Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 35 – Your Star Performer Decides To Leave – Now What?

Your Star Performer Decides To Leave – Now What?

8th February 2021,

Dear leaders,

This week I wanted to provide you with a quick scenario that some of you are facing currently that will help with the next few months. 

It is the first few weeks into the team’s stride, you have grand plans to execute, you survived the most testing year in our lives, and you get the dreaded “Do you have five minutes?” teams message sent to you. 
You make a guess of what it is but you are unsure. 

You arrange a quick teams call, your team member looks nervous and cuts straight to the chase, I’ve been offered another role and I wanted to let you know.

The team member is the “star performer of the team”, the best at their job and the one you tended to rely on.  

Your heart sinks, you look at your own face in the camera box and catch your face full of disappointment and regret. 

Your reaction says it all, you say “congrats” and “you’re happy for them” and you say the cliche, “is there anything I can do to change your mind”.

The response is a polite no. 

If you are unsure why you landed here, you won’t be the only manager or leader to in January or February. 

Your reaction and next actions will set you and your team up for the future, yes speak to the rest of the leadership team and HR to find out if you can replace, this will be the first question your team asks.

Ask for the formalities from your departing colleague but most importantly take this opportunity to step up and become the leader you need to be, the team need and lead from the front and be the leader you likely didn’t have.  

Your next actions are critical: 

  • Arrange an exit interview, ask for the factors that led to your colleague wanting to leave, ask for full transparency, it is important you understand the decisions they made and how you could have improved the team or the role for that person. Even if you don’t want to hear what they say, transparency is essential
  • Set up times with the rest of the team/department individually to understand how they are feeling and how they can operate
  • Understand the morale of the team and the department and address the concerns and arrange actions that will help to bring the team or department closer together 
  • Transparently call out any issues you may have uncovered, show your workings out and how you will address this and how you would like the team to assist.
    Bringing the team closer together is essential when the high performer leaves. Many will want to step up, they will want to be asked
  • Team Design: Being deliberate about how the new team will shape is often an important step many overlook, replacing like for like might not the best for the team. Show how you are looking to reshape and design the team moving forward, consider those who are on the team and how there could be someone internally who can step up or move across to bring in a different set of skills. 
  • Break down the team goals and how you can focus the team’s efforts on the goal – focusing the team around the collective goals helps everyone to focus as a team and become together  
  • Arrange a timeline of the next actions and when they will take place, who you will want to be part of the process and think of how you can bring together the hidden leader and secret weapon together to help ask for their feedback and help coach them. 
  • Make time to discuss this situation with other leaders: Make time with your leadership team and discuss the steps you took and why you made the decisions you did, you likely would have brought this up at your management meeting but these steps will help those around you to improve their leadership skills. As suggested in management pods there always ways to grow as a leadership team. This is one.

This seems a daunting list however these are the most important actions you will take when this happens. The team will rely upon you and your leadership skills will come into question.
Your Company Culture is often shaped by those who leave and when they leave as much who those are in the business. Owning this and co-owning the performance moving forward is paramount.

Many times when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, you will need to operationally improve and make time to the leader, prioritise and attack, this is not the time to be on defence.

Have a good week and formalise this as a plan when this happens in the next few weeks.

Thanks and have a good week.

Danny Denhard.

Recommended Read: If you might struggle to gain support from the managers around you, consider reshaping into Management Pods

Read last week’s newsletter:

Business Performance Company Culture

Replicating 10 Rules

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

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

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

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

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

Kobe Bryant’s 10 Rules Were:

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

My personal favourite is: Learn from wins and losses.  

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

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

How To Make & Use Your Own Rules?

The Exercise

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

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

Watch Kobe’s Rules Video

Important Recommended Reads

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 33 – Soft Skills Ignorance

25th January 2021

Dear Leaders,

This week you will be likely starting to arrange Q2 planning with your departments and understanding where you have landed and where you need to step up and improve.

Throughout leaders letters, there has been three main themes leadership, company culture and developing out your team through training, values and principles.

This week I want to offer some advice on tackling “soft skill ignorance”. This is an important part of my mission to fix the broken world of work.
Soft skills are typically elements within a business you cannot put a direct revenue figure on from spreadsheet management.

Soft Skills typically considered are:

  • Time management
  • Networking
  • Teamwork
  • Team building
  • Creative thinking
  • Conflict
  • Problem-solving
  • Work ethic
  • Communication.

