Categories
Company Culture

11 Simple Tips To Improve Company Culture 

When defining the key ingredients for company culture, there are four pillars that will always guide you towards building a good foundation.

The 4c’s of company culture are:
1/ Campfire
2/ Competition
3/ Community
4/ Collaboration  

Here are eleven of Focus’ top tips to improve your company culture

  1. Agreed Principles & Approved Behaviours – the best companies understand the boundaries of each team and understand the principles that drive them forward and the agreed and approved behaviours are universally agreed are driving the people and company forward. Knowing that humans are designed to understand guidance (remember many believe rules are made to be broken) and boundary lines will help all employees from the least to most experienced.
    Key for success: review and update agreed principles and behaviours every six months
  2. Eat Together: Have a food you all can eat and eat together, whether in person or virtually. The connection that is made around eating at a campfire setting is priceless.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  3. Drink Together: Enable rotating “coffee chats” across the business, this should be randomised and connect colleagues from all areas of the business, including the “most senior and most junior”.
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  4. Show & Tell: Create a company show and tell – enable departments to demo what they are working on, encourage departments to create games and interactive elements to explain what the department does and how they feed into the business
    Key for success: create this as a ritual
  5. Forums: Regular Forums focusing on show and tells – take it a step further than standups and recurring meetings, enable teams (not just departments) to show their work and demonstrate the value.
    Have this open to the whole company, these forums could be optional to attend for companies with over 350 employees; if you can record these, share and have a record on your wiki these drive companies to create connections, coach, collaborate and curate collectively.
    Keep for success: ensure feedback is provided (not opinion) and there is applause. Applause creates herding  
  6. Games: Create a company-wide game that teams are mixed up for, so they can compete against each other and build bonds with colleagues they rarely work with.
    Key for success: Small disposable games not touraments work best
  7. Captain: Use a captain system in meetings, rotate the owners of regular meetings and intros a captain who steers the meeting. This helps to remove HIPPO’s owning the meeting, it can remove status games, it helps to evolve individuals and places respect at the heart of the meeting. I have gone so far in buying a captain armbands and ensuring the captain wears the armband in each meeting. Visuals help, thats why flags exists, thats why unforms work, thats why adding ranks to uniforms exist, thats why captains wear armbands in sports.
    Key for success: Ensure everyone supports and respects the captain in every meeting
  8. Caring & Causes: Create a cause the company supports and creates squads to dedicated days to supporting the agreed cause. Awaydays supporting charity and non profit days are popular, curating how many of the team go together are important and varying how they can support is important. Connecting smaller groups of people to support these together is important, creating mini herds of teams drives movement within your business.
    Key for success: Report back with videos and images of the cause each herd supports  
  9. Storytell Failure: Create failure of the month storytelling – when failure is discussed and openly understood, companies can move forward and help a learning culture to develop and remove stigmas against failure. Companies who celebrate together in the good and the bad have the best company culture.
    Key for success: Thank the storyteller and engage with their failure  
  10. Unsung Heroes: Something that is rarely celebrated but should be are the unsung heroes in your business, the ones who go over and above the roles to ensure success happens, not just on projects but with developing and mentoring others.
    Key for success: Call out unsung heroes formally and informally
  11. Agreed Anthem: Have an anthem (a song, a sound or even a poem or film clip) that whenever played recreates a connection.
    Key for success: Refer to the athem and play regaulrly  

Best of luck rolling these out for your business, remember you can roll out some at a time to help start the ball rolling.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 71 – Pitching The BIG Idea

Dear leaders, this week I am going to tell you about a personal experience that might be a lesson or two to take forward. 

I had a BIG idea, I crafted an aesthetically and numbers perfect 22 slide deck (with a huge FAQ and appendix), the idea was reshaping the business I was on the local leadership team and opening up the business to offer three new services that would have answered more customer problems, enable a global launch and create a bigger impact. 

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
Strategy

What The Company Was, What The Company Is & Where It Is Going

There are always three phases of a company, 

  1. What it was (past)
  2. What and where it is today (present)
  3. And where the company is headed and where you are driving it. (prospect)

The Past – What It Was

Many have fond memories of what the company was, often those long-serving employees look back and reminisce of what it was and how it used to operate. As soon as it moves on and often matures, employees will look to leave or look to evolve outside of the company. 

