, you attempt to boss everything?
If yes, step back, challenge yourself to listen more and understand where you need to take a leap back or leap into action and where possible bring in external help or hire more people to remove some friction.
Have a good week and remember being the boss doesn’t mean making every decision and kicking every ball it means knowing when to bring others to the table, bringing support in for you and the team and then being clear and concise when delegating.
Over the last few weeks, I have been talking to c-suites, agency leads and departments heads about recording micro-moments.
A micro-moment to me is when you feel a spark, you feel a move or a moment that is breaking through something, a moment you feel has pushed you, a colleague, a conversation or a project forward.
Micro-moments to me are positive, especially at the time you don’t know how positive it is.
As previously suggested I truly believe that notes taking, having knowledge centres and personal wiki’s help you run effective project, campaign or product launches.
Taking notes, sharing these notes and actions and being deliberate with reviewing micro-moments allows you to see signals, understand patterns and build out more micro-moments.
I like to hand sketch these moments out in a diagram, follow the chain and review very briefly. Seeing the chain reactions as a timeline or as ripples is a great way to demonstrate to those around you. Across my career, 95% of the time, scribbles or sketches beats 500 words or spreadsheets.
One micro-moment I had this week was rolling out brand new software to a client who struggled to connect people with software, I knew it was a micro-moment as the team were surprised how quickly we got through the meeting, how many actions we had completed, how the small number of follow-ups could be completed asynchronously and how we all called out how it felt like real progress was made and the reduction of discord messages.
The important part of reviewing micro-moments or micro-events is being able to teach these signals and patterns and then celebrate your micro wins (small wins).
I know the phrase celebrate the small wins is a little overused but micro-moments need calling out and celebrating.
In the coming weeks, try to make notes of the micro-moments, the processes you followed and the feeling it gave to the team around you.
Celebrate this micro moment with me!
Cheers to this week and have a great week,
Become A Better Leader
Signup for your weekly leadership newsletter. Leaders Letters is sent every Monday with one piece of actionable advice to improve your leadership & your company.
Dear leaders, pinch punch, it’s the first of the month.
Something that has always stood me in good stead is frameworks.
Frameworks help guide, shape and develop ideas and importantly, solutions.
Problems arise every day. Problems aren’t always straight forward or easy. Especially in framing and attacking them.
Every business I have worked in or with have had a small number of frameworks that help shape the business.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) they tend to be spreadsheet-based or out of date PowerPoint templates.
For every problem, there are multiple solutions but it can be difficult to understand how to present the multiple options.
However, attempting to show you have understood and know how to address the problem often requires more than one solution. Creating a shopping list of solutions is rarely the answer.
Time and preciseness are key when you are presenting options to a senior leader especially those who have a c-suite title.
A framework I stumbled upon a number of years ago was when presented with a particularly challenging problem, was one problem two solutions. I use it regularly and have shared it many times in recent months.
The trick is to frame the problem and then offer the solution you put forward and a second to show you have thought through any potential push backs.
Like army-style bottom line up front emails, frame the problem, offer the solution and then detail(s). Always lead with the recommended and then offer the back up further down. The more you use this framework, the wider it is adopted and used.
I learnt from Coca Cola and Amazon execs that “flexibility within a framework” really helps with many problems, especially when you are customer-centric and have specific problems to solve for multiple stakeholders.
Offer the opportunity to show off their workings out and present their recommended solution first and if required ask them to present their second choice. Being deliberate and presenting the problem with precise communications will always improve problem-solving and personal development.
Today’s anonymous career advice comes from an “anonymous COO” from a “well-known internet company”, who’s ELT has become disconnected and fractured since working remotely.
Dear Focus, since we have moved remote and WFH, the leadership team has become disconnected and we rarely agree on the direction and what is most important. I feel like it is impacting my career. What should I do to help?
I would imagine you and 50% of management and leadership teams are feeling the same and facing very similar issues.