Many of these soft skills would be classified under company culture, historically c-suite members have struggled to assign a pound or dollar amount to these skills. In more recent times these skills have been clearly called out and many tools are attempting to assign a revenue value to these.

Be a leader – Address the problem top-down

I have sat in leadership team meetings when culture was always an agenda point but there was a fear by many others on how to address this.

HiPPO’s are often the worst at understanding the importance of company culture and it impacts on organisational health.

I have advised companies where culture is something they knew was an issue but took a true leader to go first and call out the issue they were experiencing and come forward as part of the problem.

There are many times as a leadership team, you have to step forward, call out poor behaviour and address the elephant in the room head-on.

The problem for many businesses, there is still an ignorance on how company culture impacts bottom line and many execs do not want to or do not know how to look at soft skills.

How to tackle soft skill ignorance:

If you sit on a leadership team or part of a management team the easiest way to address soft skill ignorance is to first call out how bad your company culture and how it is impacting your business. Data points and examples of these are important but applying a framework will help for the rest of the management or leadership team to apply the same methodology.
By showing the data, you can show how your teams or departments are struggling from an output perspective and how you will have to work harder as a leader to address and bring the departments together cross-functionally.

You can use many matrixes to guide you in mapping these out, one that has worked for me previously: map out in columns: (a) happiness, (b) performance and (c) output mapped out by (rows) person by scoring 1 (low) to 10 (high) and as a team provides you with an easy to follow score and average.

When there is a conflict you can add this into the scoring matrix by team and department and apply cross-functionally.

Throughout large projects or products being rolling out performance will fluctuate, when the performance takes a dip you will likely see some respond positively and others respond with fear and performance anxiety if you are keeping track and on top of 1:2:1’s you will likely see this reflected in individuals, in teams and then departments.

By reviewing scoring as a leadership team and having open and frank conversations you will be more on top of soft skills, you will be more attuned to what is happening with your business and in places to tackle these issues reducing the performance anxiety, the friction and the conflict happening within your business.

This is just one blended method of tackling soft skills, you may have an org that needs management teams to be made aware of issues or act ignorantly, happily forward this letter them or send my email address to help you address this toxic management trait.

Have a good week thinking about how you could roll this or something similar out within your businesses and as ever let me know if there is something I can help you and your business with.


Danny Denhard

Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 22nd January

This weeks five for Friday, we dive into the best leadership videos on TED and select five of the best leadership videos.

TED is a great resource for communicating big ideas and being able to be inspirational and story tell. Three essential qualities for leaders in 2021 and beyond.

What’s the difference between heroes and leaders?

How to overcome our bias.

What it takes to be a great leader

Dare to disagree

How to lead in a crisis

If you have enjoyed these videos definitely sign up for our leaders letter newsletter below.

Company Culture Uncategorized

Isolated Talks – Hidden Leaders

In our second video for Isolated Talks, here is a build on Hidden Leaders.

Find out:

  • If you are a hidden leader
  • What hidden leaders are to their companies away from performance metrics
  • Why hidden leaders are so important to companies
  • Why, when they leave companies, companies really struggle to understand why

Hidden Leaders Video

If you are in the position to help today, please consider helping those who are someone struggling in isolation.

Hidden Leaders Presentation

If you prefer a presentation to flick through, this is the presentation for the video.


It Is Ok To Want To Move On As A Leader

There has been much made for many years around company loyalty, the job market and being a leader and looking to move on. 

Leader Loneliness

As a leader, you are under so many more pressures than your team and colleagues realise and will even know. 
You keep it bottled up and find one or two people you can vent or download on to.

Team Before Me

Many times as a leader you have to make calls that are best for the team.
Rarely are you given the opportunity to make the calls that are good for you specifically.

Obviously bad and inexperienced managers do put themselves first.

As a leader (not a manager) you make decisions to empower those around you and move towards the department or company targets. 

Often as a leader, it can feel like you are too busy to think about your career, you often end up neglecting opportunities to develop your own career, you tend to put those around you or the business first. When you get a chance to look up it can feel like you are going backwards. 


There comes a time when almost all leaders have that realisation. You will often realise the company is just not what it was or going where you want it to go or it’s just not for you anymore. 

