Categories
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. 

Important Company Culture Resources:


For more information on the squiggly career – watch below

Categories
Company Culture Leadership

Why HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah Is Right About Doubling Down On Your Strengths

Over the past six months, there seems to be a great increase in the quality of podcasts where founders and co-founders speak openly and honestly about their experiences and the reasons why there is a trend for many business leads to suggest they are not great managers and shouldn’t be a people manager.

Conditioning

We are taught from early on in our careers we should become managers and this is the path to promotion and the natural evolution of your career.

Throughout my career, I have seen founders and c-suite execs who are terrible people managers and actively shouldn’t have any of their business reporting into them.

The impact this has the company culture and success of the business is hugely negative and leaves many with a bad taste in their mouth and many bad glassdoor reviews.

There are so many startups that rely on founders and cofounders to take themselves out of people management for the sake of their business growth, unfortunately, due to the conditioning and ego, this rarely happens.

Dharmesh Shah commented on the MLM podcast (which is part of Hubspot via an acquisition) that he is not a good people manager and has no direct reports.

This is uncommon, not just to admit this but also to not actually have a big line of direct reports.

Many more should speak out on this. Especially those who know it is their weakness.

Play To Your Strenghts Or Speciality?

If your strengths are Product and Product development like many founders, then why would you not double down on this? If you are a specialist and do not have the time or energy to invest in becoming a good people leader, why wouldn’t you bring in someone with better people skills and more time and skills for this?

Good Managers Are Hard To Find

Some of the best managers I have ever worked with are specialists and with the coaching and management team development and executive training, I have incorporated this and many years of experience to build these learnings into organisational design and exec development.

The Question To Answer For Leaders

This should be a question many people ask themselves now, and each quarter, should I be a people manager and if not, how do I go about organisation design to replace myself and bring in the right manager for this department or bring in a specialist manager.

Watch the 2-minute video (below) perfectly explaining why senior execs do not need to be people managers and why they shouldn’t be.

One note to take onboard:
Bad managers who think they are good managers rarely will remove themselves, look to review your teams feedback and ask for peer feedback on your management skills.

So ask yourself: Am I a good people manager and should I look to remove myself and work to my specialities.

Categories
Company Culture

Front’s 4 Day Work Week Approach – Flexible Fridays

Why flexible Friday’s may just be the next natural step for forward thinking brands with 4 day work weeks.

There are currently three big work themes:

  1. The Great Resignation
  2. Hybrid Work (vs remote work vs forced return back to the office)
  3. The potential move to 4 day work weeks

None of these has easy answers or is easily addressed without intentional and deliberate planning and critically smart testing.

The great resignation is an important moving theme, the US is experiencing huge shifts of employees leaving their roles. In the UK and EU there are bigger challenges to actually fill open roles. Many candidates are experiencing recruiter ghosting at a record rate.

Move to Hybrid? With the ‘forced working from home experiment we have all experienced over the last 18 months, hybrid work is one of the easier themes to test and roll out.

The 4 day work week is picking up momentum, many companies believe with smart planning and fewer meetings there will be opportunities to reduce work from five to four day work weeks.

With all of these themes, trust and proximity bias are driving forces for companies defaulting to the old ways of working.

Front is doing it differently, smartly addressing pain points. Front is a communication platform that enables teams and customers to feel more connected through shared inboxes. 

Recently Front tested and reviewed their approach on four day work week. They dubbed it Flexible Friday’s.

What Is Flexible Friday’s?

Rather than enforcing four day work weeks, they enabled Friday’s to be flexible, offering the employees a choice between:
(a) if you would like to work – designed for deepwork
(b) if you would like to spend time with your family
or
(c) a blend of both.

The results (listed below) are not surprising, if anything they show why six months tests are smart testing periods and highlight why working through and optimisation is so important in workplace management and organisational design.

