Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 168 – The 5 Simple Questions To Ask This Week To Improve Prioritisation & Performance

Ask Better Questions & More Often To Improve Work & Performance

Dear leaders, this week I am introducing 5 questions to clarify situations and remove ambiguity.  

These questions are basically my frequently asked questions from the last three months, the questions come from recent conversations, coaching sessions and helping leaders with personal development questions from expert calls.  

  1. For when meetings and performance aren’t flowing:
    Ask: What context am I/are we missing? 
    Why: Simple questions and stopping poor meetings to gain realignment are critical 
  2. For when you need deeper feedback loops:
    Ask: What is your analysis here?
    Why: It is critical it is not first opinions or thoughts. The analysis framing allows people to dive into issues and create compelling arguments for both sides. 
  3. For when ruthless prioritisation is required:
    Ask: If we were to stop this activity today what negative impact would it have? 
    Why: Most people default to more and have a bias for doing more, being ruthless and clearly calling out tasks will reduce strain and cognitive load on teams. 
  4. For when to understand output at a greater level:
    Ask: what is x’s performance like over the last nine months? 
    Why: Results are often too binary. Performance allows you to understand the wider impact and uncover the deeper actions and decisions taken. 
  5. For when to understand performance and productivity: 
    Ask: What expectations do you have for this project? And how are you prioritising your tasks within this project? 
    Why: When performance is struggling and when team members feel stretched autopilot kicks in and many team members just start, very often understanding the required steps are missed out and prioritises these tasks are overlooked and underappreciated. 

This week’s focus action is to ask these 5 questions when required and move your business forward with smarter questions and reduce the bias for more and have an eye for prioritised (aka smarter) work. 

Have a good week and land in your inbox next week,

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 166 – The No Passengers Principle

It Is Time To Remove The Passengers From Your Business

Dear leaders, if I said no passengers within your team what would I be referring to? 

A passenger (to me) is someone who always sits back, does just about enough and doesn’t strive to push their work forward or importantly improve the company’s status quo.

Passengers are in every business, in almost every team and are often hidden away by a lack of people management (managers this is on you, if you catch the early onset of passengers you can address it, if stays after six months it’s hard to reset) performers or by performances from their colleagues. 

Having Potential & Good Is Different To A Passenger 

I believe you can have brilliant performers who can take their foot off the gas from time to time and can have a lot on to keep up their high standards, however, allowing long-term mediocrity is going to have a hugely negative impact. 

Middle managers have a hard job and motivating passengers can be almost impossible. It’s critical in management and leadership you know who’s adding value and whos detracting from it. This is where you can proactively score performance and output and then address them regularly. 

Blending quant and qual with real work examples is critical to influencing, improving performance or replacing passengers.  

Passenger True Impact 

Passengers are often hindering your department’s performance, they are coasting, and passengers often rub off in the wrong way and then bring on others for their ride and it can then spill over into other members of the team. Remember team members mimic behaviours especially hard and high performers who feel they are being taken advantage of. 

Why A No-Passenger Principle? 

Principles are what people can get behind, and agree on and they can lead behaviours. 

Long-time readers will know I am a huge supporter of principles, I have: 

Principles Over Pointers 

When you look to create your principles or look at revisiting your principles (it’s annual planning for most larger companies in August), you should question what you really need and what makes the business better and why no passengers are critical to reset expectations and drive the business forward at every given opportunity.  

Principles are written up, formalised, put up in the office and shared so frequently the whole company should be able to repeat on request without any effort or hesitation. Being a pointer isn’t enough and this is when HR will likely have to be called in to help when principles are there to support managers and colleagues. 

This week’s focus action is to consider adding a no-passenger principle to your business and being clear on what behaviours work within your business and which behaviours will not be accepted. 

Have a great week ahead,


Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter 165 – Energy Control

Dear leaders, we are entering into the period of the year when we need a real break, and many counting down to holiday/vacation. 

We are hitting the breaking point and a rest is what you need and the doctor likely ordered. 

In my coaching and workshops, I have numerous recommendations and a theme of recommendations I supply towards summer and into the autumn/fall session:  

  • Mid-year burnout 
  • How to control your energy 
  • How to leverage knowing your energy levels 
  • Understanding how your department members gain energy and lose energy 
  • How your team leads are motivated 
  • And where everyone’s energy levels are 

Here is how I break energy down further 

Ramp Up For Important Meetings 

  • I am a person who is full of energy in the morning but mid-afternoon I have a harder time doing my best work, I attempt to book important meetings earlier in the day and restrict my caffeine intake to coincide with the most important meetings 
  • I have been known to get hangary, which means I need to eat fairly regularly and need energy from the food to help me post lunch. Knowing which foods provide you energy and which reduce energy, it will be important to improving your output and being present in meetings and when making important decisions 
  • I ramp up with caffeine, I ramp up with preparation for the meetings and often I will walk to bring up the heart rate and help you to think more clearly. 

Energy Matching 

  • As a coach you are either supposed to bring the energy and take levels higher or match the person you are coaching. Very often I will match coaching clients’ energy to ensure it aligns with how they feel and then raise if they need to take part in more specific skill drills 
  • Many video-based meetings can feel like a slog, there is a lot written about zoom fatigue and mirror anxiety but a small shift and delay can feel like a lot, it is important to call this out and match the energy or call it out to try and ensure everyone is equally invested (hard I know but in trust-based organisations, this is not a too far removed)
  • Walk-and-talk meetings are often a great way to energy match and equal the conversation. Walk-and-talk meetings are often an easy way to remove any tension and matching strides is a simple way to energy match 

Energy Zapping 

  • We have all been in meetings or when working in the office and someone’s negative demeanour or negative attitude wipes out the team’s energy, it is important to learn what zaps your energy and who can zap your energy.
  • Being able to talk to your colleague with negative energy can be challenging, if you can discuss this, please do directly, if not attempt to help them recognise they might not be helping the collective (seek HR help required
  • When you are sat in a bad meeting you can feel frustrated and see your energy level deplete, MRS aka meeting recovery syndrome is an essential area which many are unaware of and do not control by scoring and reflecting on the quality of the meeting. Ensure poor meetings and frustrating meetings are addressed and you personally make personal reviews and notes on meetings that create MRS. This is where I recommend conducting a calendar auditand being ruthless in owning your time and energy levels.  