This can feel more daunting the higher up you go. Especially in more recent times with lockdowns and pandemics. 

Questions From Leadership Team

You might have experienced this first hand or likely have asked it as a leader…are you committed to the company?

There is also only so many times someone can truly disagree and commit. 

Knowing when it’s your time

When you realise it is your time to leave, you are actively making the decision to improve the company culture, often when we know we are looking we have the tendency do drop the ball or have passed to the wrong player. It is also completely fine to look to leave for a better company fit for you.

So a new year can be a fresh start, you can look to leave and as many won’t suggest it is good to understand the market, understand or remember your value or worth, remember in no rules rules, Netflix actively encourage you to go for other interviews and understand your value. 

Leaders Lead

Do not let questions from other leaders or do what people expect to hold you back. A leader has to lead, and typically it has to start with yourself. So yes, it is always to leave, even if you are the CEO.

The important thing to remember is to leave your company or organisation in a great place and set them up to succeed for as possible.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 24 – Turning Being Strategic Into A Company-Wide Playbook


Dear Leaders, Happy Monday.

Over the past six months, I have written to you weekly on important topics, leadership, company culture, trust and strategy.

I truly believe that beliefs and bets (leaders letter 5 is a great read on why beliefs and bets are essential) are the best way to frame and building a long term successful company-wide strategy.

A strategy is supposed to be hard but reworking work for the year ahead, in short, the strategy is the act of deciding what not to do, it’s agreeing on the actions you are going to take, the steps you will take and the tactics you will follow.

As soon as you add in layers and layers of tactics you are moving away from the top-level leadership piece a strategy has. Details are essential at a department and team level but sharing all of this information makes a strategy a detailed playbook, and this is actually a great way to breakdown a complicated business for everyone within the business to understand the steps you and fellow teams are taking. This also ensures everyone knows the next steps forward and where it all aligns, and if the playbook needs updating it can be and send out notifications tactical elements have changed.

Recently I have heard be strategic, being strategic and strategically minded as ways to explain acts of being deliberate or making the time to think clearly and plan.

This is not directly bad, however, allowing teams to hide behind being strategic by planning means many take this as a strategy when it is being deliberate and rolling up or into one company-wide strategy.

A strategy is not a list of tactics or channels its the action plan for the business, a strategy is being able to:

  • 🧠 Think 5 years ahead, understand the lay of the land,
  • 📝 Plan 3 years with firm bets and beliefs of where your market and products are going
  • 💪 Act 1 year, being absolutely ruthless for the year head and the exact actions you will take.

The playbook is an essential part of connecting this all together.

Moving forward focus on removing the confusion around strategy and tactics.
Enable teams to understand they are part of the bigger company-wide strategy, their plans of actions are essential in company success, however, ensure they roll up and align with the core pillars you have to serve and hit and should all be found and updated in the centralised playbook.

An action to take is to write the beliefs and bets out, serving a small number of pillars and then ask the teams to create their plan of action and ensure it reads simply for the wider business so it can fit into a company-wide playbook for the year ahead.

One recommendation I have for all of my consultancy clients is to have one person who leads the playbook project and ensures update are made and communicated.

Thanks and have a good week,


PS, Take a read of its time for management pods.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 23: Remote Work Influences On Company Culture


Dear Leaders, 

I trust you had a good weekend and feel refreshed for the week ahead. 

Company culture is difficult, it is a process and something we all strive to improve. 

In what company culture is I dive into what company culture is and what company culture is not. 

A framing and a guide are always going to be helpful to businesses setting out to improve their company’s culture and embrace the important journey you and your colleagues need to go on.

Numerous leaders have commented that remote work feels more transactional. This negatively impacts the company culture and productivity.

What leaders mean by this is having meetings and getting straight to the point and onto the next meeting.

You miss the hallways conversation, you don’t get those brilliantly timed breaks between meetings, you miss that time with the team where you might spitball an idea and it turns into a campaign or a product tweak. 

You have less time and opportunity to talk for three minutes before or after a meeting and you often have to virtually dash between back to back videos calls without making time to talk to your colleagues outside of the product or project you are working on.

I have heard from leadership teams outside of SMT’s, their team meetings and 1-2-1’s leaders are not getting to check in with those who they might have spoken to or actively sought out when in the office previously. 

One manager commented they haven’t spoken to someone they used to see daily in six months. 

