Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 118 – The Pratfall Effect

Dear leaders, over the last twelve to thirteen years of my career I have been proactively researching social and cognitive sciences. 

One of the most underrated aspects of leadership is understanding:
(1) what motivates
(2) what discourages
(3) what disconnects and
(4) how to connect with your teams. 

Secret Revealed: Most high-profile CEOs are given a crash course in social psychology and understanding how these effects are vital in creating an environment where their leadership can thrive. 

It’s not a dark art, it is how the majority of us are wired and many leaders and politicians manufacture events to leverage our biases or weaknesses. 

One area that keeps cropping back up is the Pratfall Effect and what makes some leaders likeable even after they have a blunder or make a small mistake and then when others make slightly bigger mistakes they are hated. 

The Pratfall Effect states that people who are considered highly competent are found to be more likeable when they perform an everyday blunder than those who don’t. 

Were you aware of this effect? 

Want a more tangible example, here is one from the US football/soccer Captain:

The Pratfall Effect is actually leveraged a lot in Marketing campaigns, KFC and Oatly (pic above) have been super smart with their campaigns when they’ve made a mistake or have been seen as strategically slipping up. 

I am not suggesting creating or engineering an event to make you more likeable, (although many do), I am suggesting this can be the difference between one leader or manager being really well-liked and respected and others struggling to have the same influence or impact. 

I believe The Pratfall Effect is a key component of company culture and leadership, especially when it takes micro-moments to stand out in people’s minds and connect with people’s hearts. 

Q: Do you think you make a small mistake and people will resonate and like you more? Or do you think this will negatively impact how you are perceived? 

In the coming days, keep an eye out for the Pratfall Effect and how people react, you might well be surprised by how much of the effect you see. 

Thanks and have a great week,  

Danny Denhard

hybrid office

Why Hybrid Work Is Struggling & Why The Office Was & Is Far From Perfect 

2022 – The New And Old Dynamics Colliding

We are in a standoff, the conditioned ‘office is best’ versus the more modern approach of work is not location specific and you don’t need to physically together to work and collaborate. 

The easiest way to explain the office versus hybrid (and remote) is policing and boundaries and not being able to learn newer ways of working and making it work against your own biases (particularly those with proximity bias). 

The office had clear boundaries – workspaces, communal areas, and “meeting zones”.

Most knew when you were having private vs semi-private vs public conversations. You had a number of variables but most knew what these were: 

  • At your desk 
  • In an open booth
  • In a call booth
  • In a breakout space
  • In a conference room 
  • Outside of the office
  • Headphones vs no headphones. Headsets vs no headsets. Background vs no background 

Those who didn’t were often policed by colleagues (or then HR).

The Office Environment 

The office was noisy or quiet, it didn’t have a perfect balance and often the most political debates were about how to move teams away from Sales and Marketing departments. 

The decisions we made on the fly were complicated and required constant scanning in full offices, meeting zones free or full, what were the requirements was it a one-to-one, a breakout group, or a follow-up to the management meeting (where the best conversation leads to action), a team stand up, a weekly department meeting 

The surfacing of this is the Product and Engineering area or this is Marketing’s area – it made it easy for some, hard for others, it was like entering the lion’s den for some and others easily entered and exited unscathed. This happens in every business and it is down to work status, title status and knowing how to operate in work/social and work/work situations. 

Not to mention, the always bubbling beneath the surface, the air con wars, the ongoing conflicts of who ate my avocado, this is your seat (despite disliking those around you) and the constant social dynamics of where you sit and who you have to sit with or when you decided you had to work from home to get your work done. 

These cultural moments and company culture movements create subcultures, all combining into how colleagues consider what a toxic workplace is for them and if this is a workplace you want to work at for the mid to long term. 

