Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 154 – Motivated Demotivated Empowered Powerless Management Matrix

Dear leaders, a big part of what I do is to get under the base layer and understand what the key drivers and triggers of people, teams, departments and leadership teams are. 

One of my preferred ways of getting the best results whilst coaching and running workshops with managers and c-suite execs is to ask a series of questions about themselves (remember you are the protagonist in your own story) and then dive into their management practises. 

Reduce Your Personal Management Struggles

Most managers struggle to answer simple questions about their team members, rightly or wrongly most of these don’t work on these issues and don’t want to even attempt to go another layer deeper, my own strong personal belief is that approach is going to hinder you, especially when performance is dropping or team members start to struggle. Retaining staff or being able to decide to let them leave comes down to how much you know about them alongside their personal metrics. 

I have a simple set of questions managers should be able to answer on each one of their direct team members (or direct reports). 

Motivated – Demotivated – Empowered – Powerless Questions:  

Motivates – what motivates your team member (is it money, it is status, is it opportunities to step up)

Demotivates – what demotivates your team member (is it a lack of recognition, is it poor results from their work, is it struggling with their colleagues) 

Empowers – What empowers your team member, where do they feel empowered? 

Powerless – When does your team member feel powerless? In what situations does your team member need extra support? 

What will these help with?

  • Better 1:2:1’s 
  • Better team management meetings 
  • Improves your team or department subculture 
  • Better ways of motivating the team 
  • Better ways of understanding when team members are low or need a rallying cry, what you need to say collectively or to individuals. 
  • Better ways of pairing your team members and connecting your department or team leads together 
  • A way to keep a record and update when you notice patterns or shifts and provides you with a way to coach your direct reports with theirs. 

My leadership hypothesis is:
If you cannot boil down management into tables and simple matrixes, most people will struggle to keep on top of management tasks and people leadership. Without these tools, you will not be able to break down the task at hand. 

With the continuing demands of management and non-stop work, you need better, not more tools in your arsenal to keep a record, have a log of change and importantly coach those around you.

This week’s focus action: look to complete the simple management matrix with your direct reports, bonus points if you can include your skips (those who report to a layer below you) and see how you can either find out more or motivate in different ways. 

Thanks and have a great week. 

Danny Denhard

Here are our other free frameworks

Qualifying That “Idea” To Strategic Bet

Matrix & Guides 

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 153 – Critical Distance & The Power Of Creating Space

Dear leaders, do you ever give yourself the chance to take a step or two back and gain critical distance away from a situation or an ongoing problem at work?

The answer likely is no and not as much as I’d like. 

This week let’s change that. 

In my coaching, the theme that comes up most often other than being too busy is actually how do I not get bogged down by the detail or the potential pressure of a situation?

The question often is qualified to – 

Will I ever get enough space or a chance to get away from a situation and tackle the problem with a different point of view to help move the business forward?  

Leaders Lead: Some of the greatest business leads I have ever worked for or with have this ability to create a way to step back (even in the moment) and understand the landscape and give themselves critical distance

I heard critical distance come up in a recent podcast with BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti. He commented on a question about being able to understand a situation differently and he said he didn’t have the critical distance to have a different perspective. 

A little trip down memory lane: I remember being pulled from an interview (I was conducting) with a potential senior management candidate because there was a PR fire happening and they needed my input. 

I asked for a 60-second breakdown as I walked to the “war room” and then asked the team to add their expert opinion and boil down our options into my previously shared one problem two solutions

When listening to the team and their solutions, I knew many were too close to the problem and couldn’t step up, step back or step out of the problem to see the most obvious solution. 

As I listened I wrote the suggestions on the whiteboard everyone was saying different words but all had the same sentiment about the potential problem, me having the time and critical distance to digest and replay what I heard the solution was simple, let it play out for another hour and we regroup with changes.

Guess what; Over that next hour nothing had damaged us, almost everything kept the same apart from our customers supporting us across social media and the sh*tstorm subsided with the brand coming out better than before. 

Fortunately, the candidate was brilliant for the ten or so minutes I had left and even made themselves another drink and set up their presentation for the follow on.  

