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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 48

12 Lessons From The “Trillion Dollar Coach” Bill Campbell​ For You To Apply This Week.

Dear leaders,

I trust you had a good weekend. 

In 2016 I was told about a legendary coach in Silicon Valley named Bill Campbell who had just passed away. 

A TLDR backstory of Bill:

Bill was a coach of an unsuccessful sports team for Columbia, Bill then moved into the business world and had successes at Kodak and Apple before becoming the go-to c-suite coach. 

Bill’s coaching roaster is a who’s who of Silicon Valley. Bill helped the likes of:

  • Google’s former chairman Eric Schmidt, founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and current Alphabet CEO Sindar Pichai,
  • Apple’s leaders including co-founder Steve Jobs, long-serving exec Phil Schiller and even current CEO Tim Cook.
  • Ex CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer
  • The current COO at Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg
  • Alongside leading Intuit’s Brad Smith and business hero Amazon’s chairman Jeff Bezos (read the business lessons from Jeff Bezos).

Bill’s life and legacy are told in a brilliant biography Trillion Dollar Coach by Former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Google’s Comms leader Alan Eagle and SVP’s of Product Jonathan Rosenberg. 

I took a stack of notes and have applied a number of these lessons to a number of my coaching clients. 

So, here are the 12 most applicable lessons from the biography and you can apply daily: 

  1. Don’t be the hero 
  2. Don’t be a fixer 
  3. Ask questions and push those towards the answer 
  4. Don’t assume employees respect you because of your title 
  5. Lean into the hard problems 
  6. Guide people to opportunities – many don’t see it myself 
  7. It’s not about you – it’s about the team 
  8. Listen to what people want and give them a process to an outcome 
  9. Never give people the answer 
  10. Park your ego – constantly put it in check 
  11. Treat everyone with dignity, even in failure
  12. Get rid of people with bad attitudes. You need people that care about the outcome 

I highly recommend reading the full book, if you don’t think you have the time, this video from The Tim Ferriss podcast with Eric Schmidt is worth the watch. 

The message: Don’t think you do not need help, you will benefit from a coach.

Good luck with rolling these out and remember often it’s about guiding people and offering a light at the end of the tunnel than giving the answer in success and in failure. 

Thanks, 

Danny Denhard  – Focus Founder & Head Coach (I offer management and executive coaching, start your career development today)

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 47

Virtual Interviews & Hybrid Hiring Tips 

3rd May 2021,

Dear Leaders, 

Over the past couple of months, I have been working with a number of businesses that are in a good position to grow and invest in their staff and ramp up hiring again. 

I have been lucky to interview a number of great candidates virtually, it was something I experienced before I created Focus, as a c-suite candidate you have a large number of rounds of interviews, with numerous committees, the experience was long, complicated and challenging for both parties, especially with time zones. 

Although I have not perfected the art yet, here are a few ways you can improve virtual interviews and hybrid hiring to improve the experience for both you and your candidates. 

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Anonymous Career Advice

Is Being Visible And Playing The Game Necessary?

This week’s anonymous career advice we received a big question that is a simple one-word answer but requires more explanation and a deliberate decision to be made by you.

Dear focus, a simple question:
Is being visible and playing the game necessary?

A simple but important question!

The TLDR answer is YES!

Unfortunately, it is more necessary than many people realise. Every business I have ever worked in has had levels of the internal political game, some at low-level others it is all about playing the game at full speed.

The Important Truth

The truth that many companies will not tell you or do not onboard you with and empower you with the most important piece of information: How to succeed in this business.

This is months of detective work, asking questions and for many trial and error. This is where you need to build a strong and safe network around you and understand the motivations and drivers of those around you and above you.

Positive Being Visible

There are often times you will think being visible is a negative but actually being visible can be and should be seen as a positive for you, your career and your team.

Being visible often means you are keeping people informed, you are communicating well and you have ideas, insights and feedback (not just opinions) that will progress the company.
These are all important traits that leaders typically seek out.

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Focus News

Announcing The Future State Of Podcast

The Future State of podcast is a series of conversations between Nick Walter, the CEO of an extended reality* company Vortic and I.  