The New Considerations: 

  • Where are people working from: Work — Home — Third space. What type of work are they doing there? 
  • Working in third space pros vs cons (the implications of having conversations that might include spending, budgets and company finances, firing and then attempting to interview in a coffee shop as its easier to navigate than the office) 
  • How are we going to manage and balance the requirements of a meeting in IRL aka In person vs URL (virtual) and what if its split down the middle, half in the office meeting room and then others outside it 
  • Habits die hard (habitual and routine) – it takes 88 days for complex habits to be forged and now in-frequency leads to fewer habits, leading to less footfall in the office. 
  • It is important to note bad practices and bad habits are easily picked back up, with poor meeting etiquette being the easiest. Examples are those with headphones versus those without. Those in the room (physically) versus those who dialled in 

The questions you should now answer to make the environments work

  • Did you change the office? 
  • Did you re-onboard your teams to the office?
    Without onboarding new colleagues and existing colleagues, how will you create a great and equal environment? 
  • Did you make the office less daunting or less chaotic?
    How have you adapted the office to pre-2020 feedback and more recent actionable feedback around the office set-up? 
  • Did you make the office more appealing? 
  • Did you introduce neighbours where colleagues would interact and collaborate and know it was safe to do so?
    How did you challenge the status quo and improve connection when many professionally unfollowed each other and unfollowed leaders
  • Did you reshuffle what the office meant and how you removed the chaos?
    Without change, you will be forcing employees back into a broken system
  • Did you improve the software and tech to improve when working hybrid?
    Force fitting zoom to every use case is hindering businesses.
  • Did you attempt to build less reliance on meeting and real time decision making?
    Have you looked at embracing async work and more in depth deliberate discussion in writing, audio and short form video?
  • Did you interview and continue to gain feedback from the teams? 
    Without feedback and discussing what feedback you received and the actions you take is removing all the hard work and hard decisions you made
  • Have you renamed working from home to – working from workplace home?
    The bias and conditioning can be removed with reframing. 
  • Have you created a decision document?
    Helping the whole company understand how and why decisions were made? 

There is an art and a science to the chaos of the office, many struggles to grasp the art and don’t understand its importance (many just do not understand PQ and are never taught office political intelligence). The chaos was deciding what’s important and what’s not and where to be and how to act as a constant test and challenge. 

The hybrid office and working style is something so many did not make a plan for, they didn’t create a deliberate working shift to improve the quality of work and consider how to improve company culture and company performance. 

How you and your fellow business leaders react now is going to set the tone for your next 12-24 months. 

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Now Listen To The Fixing The Broken World Of Work Podcast

Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Briony Gunson 🧘‍♀️ – Focus Podcast With Danny Denhard Fixing The Broken World Of Work Podcast

This episodes guest Briony Gunson ( is a business + mindset coach, meditation teacher + trauma-informed breathwork trainer, Briony helps individuals and businesses to improve.  Follow Briony across social – LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube.  The Links:  Briony's Introduction Video On YouTube Podcast: Aubrey Marcus – not about the world of work but psychology, spirituality, human potential + behaviour Book: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art  by James Nestor Newsletter: Brain pickings AKA The Marginalian has a free Sunday digest of the week’s most mind-broadening and hear Sign up to Briony's Friday Feels newsletter: – Briony archives them on her blog.  Listen to Briony's guided meditations on Insight Timer, e.g. this is a popular one: Briony also recommended Kirsty Hulse's work (Kirsty is great and gets my co-approval) Briony takes us on a journey of: Mental health and why it is so important to be aware of How mental health is evolving How your mental health can help to transform physical health Why early morning open-air swims have been so important Therapy and therapists role in peoples lives Why breathwork is so important Why our bodies are driven by our breath and controlling our breath Why Yoga is vital to so many of us Personal development starts with you Everyone is facing similar challenges – it's how you find the best course of action Why retreats are going to so popular and a necessary part of life and work You are the expert of yourself – why starting to listen to yourself and your body is so important
  1. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Briony Gunson 🧘‍♀️ – Focus Podcast With Danny Denhard
  2. Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn 🏴‍☠️
  3. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Peter Hopwood
  4. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Andy Reid
  5. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Jo Twiselton

The 8 Different Types Of Company Leaders 

Over the last decade, we have landed in a place where we demand a different type of leader for the distinct phase of the business. 

Some are obvious, some are less so and there are clear categories these leadership types fall into. Here are the eight different types of leaders. 

