Anonymous Career Advice

Leadership Team Issues

This week’s anonymous leadership advice comes from a new leadership team member who is struggling with the purpose of the leadership team and their role on the leadership team:

Dear Focus, It’s the first leadership team I have sat on and I’m struggling to work out the dynamics and what’s important. There’s a lot of talking and not much action. What should I do? 

Management teams can be hard work. They can be exhausting. 

S-Teams can seem daunting, they can seem aggressive, typically passive-aggressive and create an atmosphere where many appear not to like each other personally or professionally. 

It is rare these are friendly but asking difficult questions are essential to make progress. 

Many start out with good intentions, unfortunately, many turns into environments some thrive and others struggle with. 

This is where game playing has a huge step change and understanding the rules of this game is critical to your success. 

Something to keep in mind in your situation is what function are the meetings serving and what function am I serving on this leadership team? 

It is important to remember most Management Teams are particularly bad at onboarding their colleagues on the leadership team and worse at explaining the what, the why and the how.  

The essential factor in MT’s or ELT’s is not to condition those around and below you to copy your behaviours and roll out this into the company wide culture.

Management Team Buddy

One important lesson I learnt and recommend to businesses of any size is to create a buddy system with someone else you trust on the leadership team and build upon that relationship and understand the unique set of rules you have in your meetings and understand how you add value to the meetings and to the company as a whole. 

Understanding the unique dynamics and the HiPPO rules will be important milestones for you to set out and understand. 

New Management Team Member Guidance

In your role as the newest member of the LT or ELT is holding your colleagues accountable and ensuring the business delivers guidance and keeps ahead strategically. 

This can often be lost in the noise and the routine that management team meetings can become. 

Tip To Keep Front Of Mind

One tip you will struggle to find elsewhere is to remember not to become too defensive or protective of your team or business line and allow the numbers to do the talking and introduce your team members to present their numbers, their feedback or ideas to the group where possible. 


Over Indexed Voices

Something I have observed on different leadership teams is if you are a sales-driven business, you will over-index too much into the sales team voice without balance.  

if you are a product based company (driven by product direction and usage) you can lean into the product teams vision and “their strategy” too much without hearing from valuable partners like Marketing or customer service and success. It is important to keep on top of this and ask for more input from those partners.

If the CFO / FD or CEO / MD speaks too much, you will be part of a HiPPO driven business and this will cause numerous friction points within the leadership team. 

I recommend reading is it time for management pods article. 

What is important to ask your colleagues: 

  • What are your management meetings for? 
  • Who controls and holds colleagues accountable? 
  • Why are you meeting in this cadence? 
  • Why do we meet for this length of time? Can we optimise this process? 
  • What function are you all serving? 
  • What role do I serve on this leadership team? 
  • How do we inform our colleagues and teams of upcoming projects and campaigns? 

Once you either ask your colleague and answer or undercover and answer the quicker you will feel part of the management team and the closer you will get to adding value. 

Good luck on your leadership team journey. 

Danny Denhard 

If you are in need of management team training or executive coaching or need a professional mentor get in touch below:

Important Leadership Resources:

The Hybrid Work Guide

The top 20 good managers vs the 25 bad manager examples

5 leadership books to read in 2021

Business lesson from Jeff Bezos

Elon Musk’s Business Rules

How to fix bad company culture

Taking over from a bad manager

Do yave your own question you would like answered?


How To Remove Proximity Bias Guide

With the continued move towards returning to the office and the continued pressures and requirements for businesses to move towards hybrid work, we are starting to hear how in-office vs hybrid and remote have very potential different biases. 

We have seen businesses only consider office space and not consider redesigning their office as a hybrid environment, we have seen organisations struggle to rethink perks in the hybrid world and favour a mass return to the office vs developing a true hybrid workforce that will work for everyone. 

Proximity bias (aka a bias to being in person) has had a huge impact on the way some organisations have handled remote work and it has centred around more communication, enforcing more video meetings and meetings were the only way for some teams to get work done.

In the office is how many managers are primed, it is something that every workforce has been conditioned and brought up in and is the way in ‘the line of sight management’ has “worked” for many across decades of working. 


How the IKEA effect is a guide for building better relationships

The IKEA effect is something many would not know how to put a phrase on it but once said is obvious. 