Energy Supplying 

  • Do you have someone within your team (first team or your own department) that whenever you chat or work with them – they boost your energy, they make you feel like you need to take action or can improve something just by spending a short amount of time with them? I can name five on the spot and often wish I could collaborate with them when low on energy. These energy givers are invaluable collaborators and ensuring you match their energy or give back is critical to a high-functioning and performing team 
  • As mentioned earlier, food and drink are vital areas of giving you energy. There are a number of ways you can incorporate this into meetings and working sessions, by providing healthy snacks (allergies to be remembered) and getting the opportunity to add a buffer to get a drink and/or snack (even a FIKA break) to manage levels and give you the energy 
  • Often with away days and strategic getaways you will actively see people’s energy drop and when they hit caffeine walls, most would then dive into the sugary treats and then have a large lunch, this would mean a real crash or slump after lunchtime. There are typically drinks and dinner in the evening the following day will be a write-off for many. It is important you understand this cycle and supply better snacks (fuel), book in breaks (powering through isn’t a smart default) and stop people just sitting around a boardroom table or a hotel’s basement conference room and getting out and stretching your legs, reduce cognitive boredom and improve your oxygen flow 
  • When you set the agendas and running orders you should consider what decisions are made and when and how the sessions can complement energy sources 
  • I used to hate looking at the agenda and knowing my annual strategy presentation or my business lines financial request was after 4 pm. This was knowing everyone would have low energy, and low attention and knowing that the most important decisions are made when people are more switched on and energy levels are higher (despite many late-night emails and chats most decisions are made in the workday apart from in crisis)

This week’s focus action is to understand how to control your energy, how to make other people aware of this and where you can tweak your offsites and workshops to be more energy aware. 

Have a great week and have great energy levels, 


Danny Denhard 

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 164 – Discover How to Make Company-Wide Feedback Proactive and Effective Now!

Dear leaders, how frequently do you ask for and gather company-wide feedback? My guess is quarterly and it’s often just another task to complete.

As a department lead, you should look for feedback loops as often as possible. 


  • One to ones 
  • Skip meetings 
  • Team feedback 
  • Department feedback 
  • QBRs & Quarterly planning with the team 
  • Annual department planning 
  • BAR & AAR (before action reviews and after action reviews)
  • Your manager’s feedback (yes even CEOs have bosses) 

One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to make feedback actionable and take steps to improve. For most, you are never given a framework or a tool to keep track of and improve on the essential items of feedback from quarterly check-ins, your annual review and real-time feedback from colleagues. 

There is a free feedback model that I like broken down into: 

  • Advice 
  • Compliment 
  • Criticism 
  • Suggestion 

This framework helps you list out all feedback and decide if you need to take action or something you should take note of and evolve your approach over time. 

Battling Realtime Team & Department Feedback 

I bet you have also been in meetings where your team or department becomes under fire and the feedback is mostly lost or unactionable as it’s not recorded or part of a political game from other department leads. This isn’t helping the company, its venting and its hindering progress without formal examples.

Actionable Hint:

  • Always ask for this feedback in writing and ask for two to three examples of when the team or department have acted like this otherwise it’s likely reactionary to results or not getting the desired outcome. 
  • Create a centralised document and start attacking each piece of feedback (not opinion) and show how you are proactively leading from the front. This makes it clear to the team/department and company how seriously you are taking feedback.

Official tools like Workday struggle with helping department leads to know what to work on and if there are core learning and skills gaps. 

This is where there is a big jump (and no bridge) between individual feedback, departmental and company-wide feedback. Very often they are connected and you should learn by sharing knowledge and actions taken.

Company-Wide Feedback

When you’re a company you look for official feedback from all the company employees. 

Most ask a series of questions and the answers are anonymous. 

Some companies select an eNPS solution and have quant and qual feedback. 

There are a few issues that arise: 

  • A low number of responses – requires numerous chases from HR (and becomes disheartening)
  • Sending a survey to all staff members doesn’t work from an HR perspective. It is not personal to the recipient, it seems low importance and takes a long time versus finishing all of your important tasks.  Always being put off.
    Hint: Seeding and then nudging from the department lead is a better approach and easier to scale than mass sends from HR or the founder
  • There is a fundamental lack of trust in the “anonymity” of the surveys (having led software selection the majority are anonymous and aren’t actually sophisticated enough to offer this
  • eNPS often can confuse the company and without real management and insight it can seem daunting or unrealistic to make any change from a low score to a better score let alone a bigger score  
  • Most who complete the survey don’t trust the answers will be actioned and don’t see the steps (or the discussion) behind the feedback sessions and how it’s handled 

Most often these feedback surveys do not highlight the real issues or areas to celebrate in the company culture, it is often performance-based feedback and without more organic and frequent feedback companies will struggle to make a difference for the company or the people. 

Google Weekly Move 

I recently read that Google has moved from annual feedback to weekly feedback (surveying) and it makes me wonder, why and what is it actually achieving.

Is it a leadership initiative or is it an HR play or a PR response to the ongoing changes and headlines Google are receiving? 

I can’t see how this will add value and make any feedback actionable without deep connections and department (Product) to department (Marketing), company (Android) to company (Google Ads). 