  1. Founder 
  2. Traditional 
  3. BAU
  4. Turn around
  5. Pivot 
  6. Growth 
  7. Caretaker 
  8. Returning Founder 


The creator or adopted creator of the company, leads from the front and is often the owner or co-owner of the business. Typically runs the company until the maturity of hires smart leaders to complement them. 

Founders are often blinded by their status and can hinder the business without the right support network. 

Founders are often the ‘visionary leader’ and will serve a long term or until a large market shift and confidence is low within the business. 

Business Maturity: Start-Up 


A leader brought in or took over from a founder and helped to mature the business and develop the business operationally. A traditional leader will often long-serving leader who builds their leadership around them. A traditional leader is often brought into startups and scaleups in the maturity phase that requires rebalancing. 

Business Maturity: Maturing  


Brings a level head to the leadership role, often a high-level and extremely experienced leader who is brought in to create a status quo approach to the company and will expect sustainable growth to the business. This is can be a COO or CFO who is promoted or operated in a similar business and won’t rock the boat too much. A BAU leader often serves for three to five years and is considered the safest pair of hands. 

Business Maturity: Scale Up or Mature 

Turn Around 

This is arguably the toughest role when a company has stagnated and is brought in to turn the company around and start operating more positively. Often a turn around leader is brought in to clean ship, revitalise the company, streamline it or refresh the way the company operates from the top down. 

Turn Around leader is typically in the role for under three years and will go onto another business in the same shape. 

Business Maturity: Stagnated 


Specialist leader who is brought in to help the company repoint its product or services to survive or thrive. Often a pivot leader is a specialist who understands different landscapes and applies a new way of thinking and operating throughout the business. The Pivot leader often will reduce headcount or repoint headcount far faster than other leaders and the idea is to drive change from the front. The Pivot leader is often a shorter-lived role and can make or break a business, especially if they do not take into consideration existing company culture and how to repoint resources and explain the company strategy clearly. 

Business Maturity: Start Up or Scale Up


A leader who is brought in with a history of driving change within businesses, this leadership type is focused on the hyper-growth of the business they enter into and often has a lens to sell the company or drive an IPO (or in some specific scenarios a SPAC). A Growth Leader often will have to be focused on changing leadership around them and reshaping the middle management tier. 

Growth leadership is often a mid-term leadership role and can be exciting to the team if run correctly. 

Business Maturity: Stagnated 


An unofficial title for most, the caretaker leader is a company lead who will come in for a short period of time and re-focus the business. The caretaker is often an experienced operator internally or externally. Internal caretakers will be taking on a difficult job and often will be the final role within that business, an external caretaker coming in is a six to twelve-month role that will have clear goals often around hiring a new leader and helping the next leader imprint their incoming style. The caretaker can be a brilliant role for experienced operators however it can be a kiss of death for internal caretaker leaders whose next step will be to leave the business or be demoted back to where they were. 

Business Maturity: Stagnated 

Returning Founder 

When the company is struggling or needs to go back to how it was once operating a founder is brought back and drives focus or simplifies how the business operates. Examples of Returning Founders include Steve Jobs (Apple), Howard Schwartz (Starbucks) and Michael Dell (Dell Computers). They have all been brought back to gain control and push the company forward. 

Howard Schwartz is currently on his third term as CEO and is attempting to stabilise the Starbucks business which is a hybrid business between tech and retail. 

Business Maturity: Stagnated or Declining 

2022 Into 2023

In the near future, there will be a lot of change and demand for leadership change, particularly at the end of 2022 and into H1 of 2023 when many businesses understand the new landscape away from the height of the pandemic and the new way of operating in the hybrid work world.


10 Leadership Lessons To Take From All Or Nothing Arsenal 

Leadership lessons come in all shapes and sizes, we often overlook the parallels in business to many different industries. There are three we look to constantly. 

The first is the armed forces, we look to the army or navy for leadership lessons in the toughest environments. 

The second is often politics, rightly or wrongly we compare situations to previous life events or difficult calls political leaders take to drive countries or states forward. 

The third is sports and despite it not landing with non-sports fans they are many similarities we should take direction from. 