Yes, the Ikea effect is a labour of love. 

We value IKEA furniture more as we have to invest time into reading those instructions and then the stress of assembling it. 

We have a sense of achievement, we brave the store, we pick the furniture, we spend hours building it and then we can enjoy it because we spend those hours into it. 

In the original experiment the test was building IKEA boxes, folding origami, and constructing sets of Legos, the reason why Ikea won out in my laymans ways of explaining: humans had to invest more labour into the connection with Ikea products. 

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 55 – Single Or Doubles Player

Dear leaders, 

I know I can over-index on sports analogies but hear me out on this one. 

Tennis and golf are two of the most solo sports. 

You learn quickly that it’s you, you and a coach or caddy. 

You learn that from tournament wins and tournament losses. 

You learn from daily interactions that you will develop by this coach and playing better players and training partners. 

Tennis typically has two modes, single or doubles players. 

Leaders Letter Newsletter Leadership

Leaders Letter 53 – The Role Of The Rebuilder

The Role Of The Rebuilder 

14th June 2021.

Dear leaders,

This week I was reminded of one of the more challenging roles I have held and some of you will be about to face.

I call it The Rebuilder.

The rebuilder is a manager who is taking over an existing team or department and their job to truly complete is:
To rebuild the team, rebuild the foundations, rebuild the confidence of the team or department and bring back performance throughout the team. 

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:

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.

Business Performance Leadership

Decision Document

In today’s broken world of work, we have never had the access to so many tools, to so many free resources to help us progress, or access to the best talent available, yet we are no closer to answering one of the fundamental issues in the business world.

In a recent and brilliant article, Eugene Wei really hit the nail on the head:

One of the most common weaknesses among managers and leaders is the illusion of transparency, though it is a problem for most people. It is the tendency to overestimate how much people know what you’re thinking.”
— Eugene Wei.

Thinking and communicating are two of the most important parts of being a leader and holding a leadership role, unfortunately thinking => discussing issues => communicating what, why and allowing others to build the how causes more problems often than competitors do.

Hard To Be A Manager – Harder To Be A Leader

Management has never been so hard, leadership is even harder, you have many challenges, you have faced 2020 and 2021 you were never prepared for or trained for and rather than communicating becoming easier it has become harder, we have too many communication channels and so little time to articulate clearly.

What makes a great leader is an essential read for the move to the office 3.0 – the arena and the move to full-time Hybrid Office. Being a leader now means being deliberate, clear and communicating in an inspiring way.

One of the reasons why managers fall short is thinking they have communicated to those around them and to their department or teams.
The likelihood is, you didn’t and if it is important you should bring it up regularly.

As a leader you are busy, you have many of the same conversations with those around you (management teams, leadership teams, board meetings etc) you fail to relay the message to your own team.
Your department then feels disconnected from you and core business decisions feel like you have bypassed your team.

I would estimate 80% of the time, poor or lack of communication costs Department heads their people and then their role.

Solution: The Decision Document

One solution Focus has created is to build an open decision document – this doesn’t have to be a document in format, this can be a notion page, a dedicated page on the internal wiki or it could even be a Trello board (I recommend against a kanban style board as people read them differently and is done actually done and completed?)

The decision calls out what the important decision was, what steps were taken and the date. The how has to be completed by the responsible team however it is essential any important business-wide decision is listed and these steps are followed.

Communication is still key to winning, explaining in the same format to the impacted teams is as important, but showing the chain of decisions and the process will help the company understand how you got there and the timeline connected.

As a leader, it is important to know when to take action and now is the time, if you are in the position, create the document and introduce it to the business, if not co-create with someone who is operationally strong.

Template Available Upon Request

email us for a copy of this template

When Knowing The Importance & Managing The Messaging

Bob Iger (the Disney Chairman wrote in his book Ride of a Lifetime) took to leading by press release as everyone internally realised the importance of the decision and they had to make it work, at a company of the size it is likely important however none of the decisions should be a surprise or surprising. The decision document will help you with this issue.

Reconnect Around A Canonical

If you feel disconnected as a leadership team, the decision document can act as the canonical place you reconnect and build as the rock of your company.

Opportunity For One Internally Champion

This is where the culture community manager can own and work with leaders to improve internal communications and centralise information flow into the centre of the truth within an organisation, a knowledge centre.