With thousands of employees at different phases of being unhappy making changes will take a long time and the low-cost low effort will most likely always be selected to roll out. 

How to improve weekly feedback? I often suggest a company culture or culture community manager to help to shape and collaborate in company culture – the key is not to be reporting to HR and definitely not to be seen playing the game. Trust is critical.

Other Companies Feedback Cadence

I asked 50 C-suite leaders what their company-wide cadence was and the breakdown was:

  • Weekly – 2% 
  • Monthly – 44% 
  • Quarterly – 18% 
  • Annually – 36% 

When I asked those who replied with monthly as their answer, this changed from annually over the last 18 months, this shows there is either progress or reacting to the demands of hybrid work and forced return to the office. 

Feedback is a critical part of management and leadership, that’s obvious, however, what is less obvious is how we review data sources and ask for better feedback loops. 

  • When performance is high you will want to understand the drivers and what and how people are feeling 
  • When performance is down or a big event has taken place and there is a negative sentiment in the air – what can we learn from this 
  • When a core member of the team leaves or when mass layoffs happen what insights and nuggets do we have to garner from the company to improve the business holistically 

This week’s focus action is: Ask yourself and the leadership team:

  • How frequently do you ask for feedback?
  • How do you show the results and identity which areas you will be working on and the areas of concern you will be taking a longer-term view on?
  • How do we step up and ask for feedback formally in the good times and then in the low times and how are we proactive in showing we (the leadership team) want to improve the business and not just ask for more? 

This won’t improve everything in the near term but in the mid to long term, this approach is going to reshape how feedback is seen, heard and actioned within your business.

Have a great week and if you have feedback let me know below.


Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letters 163 – 3 Priceless Quotes

The 3 Quotes I Often Think Of & Revisit When Creating Strategy & Hosting Workshops

Dear Leaders, with it being the last stretch in July it means two things:
(1) seasonality (for most) it is the summer slow down
(2) it’s prep and away day season with most mid and large businesses likely running their annual planning cycle and then re-forecast cycle (basically the hardest cycle we go through as leaders).

(» If you are going through AOP or LRP here are a number of free resources)

In most of my workshop sessions, I have a stack of quotes to share, most business owners look for well-known CEOs when sharing quotes, it’s an inspiration and ego play.

The go-to quote that is used by most consultants is (which admittedly I love and use myself) –

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”
— Henry Ford.

Here are my three favourite quotes I share, they come from:

  • Google co-founder Larry Page suggests they are competing with competitors by serving them organically
  • Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg’s understanding of why his competitors own the wider eco-system is a significant strategic risk
  • Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos reminds us that tactics are temporary, strategy is ten years aka the longest term for Amazon, unlikely for most others.

“On the Internet, competition is one click away.”
— Larry Page (Google Co-Founder)

Why is it important?

  • Google traditionally serves their customers by serving organic listings and ads against core keywords searched and users’ behaviours on & across their products
  • Google’s approach was one of the smartest moves in business history, to make money from other people’s data, crawl their sites, then rank and importantly create a moat around this by serving intent-based ads (remember their motto – don’t be evil) and knowing switching costs will limit us moving from good free services and better paid for services (like Google Suite)
  • And then charging their competitors to appear in their search results aka the click away (for years we have called it downstream) in mind. What I call —
    Make Money From Your Data Moat With Your Competition Click In Mind. If you ask any CMO or CFO, the one thing they truly hate paying for is brand terms and others bidding on them…

“Our biggest competitor by far is iMessage,” 

“In important countries like the U.S. where the iPhone is strong, Apple bundles iMessage as a default texting app and it’s still ahead,”— Mark Zuckerberg (Meta Founder)

Why is this important?

  • Knowing your enemy (competitor) is critical in business, most struggle to not fixate on their competitor’s activities. Meta and Apple are still in business battles over the App Stores, associated charges, mass personalised data collection via product usage, the open vs closed web.
    Tim Cook Vs Mark Zuckerberg is going to be decades-long battle
  • One of the smart moves reducing their friction was their acquisition of WhatsApp (in 2014) and Instagram (in 2012) – it still couldn’t easily compete with iMessage groups and sharing in private, and how content from their properties was to show up was out of their control
  • Facebook knew via their famous Growth Department (including its current CMO Alex Schultz and famed VC Chamath Palihapitiya and many others holding influential roles) they needed to hit external mass and share across the primary messaging app iMessage to drive more adoption and to serve better ads you’ll click and buy from
  • Facebook’s big issue is still others own their destiny with the sharing of Meta content (think Facebook, Instagram, Threads posts) across other networks and platforms and their app downloads are being controlled by app stores and search engine algorithms this is costly, particularly across their vast user groups
  • What Facebook did was to unbundle Facebook and push ahead with messaging across all of their platforms and focus on the different jobs to be done on each network. Facebook still struggles with the dominance of iMessage in the US market

Long-Term Thinking & Planning Wins

“Be strategically patient, tactically impatient.”

— Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder)

Why is this important?

  • Amazon has been the long-term first company for the last two decades, with Jeff Bezos telling investors repeatedly about their long-term approach since 2003 and hinting their investors should share the same view
  • Amazon are constantly sticking to their ten-year plan and smartly tactically they have to be flexible and on rare occasions, reactive (Covid and mass industry changes). Amazon has accelerated their tactics and rolled out Prime Day in response to competitors and had record years since its launch
  • Jeff Bezos also famously said “Your Margin Is My Opportunity” when quizzed on their low-price prime pillar. This has made Amazon the trusted place of convenience
  • Andy Jassy (the current CEO) has helped to evolve the company into a more efficient business aka day 2 while doubling down on customer-centric what I dub prime expectations. Amazon adding to their famous flywheel has been critical to customer retention and signing up net new customers.

