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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 120 – Power Players

Dear leaders, over the past year I have ramped up my coaching, it is something I get a lot of energy from and I personally love seeing others develop their soft and hard skills. 

With all of my coaching clients (from experienced middle managers to startup CEOs), the same themes manifest, they typically mention how others are perceived and how other people within their organisation seem to have an extra level of influence or power.
(And yes, even CEOs will raise this when they are relaxed)

An exercise I ask my clients to run through is breaking down these perceived power players and understanding their behaviours and is it common within their business. 

Who, What, Why, How Exercise

Who – Who they are? Who are they connected to? Who do they champion? 

What – What makes them “them”? What drives them? What behaviours do they have personally and in small groups? What makes them tick? 

Why – Why are they in the position they are in? Why are they respected? Why do you think they are operating at that level above? 

How – How did they get there? How do they act in front of people? How do they act in important meetings? How prepared are they? How do they act away from groups of people?  

A hint, ‘the power player‘ is a blend of IQ, EQ and PQ, PQ aka political intelligence is always a core factor. Be aware that playing the game and knowing when to step out of the game is an essential skill many just do not work on and rarely decide to improve. Almost every skill a power player has is developed and nurtured for the environment they operate in now. 

Two themes that usually stand out:
(1) Do they seem to rewrite the rules whenever they want?
(2) Or act in a way that others would be called out for?  

Very often these colleagues are Internal influencers +, they have more influence than just title and status, they have an aura, they have strong beliefs or are the hammer (they force things through and ensure those around them deliver) or the strategic member of the senior leadership team and drives the business vision

Next time you are wondering how certain people operate like power players, run through the who, what, why and how questions above. 

Thanks and have a good week,

Danny Denhard

PS. Would someone benefit from this exercise or the breakdown of power players? Copy and paste https://focus.business/blog/leaders-letter-120 into teams or slack.  

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 118 – The Pratfall Effect

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were you aware of this effect? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great week,  

Danny Denhard

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 117 – Think Big Act Small By When

Dear leaders, for years we have used numerous different methodologies to try and crack performance and roll up into the company objectives.

The trendiest of recent times is the OKRs, I will save my experiences with OKRs for another dedicated leader’s letter, we use SMART goals as a way to help be specific and make the next period of time work clear and simple to understand and execute. 

One of my personal favourites and the most effective I have used is:

Think Big Act Small By When

Why? 

The whole framework is intentionally simple.

Unlike some of the other goal-setting frameworks, it is designed to be understood by the whole organisation and as a way to keep others accountable. 

  • Think Big: What is the big goal 
  • Act Small: What are the smaller actions to hit the goal 
  • When: When do we need to deliver by?  
  • My addition: Who owns this (owner of the outcome) and who is the sponsor (the team or department lead)

Tips to win with think big, act small, by when.

  1. Never allow ASAP to be used in when 
  2. Always be clear about why think big is connected to the company way strategy 
  3. Always be clear on who you will need to partner with and call this out 
  4. Only create this when you are given the company-wide objectives 
  5. Create and approve as a department (especially if you have a larger management team and many teams within a department)
  6. Check-in fortnightly, repetition wins (this can be in person or asynchronous, the more you run in async the quicker you will become at working at updates and remove the most vocal colleagues)
  7. Hold the owner and sponsor accountable for misses 
  8. You can add a score to each think big at the end of each quarter to understand performance and how it went, this is optional but can work well, especially if you are numbers driven or need a scoring system to rewards those involved 

Can you benefit by using this framework instead of your existing tool? 

Would this make collaboration easier and ensure the business understands the smaller acts to lead to appreciation and curiosity? 

Remember when most frameworks go wrong is when you have to create cross-functional collaboration and be able to hold each other accountable, can you manage this? 

Have a good week ahead and consider how you can leverage free frameworks to improve working styles, collaborations and deliverables. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Categories
hybrid office

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

2022 – The New And Old Dynamics Colliding

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Office Environment 

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

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

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

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

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

The New Considerations: 