A handful of leaders have said they have felt time and work shift to “being more transactional” less personal. 

On the surface, this might have sounded like a proactive step taken from some organisations to ensure work while being at work, but diving into transactional, what professionals really mean is they are not checking in those they were close with. 

Those who might provide a different opinion or perspective or given a guide on what the impact might be to the group of users they might look after. 

With the way you are working currently, are you alienating a number of team members or stifling cross-departmental collaboration? Or is it personally decreasing your ability to make quick and important decisions away from email or a chat tool? 

Is there a solution to checking in or battling back to back transactional meetings?  

Yes, a couple of simple ideas. 

The first dedicate a section of time to be open in your calendar where you have an open room (Zoom/Meets etc) where people can drop by or bump into you. 

The second would be to book in coffee breaks and buddy up, 10-20 minute slots where you find time to chat, discuss projects and enable different conversations. 

A third might be to use an open document (think shared PowerPoint, Google Slides), a mural or miro where you can have some ideas or post-it notes. 

I trust this is food for thought for you and your leadership team.

Thanks and have a good week,

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 14 – Your Secret Weapon

Your Secret Weapon


Dear Leaders,
A short and sharp letter for today.

There is something I run through in every organisation I work with, it is called find your secret weapon.

In every organisation, there is a secret weapon. It can be micro-behaviours, a specific person, it can a department, it can be the unprompted coffee and snack break teams just do.

A number of times it is a behaviour but more recently it actually is a person, an internal influencer (as I call them) who really and truly drives people forward.

In a recent conversation, I asked a business leader to go find her company’s secret weapon, she found out by speaking to her leadership team it was the number of rising stars they had and that came from “great recruitment” and “great internal coaching”.

When I challenged the leader if they could scale (or power) up the secret weapon she replied with a huge YES!  
Have a guess what they are now concentrating on for the next 15 months?

It is more internal coaching, identifying internal talents and developing more rising stars through more coaching.

I challenge you to go a step further: I highly recommend you add a further proactive step, decide how you will then turn your these internal influencers into your next leaders, maybe reread letter 1, develop leaders.

This week focus on finding your business secret weapon and then identifying and developing the next phase of leaders.
It will be the best investment of H2 2020!


P.S. If you are a sports fan, I highly recommend Spurs’ All or Nothing on Amazon Prime (i’m an Arsenal fan and I shouldn’t say this, but, it is great) to understand how the sports world have these and how coaches leverage their secret weapon(s) too.

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 12 – Idiot With A Plan?

Idiot With A Plan?


Dear Leaders,
Are you ready and raring for this week?

I recently started creating a list of quotes, it got to over 60 and many of them are actually well worth sharing, so I started to tweet them daily at 8.30. Quotes can have many reactions (they either resonate or they flop) but one that will always stand the test of time in business is from Warren Buffet.

For all of the strategic sessions, I have sat in, proactively participated in the earlier phase of my career, to co-creating on leadership teams, to leading company-wide strategy is; everyone within organisations needs a centralised plan, they need to access it and feel they were a part of it and be connected to it.
“An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan.”
-Warren Buffett

I have a strict rule when consulting with businesses, you have one (yes just one) company-wide strategy, you have three pillars you are going to concentrate on for the year and then a series of bets that are driven by a number of beliefs.

These are all driven by one Focus Metric that guides you through making decisions to reviewing are we on track?  
Each team then have their own action plan that rolls up into the company-wide strategy and must connect with the other teams regularly to ensure they are all on the same page throughout creating the action plan to rolling these out.

This connection and co-creation are essential. Surprises are what hits business hardest. Believe it or not, some businesses do not operate with a formal plan and do not share formally with their teams. Many leaders talk about their plan to their leadership team and forget to share and talk through.

Surprisingly one meticulously created company-wide plan can shock even the most experienced leaders, often responses are ‘everyone knows the plan’ or ‘we just get on and do it’ – well as Buffet states an idiot with a plan can beat a genius without one. Are you an idiot with a plan (I hope not) or a genius without a plan?

This week focus on starting to plan for Q4 and 2021 and putting together a meticulous plan. If you would like to discuss strategy and adopting the Focus approach to Strategy happily reach out.

Danny Denhard

PS – If you missed leaders letter 5 beliefs and bets newsletter it is well worth a read regarding bets and beliefs.