Quotes in isolation can be great in workshops and conference talks, however, the context behind the quotes and insights that are shared are vitally important and can drive change within businesses by understanding the thought processes.

This week’s focus action is to understand how you can think about competition and think differently, consider how you can over-serve your customer by adding mutually beneficial services and understand how partnering with competitors with services they can’t refuse to use (Amazon also does this (alongside Google & Facebook) with ads and with their logistical offerings.

Have a great week ahead!


Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter 162 – Threads Strategy Breakdown

Dear leaders, are you one of the 100m users who flocked to threads over the last couple of weeks? 

I am and I must confess, I am not so convinced about the product and its lacklustre product features…yet.

I suspect you have heard it at least mentioned within your business, from the employees using it and as likely from your Marketing or Growth team with the race to get the account and find if you are relevant within the evolving app culture. 

This week I am going to breakdown one of Focus’ core offerings strategy and break down Treads, what it is, why it launched and why it is different, how Meta has thought about the landscape and how they’ve used this launch (smartly or not I’ll let you decide) to misdirect some of its recent failures. 

The Threads TLDR

  • App only ( prompts you to download the app) 
  • Threads is an extension of Instagram – it connects to your Instagram account and supplies you with an @ with a specific number you joined 
  • Threads are built into the Instagram platform enabling micro-updates (500 characters)  
  • Updates can be shared publicly or privately (you set when you sign up) 
  • It has limited features and is by all accounts an MVP 
  • A curated feed that does not allow users to select just those they followed (a lesson from their previous growth days that the feed has to be incredibly valuable) 
  • As a platform, it wants to sit away from news and not be known as a news outlet like Twitter (this will be harder for Threads as this is what people use microblogging platforms for) 
  • There were no ads for a week (Hulu were exclusively the first)
  • Think of a really lightweight Twitter 
Mark Zuckerberg’s tweet poking fun at Elon Musk on Threads launch

Strategy Smarts 

  • Record Breaking – Leveraging the user numbers across the Meta portfolio (Facebook 2.9b MAUs, WhatsApp 2.2b, Instagram 2b MAUs) is driving record user creation and download numbers was incredibly smart and knowing how difficult being an audience can be this was strategic smart and savvy.
  • OrganicTikTok spent over $2b to gain a record number of downloads, user accounts and drive retention through advertising efforts, this has been largely organic channels and knowing they gain mass attention from the tech press and mainstream media
  • New & Alternative – An alternative method to always posting videos and the perfect picture on your native Instagram feed and threads allows users to have something to say and create a new space to be different or be more you. Twitter usage has dropped and it was prime time to release new. We might see Meta allow this to fly too close to the sun and crash quickly after the engagement levels drop. If you follow a number of friends, not media outlets and personalities the updates have already dropped (falling foul of the deliberate full feed of random content)
  • Creating FOMO – creating FOMO around a new product to remove time spent on other apps is intelligent in a market full of attention and time-based apps (while many were enjoying JOMO (joy of missing out) was happening on Twitter)
  • Algorithmic Driven Feeds – Something that Meta got right with Instagram and Facebook was flipping the feed from chronological feed to algorithmic-driven feeds with affinity signals and then learning from a superior product in TikTok. TikTok took algorithmic-driven content to another level and then evolved into an entertainment engine from anyone showing in a feed created for you versus just from people you were connected to. This shows how the internet went from and where it is now, with numerous apps driving entertainment for “free” with us as the product aka being sold to by advertising and subscription models.
    Meta has tweaked their approach to offer similar features and has helped to drive engagement and usage. 
  • Acquire Or Copy – When you hit Meta’s size and scale you cannot easily acquire a competitor or new entrance in the market due to anti-competitive laws and measures. Meta is famous for using Snap, iMessage, Telegram (chat and group platform) and TikTok features in its brand’s umbrella and roll directly into their apps. This is another example of Meta and their leadership team embracing the Microsoft approach to strategy, copying key features and killing others with distribution within their own ecosystem (think recently with Teams fighting with Slack and Teams winning the professional chat app battle)
  • Meta Huge Scale = Controllable Narratives – By releasing a new product it starts to remove narratives away from other platforms and helps to control mass narratives and then how they communicate (we will see exec and media companies exclusively updating and using threads)
  • Big Army Big Battles – Fighting for time and attention from Twitter and importantly against TikTok – this isn’t widely discussed but new products reduce the usage of other platforms while users work out the new platform, the etiquette and the culture of the new app/platform 
  • Hitting Other Apps That Have Potentially Run Their Course – Twitter is struggling to stay relevant (other platforms in the same category as Twitter such as newer players Mastodon and Bluesky), and BeReal was effectively killed off by Instagram and TikTok being inspired by their USP and rolling in a product feature and then usage dies off. This is a smart tactical move(s) for these big platforms horrible for BeReal and similar apps and services that are easily copied 
  • Data Collection – This is the most controversial piece here, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all collect a large number of data points on their users and use it to inform their next series of decisions. This is well known and although this has caused a large number of headlines, court cases and investigations, it hasn’t stopped Meta from releasing a new app with a new set of data collection and a way to connect users into cohorts 
Threads announcing record-breaking weekend, no more official numbers since