With the speed of change and the demand to constantly tweak and grow, I am sure critical distance will be a competitive advantage for many leaders so…
This week’s focus action is to train yourself on being ok and know it is ok to speak to trusted colleagues or to step back, step out or step above something, give yourself the critical distance to digest something and come back with what you believe to be the right solution moving forward.
I actually believe these types of leadership behaviours create strong bonds and enable the teams to mimic this behaviour and positively ripple through company culture.  

Have a great week and remember often ‘write it and keep in draft’ and take an extra five will help keep your sanity and likely keep the company moving forward. 

Thanks and remember to subscribe for me to land in your inbox every Monday morning,

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 152 – The Impact Of Fractional C-Suite Role

Dear leaders, have you noticed the trend of more fractional leaders? 

There have been numerous articles written in recent weeks about the rise of fractional leaders. Some have been positive, and others have questioned the risk and the reward of a “part-time lead” within businesses. 

Data via

Having been a fractional lead covering Operations, Growth and Marketing within a marketplace, I can speak on my personal experiences, however, to get to the bottom of this growth and the business impact of the fractional roles I wanted to dig deeper and ask current fractional leaders to give me their take on fractional roles and how they are driving businesses forward. 

The fractional c-suite leads interviewed were (click names below to connect): 

Q. With fractional roles becoming more and more popular, what are the two common themes you see when taking on fractional leadership roles? 

Camilla: In my experience, the main reason businesses are investing in Fractional roles is due to the unstable economic environment we are in – and the flexibility and reduced-financial risk these roles can offer. But, also the increasing understanding that a business that is not yet ready for an expensive CMO hire, can actually still afford to have the strategic prowess of one, and find it valuable despite not being full-time. 

Fractional briefs also allow you to be laser-focused on the job at hand, removing some of the fluff and politics that often come with a full-time role– so I have actually witnessed personally, and from peers, companies actually getting more impact from someone part-time, than a full time equivalent.

Mehul: I find the awareness is still very low outside the immediate group. Although in the current environment, companies are facing a multitude of challenges and there is an acceptance that they need to supplement their internal teams with external expertise to resolve those challenges

Mike: Early stage companies struggle to see the value of it until they try it. What can seem like an expensive upfront investment pales in insignificance when compared to the time that can be saved in up-skilling and waiting for a developing leader to meet the required level. More open, less defensive budding leaders see fractional leaders for what they are – a great opportunity to rapidly up-skill and increase the tangent of their own career development.
It’s not a threat, it’s a huge unfair advantage in their career.

I also see a lot of dysfunctional leadership teams with a lot of false harmony. Lots of back-slapping and perceptions that everything is rosey.
It’s only when you start peeling back the layers when teams realise that there’s a lot more to building an exceptional team.

James : Flexibility: More companies are welcoming the flexibility that working with Fractional CMOs brings. It certainly suits current market conditions, but also aligns with the remote working world.
Contractors would often be viewed as separate to the business, remote working is a great leveller with a lot of these barriers being removed. I also seeing this coming more and more into the agency world, with less “”lock in deals”” and lengthly contacts that companies are being held to. 

Multi-faceted Problem solving: Seeing more businesses looking for general senior problem solvers, who have operated in a similar space and can solve a set of key issues and problems that a business may face as it pertains to their growth.
This can often be less “straight-up marketing”, diving into a multitude of other areas – from strategy to data – all part of the modern CMO’s skillset.

Oren: Businesses early on with inexperienced leadership have a hard time rationalising the increased investment of fractionals. Why pay +1k a day when I can hire a 40k a-year marketer full-time? – The perceived value and remit of a fractional is directly proportional to the C level’s belief and confidence in the impact of marketing, and hence how and if it will influence growth.”

Q. How do you feel fractional roles are helping companies move forward?

Camilla: In so many ways but as mentioned above and below, the primary beauty of a fractional role is being able to support a business that otherwise wouldn’t be able to invest in a full-time role.
For so long these businesses went without senior leadership in key functions, as they believed unless someone was full-time, they couldn’t be valuable – but the increase in Fractional roles has proved otherwise.

Mehul: Fractional roles bring a high level of expertise along with benchmarks of what good looks like. This helps the companies and the teams to maximise their learning opportunities, contextualise their performance and ultimately unlock success earlier and more efficiently vs. what they may have achieved internally.