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

The questions you should now answer to make the environments work

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

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

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

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

Need weekly help? Sign up to the Focus leadership newsletter

Now Listen To The Fixing The Broken World Of Work Podcast

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

This episodes guest Briony Gunson (https://brionygunson.com/) is a business + mindset coach, meditation teacher + trauma-informed breathwork trainer, Briony helps individuals and businesses to improve.  Follow Briony across social – LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube.  The Links:  Briony's Introduction Video On YouTube Podcast: Aubrey Marcus – not about the world of work but psychology, spirituality, human potential + behaviour Book: Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art  by James Nestor Newsletter: Brain pickings AKA The Marginalian has a free Sunday digest of the week’s most mind-broadening and hear Sign up to Briony's Friday Feels newsletter: https://bit.ly/3AiEOv9 – Briony archives them on her blog.  Listen to Briony's guided meditations on Insight Timer, e.g. this is a popular one: https://insighttimer.com/brionyg/guided-meditations/letting-go-meditation-12-minutes Briony also recommended Kirsty Hulse's work (Kirsty is great and gets my co-approval) Briony takes us on a journey of: Mental health and why it is so important to be aware of How mental health is evolving How your mental health can help to transform physical health Why early morning open-air swims have been so important Therapy and therapists role in peoples lives Why breathwork is so important Why our bodies are driven by our breath and controlling our breath Why Yoga is vital to so many of us Personal development starts with you Everyone is facing similar challenges – it's how you find the best course of action Why retreats are going to so popular and a necessary part of life and work You are the expert of yourself – why starting to listen to yourself and your body is so important
  1. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Briony Gunson 🧘‍♀️ – Focus Podcast With Danny Denhard
  2. Fixing the broken world of work podcast with Colin Newlyn 🏴‍☠️
  3. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Peter Hopwood
  4. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Andy Reid
  5. Fixing The Broken World Of Work With Jo Twiselton
Categories
Leadership

The 8 Different Types Of Company Leaders 

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

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

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

Founder 

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

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

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

Business Maturity: Start-Up 

Traditional  

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

Business Maturity: Maturing  

BAU 

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

Business Maturity: Scale Up or Mature 

Turn Around 

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

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

Business Maturity: Stagnated 

Pivot 

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

Business Maturity: Start Up or Scale Up

Growth 

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

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

Business Maturity: Stagnated 

Caretaker 

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

Business Maturity: Stagnated 

Returning Founder 

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

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

Business Maturity: Stagnated or Declining 

2022 Into 2023

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

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 116 – Go Back To Basics

Dear leaders, you would be surprised how many businesses are struggling with who they are, what they should be offering and why they should be offering their product or services. 

In recent weeks, I have spoken to a number of CEOs and Marketing leads and they are at a crossroads, unsure if they are in the right market, messaging the right way and actually adding value. 

Something I recommend all businesses to go through is a super simple six-question process. 

This is something I typically run through right at the beginning of workshops but in this current climate and the number of fears people have, here are the six questions you will want to visit and gain alignment over. This is particularly useful if you are due a long-range planning meeting or you have your annual operating plan meeting coming up. 

You would have seen iterations of these questions in popular business canvas, something to keep in mind, canvas are completed and then forgotten about, this is why you should record the decision-making process and then summarise at the end of the session (importantly remember to add this to your decision document

(And yes, these are deliberately simple to make you think and revisit your core fundamental beliefs and you have to answer these questions in order 1 down to 6) 

  1. Problems: What are the top 3 problems you are actually solving? 
  2. Needs Solving: Why are these problems solving your customer’s needs? 
  3. Customers: Who are the target customers? 
  4. Selling Problem Solves: How are you actually selling the problems you’re solving? 
  5. Unique: What are you uniquely offering? 
  6. Find: How are customers going to find or discover you? 

Something to keep in mind, these questions are deliberately simple questions to focus business leads, the more simple the questions are, the better the answers tend to be, the trick with this exercise is to ensure it fits on one a3 piece of paper and the document to act as a compass moving forward. 

So this week, your action plan: plan this session with your leadership team and even give the 6 questions a go and see where you land, if you cannot answer these questions I would suggest you really drive this session forward as quickly as possible (if not everyone can answer this the same way you have a real alignment issue)

Thanks and have a great week ahead, 

Danny Denhard

Essential Reading For The Week Ahead

Categories
Company Culture

How To Manage Introverts On Your Team

The brilliant Anxious Achiever podcast host Morra Aarons-Mele (an introvert herself) provides a number of invaluable recommendations on managing and empowering introverts on your team:

From The FT Working It Podcast

Tips Provided By Morra & FT’s Kesewa Hennessy:

  1. Remove Meeting Stacking: Remove the demand to do meetings back to back, remove the demand for being on camera (aka reducing mirror anxiety ) and reduce the demand to perform on camera
  2. Stop Shaming Quiet Team Members: Stop naming and shaming introverted members who rarely speak in meetings
  3. Run Better Meetings: Structure your meetings, have an agenda and reduce the demand for loud voices in real-time meetings
  4. Enable Early Opinions: Encourage and embrace introverts (and ambiverts) early in the meetings and encourage more discussion in writing and asynchronously
  5. Recovery Time: Enable introverts to recover their energy while working from home
  6. Encourage Colleagues: to uncover the qualities of introverts (and ambiverts) within your team and encourage these colleagues to be involved in other ways than just speaking within a meeting
  7. Embrace Culture: Each workplace culture is different but that’s what makes your company unique and offers a chance to embrace different colleagues with different personality types. Embrace this and lead by example with this in mind.

Important Resources To Help Improve Management

The FT working it podcast is available on all of the podcast players and full listings of their pod can be found here

Categories
Leadership

10 Leadership Lessons To Take From All Or Nothing Arsenal 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essential Resources To Improve Your Leadership

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

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

Fewer Managers, More Coaches & Mentors

10 Good 10 Bad Management Traits Exercise & Framework 

Taking Over From A Bad Manager

Manager Coaching Courses

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 115 – Communicating: The Lost Art Of Leadership!