Front’s full blog post is a genuine must-read for business leaders and HR heads, here are my highlights:

  1. Patience – it’s going to be tough going and a big shift for all employees, for the most junior and to the most senior.
  2. Coverage – help teams to be successful and enable communciation and sharing of the most important information. Internal communication is something that requires delibarate design and guiding principles.
  3. For The Long Term – this move was for long term retention not just to address the short term issues. Flexible hours and 4 day work weeks have to designed and have an agreed understanding it could cause issues earlier in the test.
  4. 4 vs 5 – 4 day work stress is the same or worse as 5 days if you do not help teams adapt and know they can be flexible and successful. Something that many businesses are failing with is cramming the same number of meetings into fewer days and it is causing no time for deepwork.
  5. Positive Impact Surveys – By leveraging feedback and surveys there were two positive feedback loops that enabled Front to offer Flexible Friday’s and want to continue the experiement.

If you are looking to trial Flexible Friday’s, or remove meetings to help with burnout and workload’s it is essential you:

  • List all existing issues, pain points and concerns
  • Have a plan with guidelines and how to be successful
  • Agree on behaviours that are accepted and allows the business to understand how you are doing right and a good job
  • Communicate the work flow and cadence – colleagues should know if you are working or not. Simple accountability and easy tracking of who is working and who is not is essential
  • If employees need to be in a location or an office

Below is the full LinkedIn Update from their CEO Mathilde Collin (link to the LinkedIn post)

We’re rethinking the work week at Front.

For now 2 quarters we’ve been experimenting with Flexible Fridays, a dedicated day where there is no expectation to respond to messages and no scheduled meetings. 

How is this different from a 4 day work week? Flexible Fridays gives everyone the option of a day of deep, uninterrupted focus or a day they could take for themselves. It’s our happy medium between ensuring our business and service to customers was not disrupted while promoting a healthier work/life balance for Fronteers.

Here are some of the results from our experiment so far:

  • In our survey, 89% of Fronteers say they work happier because of Flexible Fridays. 
  • 95% of Fronteers say Flexible Fridays have had no impact on collaboration with their colleagues.
  • And the stat I’m most proud of: 87% of Fronteers say Flexible Fridays have positively impacted their desire to work at Front for the next two years. 

Despite the overwhelmingly positive response, success with our experiment wasn’t instant. It took some patience and adjustments to get this model to work. But I’m loving the feedback we’re seeing and count this as a success for our team now. I wanted to share these results for others to see the benefit increased flexibility can have for teams. If you decide to try this for your team, let me know how it goes. I’m excited to continue experimenting with what ‘work happier’ truly means for our team and beyond.

Read About The Other Companies Attempting To Design Work Differently

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Is An External Profile Important As A Leader?

Dear focus, is having an external profile important as a department or business leader? 

This is a question that is not asked enough and one many will not have a chance to consider if they are not proactively looking at developing out their career. 

An external profile is something you have to craft, build, stay active with and balance alongside your workload. 

In recent years, a spokesperson or a company rep has interchanged from external spokespeople to an internal spokesperson or selected people.

Demands constantly change but the representation of brands and industry leaders will always be an important pillar. 

Categories
Strategy

Has your business stepped too far away from your customer’s problems?

One of my fundamental beliefs is the best and most successful companies were set up to fix existing problems and then some were set up to help fix the next wave of problems.   

The best and most successful business strategies in the world are based on problem-solving.   

The most successful companies either help to fix said problems, help consumers to solve the problem or matchmake the consumer and the right solution or solution provider. 

The art of business always needs a middle person to connect problems with problem solvers. 

One of the core issues many companies face is getting to a size where they stop solving core issues for their customers. 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

How To Connect Company & Company Leadership Team

In this week’s anonymous career advice column, we hear from someone who is facing common struggles many of us do. 

Dear focus, many of the company is struggling with connecting with their bosses and the ELT. They are disconnected and really wrestle with being approachable and being able to commit to the direction we are going. Any tips?

Thanks for sharing your experience today. I will take a guess this has happened for a prolonged period of time and likely started before the forced work-from-home experiment. 