All or Nothing is a behind the scene’s sports documentary series on Amazon Prime Video. 

All or Nothing has gone behind the scenes in soccer (football) Brazil national team, Manchester City, Spurs and most recently Arsenal, other stand up docuseries include the NFL (American Football) with the Arizona Cardinals and LA Rams, in the NCAA (college football) with The Michigan Wolverines, with the most respected rugby team New Zealand and in the ice hockey league (NHL) with the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

The behind-the-scenes nature of the series highlights coaching sackings, player and coaches disagreements, players’ connections and the outside-of-the-game issues the clubs face. 

It highlights every area of strategy, company performance and company culture.

In the latest series with Arsenal, here are ten lessons you can take with or without watching it. 

Simple Messages Work Best – often goes unseen is how managers motivate their players and prep them before a game, in all or nothing it really shows how Arsenal manager boils his ideas down simply to help reasonable with the team and motivate them for the match ahead. Arsenal coaching staff place posters throughout their dressing room and rival dressing rooms (on away days) with unity and identity commonly appearing and being referenced by the head coach Arteta. These simple gestures often have a larger long-term impact and something many leaders overlook is the power of a poster to influence their business or their teams. 

Game Management and Tactics – Like all great leaders you have to set your team up for success, whether it is a big campaign or a tough quarter ahead. Arteta shows the players what he expects and how it down to them on the pitch throughout the school. He coaches every moment until the game and very often it is down to the team to respond in the match and own the change of the game, this is similar to how large products and projects go. 

Speak In The Language Your Team Knows Best – Arteta speaks six languages and speaks to his players in their native tongue when English isn’t as strong. This is a way many leaders can speak to their team in the most simple language or the words they speak and clearly understand. It is unusual to think you can speak many languages but using the words and sentiments they understand goes a long way and is something many leaders discount as important. Language and sentiment matter. 

Keep Coaching – Arsenal have a young squad, they have an average team under 25 and is a team that needs to grow together and gain more coaching than many others would in their position. A younger squad was a deliberate tactic deployed by the Arsenal management team, coach the players and adapt them to a style of play (tactical choice for department leads) to build into a successful team in two to three years while connecting with the fan base and introducing different players in the squad to the media. 

You Have To Build Personal Connections – Arsenal manager spots one of his players (who was new with the club) left back Nuno Tavares is quiet and doesn’t provide much feedback to the coaching staff. Often the environment might be right or the players might be introverted, Arteta and his staff single him out individually to try and get more from the player and understand his motivations. Nuno is Portuguese and this season has been sent out on loan to grow his confidence and to see how he fares in France.

Unfortunately, the loan system is not available to most companies however this is something we can do to help to develop our team members by offering them a chance to gain experience and get exposure to different maybe more testing environments with other companies or in other departments. 

Passion – There are many passionate personal stories delivered by the Arsenal head coach (Arteta) that brings the group together and Arteta does this through the docuseries with the players and often when answering questions. Passion is one of the leadership qualities many lacks, alongside storytelling. When you can merge the two together, especially with younger players you will shape a special company. 

A Great Story Works – “a great night” is a powerful story of the team coach meeting his wife and attempting to connect with his players with a story before an important game. Arsenal didn’t win the game but you can see how it brings the team closer together and you can feel something developing between the group.

A great story works, you don’t have to deliver this in person as shown when the head coach is working from home with Covid, but it does prove how important a message and a story work.  

No Me Before We – A star player / employee is not worth the disruption (brilliant jerk), the “star player” breaks trust a number of times and is eventually removed from the squad and then the football club. Often as business leaders, we wait too long or allow behaviours like this to continue too long, even at football clubs they need to speak to HR and lawyers. It is part of the modern world and a lesson to take forward. 

Build For The Long Term (Vision) – Mikel Arteta came under fire for poor performance and a large section of the fan base was not impressed calling for him to be sacked. With parallels to how CEOs come under fire publicly, you must stick to your long-term plan, reiterate your strategy and connect with your biggest critics. Arteta is deliberate in trying to connect his players with the fans and take the responsibility for the blip in form. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Experience In Public – A documentary is a scary thought, it is access behind the scenes and closed doors that will expose your biggest weakness and highlight the flaws within your business. The more positive side highlights the journey you are on, the bond between the teams and the importance of all of the staff and the impact they have from the youngest players to the oldest players.