Meta Misses & Misdirections  

  • The Metaverse – Meta invested multiple billions in a new metaverse (the company re-branded around) and it hit its stock price and confidence in Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership 
  • AI Struggles – Meta has struggled to have any breakout with their AI tools and while rivals are making bigger steps in the perceived AI battle – we should never count out Meta but their very slow approach it’s likely hindering them from an investor’s perspective 
  • App Store – Facebook wants to become a marketplace for others and an app store alternative, allowing users to download apps directly from their potential version of an app store. This is the play Mark Zuckerberg has wanted to lead on since his earnings call back in 2018 —  “Our biggest competitor by far is iMessage,” “In important countries like the U.S. where the iPhone is strong, Apple bundles iMessage as a default texting app and it’s still ahead,” 
  • Hits & Misses – Despite the Meta brand’s dominance, Instagram and Facebook apps have had a number of product feature misses, including audio and creator funds. Can Threads be a hit or will it be a miss and popularity nose dive like a clubhouse or more recently BeReal.  
  • Creators Only? Instagram threw itself into the creator economy and has struggled with making its shop feature and shopping experiences work – Facebook has also struggled with shopping away from ads – for now, that works, however, in the near future Meta brands will struggle with stuffing more ad units 
  • WhatsApp Controvisal Usage – WhatsApp is a behemoth, it has however struggled with governments (and Taliban) using its platform and having their messages leaked or released – despite its e2e encryption this will have a negative impact (despite all of the convenience and free use via data packages) 
  • 80:20 rule: Apart from on WhatsApp Meta’s properties have a 20% creator role and 80% viewer role (consume content but don’t create) – this will likely also become the norm on Threads. Will their growth teams be able to break this and can their feed be important enough to fill the boredom slots that other apps do already?  
  • Mark Zuckerberg vs Elon Musk – A supposed MMA fight and spat really has taken a leaf out of the music beef (between rappers) playbook to pull attendance away and be part of multiple conversations. This may have seen fun but is a waste of time and effort  
  • Step Out – With many elections coming up, Meta has now built a new (currently) mostly completely organic product that shouldn’t influence the election 

Having worked in a space where Facebook entered with a bang, you prepare for their growth engine and its huge breadth of users and ability to cross-sell to hurt you, interestingly, in two businesses I was in or across this didn’t materially hinder or hurt us. With the right prep for the teams and a reminder of why we were different and to focus on our journey, we drove the business forward. I am not sure Elon and Twitter have the same sort of defence. 

Whatever you think of Meta, there are always numerous lessons we can and should take away, from their aggressive tactics to their ability to engage and retain users and drive more ads into their ecosystem while glueing the user data together. It is the modern-day company that has navigated numerous issues and continues to be stronger for users and advertisers. 

This week’s focus item is to: learn from how Meta leveraged its own ecosystem and a weakening market to drive a record-breaking app that may or may not keep its mass appeal… 

Have a great week! 


Danny Denhard 

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Leaders Letter 161 – 5 Questions With Dave Cairns The #digitalhomad

Dear leaders, this week I have a brand new and special “5 questions with” series. This leadership newsletter is with futurist, SPaaS (Space-As-A-Service) and the creator of the #digitalhomad Dave Cairns

Dave recently started to work from anywhere (despite being an Office Leasing Agent) and is sharing his flex journey blending work and parent through a mix of video, written and audio content. 

I was introduced to Dave by the previous 5 questions with Caleb Parker and we have had some enlightening conversations and know he will inspire you to think about workspaces and work environments differently.

Dave is a brilliant thinker, he is prolific on LinkedIn and really shares his knowledge and insights. If you are an exec looking to see how to leverage LinkedIn to add value to your audience and customers Dave is a great example.  

The Q&A 

Q1: You used to be a professional poker player, how did being a top poker player help with your career and leadership style?

Poker is an interesting game. It’s the only pursuit I’ve encountered whereby it’s expected that you’ll be lied to. Ironically, there’s a lot of honesty in this dynamic; you can almost breathe a sigh of relief in that the baseline expectation is some form of deception. 

Conversely, in our professional lives we are always having to suss out whether or not we are being deceived by our colleagues, bosses or clients.

Having a background in poker has allowed me to apply my knowledge of zero sum games (in poker, your win is always someone else’s loss) to win-win(-win) outcomes.

Having a deep understanding of deception and self-interest allows one to evaluate bringing two or more parties together in non-linear ways. 

Q2: What are your top three recommendations for companies trying to get the most out of “hybrid” work? 

If you think culture = the office – start by reconsidering as “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Suzuki Roshi

Check out Dave’s insightful prediction from last year and his excellent thoughts on the topic shared on LinkedIn.

Increasingly, one of your most common employee avatars will resemble that of a “corporate freelancer” – an employee who desires the job security and values being on a team but wants to behave with the flexibility of a digital nomad/freelancer.

Beta test workplace strategies that embody unbundling work from a central office model and instead seek to create a network effect for your employees when it comes to where they work – both physically and digitally (in a digital capacity – explore virtual worlds that make up an aspect of what we define as the Metaverse)
Read Dave’s supporting metaverse LinkedIn post

Future of Work strategy must be built around the understanding that: both employees and employers must be able to reserve the right to change their minds. For employees, their life circumstances will change which will equate to ever-changing workplace needs.

For employers, long-term office leasing as primary strategy never made sense in the first place as no business can predict where they will be in 5-10 years time, yet their real estate is fixed and leased long.

Employers will continue to be at the mercy of destabilizing forces like de-globalization and climate change – they will quite literally need to be able to pick up and move “houses” (good thing their employees all have homes!). 

Q3: You are an active member of helping companies enable better working environments, most recently you entered the metaverse and help companies with your expertise and answered Q&A.
What have you learnt by sharing your ideas regularly across LinkedIn and embracing different technology platforms?

The way I see it, there are only advantages to exploring your own mind and sharing it with the world. And the same goes with novel technologies. It’s for these reasons that I publish content daily and that I explore new ways of connecting to & collaborating such as virtual worlds. 

If I write something stupid it’ll be forgotten tomorrow but if I write nothing I’ll miss the opportunity to keep getting to know my own mind. And if it turns out the metaverse is in fact “dead”, I’ll have lost nothing as I’ll have engaged with all kinds of new people along the way and will have valuable skills/perspectives BECAUSE I was curious. 