There are five givens within businesses who are going through a phase of change, it sounds like you are experiencing three: 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 70 – The Fear Of Your Discipline Moving Ahead Of You 

Dear Leaders,

For a recent keynote presentation, I created a dedicated list of fears leaders go through and stack ranked those fears. 

When I create leadership lists and content for larger presentations, I always run it through a group of c-suite connections who then suggest what they are going through.

One of the agreed-upon biggest fears leaders had was the fear of their discipline moving on ahead of them.
This is something I know many department heads struggle with, you have team management, getting your work done, being an executive and then juggling the work admin. 

I recently spoke to a group of Product and Marketing leaders and when I raised the fear of being left behind, many had not considered it but almost all admitted they hadn’t been in a place to keep on top of the latest moves. 

Losing Subject Matter Expertise?

One of the biggest challenges for department heads is how to be the best department heads (ensuring the right work is being delivered + internal politics), and how to keeping on top of your industry and the movements. 

This is one of the juggles many professionals go through and is rarely discussed. 

How do you know how to prioritise, keep up and lead from the front with so many challenges?

Hint, collaboration and internal training and coaching from your team and those around you. 

The question for you to ponder this week is: 

How far removed from your discipline are you and how do you intend to get back on track? 

Or do you believe you are serving the team best by being removed? 

Actionable Recommendations 

Something I recommend is to have monthly sessions where you discuss the industry changes with your department, what those in your market and importantly outside of your market are rolling out and how they did this. 

For your own personal development, I would recommend you create a list of five news sources you trust and create a list to block out time to keep up to date with their content, if not daily then weekly. 

Lastly, always have an ongoing and updated inspiration board/wiki/note to help you (and the team) rethink problems and be inspired by what others are doing and how you could apply this to your business.  

Thanks for reading today and have a great week,

Danny Denhard 

Helpful Resources

Read or watch my recent presentation 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Is it possible to have a non subject expert as a department lead?

This week’s anonymous career advice centre’s around a common issue where the department lead is not a subject matter expert and struggles with driving their own teams forward.

Dear focus, my department lead (my direct boss) is not a subject matter expert. They struggle with having the right level of in-depth conversation with the team and it’s impacting our department and delivering important products.
What would you recommend? 

This is more common than you believe and something many of the readers will be questioning or have questioned recently. 

There are often a number of ways to look at this and typically falls into two sides or two schools of thought. 

The Two Sides 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 69 – Why It Is Ok To Be On The Fence

Dear Leaders, recently we have learnt the lesson that life is often too short. 

Something that is often questioned in upper management is people’s commitment.
Is our team fully committed?
Are they on the bus?
Do they bleed the company colours?

For years I was a BIG believer in this, I was a big advocate of: are you in or are you out? 

Until a few years ago when I had to really consider what it meant to be in the middle, not fully in or fully out.
And you know what, it was and is ok. 

My Experience: 

On one occasion, in an away long-range planning session, I was called out “for being on the fence”, a set of the leadership team were not convinced I was fully committed. 

Why?

I was fully committed to doing my job and getting the best results for the business, however, I had pushed myself to the brink, I pushed my colleagues to step forward to take on important projects and I knew we were up against a challenging period and I knew deep down I was not going to be able to give my usual 110%. 

I was however aware at that business I was not progressing at the same velocity I had for a few years before, the company openly couldn’t match my ambition and importantly, I was not 100% brought into the lack of vision and I would often question a number of decisions we as the leadership team were making. 

I was often pushing for different (in mind much smarter) outcomes vs wanting to just “disagree and commit” as the others did. 