Dear leaders, this week I want to reintroduce the power of communication and the importance of the right communication within the workplace

We have seen an explosion of new tools over the last decade, we are expected to stay on top of the numerous channels, slack and teams constantly wanting our attention, understand the important emails, manage the flow of information and data from meetings and take the most important actions and insights, distil and then deliver on these. 

Superpower: Communication I have said this before on leaders letters and I will say many times in the future, communication is the superpower most do not work on and it is the key skill for the majority of high-level c-suite execs have (that and being able to juggle 100 things at once and stay somewhat sane). 

Communication in my eyes is often the difference between good company culture and company performance and is the element you are in the most control of. 

Remember less is very often more

Something that many feel is the best way to communicate is to send many messages, appear on many threads and add their opinion. The best communicators and the best operators rarely have to do this (from my 23-year working career), they know how to and when to communicate. 

Here are the ways communication is key in organisations and why developing your communication muscle is vitally important on your leadership journey:

  • Communicating the potential downturns and the impact this can have on the company, your department or individuals up for potential layoffs. The best layoffs (if there is such a thing) have been those that have put EQ first and put their team’s well-being first  
  • Celebrating the wins and what it means for the company 
  • Working asynchronously – despite what many believe, we are moving towards async work more and more and hybrid is forcing function in dividing the best leaders and communicators and the worst
  • Handling hundreds of inbound signals and being able to boil them down to the three most important actions for the company or team to focus on 
  • Ability to retell the same story numerous times and not get bored of creating new ways of telling it and reshaping the narrative to fit the situation 
  • Being able to distil the strategy onto one page and ensure it makes sense across the business and land with all team members 
  • The ability to write a ten-slide deck that lands across the leadership team and gain buy-in for additional budget requests or a large investment into your business area 
  • The expertise to know when to write, when to call an all-hands and speak in person or when to record a video and distribute it across the company.  

These are all areas you can identify, you can plan for and build your muscle memory around to improve your communication.

I strongly believe the best leaders make the time to improve, despite how busy they are, they find the time and energy for personal development and invest in their own training.  

So the questions to ask yourself and answer over the next month: 

  • How are you improving your communication style? 
  • How are you learning to story tell better?
    (Hint: read storyworthy) 
  • How are you learning to develop your own voice?
    (Hint: Write more, craft more executive summaries and record you’re saying this loud)
  • How are you improving your writing style?
    (Hint: Written communication is most frequent and how the majority of decisions are based on and decided with)
  • How are you working on your in-person delivery?
    (Hint: Use your smartphone and practise reviewing yourself) 
  • Are you practising your presentation skills?
    (Hint: Use the record function on Keynote, PowerPoint or a tool like Dropbox Capture and present a number of decks you have created, watch back and tweak)
  • Are you looking for training in information design?
    (Hint: Your company slide template is likely hindering how you present) 

Thanks for reading Leaders Letter newsletter again this week, I always welcome replies and conversations around the topics, and happily get in touch if you would like to dive into these points or a previous letter. 

Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter 114 – 10 Good 10 Bad Management Traits Exercise & Framework 

Dear leaders, I recently went for a walk and talk coffee with a mentee stepping up to a leadership team. They were a blend of excitement and anxiety about moving to a new company and being able to show their skills. 

We got onto the subject of good managers, bad managers and management traits. Something I suggested, even the worst managers believe they are good managers and will be able to list out a number of traits that makes them a great manager. Many good managers will list off their bad traits, humans are complex. 

Whether you’re starting a new job or becoming a manager or being promoted to a new position, the challenge for everyone’s how to be a good manager and what traits you embrace and those bad habits you mimic from a previous boss, you have to shake.  

I offer one very simple exercise to my mentors and coaching clients and it’s very simple. 

The Exercise 

  1. Find a quiet space where you can concentrate and focus 
  2. Grab your pad and pen, open apple notes or your spreadsheet software of choice and start to think, then   
  3. Write down the ten good traits, the ten that made you stop and appreciate the gesture or the extra thought, the traits like protecting the team when results dipped, something didn’t land or backing you over a senior colleague when it was needed. 
  4. Write down the ten bad traits, the ones you really dislike, that frustrated you or made you question your skills and made your confidence drop. 
  5. When you have finished these, select the five non-negotiables you will use and the five you will never use. 
  6. Write these 5 good, and 5 bad traits out on a post-it note or onto an apple note, you must revisit once a week and ensure these are your management guiding principles. This way you will hold yourself accountable and have a framework that holds you accountable for your management style. 

Something I have done in the past is run through with my team and I asked them to call out my bad traits and hold me accountable.
This takes a complete level of trust but will drive you forward as a manager, build trust and encourage a culture of feedback and importantly improve you as a leader. 

Have a great week and I’ll be back next week with another instalment of leadership advice. 

Danny Denhard

Other Great Free Frameworks To Improve Your Leadership Career