Q4: You are a huge advocate of Space as a Service (#SPaaS) – how do you see this really shaping the future of work? 

Over the last few years I’ve often said that there is NO office “amenity” more valuable than the choice to go there or not. I firmly believe this to be true as what is more valuable than autonomy? Autonomy provides us with the agency to decide where and with whom we belong. If I’m right, companies who compete for the next “warm body” to sit in their seat will get increasingly competitive.

It’s no longer just corporate executives that are consumers of the workplace. Whether they like it or not, their employees have been granted that same privilege. Accordingly, these newfound consumers will align with certain brands and not others, and will need different types of products/services.

The only words I can think of to describe this movement are Space-as-a-Service.

Q5: You started the #digitalhomad hashtag on LinkedIn to let people follow your journey and updates – how do you think your approach to LinkedIn can help business leaders from around the world to become more authentic across social media? 

After I left poker, I spent 8.5 years living in a state of cognitive dissonance. Even though I make a living from the office, I’ve NEVER romanticized it and in fact a lot of office culture just doesn’t work for me (I suspect I have ADHD and am trying to get assessed). 

For many years prior to Covid, I made content on LinkedIn but it wasn’t authentic. I was making videos and shit about how to sublease your office and relocate without having to pay double rent. While stuff like that matters to some of my customers, I wasn’t at all passionate about these subjects. 

I thank Covid for creating the space for me to access a former version of myself, a digitally nomadic online poker player. By accessing this guy once more I was able to start to poke holes in not just the office market, but the culture. In doing this, I’ve been on a journey of getting closer and closer to my authentic self. It’s brought me closer to all the change agents out there and has gotten me more deeply aligned with the types of customers I want to work with.

Saying what I think has also gotten me into a lot of trouble but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

You can’t put a price on authenticity – you win and so do the people you care about. 

» A huge thanks to Dave for answering these questions so transparently and offering his unique insight.

With the way the new world of work is shaping up, David is definitely a thought leader and I highly recommend following or connecting with Dave on LinkedIn. When I re-boot Fixing the broken world of work podcast, Dave will be the first guest I interview. 

Have a great week ahead and this week’s focus action is to rethink how you will look to work and leverage space differently. 


Danny Denhard

Read The Other 5 Questions Series 

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 160 – 10 Of The Best Ways To Improve “Team” Subculture

Dear leaders, In recent weeks I have shared insights into how to think about your team, management and leadership levels and how to connect to those around you. 

In a recent presentation to a C-suite, I suggested that they were confusing everyone: how? They had:  

  • C-Suite – CEO, COO etc 
  • Leadership Team – C + SVPs
  • Management Team – Department Leads + HR 
  • Next Gen Team – The Heads of 
  • They also had an X-team for good measure too – that was their executive team and advisors in a big group who mostly spoke about the numbers and performance (very similar to the C-Suite) 

The difference for most is a title and how they are tiered internally. 

For others it is how they represent the company, which teams they might serve and who is the first team, this first team principle is something that has been around in management training for years, it’s the team you spend the most time with and who you often operate alongside most. 

If you are on the C-suite your team is 99% of the time, the C-Suite team or if named differently the Senior Leadership Team. 

If you are a department lead, your team is most likely the team you manage. 

When you are senior and trusted you will likely be across numerous teams and that’s when your time is precious you need to understand which team is your primary and which is your secondary and so on.  

I am a big believer in there are actually numerous cultures within organisations, there is one but they are influenced by the ongoing micro cultures of your company. I tend to refer to these mirco cultures as sub-cultures, each team or unit of people are big influencers on the wider company culture, big decisions do change how the people within your company operate and will impact how they perform. 

I have been in challenging times when the most senior leadership team is in dispute or has long-term conflict and it really impacts those around them, underneath them and can creep into one-to-ones and departmental meetings. This is where seasoned operators use and abuse their political intelligence and sends the wrong waves through the organisation.  

Team Subculture Advice

I’m usually asked for specific details of how I’ve helped my teams in the past so here are ten common recommendations I make to clients today.  

Leadership Team Level 

  1. All Company Stand-Ups – These are optional standups for the whole company to attend; this included weekly performance and revenue numbers, it included top-level information of what we discussed at the leadership team meeting (to allow the team to understand how we are tackling issues, discussing the future and where we see opportunities etc) and our actions and we invited anyone to ask questions and present their take. 
  2. Friday Stand Down – as a leadership team, we were all relatively new to each other. We had an informal debrief every Friday afternoon before we left and it was what we needed to blow off steam, have a laugh and connect on a personal/professional level. In most leadership teams you rarely have a chance to laugh and it’s incredibly important you find your mutual humour zone and what is acceptable within your team. 
  3. Meeting Captains – there’s nothing more annoying if you are that person who always takes notes, I introduced a rotating meeting captain who would lead meetings and be responsible for agendas, action points and notes, it was a way to share respect and responsibilities and not just be on the “leader” to lead meetings. 
  4. Extra / Management Fika – a coffee and a snack together following the Swedish tradition. Fika worked well with leaders who don’t work together often or have less of a personal connection. Fika can work well and can work remotely – it’s worth exploring how you can introduce time blocking to encourage Fika. 