For e.g., most of my clients give me a consistent feedback that I have helped them identify the right projects, scope them correctly and get the required investment which supports their medium and long-term objectives.

Michael: I think they lower the barriers to excellence. Where companies previously couldn’t afford to hire experienced leaders they can now tap into the expertise of more established professionals without having to foot the bill of paying a full-time salary.

Great leadership isn’t doing more. It often involves being more selective over the things you do, making better decisions and managing teams more effectively.
I’ve made countless mistakes over my career that less experienced teams no longer need to make. What might have taken me working long days & weekends to achieve earlier in my career I can now do a day/week with a more junior team supporting me.

James: Instant expertise: Companies can have FCMO’s parachute into a business at little to no notice and immediately provide expertise in key areas. These skills would often take time to acquire, build, buy-in as well as time to ramp up. This can be a shock to the system, but also an instant energy change for both parties.

Try before you buy: This works on both sides with the FCMO and company being able to determine fit for longer term engagement in weeks, not months – saves time, money and organisational strain. It feels like an incredibly optimal way to work for senior hires especially.

Oren: Fractionals pull in C-level experience for the marketing function that was not previously available for companies pre B-round.

Q. Do you feel there are any limitations in fractional roles versus having a long-serving full-time department lead? 

Camilla: The ultimate goal for a business is to be at the size where it can justify investing in a full-time CMO. I see many businesses doing this before they are ready, however, and then unfortunately it therefore sometimes doesn’t work out. Until they are ready, a Fractional CMO is a very effective way of ensuring they have senior counsel and leadership without the risk and large investment.

Mehul: Business and category knowledge is one of them. Although you are being hired for your functional expertise.

Developing trust with the team that you are there to unblock and empower them and not make their lives harder or replace them.

You have to feel comfortable for not getting the credit or value created by your foundational work in the years to come.

Michael: The main one is logistical – it can be challenging scheduling team meetings/offsites when dealing with multiple teams with different rhythms and priorities. It’s not insurmountable but certainly requires some thought.

James: The limitations do align around people management, which is particularly salient in the remote working world. It’s difficult to develop deep management relationships with FCMO engagements, especially when it comes to line management, it means these people management areas need to be filled from other areas in the org, which requires transparency all round.

Oren: Yes, many limitations. A fractional, unlike a part-time CMO, presents a hybrid of strategy and tactical deployment, and hence with limited time/scope is constrained by time/energy. This impacts team management the most, but also availability for the rest of the c-suite who often have packed schedules making finding meeting time difficult enough. 

In general, the challenge is that business owners/founders are wedded to their businesses, and having someone who isn’t in the trenches with them 24/7 as they are, is a hard pill to swallow.

From all of the underlining data being shared and the expert answers above, the fractional role is here to stay and in many businesses, it will add a huge amount of value, particularly those at an early stage or looking to mature at an accelerated rate. Many companies will need to consider how a fractional c-suite member(s) can work and how they’ll add value away from execution and add a level of insight and education in leadership meetings and to the leadership team.

As ever if you have teams in place, do consider how a fractional lead could come in and positively or negatively impact company strategy and company culture, especially if they are not onboarded into the business properly and are not a match for the existing team in place. 

This week’s focus action: consider how a fractional leader could add value and build momentum in your business and how, rather than consider it as a hindrance how it could help your business progress and grow. 

» As ever if you have something to say about this week’s newsletter? Don’t be shy, subscribe (below) and then you can just hit reply!

Thanks and have a great week, 

Danny Denhard

Want To Work With Me? I Coach, I Advise & I Consult (email

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Leaders Letter 150 – The Ten Essential Leadership Questions To Ask Each Other This Week

Dear leaders, there has been a lot made of disagreeing and committing in the recent macroeconomic times. 

The chances are you are in either of two camps;
(1) Survive at any cost: have had to reduce the size of your department or lose whole teams, you have likely lost some budget and have to revisit another 9-box exercise.
(2) Attempt to grow without spending the same budget you had at the turn of the financial year and requests for more headcount are not entertained. 