This is not something you do in big organisations but a fly-on-the-wall documentary might be something that enables change within your business and with your leadership. The best way to improve is to watch yourself and learn from your mistakes. With the cost of technology and the ability to do more with less, is this time for you to consider something similar? Maybe. 

The choice now is which of the 10 lessons are you going to take forward and which are going to be in your leadership arsenal in weeks and months to come.

Essential Resources To Improve Your Leadership

12 Lessons From The “Trillion Dollar Coach” Bill Campbell​

Rethink The Leader – Manager – Coach – Mentor – Operator Dynamic

Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors

10 Good 10 Bad Management Traits Exercise & Framework 

Taking Over From A Bad Manager

Manager Coaching Courses

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 111 – Why Art Might Be The Reset You Need

Dear leaders, this week I have been on an exploratory journey – things in life that can reset work frustrations and stresses. 

Do you ever feel stressed or frustrated and can’t kick the feeling? I bet the majority of it in a work setting is either a challenging colleague, a management team member or a recurring bad meeting. 

Meeting recovery syndrome (MRS) is the time it takes to recover from a bad meeting, you have likely had a few that took hours to shake off and get back into the zone. 

Something I am a big believer in is getting out of your space, that work environment and getting a reset, both when frustrated or creatively you feel like you are struggling. 

I have spoken at length about the power of a walk, something I often do is go to London Zoo, it’s a destressing place for me and seeing animals swim, fly and play gives me a fresh perspective on many things. 

I have previously mentioned the power of art for me, getting me into a different thought process, it resets my brain and gives me a lot of ideas.
Here is an example of how I reset by visiting the RA exhibition in London

Find your place: I used to go to the Tate in London at moments when I couldn’t shake a bad meeting or another interaction with a frustrating project. The Tate was right near the office I worked at and just entering the space gave me a different feeling. 

When the management team of a business line I was responsible for and I were having a few disconnections we ended up on artwork that was a swing, you should have seen the joy in their faces and it was like a reset for the four of us. This was a micro-moment that I fondly look back at and know the hour reset helped us through a challenging time and a memory we all probably look back at and appreciate it helped to reduce our frictions. 

I have a deep appreciation for the artist KAWS, my girlfriend brought me a KAWS What Party Book recently and it is like an escape whenever I need it, from seeing his original tagging in New York (above image), to the more modern work where he floats a 115ft inflatable sculpture (image below).

This inspires me to think differently, think bigger or more broadly and understand that at a certain level you need to think differently, get out of your space, your industry and be inspired by different and more. 

There are many ways to reset work issues, some rely on music, others on walks, one thing I would love for you to do is to consider seeing more art, and less content in your social media feeds and get out to see or feel something someone has poured their heart and soul into creatively. 

Have a great week and remember MRS is real, the only way you improve MRS is by optimising meetings and your calendars. 


Danny Denhard

How can I help you? Need help improving your company culture or build strategy with people and performance at the same importance.


Other Essential Improving Work Resources

25 meeting recommendations to improve work 

It’s time for a calendar audit 

40 tips to improve work for everyone 

Approach a disconnected management team 

The solution to your team members’ burnout might not be the webinar that HR are offering.

Company Culture hybrid office

Shopify Bursts 

In recent months there has been a lot made of rethinking what work looks like and how you balance remote, hybrid and full time in the office.

The demands are very different, some are taking steps like removing chat apps, we have seen slack take a digital first approach to presence, Dropbox and Front take different approaches and the big tech giants like Apple and Google fail in moving away from brand and perk based cultures, while Coinbase is struggling with top down driven culture.

Here is how Shopify are making deliberate steps in improving team work and collaboration in their remote first working environment.

What Are Shopify Bursts?

A fresh way to look at getting the remote teams together and focus on deep immersive teamwork. 

What Features Does It Have?