Management Team Level 

  1. Onboarding – Very often you will work with people on the MT who is new to the company or new to the management team; they very often need onboarding to the management team, they need to understand how this management team works and what success is for them on the management team. Onboarding is essential and almost always overlooked – I created the onboarding flow and a cheat sheet alongside a record of important items we had discussed recently and how we made and got to decisions. 
  2. Decision Documents – I have recommended a number of times on leaders letters; the decision document helps the company to understand how decisions were made, how, who and why. It’s an invaluable tool for transparency and takes minutes to update and share with the org. This is an open document everyone has access to. 
  3. Up-and-comers lunches – a virtual or in-person lunch where up-and-comers within the business could be taken for lunch and discuss the company, and get to know senior execs. This isn’t just for the up-and-comer it is for the leaders to get to know their colleagues and understand how the level or two below are operating and understand any concerns they may have.    

D Team Level 

  1. Reverse Mentorship – Mentorship isn’t always senior mentoring the “junior”. Reverse mentorship is the smart way to help spread knowledge and insights across the business. It is a way for less senior members or discipline experts to help more senior people understand how the company is operating lower down, understand the discipline and learn from internal experts. Be mindful of the time and how many reverse mentorship sessions you have or enable.
    There is an upcoming leaders letter around your 160 hours of work per month and making the most out of time management.   
  2. Champions Presentations – Champions are experts in their field, aka subject matter specialists (Super ICs as it has been referred to recently) who go into management and leadership meetings and present rather than the Department lead. This is important for exposure to the environment, training on what is expected and tolerated in these meetings and giving the Champion the opportunity to connect with senior leadership. Historically this may have been seen as Departmental management not to present on the behaviour of your team, however, empowering your team members and bringing in champions will improve how important tactical layers are thought through and delivered on (alongside being a time-saving exercise). 
  3. Cross Champions Training – this was something that I rolled out as long as 14 years ago. Inviting international colleagues to the U.K. and having a few days going through plans, learnings we came across and sharing knowledge whether that’s day-to-day essential cross champions like excel training, latest tools to use and how to use them to one example was someone was a popular external keynote speaker and provided speaking training to the department. 

This week’s focus item is to implement the most applicable pieces of advice, I always strongly recommend rolling out a decision document, champions presentations and meeting captains for the quickest impact and lowest effort. 

Have a good week and I’ll land in your inbox next week,


Danny Denhard

Five Other Essential Company Culture Must Reads

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 159 – The Company Number 2

Dear leaders, the fight for the number two position has been something coveted for many years. 

I recently received an email from a leaders letters subscriber asking about “the mythical number two role” so I wanted to tackle it in a dedicated leaders letter. 

Being the right-hand person, the next strong voice and then the trusted partner is something many professionals try to acquire and manufacture their way into this converted slot. 

Being trusted by the number 1 (CEO or founder) is a double-edged sword and one you might just struggle with.  

The Expectations 

  • Your expectation is your colleagues around you have to listen
  • Your colleagues will come to you for buy-in and support – improving your position as the number 2 
  • Your colleagues will ripple this news through the organisation and the rest of the business takes this on 
  • The rest of the org will listen to your every word and look to you for answers and additional support 
  • Leverage (leverage the people, leverage the unofficial title, leverage the opportunity) 
  • The validation will create respect 
  • You are next in line  

The Usual Reality 

  • The number two spot is often an impossible position 
  • Your colleagues around the exec table do not trust you, this sends signals to the rest of the org not to trust you  
  • You can be seen as the #1’s puppet – only delivering on their requirements and actions 
  • When there is a requirement to challenge the number 1 you will be torn to protect and defend vs do what is best for the wider org or your department 
  • Your own team’s trust often erodes over time – you become dislocated from your team and your loyalties are questioned constantly 
  • Your own “number two” will take aim at your position and authority and very often unpick your position at the seams while you play an unofficial company number 2 role 
  • The number two often doesn’t take the leaders chair when they leave or are removed 

2 Political 

Very often the number two is posturing, it’s a political minefield and you as the number two have to be so politically savvy, you have to embrace your IQ, EQ and PQ in rotation and this can be exhausting.

The company culture is often manipulated the most by this number two person and can work for and against them, most often going against them as they are in the most questioned position within the business. 

When company culture is so important to your performance many companies make the mistake of entrusting the number two to make the right strategic plays and bets to improve the company culture. Very few will put the company first when their own personal stakes and game plan have been years to play out. 

Waves Of Change 

Despite the largest company trends, over the last 15 years, it has been CFOs transitioning to CEOs, then COOs transitioning and most recently it has been CPO who takes on the CEO role once their boss moves on. 

CFOs, COOs and CROs are often in the number two position, you will see this play out over and over in mid to large businesses and often in smaller businesses or startups you might even see co-founders having to battle it out with external “adults” to take over the reins of the business. 

Very rarely does the internal number two actually take over from exiting founders or co-founders and often the move onto another business is harder for them. 

Likely Outcome – Interim 

Like in sports, you become the caretaker manager, you take temporary charge of the team. You will know quickly how your tenure will go, likely quickly and then you have the fight all over again. 

In business the number 2 can take over as an interim lead, however, it is often seen with resistance and a full-time leader comes in to replace the interim. 

Big change in business is rarely a good thing for the supposed number two and this is often overlooked by them. 

Having been positioned as the number two on a number of occasions it rarely worked out for me – going into any situation like this with eyes wide open will only benefit you and the business. 

Protect You & The Business: Are you the number 2 within your business, how have you protected yourself and prevented many of these called-out issues to protect you and move the business forward? I trust so. 

This week’s focus action is to review how you are positioned within the business and understand how your position might be negatively impacted by the perceived “rank” you are in or represent. 

Thanks and have a great week 

Danny Denhard

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 158 – Reshaping How You Think About Management, Leadership & Training

Dear leaders, I have recently delivered a couple of talks around management, leadership and how training does or doesn’t exist. 

Why? It is one big web that many businesses neglect based on time and ownership. 

The big lesson many tell me they take away is how we haven’t really set managers up to succeed, let alone take the journey from manager to leader. 

Some just get into the swing or groove of being a people manager and then are thrown into leadership roles. 