Either camp is hard, but you are being pressured to either get on board or disagree and commit to where you have landed or where the HiPPO is driving the business. 

The Backstory: The 13th Amazon leadership principle “have backbone; disagree and commit” has become a default principle in many boardrooms to ensure everyone is on the same page around the significant changes, whether that’s hiring, headcount freezes, company restructuring or mass layoffs. 

(Re)Connect With Leadership Colleagues 

In hard times, it can be a real challenge to be a manager, it can be a real challenge to continue to be a leader and support those around you.
You can become unsure of your role and your own future and connecting to these huge shifts can feel like a constant uphill battle. This is where I recommend you deepen your working relationships and keep improving the bonds within your leadership team.
(FYI here’s how to build better management teams with management pods). 

It is essential to refresh and reconnect with your colleagues when times are good but when they are at their most challenging I find a refresh is group therapy and can be group-defining.

Here are the 10 questions to ask each other:  

  1. What have you achieved in your career? 
  2. What piece of work are you most proud of working here? 
  3. What do you want to achieve here? 
  4. What inspires you every day? 
  5. What was the worst day of work here?
  6. What was the best day of work here? 
  7. Tell me about when you made a big work-related mistake and learnt the hard way? — And what was the lesson?  
  8. If you had to take three colleagues from three different departments to run a secret mission to save the company, who would you take and why? 
  9. If you were told to reduce your department by 50% what process would you take to do this? 
  10. If you were to revisit one project to optimise for better success what would it be and why? 

These questions can be asked in many settings and work from one to one, one to few (small groups of the management) but ideally in offsite settings as an exec leadership team. This is where open conversation will flow and your colleagues will want to connect with you on a personal and professional level. 

Why Ask And Answer These 10 Questions? These questions take real thought, a chance to show you can be vulnerable and a chance to create materials for the management team to onboard others onto the management team and add their experiences.  

This week’s focus action: Create a time slot where you and your colleagues run through the ten questions and learn about each other and what drives and motivates you and see how you could form a squad or SWORM to complete a secret mission within the company. 

Have a great week and remember IQ will only get you so far, EQ and PQ will take you and your business further. 


Danny Denhard 

Here are 3 other essentials tips to follow to improve leadership within your business this week: 

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Leaders Letter 149 – Can The Undercover Boss Act Work For Your Business?

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Dear leaders, a simple but big question this week: 
Could a stint of working undercover leadership help your business to improve? 

For years we have seen numerous press clippings, TV shows and social media accounts devoted to a high-level exec becoming an employee again and experiencing a number of reported and real common issues.  

PR Stunt Or Connection Builder?

It has always been seen as a PR stunt, “the big-time boss” goes back to getting their hands dirty to find out how their company operates outside of the boardroom. 

But can this tactic actually be a friction-removal exercise?

Want Recent Examples?
  • The Deliveroo founder (food delivery app) William Shu often references him going back to deliver food – this has rarely helped Deliveroo with recruitment (despite what the PR-driven narrative will have you believe)
  • GOJEK (Indonesia’s super-app) founders delivered services via their on-demand app for a month
  • Dara Khosrowshahi (Uber’s CEO) recently drove his own Tesla for Uber under an alias and then after the experiment, agreed with drivers (there were many issues Uber had to address for their drivers and ignored before this experiment) – this has landed well in the business press but the cultural press is having a field day on this tactical approach 

Marketplace For Change? Recently we have seen a number of marketplace CEOs take on the challenge and experience what their drivers or delivery drivers do and they have in short come to similar conclusions.

Sympthonising With Your Customers: 

The issue with marketplaces is, you always have to hear the two or three sides of the marketplace voice their opinions, it can be hard to understand which is more pressing and it is hard to see it or prioritise this question within the boardroom if you don’t have first or second-hand experiences.
Especially when you are attempting to balance demand and supply side feedback. 

The question you might be asking now is… Why take this big leap when you have teams dedicated to this? 

Internal Trust & Storytelling Matters

NPS surveys, user feedback sessions and customer support tickets are only as good as the story that is told by the Customer Support, UX or Product teams and the trust these department heads have within the leadership circle.
These can come down to the words on the PowerPoint presentation or the categorisation in the Excel spreadsheet.
Often these forms of feedback are dismissed if there is a weak story or no picture you can genuinely connect with showing the issues. Pairing this with a high cost per ticket attached to fixing these issues these are then deprioritised. 