  • An internal web and internal app that books flights, Hotels, Food and even Experiences 
  • It has an automated check-in process and enables easy collaboration that works for the team or department looking to get in real life and connect or collaborate.
  • Choose what type of thing. Pure work and social activity. 
  • It is important to note this was all in-house built and really connects to the deliberate ways Shopify like to work. 

What About The Offices?

  • The offices were turned into “ports”, where group work and collective problem solving and connections are being made.
  • Access to old offices. Retrofitted community spaces for teams and departments to come together. 
  • The offices become locations and have a booking system – encouraging smart work and times for teams to come together or parts of the teams to come in and work on problem-solving

The data from bursts become available to the leads and prompts a burst over a set period of time and encourages connection and in-person collaboration.

The whole process has a rating system to keep score and ensures it connects to Shopify’s data-driven decision-making.

I personally can see why companies like Shopify have thought through the first to third-order effects of bursts and in-person collaboration. It takes on what the likes of Automattic have been praised for, for years and brings teams together when busyness gets in the way of thoughtful leadership.

The question to ask yourself moving forward: Could you adopt this approach? Or are there elements you could develop out to improve hybrid work and reduce the cognitive load on managers – I would hope so.

Want to know more, listen to:

Listen to Brandon Chu the VP of Product at Shopify explaining his take on product and how bursts work best:

& Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein’s discusses the new set-up and how Shopify & Amazon can play in the same space

Be inspired by Shopify in other smart ways

Leaders Letter 104 – If I Were To Take Over The Company Tomorrow What Would I Do? 

The Key To Winning Business – Be The Power P: The Partner, The Platform, The Piping

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 103 – The Fight Behind Closed Doors

Dear Leaders, this week I want to introduce you to a topic many “leaders” struggle to recognise or talk about, the fight behind closed doors and the impact it has. 

When you work with leadership teams, you encounter the same reactions:
(1) resistance,
(2) some admitting there are core issues, others denying any sign of issues
(3) you encounter the historic status games and
(4) baked in politics that you have to navigate quickly and as expertly as you can.

I call this the fight behind closed doors. 

These dynamics are complicated, you are often the person who has to get into the middle of the psychological fights, you have to force collaboration between those who are often competing and when required you have to be the adult (and leader in that space) and force these colleagues to hash it out. 

I have been in workshops where you can cut the tension with a knife, you have to force change the atmosphere with working sessions and have had to call out this bad behaviour to reduce this from recurring its ugly head again. 

The trick is to know some people either need to have a fight behind closed doors or just be adults and agree to disagree.  

The worst “execs” are those who unload a lot of the fight onto their team and actually reveal much of the battles from behind closed doors to their team and influence the team’s behaviour. 

Very often this actually negatively impacts their view of you and the leadership team. If the department leader moves on, these biases are often carried through from those internally promoted.   

The Unspoken Truth 

I say this often, a lot of department leads hate the senior leadership meetings, hate attending and hate being on the SMT’s and ELT’s.
These are battles, you waste a lot of emotional energy, these can feel like they steal away your time, these battles can get mentally bloody and leave scaring, and you spend more time defending your time, your team’s output and delivery than proactively working to improve the company. 

On many occasions department leads are not prepared and rarely trained for what it takes to navigate and operate in leadership meetings and are often misdirecting their energy away from getting work done or being an actual leader within the business. 

Many people do not like confrontation, many dislike conflict and often will actively choose not to take part. 

This is understandable but often this is hurting you and your business. 

  • Is it time for an official referee? – Yes 
  • Is it time to put your management subculture first? – Yes 
  • Is it time you revisit and agree on your leadership principles? – Yes  
  • Is it time to take face known issues between “leads” within your business? – Yes 
  • Is it time to remove the battle in the boardroom/zoom room? – Yes 

Ensuring some personality types need internal competition and battles is key to good management, ensuring it does not spill over and become a larger theme is essential. 

The fight behind closed doors happens in almost every business, numerous times a week, it is how you manage this as a business leader and how you attempt to address these outstanding issues to truly move the business forward. 

This week concentrate on taking the time to review how these fight behind closed doors are taking place, the impact it is having and whether some leaders need to step up or step out. 