Here is how I break down the different steps within many careers: 

You go from: 

  • A team member to 
  • A manager to a manager of managers to 
  • A team lead (an example would be a Head of CRM within the Marketing Department) 
  • You then become a Department lead (Marketing Department Lead) 
  • A C-suite leader (this is often when you step up in a C-suite title (like CMO) and then potentially to 
  • A CEO, a founder or you can become an advisor 

Despite what many companies have with their levels system (Amazon have their own system from L0 to L12, Facebook and Apple also have similar systems and works best in engineering and for compensation) or tiers they aren’t supported in management development, the process is mapped out, and the requirements are supplied but the training or coaching is not there, you learn good and bad on the job. 

Or, you have to mimic (this is almost everyone’s default – to mimic good and bad managers – it’s how we are taught to fit in or stand out) those in management or leadership positions without understanding the context or some of the reasons behind it and you sink or swim without support until HR sends an email… 

Manager To Manager Of Managers 

The biggest leap in anyone’s career is going from a manager to a manager of managers, it is usually where you become a middle manager and potentially align when you became a team lead. 

I know from working in-house and agency side, when you take on a series of managers in your career, it’s not for the faint-hearted and becomes the time you have to juggle most issues whether that people’s problems or performance problems. It is often the phase you raise quickly or you stagnate in. A manager of managers is a specialist role most struggle most in this stage of their career. 

There is rarely ever a cheat sheet or a dummy guide to prepare you for the journey of being a manager of managers. As a wise person once said to me, “Being a team leader or department lead is time to buckle up and ride that daily rollercoaster of emotions and problems” 

Management To Leadership Is A HUGE leap 

I then suggest you have two phases, management and then leadership, management is often harder and where you are not supported or trained. 

From team member to even a Department Lead you are in the weeds of management, you are managing tasks, workloads and varying-sized HR issues, you are rarely trained apart from your on-the-job experiences and the lead from manager to manager-of-managers is often the biggest and most unprepared step you take on the management ladder. 

“Leadership” often sits at or above Department lead, this will depend on company size, operating models and how the management and leadership teams are determined – it isn’t always role and title assigned. 

You often get into a VP title and just about start to step out of the management grind and start to be able to become a leader, you are a step removed and driving the 100-1000ft and on or below the surface.  

Specialist & Expert 

You will notice I have included two critical roles here, the discipline specialist and the expert in the team or department, these in themselves have internal influencer traits and even some leadership characteristics but rarely are part of leadership. 

As referenced in leaders letters 146, it’s time to recognise the role of the expert and how essential they are and should be within your business. 

Middle Management and specialists/experts have been badly hit by the mass layoffs in big tech, the sad element here is this highlights the problem, managers are not being trained, poor internal practices have diminished the impact of management and when experts aren’t treated accordingly many lay off instead of having the second or third order effect of improving the company processes around T&D. 

Training Zones 

You then have to consider how and where people are trained, this is from discussions, my experience and reviewing how training courses are positioned. 

There is no surprise of the ed-tech platforms (from LinkedIn learning to udemy to Masterclass) raise over the last four years, smaller fee courses based on team members to managers of managers to charge back to the company while they are not supplied training or feel like they have to double down in specialist areas. This is where historically companies offer group training and group management sessions. 

Ways Some Tackle This 

  • I remember a company I worked with had a monthly dinner for middle management which supported the manager of managers area with some developmental plans and the leadership team would attend to help with alignment and get connected cross-functionally.  
  • Some large companies have say the top 200 managers as part of a group that receives updates and recommendations they could take onboard without the help or guidance for real training. Some actually enrol each manager in training every six to twelve months 
  • Some other large companies have internal training teams and performance coaches that improve individuals and departments 
  • A startup I spoke to recently has terms like schools where they are provided training modules and trainers would come in and it was optional to attend, many opting out for time issues. Adding in terms is a good step, adding in tutors and trainers is another good step, not enforcing training hurts the business and doesn’t improve management.  
Management & Leadership Explained Simply

Management has to be learnt, it has to be taught, life lessons and learning the hard ways can help but many middle managers fail because they aren’t ever given training until something goes wrong or their manager steps up and recommends training.  

Leadership is a unique set of skills, leadership can be taught to some people (not everyone is ready or have the foundations to become a leader) there is a small % of people who are moulded into leaders. 

Leaders are often born with that something and frequently those lacking one or two skills then go on to acquire the one or two skills to become a leader, how? Often they seek out great mentors and coaches. Others are given coaches to take them up the ranks and give them the ability to lead people, departments, business lines and then potentially whole businesses.  

Ask sports coaches, ask those who have served in the military or held high positions, often they say leaders are born and they almost always rise to the top in their fields. 

This week’s focus actions are a number of steps to improve managers, management track and build a set of leaders: 

  • Look at these phases of management and leadership and assess where training is taking place and where management training and exec coaching should be available 
  • Place a lead in charge of rolling out training (or place a management pod on leading training roll out) especially to first-time managers and then managers  of managers 
  • Add in the next 1:2:1 and help to uncover what training is best for your team members 
  • Senior leaders – even if you are in the c-suite it is up to you to own your development track, add into your next 1:2:1 and ask for feedback on which training you could benefit from or where there are gaps 
  • Include management and leadership in skip meetings – the most impressive managers know how to influence the two to three phases below them
  • Sponsor – Are there natural leaders within your org or department who would benefit from leadership training or coaching?  

Thanks and have a good week thinking about assessing training and development across your team, department or business. 

Danny Denhard 

PS Remember company culture is shaped by good and bad managers, with training and development you can improve people’s performance and the company’s performance leading to connected and cross-functional teams. The better the training the better the follow-up coaching and leadership should be.