Coachable Moment; Dive into these issues and understand how you can address these and embrace the power of video to see first-hand the issues.
Often these user stories are too long or too opinion based, match the user stories with insights before feeling like you have to put on the uniform or download the driver app etc. 

PR Or Product Improvement? Some CEOs will struggle with being part of this, others will embrace the opportunity to drive headlines, and others will want to experience what their employees are.   

Hint: Be the product improvement leader (not the PR-hungry leader), don’t seek this out for headlines, headlines work for and against you, seek this out to improve the product and understand how employees feel from the driver, to the internal team feeding back to the data analysis team struggling to get cut through from the way they might be retelling issues.  

One pitful to look out for; is when you experience something first hand it can seem to be much bigger than it is as you can become biased versus stack ranking all issues together.  

The Internal Question To Ask: Should you and can you as a leader truly embrace this type of deep research to understand how the company operates out of your view and spreadsheets and make a real material difference? 


This week’s focus action: Consider how you can fully embrace getting into customer problems and connect with both company problems but also the customers’ problems. 

The best leaders truly understand both issues and can then help to support from the front on these and then put the right prioritisation on them. 

Have a great week and remember leadership has many forms, either smaller steps of helping others story-tell better, listening more to quant and qual feedback or getting deep into research to experience issues first and second hand. 


Danny Denhard


Danny Denhard

Image source WSJ dedicated article on Uber CEO going undercover

Looking for a coach? I have limited slots available, find out more about my coaching services here
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Leaders Letter 148 – Have You Lost The Special Thing That Makes You Unique?

Dear leaders, a few weeks ago, I took my puppy to get his first groom. For me and my girlfriend, it was like sending off our first child to the nursery for the very first time. 

We were a couple of minutes late, I hate being late it’s one of my bug bearers, and picking him up and with a mad dash, we were only a couple of minutes late. 

The groomers were brilliant from the first micro-moment, they asked if it was ours by his name, they told us what they were going to do and not do and they asked us if we wanted a call halfway through with an update or a reminder call just before to make our way back to their shop. 

It instantly put us at ease, they gave us clear instructions and one option to select, reducing our choice fatigue and nervousness. 

The 90 minutes whizzed by and they called when they said they would, they were super friendly when we came through the door and explained the process and how our puppy got on. Thankfully, he got on very well and importantly it was an experience, a positive experience and it made us know we would be going back. It would be his spa. 

Special Touch: They gave great follow on recommendations and said how much they liked him and even put a bow on his collar as a little extra touch. 

The experience wasn’t just for our puppy it was for us too, the groomers knowing how we would feel, what we would want to experience and where we may feel anxious. The special little touches really stood out, the bow as a lite touch branded reminder of the experience. A product manager or UX expert would have been super proud if they had engineered this flow. 

Why was it special? They said hello to the puppy by his name, they made us feel at ease straight away, they did what they said and promised, they gave us clear instructions and an option to suit us, they communicated very clearly and gave our puppy an experience and a special treat. This wasn’t just a transaction, it was an experience for the three of us.  

To me, this is one of the biggest and simplest forms of leadership you can have.

Do You Still Have That Special Sauce? 

This got me thinking, so many brands have lost that special edge, that secret touch that goes over and above their competitors.  

A few more examples: 

Amazon’s Famous Strategic Flywheel Drives Their Core Customer Centric Decisions
  • Prime Expectations” – Amazon delivers when they say they will, in their simple packaging. They have set the tone for others to deliver within 24 hours at a fair price (mostly) and be given numerous prime perks like prime music, prime video etc. Their famous flywheel makes it difficult for anyone to compete at scale 
  • Zappos’ famously upgraded customers shipping on their first order 
  • Superhuman (the email client) 30-minute hands-on personalised onboarding (aka productivity coaching) for every customer 
  • Five Guys and their extra scoop of fries 
  • Jumbo (Dutch supermarket) introducing slow lanes so customers who want to chat at the checkout can

This week’s focus action: Work through how far away are you from what made your brand or service special?
Maybe it’s time to embrace that expert within your business as of leaders letter 146

How far away from that uniqueness you once offered are you? 