Have a great week and remember conflict is a disagreement, a temporary clash (can be positive), and combat is an ongoing fight or battle (often negative). 

Danny Denhard

Essential Follow Up Reading

Company Culture Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 101 – Opinions Vs Feedback & Pixar Pluses

Dear leaders, I want to be clear in my message this week, language and words matter more now than ever before.
We are going to dive into Opinions Vs Feedback. 

Hybrid Challenges: In the hybrid work world we are mostly operating in, landing that message, providing feedback and offering insights have to be clearer and more deliberate than ever. Many are missing the mark with hybrid communications. 

It’s time to review small tweaks to have bigger impacts. 

Sad Over Mad? 

In Product teams, you often have retros, it is “a safe place” to review the last sprint. Often the safe place or space (in hybrid working) can be hostile. 

Many frame it with Mad (things that made you mad), glad (things you are glad about and for), and sad (things that make you sad about the release/product). 

In almost all retros like this, mad and sad overtakes glad and kills the celebrations, kills micro-moments, and concentrate on what could have been. 

Even with great business results, you will see a negative impact on the product subculture and creates an internal cultural bleed.

When I temporarily took over a Product team a few years ago, I instantly removed mad, it was simply sad and glad, you would start with glad (always start with a positive) and end quick fire with sad. 

Removing ‘mad’, removed venting and negative opinions helped bring the teams closer and celebrate each other’s victories for longer and celebrate cross-functionally.  

Just by removing one element – you can have better framing and better conversations. In some good news, some teams are now reframing this into (a) what worked, (b) what could have been better. 

Why words and framing matters

I am a believer that opinions really cut up organisations, feedback helps to reshape products, people and progress.

You should not look to remove opinions, after all, we all have them, however, opinions are often just what you think or how you might be biased for or against something. Opinions rarely help guide you forward and can be your opinion versus someone else’s. 

Feedback is action-orientated, it is built to add value not take value. Feedback should be constructive and a spin on improvement(s). 

By being deliberate and adding a focus on feedback over an opinion you are setting the framing in a better light and encouraging improvement. 

Pluses Focused Feedback? Pixar have ‘pluses’ in their review process of movies, all the company attends and can add a plus which adds value, the famous example (from Dan Coyle’s book the culture code the company culture playbook) is in Up and someone from outside the creation studio suggested a tweak (a joke) and it landed so well this plus was added into the movie. 

Could you reframe feedback sessions to be pluses focused and frame feedback as a plus each time? 

In the coming weeks when H2/2H is firmly in sight and essential you review how the previous six months have gone and how you need to reshape or optimise Q3 and Q4 can you remove opinions and add feedback and could these be framed as pluses not just as “plain feedback?”. 

Thanks and have a great week ahead,

Danny Denhard

Essential Reading

  1. How to fix toxic company culture
  2. What really is company culture
  3. Why it is time to hire a culture community manager
  4. The ultimate hybrid work guide
Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 99 – Leader & Cheerleader 

Dear Leaders, this is the 99th leadership newsletter I have sent out. It’s been a pleasure landing in your inboxes each week 

It has been 99 consecutive letters helping you to fight the battles that come thick and fast at leaders every day. 

This week I am going to show you why cheerleading is the hidden pillar of leadership. 

I set myself on a quest in 2020 to speak to as many leaders as I could.

I actually do something similar every year, however, when we were in lockdowns and trying to navigate that evolving landscape I wanted to speak to leaders who were driving their company forward. 

I spoke to leaders from as many industries as possible, including; secondary education, the military, sport, FMCG, creators, finance and fintech and there were three themes that arose from the calls and zooms:
(1) leadership evolves every day
(2) know when to lead and know when to get out of the way
(3) communication is key – but it’s how you deliver the message that is so important to landing that vital message. 

When I checked in with a few of these leaders recently, I revisited the themes and a fresh theme bubbled up to the top: knowing when to be the leader and when to be the cheerleader. 

The role of the leader regularly changes, but the core principles are often the same. 