What this made me realise was this and something I teach in my coaching sessions

  • Commitment is a two-way street – you and the company have to show you are both committed 
  • You can be a professional and disagree with decisions but still get your job done right and keep pushing and developing those around you 
  • Some companies will never match your own ambitions – this is for you to work out or work through — or leave 
  • Being all in or all out is more poker than real working life, having the right beliefs and making the right sets of bets is best for the company 
  • Companies evolve, as do professionals, sometimes you drift apart – this does not mean you do not want the best for the company 
  • Vision is a big part of leadership, if some struggle with vision or sharing a long term vision, then that’s a personal discussion to have or a point to discuss as a management team 
  • It is then natural for people to assume you are interviewing, hearing about other roles and taking other opportunities when you take a step back from being in every conversation or taking on more projects others who know you will notice – you must deal with this and a challenge coming
  • There are risks and benefits to being in a company for a prolonged period of time – on many occasions salary is just not going to be enough for your sanity
  • It is ok to know there is more out there and for you to pursue opportunities – as an individual you have to decide if you discuss this with your line manager or CEO, be wary this will 99% of the time play against you.

Unfortunately, my commitment being questioned did ultimately help me decide to leave for another opportunity that was right for me and my future.
However, when someone is on the fence in your business, it doesn’t mean they are working against what you want, or what your business needs to achieve, it can mean they are opening up potentials for them and the business. 

This week I recommend you think about your own situation, you consider how you and the company might be pushing people to consider their options and lastly, ponder how you could actually benefit from different discussions and reconsidering leading with paranoia when your colleagues are considering their next steps, it could be the best for the company and enable you to bring in someone else to refresh the management team. 

Have a great week. 

Danny Denhard 

PS if you and the business are always doing strategy and AOP the same way, you have to read this strategy article.


Other Leadership Articles To Improve You As A Leader:

Why the next big business will be people-powered 

Why Management Pods will help you improve your leadership

Why a rotating contrarian role will help your leadership team 

Why Microsoft CEO thinks Hybrid is a paradox

Watch my keynote presentation on fan clubs, communities, tribes and herds

Categories
Leadership

The Official Rotating Role Of The Contrarian “Leader”

The majority of businesses are shaped in the same way, businesses typically set up in the way they have always done it and often hire traditional leadership style teams and organise their management teams around department lead, versus, hiring good leaders to add different dynamics to leadership teams and add different values to the business. 

The Devils Advocate  

Playing devil’s advocate can be fun, it can however be exhausting and often certain “leaders” become known as that person.

There is something about the person who always plays devil advocate, it is one of the known tactics consultancies use to help their clients to think differently. 

When management consultants take senior roles within businesses, they will often take on the role and play devil’s advocate, some will often be the person who asks “is this the next $x million opportunity‘ or “is this big enough?”. 

Combative Contrairain? 

One of the core issues with having a contrarian is they often enable combat (not conflict) within the company especially within their own team, their approach is often mocked and will often have knock-on effects for the business and subsequently can have a negative impact on the company sub culture.

Being known as contrarian often has an underlining negative connection to it.

The Contrarian Challenge 

Very often this can be grating on the management team and particularly when teams pitch at the “lead” and they create friction by always playing their contrarian role. 

An important point here is to understand that the contrarian is either something that you enable and support the combative side of the contrarian approach.
Or you acknowledge and address it as a role (opportunity) people play. 

Disagree To Commit Or Commit To Agree

The contrarian is a role that can be challenging, it can be the role that many management teams look to remove to ensure they have a team that agrees and commits quickly to the plan they co-create.

Each business is different, however, the approach of removing the contrarian is often a deliberate and intentional one, especially to gain alignment quickly.

This is not right for every business but often it can be an effective one if you need to move fast and reduce friction.  

Executive Leadership Team Contrarian 

If you do not have that role within your management team or you have someone who asks the devil’s advocate or acts as the contrarian, a successful way to approach having the right balance is to before meetings or strategy sessions is to appoint a contrarian and their job is to smartly ask the challenging questions. 

It is to challenge the idea or point being pitched and to get to the bottom of the issue or the pitch to truly enable your teams for success. 

The idea of the contrarian isn’t just to be seen as challenging but to ensure the best possible outcome is considered and then followed up with a detailed and actionable plan. 

Your Next Steps

In the next few weeks look to create a rotating role as the contrarian and introduce a way to challenge ideas, concepts and challenges in a different way to get the best out of people and create a more rounded, evolving leadership team. 

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