Alternatively, a personal quest: Ask yourself, have you lost that edge? How far away from your secret sauce or superpower are you now? 

It made me rethink a couple of elements and ensure I continue my special touches in my mentor process.

Thanks and have a good week,

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 146 – Why Its Time To Recognise Expertise In Management Teams

Dear leaders, it is time to take the lead and start to recognise the unspoken tier of management, the expert. 

I have numerous posts drafted around the problem with the two tracks in the corporate world currently, you are on the
(1) management track and you are
(2) an individual contributor. 

To say I dislike the corporate term of the ‘individual contributor’ is an understatement. 

It is almost disrespectful to those who are not set up to be a manager, who excel in their field and can lead but lead with their expertise rather than with a title and in most cases a lack of management training. 

Mismanagement: The expert has been often mismanaged, they have been promoted out of the role they are great at and often just love doing. 

They are thrust into a position that does not support them or help them transition into people management and it removes their skills or in some cases superpowers and reduces their effectiveness day by day.  

Just because the expert doesn’t fit into how we have always done it or our business is not set up in this way, doesn’t mean there isn’t a smarter way forward. 

I wrote back in 2020 about the changing dynamics needed with the roles of the leader – manager – coach – mentor – operators and reflecting back there should be another level: The Expert. 

Introducing The Expert Track: I often recommend to SLTs through my leadership coaching, that promoting their experts to becoming a manager of a team or discipline is the wrong career move and will negatively impact their org. 

Many of your people have been conditioned to believe that being a manager is the only move for their career, it often is not and especially if you are not set up to support, coach and manage their development. 

Hint: Hire Specialist Managers Not Resume Hires 

Another observation and recommendation I make in coaching is many SLTs rarely hire specialist managers to be leaders of a department or business line, often hindering their performance (& importantly their departments) and the company goes through loops of bad managers and bad hiring until they find a better one 18 months down the line. 

The next alternative is to embrace the expert and enable them to coach those around them (where possible, some areas of expertise are not as transferable as others) and progress generalists around them and act as the internal influencer of the topic, present to the company, attend specialist leadership team meetings, update the x-co or ELT on core changes and important updates and also encourage where applicable to present externally to peers (webinars, conferences etc) and appear on podcasts, newsletters etc. 

Could X Lead Mean Something Now? 

There is often a title that is introduced that creates internal friction when not explained, the “lead”, Tech Lead, Product Lead, Brand Lead, but maybe the expert is a lead it is how the role is framed and how it is communicated to the business that the lead role is for experts who are a valuable resource and a career path here at our business we respect and will nurture. 

This week’s focus action: Review your team and their opportunities and embrace the expert role, introduce this at your management team meeting and identify your panel of experts and discuss how you can roll out the expert or lead role to mean more for your business and your people. 

Have a great week and if you agree or even disagree, let me know your thoughts (newsletter subscribers can hit reply and email me directly, sign up below).


Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 145 – Career Care & Showing You Want More For Your Team Members

Dear leaders, I often receive replies to leaders letters asking specific questions, typically around an issue or an experience and for my take, last week I received an email about “showing I care for my team members”. 

Management is hard and getting harder, this is why managers have to choose to lean into IQ and EQ (and teach PQ aka political intelligence where applicable) and decide to go further, this is what I call career care. It is how to prove you are looking to support a team member’s career, not just when they are in your team. The sign of a good manager is how many of your team proactively ask you for specific feedback on mid and large projects and how many ex-team members reach out when they need support. 