Having spoken to a number of c-suite members over the last six months, many leaders feel they have lost connection with their fellow management team.
The common complaint or cause is the number of meetings they are all attending, the lack of progress being made and the friction of not having clear goals and objectives as a team.
When it comes to your own career, it will only impact you if you feel disconnected from the work and you and your team performance are being impacted. As a COO your role has likely never been as important for your firm’s long term success.
For additional context, a very senior ELT member recently suggested in their 30+ year career and the last decade on leadership teams, he has never seen as much friction while working remotely. Their answer was to book a “work through everything day”.
It is important to remember you are not alone, however, addressing your particular management team would require direct action from your team.
Questions To Answer:
Do your fellow leaderships team feel the same? Speak to the CEO to see how they feel. If you have close relationships with your CMO or CTO they will likely feel similar.
Has anyone attempted to call out or address the elephant in the room? Often this just takes someone to raise this. As COO you would be in a trusted position to raise this.
What are the common pain points?
Where do you commonly fall down?
Are the leadership protecting their teams vs trying to be proactive and come together to address the issues?
Is there a running theme where meetings and discussion fail?
Do you follow the same meeting patterns?
Is there one or two members of the management team who are internal influencers who create friction or could help to collaborate to improve this?
Is this a wider reflection of your company’s culture?
I would create a dedicated meeting to discuss this, have an agenda to call out common issues and then create a timeline with your fellow management team to address these issues. An external consultancy or external management coach will be able to facilitate and help reduce friction and create an action plan whilst reducing the stress on individuals to lead this internally.
If there is an internal conflict between a couple or a few of the members of the leadership team, the Focus power half hours will be a good methodology and tool to follow.
In a recent Focus management training sessions, a ten-person leadership team and I ran through a number of exercises to get to know each other, created workshops where they reviewed their workdays, meetings, reduced down meeting recovery syndrome and introduced a management pod system connecting the ELT with each other, sharing knowledge, increasing the amount of time they spend together and reporting back and tackling issues together.
Just remember most conflicts take a number of months to work through effectively and up to six months of no change to work at optimal levels for a team.
I asked a CEO I mentor how they were doing and their response last week was “you are the first person connected to work who has asked me how I am doing in months”.
It is likely feeling a little harder as a manager as of late, alongside being a support network and a confidant.
For almost everyone, its important to know you got this, you have likely done a better job than you know and you will likely have some time off booked that will help you refresh.
With that said, I have three questions for you to ask your team to help you feel like you are making progress and some exercises to follow up with.
The 3 Questions
When was the last time you reconnected with your team members individually?
Yes, this seems counter to my opening of the leader’s letter, however, it is an activity that brings people closer together and allows all parties to want to connect. Arrange a speed round of connecting to your team individually and asking for their advice or their opinion on something important coming up in 15 minutes slots. Short and concise meetings are essential to connecting.
I suggest this is done on the phone or through a video call and a project that you will need their help and guidance on.
When was the last time you found out something new about your colleagues?
A very popular free template we launched recently will help you do this and enable your team to find out new things about you that will help to bring down some fears or barriers to asking how you are and if they can help you. This template works with teams, departments or companies and will kickstart improving your department’s subculture.
When was the last time you surprised your team?
Being remote has been a challenge logistically for almost every company, as a manager, one of the best ways to engage and connect with your team is to surprise them.
I know you have a number of tasks to complete and big projects to smash, however, if you are in a place to, consider making the time and thinking about how you might send a small thank you to your team members or the leaderships team around you.
It could be something small like their favourite snack or could be a new notepad with a handwritten thank you note. Liaising with HR will be important re addresses etc but small gestures go a long way to (re)build trust and connection and importantly, showing you are thinking of them and how they are doing as people.
By giving to others you are taking the time to connect, to build stronger bonds and offer yourself a rest bite.
Have a good week answering the three questions and actioning small but significant gestures, and you will be surprised what you learn and how colleagues will want to connect in a reciprocal relationship.