Nick and I have known each other for over ten years and often have numerous phone calls and long message threads about the state of an industry and how we think and how we would tackle that industry moving forward.

Nick and I have worked in bootstrapped businesses, successful startups and large organisations we have a good perspective on what’s happening and where the industry is and potentially should go.

The Podcast Explained

Nick and I deep dive into important and up-and-coming business areas, we discuss the current state of that particular business area, we debate what the important areas are, the opportunity in the market and then we provide our hot takes and the future state of that industry.

The podcast is weekly and typically goes live on Thursday’s.

Research & Insights Driven

We take a number of hours each week to research and talk to business minds within the space to be able to tackle rich and immersive topics.

The Future State podcast was built to provide more than just what is happening in the news or what you can read with a quick Google search, we break down each episode with our full notes not just show notes and we share our notes and insights via email so you never have to take too many notes and never miss an episode.

Why Listen?

Nick and I don’t hold back on opinions and potential actions so it’s not just another bland business podcast without personality or qualified opinion.

The First Three Episodes Cover:

  1. The future state of brand endorsements and brand partnerships.
    Why Anthony Joshua and Revolut might just be another Instagram deal
  2. The future state of football.
    Why the business side of the European Super League is so important and overlooked
  3. The future state of conferences
    Why large conferences might have died and why going niche might just be the answer for the organisers, the attendees and the speakers.

Sign Up & Get Insights & The Podcast Delivered To You

Or visit thefuturestate.co.uk and read (and listen) to the full industry breakdown.

Listen To The First Three Episodes:

The Future State Of Work The Future State Podcast

The Future State Of Work 👩‍💻The future of work has been a hot topic for the past three years, the pandemic has really shifted how many businesses operate and highlighted how slow some companies have been to change their old ways of working. The future state of work is going to be led by a few but followed by many, even the big companies are struggling to keep staff engaged let alone happy. This week Nick and I discuss: The future state of work Why micromanagers are going to have to change Why so many managers have been shown upWhy HR isn’t the right team to lead The impact of a new hire – the culture community managerWhy hybrid is going to be a tougher choice for employees and businesses The challenge for old school managers to change with the times The investment required for businesses Some future thinking hot takes that you will want to hear including company currencies, the importance of mental & physical health being equal & Why part-timers & side hustles might be the choice for many Supporting Podcast Links Company Culture LinksAre you creating the right company cultureWhat is company cultureThe Hybrid office e-bookDesigning the hybrid office guide✚ Why you should listen to feedback – Funny TikTokNew tools to improve hybrid around.co – campfire video tool with integrated notes that send after the meeting and is floating head based so can work and conference call at the same time Butter.us – a way to ideate, brainstorm or present in a better way gatheround.com – better way to bring people together based on Q&A  Basecamp IssuesOriginal Story (link)Follow Up with 1/3 of senior workforce taking buyout (link)Open letter from ex member of the Basecamp teamSummarised on this week in startups (YouTube link)A Reminder: What Is The Podcast? The Future State – Modern business & future trends explored by Nick Walter & Danny Denhard. 
  1. The Future State Of Work
  2. The Future State Of Conferences
  3. The Future State Of Football – The European Super League

Subscribe on your Podcast app of choice: Apple // Spotify // Amazon Music // Listen Notes // Mixcloud // Deezer // Simplecast // or via RSS.


*What is XR

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Anonymous Career Advice

Taking Over From A Bad Manager

This week in the anonymous career advice column, we tackle something many managers will encounter when taking over a team or a department.

Dear Focus, I have recently taken over from a bad manager, they have dented the team’s confidence and they have zero trust, what should I do?

One of the guaranteed occurrences in management careers is we take over from a bad manager.

However good a manager you believe you are there will be certain aspects of your management style that will remind someone of their previous manager and open professional scars or wounds that need to heal.

Almost all management styles differ, especially when you come in from another company and take over an existing team that have worked closely together for a year.

The best approach is to create a simple transition plan for the team to move forward and become a trusted part of the team and the company.

Our recommended approach is to listen and ask a number of questions and address these concerns and previous experiences:

StepAction
1 – Ask for insightsAsk your team for insights and examples of poor management. This should not be considered a session to be completely negative but a step towards a proactive therapy session
2 – Acknowledge poor leadershipOne of the most important steps is to identify and highlight there were a number of issues and recommend how you can work to improve this collectively.