Here is a list of actions you can take to show you care: 

  • Build long-term relationships with them: offer insights, and stories and introduce efficient 1-2-1’s and consider lunch and learns. Be formally informal, have coffee breaks, have walk-and-talks, and don’t make it always ultra-formal, you need to know them and their motivations, in formal settings these are lost. Sitting in a meeting room or just over video calls can feel too formal when situations can and do need more personal touches. 
  • Introduce internal or external mentors: that will help guide them when they need to bounce ideas, consider new approaches and have a mentor process that guides you both 
  • Act as a sponsor: when its the right moment for them 
  • Listen, Listen Then Speak: it is time to listen not once but twice, listening especially when they aren’t saying anything is a sign of a great manager, this also shows you care. Remember those good teachers, lectures or managers, they reach out when you haven’t said anything and notice change, not the change
  • Encourage coaching: (this is an excellent use of L&D budgets) from the right internal or external coaches 
  • Support decisions: Often a manager can over-coach or dictate what to do when, this is often a bad base to build support and show you trust them, offer ways to support their decisions and help shape their decision-making by offering frameworks like one problem two solutions framework 
  • Spot the spark:  This was my favourite element of being a department and business lead, spotting the spark within team members and helping them drive towards it. Spark is what makes someone interested, invested and keeps them intrigued for the future, spot that spark and help remove barriers, this won’t go unnoticed. 
  • Unleash the superstar: Your job as a manager is to unleash everyone’s superstar, yes this sounds big but it is the best piece of coaching I give managers and department heads struggling. Unleash the superstar in your team member, enable them to be the best they can be. 
  • Clear Paths To Success: As recommended in the previous newsletter two up two across matrix, this focus framework helps you to shape the next two steps up (if available) and two steps across, this is often the way you help a team member progress their career in your department or org or help them progress into another business line and help them to grow. 

Management is an investment in time, energy and most often patience, these three skills are essential for both your success and their success. Making the time and showing your team member they are important and that you are fully committed is essential for you both. 

Have a great week and remember you have the same rights as a leader (even as a CEO you have a boss or board guiding you) to go and seek mentors, invest in a coach and understand how to improve and where you can develop. 


Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 144 – Qualifying That “Idea” To Strategic Bet

Dear leaders, I am often asked
“How do we make our big ideas work?” 

The answer is simple really, it is the refining and qualifying of ideas. 

Or the question should be reframed as: This is where ideas have to be transformed into qualified strategic bets

Think Back & Set Others Up To Succeed: We have all been there, we have a brilliant idea, we set ourselves up to pitch the idea, we may have been invited for a slot in the Management Team Meeting and then you are faced with a barrage of questions, the idea feels like it is dashed in ten minutes. I have sat in the management team meeting and clearly remember a great idea full of potential dashed in under 60 seconds. 

You have two options (1) refine and attempt another slot or (2) re-shape your idea into a qualified strategic bet. 

Option 2 is the only way forward.

A quick note: 

Pitching The Right Bet – this is where the right person and right people are vitally important. The structure and the delivery are essential, not only for the bet to succeed and be championed but for you to know who makes decisions to make and how to approach the conversation. 

The reason why an idea is often counterproductive is it’s sounds half baked, it isn’t validated and qualified in your environment. 

What decision-makers need is two simple things
(1) confidence
(2) strong evidence that is shaped and qualified enough they don’t need to invest hours grooming, modelling the finance and re-shaping and re-prioritising existing work streams or roadmaps. 

Move from idea to bet before attempting to pitch to senior management. 

The Focus Idea To Bet Qualification

The Bet Build – Visalise the bet for all stakeholders.
Use words, use imagery, even create a wireframe or potentially a prototype or provide a live example (in or outside of your market) that could enable visual people to understand it or play with it. 

For those with time constraints or typically biased towards excel – add the table with the growth numbers. 

Untold Truth: The better the storytelling, the better the visuals, and the more exciting it is, the more it builds a connection to the idea. 

The more qualified the tables and financial numbers are, the better the response from finance and core business decision-makers, if you don’t get the green light from the founder/CEO and their yes-no person the CFO the likelihood of this bet getting the leadership team’s full support is minimal.  

Create A Definitive Exec Summary: 

Think of an amended Amazon working backwards: 

  • The bet in one sentence 
  • Who is the customer 
  • The benefits of the bet 
    • to customer  
    • & then to the company 
  • The problem(s) being solving 
  • Time to make an impact? 
  • Measurable goals and metrics (show big number to wow moment)
  • Link to FAQ’s of the bet – think of the big questions ahead of time 

Link to Focus Idea To Bet framework as your own Google Doc

Why We Should Stop X And Run Towards This – the important element that rarely anyone suggests to include is: 

  • Why run towards this bet, and what advantages does it have? 
  • Can it replace something already on the roadmap? (hint at projects struggling to make an impact or are earmarked for the future)
  • Or does it deserve people and money budget allocation? 