The Present – What And Where It Is Today

Many will struggle with what the company is, what it is, how it acts, how it operates and how to it being seen and understood today, this is often the job of the management team to really take those on the journey around them and help the teams come to terms with its evolution and how it will act for a specific time period. 

The now and near term future is often the hardest to manage, as the company has evolved, will have to evolve again and will be the time to build for the future without losing your best talent who experienced change.

The Prospect – Where We Are Headed 

The challenging phase for many to buy into and see is where the company is headed for the longer term, many will take growing pains and allow steps to make to improve the working environment and product shifts but without the vision is clear and aligned, many will make their minds up to stay for the long term or set a window to leave. 

Rule To Guide You

The sliding scale to be aware of: 

Company culture is often given a nine-month grace cycle by employees, 

  • 0 months what is going on
  • 1-3 months understand what is happening and where I stand 
  • 3-6 months what’s happening now and where are we going vs the previous period 
  • 6-9 months this is the place I can work in and thrive in or this is the place I have to leave for my career. 

If your manage to enable those to go back into a previous category you likely have had a positive effect.

Often when intentional and deliberate (and open) communication and long term plan is lost, you are proactively pushing team members into the next category and that is always bad news. 

Understand & Lead

As a manager, I would highly recommend understanding at what phase of these nine months your colleagues and team members are and what levers you should pull to add clarity and reduce confusion around where the company is and where it is headed and how it will continue to evolve. 

Being able to have discussed phases and directions always helps shape individuals outlooks and points of view on their career in or outside of a business. 

Business Performance = Company Culture x Company Strategy

Company strategy and clarity of the strategy helps to shape the business performance and when paired with the company culture, this helps shape your workforce for the long term and helps you to place both performance indicators together on a level playing field and really drive an organisation forward.  

Your New Compass 

Without a vision, people will question you as a leadership team and question the compass they have to follow. 

Without a mission many will question the why and what are we offering 

Without a clear strategy for the next twelve months, this will raise numerous questions and concerns and many people need something to tie into more than a set of OKR’s and goals. 

Crystal Clear Clarity 

If a team member cannot understand why it has changed, where it will continue to change and where you are headed, you will not be in a place where you can retain top staff, you can sell a vision to attract top staff vs a competitor or large brand and you will not be in a place to lead to truly articulate your current phase to the ELT or board. 

Moving forward learn that the past informs the present and helps to shape the important future of your employee experience but also many people’s careers.

The leadership team have to be mindful and proactive in leading from the front and providing clarity at each step, especially when you have decided to mature a business or looking to be acquired and the internal focus and culture shifts.

Listen To The Focus Podcast

Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn 🏴‍☠️ Fixing The Broken World Of Work Podcast

Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn & Danny Denhard  Thanks for listening today! This is a great conversation with Colin, you will want to listen if you are looking to improve your workplace, making positive change with yourself and how to challenge the status quo by thinking like a pirate.  The Conversation includes: Decrapyifying work The top tips to decrapify work How leadership is about leading Why we should be more pirate Should we rethink the whole work week, should we even have a commute? Policing from managers Why politics and proximity still dictate success And how to rethink and realign our people, heart first leadership Newsletter – https://decrapifywork.substack.com/ https://decrapifywork.substack.com/p/start-it-up Popular LinkedIn Share  The Intro To Decrapifying Work The TLDR to the article  Too many work environments are toxic and harming the people in them, which is why Stress, anxiety and depression are at record levels and rising People are dying from work-induced stress-related illnesses Burnout is commonplace (and now a recognised illness) Suicide levels are increasing (especially amongst men) Mary Parker Follett Quote “While leadership depends on depth of conviction and the power coming therefrom, there must also be the ability to share that conviction with others.” — Mary Parker Follett Person to follow – https://twitter.com/MarkCCrowley Video To Watch – https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?language=en Podcast To Listen To: Bruce Daisley’s – Eat Sleep Work Repeat 
  1. Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn 🏴‍☠️
  2. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Peter Hopwood
  3. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Andy Reid
  4. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Jo Twiselton
  5. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Sharon Aneja
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
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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Categories
hybrid office

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: The Hybrid Work Paradox

Recently the Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called out hybrid work, and the challenge in getting it right. 