Be clear everyone has shortcomings and you will try your hardest to remove these behaviours from your management
3 – Identifier your style and talk it through with the teamOne important step almost all leaders I have worked under or with has called out their style and talked through what they are good at and what they are bad at and how they like to work, especially now you are armed with important information.
4 – Create space The most important step is to take a step back and observe how the team performs and look to come to you with any issues or how they work through their issues when they think no one is watching.

Trust is built through experiences but also knowing they can come to you when they need to. It is vital to be available when they need assistance
5 – Ask for open feedbackOnce you have given the team space and become approachable, ask for open feedback in a form you can keep a record of and show you have made progress.

Recording feedback and keeping open dialogue gives you a way to encourage more open communication.

Know when to take it offline or move to one to one
6 – Meet monthly and celebrate Something that many good sports coaches do is meet with their players and teams directly regularly, this is also a trait some of the best people managers I have worked with or feedback I have received directly.

The next step: celebrate as a group and as a team to build more trust and recognise there has been both business performance improvements and personal developments.

When there have been examples of behaviours being repeated or removed, call it out early.

It is important to note: Good managers set behaviours, set their teams to succeed and help to guide company culture and improve organisational health, bad managers set environments and often create poor cross-functional collaboration and internal fighting. Bad managers can also completely by accident create strong team bonds – this can be great news for you or a challenge to be aware of, tribal behaviour can be combative against a new leader.
Learn when to guide or when just to get out the way.

Best of luck with removing the negative energy and previous leadership issues, this won’t be an instant problem to solve but one with a couple of positive steps and then a giant leap will be made. Think of the first few weeks as a hangover period that will clear and lift and clarity and delivery ensue.

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 46

My Go To Operational & Organisational Tips 

26th April 2021,

Dear leaders, I trust you had a good week and ready for the week ahead.

Some of the most popular leaders letters are me sharing my way of work and the frameworks I use.

So here is a select series of my operational ways of work:

Split out your browsers, inboxes and messages 

  • One for work 
  • Home for another. 

Helps you prioritise, maintain and apply prioritisation. 

Take and keep notes but have a system  

  • I am a huge note taker and keeping a record, especially of micro-moments, select one way of taking notes, often in person pen and pad works best, type up (or scan and copy text), 
  • Categorise and link to other notes. Think of the 1:2:1’s, the department notes you have to keep and actions you have given and the ideas you have on an ongoing basis.
    These are all-important to take notes, check in on progress and revisit. 
  • Revisit the Decision documents, company typically only work when ‘centralised knowledge’ is kept, updated and shared. 

No pointless or boring meeting rules

  • Meetings always have an owner – clearly called out and run by said owner
  • No attendees leave a well organised intentional meeting – be intentional and explain why they should attend and what their role is in this meeting and moving forward
  • Always have a no leaving rule (no leaving early or no leaving because you were invited to a bad or unorganised) – roll this out company-wide so it sticks 
  • Meeting feedback is a gift – offer an open document for feedback. Many businesses can operate with silent start meetings, meaning they have centralised documents and share their thoughts and feedback and then discuss with one chair who updates and then the notes are reviewed and discussed.

Statuses Work

  • Have work statuses. The ones that typically work for my clients:  
    • Available
    • Away
    • In a meeting
    • At lunch
    • Deep work aka Do not disturb 
  • Ensure everyone understands what to use and when. This is not checking up on colleagues, this is to help understand how to support colleagues time and energy
  • Even if the most senior management team members or the HiPPO contacts you, follow the statuses to manage expectations. 

Clear Internal Comms 

  • IM channels for quick updates not long threads
  • Stories style video updates work, even think about replacing in-person standup (Work in progress meetings definitely can be replaced and shortened)
  • Documents for more in-depth deliberate conversations 
  • One dedicated project management tool (Notion, Monday or confluence all work well)
  • Email for external comms and important internal updates 

Good luck rolling these out, happily get in touch if you have any questions around these points.