Many learnt throughout the last three years that being leader changes but what was required most recently was being ‘the cheerleader’. Cheerleading the strategy, cheerleading the culture, cheerleading teamwork, cheerleading great work, cheerleading the pending business pivot, cheerleading change when many were proactively feared change. 

The issue many leaders cited was when their middle management and their leadership team struggled to rally the teams or galvanise change, it was on them to step up and cheerlead not always just force leadership decisions and change. 

Are you cheerleading enough? Are you embracing the role of the cheerleader and the impact is has on your team? 

This week consider how you can embrace this pillar of leadership and cheerlead more to help drive positive change.


Danny Denhard

Are you interviewing? Here are the company culture interview questions to ask 

Here are the 7 leadership tips to win 

Struggling with the hybrid work shift? Read the hybrid work guide 

Leadership Podcast

Leadership Masterclass Podcast

It is rare that you find a priceless podcast on leadership that you should pay for. This is one of those you feel you should have paid for.

This podcast with General Stanley McChrystal on the Knowledge Project podcast (I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter) with Shane Parrish.

Watch Or Listen Below

Quote of the podcast:

“When I was a brand-new lieutenant, I asked my father, “How would I know if somebody that I worked for or worked for me was going to be a good commander in combat? … How would you tell in peacetime?” He says, “You won’t. You won’t know because people have capabilities or coping mechanisms that in peacetime look fine, that doesn’t play well in war.”

Then I asked him, “Okay, when you’re in combat, how do you know?” He said, “Some people keep asking for more information and what they’re trying to do is drive uncertainty to zero so that there’s really not a question on the right course of action because you know everything.” But you can’t do that. It’s not achievable. So they become hesitant.

They become tentative, and they become focused on getting more and more information to ratchet the uncertainty out of the situation and they don’t act.”

General Stanley McChrystal & Shane Parrish

Why listen to this masterclass with General Stanley McChrystal:

  • Commander’s intent
  • Threats vs. vulnerabilities framework and maths
  • Detecting and avoiding threats
  • Decision making framework
  • Why tiredness is making us more risk averse in 2022
  • How to make decision’s in moral dilemma’s
  • Why money and bonuses hurts the cilivan leadership and workplace (and helps in the military)
  • Why person and organisational values need to work together and the who they are is so important to perform
  • Training Matters: Military takes average talents and drive way above average results
  • War time decisions are big time decisions but is rarely needed in peace time (due to laws and rules)
  • Why history will help
  • Why stress management is personal but there are guides you can follow
  • How to develop mental toughness
  • How to teach self discipline

Like This?

Listen to the fixing the broken world of work podcast.

Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Briony Gunson 🧘‍♀️ – Focus Podcast With Danny Denhard Fixing The Broken World Of Work Podcast

This episodes guest Briony Gunson ( is a business + mindset coach, meditation teacher + trauma-informed breathwork trainer, Briony helps individuals and businesses to improve.  Follow Briony across social – LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube.  The Links:  Briony's Introduction Video On YouTube Podcast: Aubrey Marcus – not about the world of work but psychology, spirituality, human potential + behaviour Book: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art  by James Nestor Newsletter: Brain pickings AKA The Marginalian has a free Sunday digest of the week’s most mind-broadening and hear Sign up to Briony's Friday Feels newsletter: – Briony archives them on her blog.  Listen to Briony's guided meditations on Insight Timer, e.g. this is a popular one: Briony also recommended Kirsty Hulse's work (Kirsty is great and gets my co-approval) Briony takes us on a journey of: Mental health and why it is so important to be aware of How mental health is evolving How your mental health can help to transform physical health Why early morning open-air swims have been so important Therapy and therapists role in peoples lives Why breathwork is so important Why our bodies are driven by our breath and controlling our breath Why Yoga is vital to so many of us Personal development starts with you Everyone is facing similar challenges – it's how you find the best course of action Why retreats are going to so popular and a necessary part of life and work You are the expert of yourself – why starting to listen to yourself and your body is so important
  1. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Briony Gunson 🧘‍♀️ – Focus Podcast With Danny Denhard
  2. Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn 🏴‍☠️
  3. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Peter Hopwood
  4. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Andy Reid
  5. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Jo Twiselton