This is a challenge almost every organisation is battling with, especially with almost every country and US state having a different approach to COVID and handling different and ever-evolving scenarios. 

Satya Nadella was quoted as suggesting
“Short-term productivity goes up, long-term creativity goes down”. 

With quant data and qual data, many CEO’s and business are reporting and experiencing similar challenges. 

Learn Lessons From Remote Organisations 

Where many organisations are getting this wrong, is by not discussing how remote companies have had successes, companies like Gitlab (Gitlab all remote guide is brilliant) and Automattic (the Automattic podcast is great) have been successful in operating in a fully remote fashion. 

Learning from what makes great hybrid and remote leaders is going to help improve your operations and organisations health. 

There Is No One Size Fits All

Satya isn’t the only CEO suggesting the same, Facebook, Apple, Dropbox and Slack have all come at Hybrid from different perspectives with different solutions and ever-changing return to the office dates. 

Google’s is it ok to manifesto went viral across LinkedIn and has helped some businesses rethink how they approach this evolving working situation.

No one company has nailed hybrid but many are making significant progress.

The Study Was Too Early 

The study that was undertaken with Microsoft employees is a great read, however, the study was from the first six months of the virus and does not account for 2021 data and the way we have adapted and changed over the last 12 months. 

Large Company Battles

Companies the size of Microsoft have a number of battles to fight, the first is safety, the second is productivity and the third is keeping shareholders happy. 

Keeping staff happy, engaged and helping to balance work demands, home demands and burnout is something every business has to be proactively managing and addressing. 

Ensuring teams are productive while away from the office (or working in hybrid) is challenging almost every team member, manager and company leader. 

Shareholders are always looking for returns, getting the most of the staff is one of the main concerns for any CEO, especially for companies the size of Microsoft. 

The way we work in office environments has changed: 

  • The demand for video calls increased, 
  • The demand for more meetings increased, 
  • The way we continue meeting conversations has evolved, 
  • “The water cooler moments” decreased 
  • The way we keep connected has changed and the great unfollow has started to happen

The intentional and deliberate way we address these changing working methods has fallen behind and should be in the most pressing items to address as any leader of any business. 

One of our core recommendations is the requirement for a culture community manager for those companies with over 30 people. 

So is Satya right or wrong about Hybrid?

Unfortunately, in this situation, every company is different, every company requires their own approach, however with hybrid being deliberate and intentional with the 3C’s: Connection, Communication and Collaboration is key to winning.

Getting Hybrid Right

The future of the required for a large office (or series of offices) is under review, the long term future of work is no doubt hybrid, creating a highly engaged, connected and productive workforce is going to be something we learn to develop and “perfect” over time. 

Are You Struggling With Hybrid? Here Is Our Free Guide 

Here are other great resources to help you with hybrid: 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

How To Reduce The Work Life Blur?

This week’s anonymous career advice comes from a manager that is looking to help their department in reducing the blur between work and home life, especially with many businesses now operating in the hybrid model

Dear Focus, What are the five things you would recommend to help my team reducing the work and life blur?

This is actually something many managers just are not thinking about and I want to thank you for stepping up and asking this question. 

There are much bigger methods in tackling this but requires a fair-sized budget shift and significant change from your team members, however, here are my five simple but ultimately actionable recommendations:

Adding work boundaries helps to guide teams to work to core hours and not react to each request out of work hours

1: Add Boundaries

Ensure you set the right level of boundaries for your teams: 

  • Whether that’s their workday or out of hours
  • The teaming knowing it is ok to not have to reply to slack, teams or emails out of hours
  • Your boss emailing you outside of working hours does not need a reply 
  • Some teams will have to work out of hours, this does not mean the company does and knowing that you will receive 

I have worked for companies that operate across multiple time zones and setting the expectations that your time zone is when you work and respond is important.

Likewise, if you are a senior leader or executive, you work different hours to the rest of the business set the example and allow teams to know you do not expect the same and do not want them to blur the line. 

Remember sending an email or instant message is only ever convenient to the sender, rarely ever to the receiver.

Having worked agency-side and ran agency business operations, it is important for you set the precedent at your agency that working hours and delivering on deadlines happens within work hours.
This will be a huge selling point for your agency and operationally savvy agencies tend to outperform less operational smart agencies. 

Having official works apps and software helps to guide teams around what is work and what is not