Thanks and have a good week,

Danny Denhard


Other Great Leaders Letters:

One problem two solutions framework

Risk vs benefit framework

Three questions to build better relationships

Fewer managers, more coaches and mentors

Commitment: Communicate clearly

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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 23rd April

This week’s Friday Focus, here are five updates from brilliant leadership coach David Marquet.

I highly recommend reading Turn the Ship Around, it’s a must-read for leaders and will improve how you think about being better communicators, being more impactful and respected at a deeper level.

The Five Leadership Gems:

A leaders job:

Open & Curious

A Leader Is A Farmer

Teams: Happy Then Success

Leadership Principles

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 45

Professional Injuries & Rehab 

Dear leaders, I trust you had a good weekend. 

As I have mentioned before, I love coaching and mentoring. I currently have two great coaching clients and it is the highlight of my week whenever we sit down, zoom and run through coaching sessions. 

Something that came up in a recent mentoring session was being conditioned by a previous experience and it having a lasting impact on their career. 

I for one know I have many battle wounds and mental scars from previous workplaces and I am open to telling many of these to help to share and show we all have them and let them know being vulnerable is part of the process with us. 

Something many managers forget is the professional injuries our team members suffer or have suffered at previous companies or under previous management.
Truth be told some might be impacted by our management styles today. 

Yes, being busy is a part of it, an (important) however, not being close enough to the team and choosing to be a coach or mentor vs not having to be specific people’s manager is not taught and rarely discussed in management books or courses. 

Like athletes, injuries take a tremendous toll on us, physically and mentally and are often triggered by repeat events or similar results from a similar approach. 

This is one of the reasons why I recommend more coaches and mentors than managers. Coaches improve performance and recognise weakness that needs more personalised coaching. Managers rarely have the skillset for this.

We need rehab, we need to retrain and strengthen, what is different in the workplace especially large corporations, this is often left to the individual to work through, professional assistance and training is not promoted or recommended by managers or management teams. 

It is the time to balance this, help your team or department members seek professional help or self start and find a coach or mentor to help work on their injuries and improve our reliance and our strength. Training budgets should be used to train and retrain. 

I highly recommend updating your leadership principles to include developing your colleagues with coaching and rehab.

This week consider how you can take forward your colleague’s professional injuries or scars and look to offer a chance for them to rehabilitate. It doesn’t have to cost a huge amount of money or time but the benefit for you, your colleague and the business in a short period of time will be huge. 

Have a great week and take the time to list of a couple of your own injuries and how you might rehab them.  Professional 1-2-1 coaching is only an email away.

Thanks, 

Danny Denhard 

Focus Founder 

Five Important Reads To Read & Share 

  1. Return to the office checklist – reduce the anxiety around returning to the office 
  2. Recording mico-moments – this should be a micro moment   
  3. Offsites to reconnect as a team – need to reconnect with your team? An off-site or on-site done well with help you win the next two quarters  
  4. Fight, flight or freeze – changing the default reaction of teams
  5. Time for a co-pilot? – Is it time to revisit whether you need more support or the team needs a different pilot?
Categories
Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 16th April

This week’s five for Friday to focus on breaks down 5 things you are told are bad ideas or silly but are essential parts of the business world.

Ask The “Stupid” Question 

Why? Very often in a meeting with more than three people, there is a fear to appear stupid or ask the most obvious question no one else is asking. Ask it, stupid questions clarify situations.

State The Obvious (when no one else is

Why? In busy environments, it is essential you have a centre point, an agreed place where you are operating or the problem you are tackling. Very often the obvious needs stating to align and drive projects and campaigns forward.

Think Bigger & Longer Term

Why? In the majority of businesses they are often only thinking of the next few weeks (aka the tactical level), businesses commonly operate with a few weeks cycle, you should know to drive a business forward you need a couple of smart future seers to think and plan while others action.

Remember the Focus approach to company strategy:

  • Think 5 years ahead
  • Plan 3 years ahead
  • Action 1 year ahead

Ask If Your Boss Is Ok 

Why? It is rare unless you have a direct or personal relationship that you ask the boss or your boss if they are ok. This will likely come as a shock to most leaders (they are just not used to being asked) however it helps to understand how your boss is feeling and if they need to talk or run things past you. Company culture and organisational health have to work for everyone from the least experienced to the most experienced and most senior.