If you can’t provide a realistic timeline with resource requests here, it is not qualified enough. 

What Would The 3 Main Tasks Be – these have to be clear, they have to be fully thought through and be able to understood by finance, product and marketing alongside other senior members of the company. 

Key Metrics To Success – what are the leading indicators that prove we are on the right track for this bet? What time frame are you suggesting?

Then clearly call out the 3 core metrics you will be using to understand success of the big bet over the first week, first month, first quarter, first year.
This step in the process often will kill creative people’s idea and qualify them as a strategic bet. 

Revenue Impact With Confidence – this is often the falling down of big bets within companies, being able to get into the excel master sheet, get into the existing budget or financial plan and apply other people’s logic into the idea and show how this will grow revenue (use common internal metrics like downloads, daily usage, churn reduction, number of qualified leads etc) broken down month by month. Unfortunately, this is also the issue most people have it is likely a guess as it might be brand new or it might be unproven in your market, arm yourself with confident data points and make realistic impact numbers. 

The essential point to take away here is, unfortunately, even with the best prep, best financial modelling and brilliant pitch, the odds of an investment into bets can be low. Even as a c-suite leader your strategic bet might not make the cut. 

This week, empower your teams by improving their working practices and creating the ability to pitch the highest qualified strategic bets to the business. A bank of brilliantly qualified bets is better than a recycling bin and miro boards full of post it notes. 

Thanks and have a great week focusing your business,

Danny Denhard

Other Focus Frameworks

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 143 – What Do Your Team Members Need? A Sponsor, A Coach Or A Mentor?

Dear leaders, over the last year I have spent a large percentage of my time as a coach for CEOs, COOs, CMOs, VPs and a Product lead and separately as a mentor and as an external sponsor. 

I am a huge component of having or finding the right level of support, whether that’s a mentor, a coach or acting as a sponsor. (I wrote about the difference in detail last year) Something most managers forget is it’s not either or, it is often a mix of the three or in some respects, it’s all three. 

The TLDR Read Of What The Difference Is:  

  • Mentors are typically free, a senior member of the team or another business who has held a similar role and donates their time and energy to help guide you or your team member
  • Sponsors are internal (and sometimes external) and help to promote and champion their team members or a member of staff who has the ability to go further and recommends them or pushes them forward for big projects and opportunities and add their clout behind them
  • Coaches are paid for professionals and specialists who will help improve the skills of their coachees and should have dates for goals. 

Most senior leaders support their team members by acting as a sponsor, some will find their team mentors (often from their own network or from word-of-mouth referrals) or help guide them towards a mentor and then others will approve coaching over conferences and generic training. 

What are you doing for your team members?
Or what can you do to improve your connection and improve the sub culture of your org? 

Ways You Can Support Team Members Or Yourself 

  • Act as a mentor – mentorship is a time commitment and is an honour, support team members or supporting non-team members will help you and their career. 
    • Remember reverse mentoring is also a great way to connect and learn about core subjects, one of the best examples I have heard was from a friend who reversed mentored a well known sports company CEO and helped guide them with Marketing and new channels (30 minutes every two weeks made the difference for her and exposure to the c-suite and for the CEO to learn about essential trends and apps they wouldn’t make the time for otherwise) 
  • Act a formal sponsor – do you have someone in your department or within your business who hasn’t been given the opportunity to progress and you can add your weight behind them.
    Remember you can benefit from this and you can be negatively impacted if the opportunity isn’t seized. If you act as a sponsor don’t just push them forward, support your colleague and check in with them 
  • Become a coach – I know you are likely particularly busy and time-constrained, however, coaching is a great way to expand your career, expand your knowledge of other businesses and a way to build another income (or fund a passion project) 

This week, consider finding yourself a coach (there are many of us who really do help you develop) and help your team find the right mentor and coach (where budget applies) and consider how you can go deeper as a sponsor internally and champion them to the business. 

Thanks and have a great week,

Danny Denhard

Essential Reading This Week