Say “I Don’t Know, I’ll Come Back You”  

Why? Not knowing an answer is completely ok, not wanting to make something up or take a guess is completely acceptable and responsible. Often coming back with the right data, the correct information and being a few steps forward will ensure progress. Many businesses are powered by the quick answer, not the right answer or smart approach.

Looking to become a better or more thoughtful leader? Sign up to the Focus Newsletter

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Recent Focus Blog Articles To Help Your Business

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Anonymous Career Advice

Self-Taught Manager Issues?

 This week’s anonymous career advice comes from “middle manager with middle manager problems”. 

Dear focus, I am a self-taught manager and I struggle managing my team and manage my manager’s expectations. What is the best way to develop my management style of managing my manager and managing my team? 

There is something quite important about understanding you can improve as a manager and improve managing those around you and those you come into contact with regularly. 

An issue managers face is typically being able to create time to manage, to do their own work and manage out managers, or at least their expectations. 

Middle management is the hardest area of management, it is often the time you learn most about the work environment, the way people are motivated and what expectations truly are. 

Personally, I have a belief that management is an art form that a tiny per cent of people have managed to crack, it evolves every day and with every interaction, so this advice won’t be perfect but will be a guide to help you improve as a manager and improve communications and expectation management.

Management Advice

Managing up 

Managing up is about relationships and time management, most senior managers are time-sensitive and struggle to have much time to dedicate themselves to one to ones or one to few. 

From experience key to managing up is to communicate the most important aspects and goings-on with clear thought and in digestible chunks. Being able to have an exec summary and a list of objectives and the ways you are thinking of tackling those objectives often puts you on the front foot. 

One issue to countermeasure is handling the requests and helping your manager to know when you can take more work on and when they need to take work off you. This happens with a relationship and having clear one to ones and clear communications around hurdles. 

One problem two solutions framework will help greatly with overbearing bosses as will risks vs benefits framework when going through and managing your communications. 

Managing Around 

Managing around you is an area many ignore as managing those managers in the same position as you are is an important part of your development and building a support network. 

Managing Your Team 

Managing your team is always a challenge, something that has been a help in my career is working out the individual motivations and the way people want to be managed and compare to how you manage them. Surprisingly you will find some are motivated by praise, others are motivated by money and some are motivated by knowing they can improve. 

Being able to have open conversations, help problem-solve together and collaboratively and speak on the right level will help you have better relationships and improve as a manager, being trusted and proving you have their best interests is vitally important. This comes with time and having their back and supporting them by knowing when they need you, when they want you and when they don’t know they require support and guidance. 

An important lesson: saying my door is always open and not being available is something that upsets and frustrates your team far more than you will know. 

More actions you can take to proactively progress as a manager:

  • Hire a professional coach 
  • Ask for internal mentors 
  • Look for external mentors – costs can vary but important to know how much an external mentor will improve and challenge you differently
  • Hire a personal development coach 
  • Join a manager group – some can be particularly useful, be wary of HiPPO bias or admin bias in big groups
  • Build a management group on slack, discord or on LinkedIn to improve your skills and be able to have voice anonymous issues. I have built a number of communities that have helped greatly  
  • Write a professional and personal SWOT – this will help you spot your own weaknesses and build on opportunities you and others see
  • Read lessons from leaders this was an important set of interviews from last summer
  • Bringing those up around you will improve you as a manager, consider is it time for a co-pilot
  • Ask to co-create leadership principles to roll out to your leadership teams if this does not exist and will enable you to understand different situations and working environments particularly if you have access to broader teams, for instance: tech vs non-tech management are completely different challenges.

Leadership is not a linear journey and often you learn more in challenges than you do when everything seems to be going well. 

Keep up on knowing you want to progress and being proactive in developing out your career. 

Finally, never discount free resources on YouTube, LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to invest in books. 

Have Your Own Question?

Our book recommendations can be found 

Focus book recommendations 

5 Business Books To Read 

Ride of a lifetime  – The Disney Chairman autobiography

The Netflix Company Culture Book aka No Rules Rules – – The Netflix CEO book autobiography


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