Introduce The Decision Document This Week

Be proactive and roll out the decision document in the upcoming week and introduce it to the business, you will be surprised by the impact.

Essential Hybrid Work Resource

The Hybrid Work Guide – A comprehensive 35-page guide to Hybrid Work and ensuring you and your business is ready for Hybrid.

Read our recommended hybrid work software and hybrid workplace tools.

Anonymous Career Advice

Disconnected Leadership Team

Today’s anonymous career advice comes from an “anonymous COO” from a “well-known internet company”, who’s ELT has become disconnected and fractured since working remotely.

Dear Focus, since we have moved remote and WFH, the leadership team has become disconnected and we rarely agree on the direction and what is most important. I feel like it is impacting my career. What should I do to help?

I would imagine you and 50% of management and leadership teams are feeling the same and facing very similar issues.

Having spoken to a number of c-suite members over the last six months, many leaders feel they have lost connection with their fellow management team.

The common complaint or cause is the number of meetings they are all attending, the lack of progress being made and the friction of not having clear goals and objectives as a team.

When it comes to your own career, it will only impact you if you feel disconnected from the work and you and your team performance are being impacted. As a COO your role has likely never been as important for your firm’s long term success.

For additional context, a very senior ELT member recently suggested in their 30+ year career and the last decade on leadership teams, he has never seen as much friction while working remotely. Their answer was to book a “work through everything day”.

It is important to remember you are not alone, however, addressing your particular management team would require direct action from your team.

Questions To Answer:

  • Do your fellow leaderships team feel the same?
    Speak to the CEO to see how they feel. If you have close relationships with your CMO or CTO they will likely feel similar.
  • Has anyone attempted to call out or address the elephant in the room?
    Often this just takes someone to raise this. As COO you would be in a trusted position to raise this.
  • What are the common pain points?
  • Where do you commonly fall down?
  • Are the leadership protecting their teams vs trying to be proactive and come together to address the issues?
  • Is there a running theme where meetings and discussion fail?
  • Do you follow the same meeting patterns?
  • Is there one or two members of the management team who are internal influencers who create friction or could help to collaborate to improve this?
  • Is this a wider reflection of your company’s culture?


I would create a dedicated meeting to discuss this, have an agenda to call out common issues and then create a timeline with your fellow management team to address these issues. An external consultancy or external management coach will be able to facilitate and help reduce friction and create an action plan whilst reducing the stress on individuals to lead this internally.

If there is an internal conflict between a couple or a few of the members of the leadership team, the Focus power half hours will be a good methodology and tool to follow.

In a recent Focus management training sessions, a ten-person leadership team and I ran through a number of exercises to get to know each other, created workshops where they reviewed their workdays, meetings, reduced down meeting recovery syndrome and introduced a management pod system connecting the ELT with each other, sharing knowledge, increasing the amount of time they spend together and reporting back and tackling issues together.

Just remember most conflicts take a number of months to work through effectively and up to six months of no change to work at optimal levels for a team.

Good luck.

Got Your Own Question?

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 35 – Your Star Performer Decides To Leave – Now What?

Your Star Performer Decides To Leave – Now What?

8th February 2021,

Dear leaders,

This week I wanted to provide you with a quick scenario that some of you are facing currently that will help with the next few months. 

It is the first few weeks into the team’s stride, you have grand plans to execute, you survived the most testing year in our lives, and you get the dreaded “Do you have five minutes?” teams message sent to you. 
You make a guess of what it is but you are unsure. 

You arrange a quick teams call, your team member looks nervous and cuts straight to the chase, I’ve been offered another role and I wanted to let you know.

The team member is the “star performer of the team”, the best at their job and the one you tended to rely on.  

Your heart sinks, you look at your own face in the camera box and catch your face full of disappointment and regret. 

Your reaction says it all, you say “congrats” and “you’re happy for them” and you say the cliche, “is there anything I can do to change your mind”.

The response is a polite no. 

If you are unsure why you landed here, you won’t be the only manager or leader to in January or February. 

Your reaction and next actions will set you and your team up for the future, yes speak to the rest of the leadership team and HR to find out if you can replace, this will be the first question your team asks.

Ask for the formalities from your departing colleague but most importantly take this opportunity to step up and become the leader you need to be, the team need and lead from the front and be the leader you likely didn’t have.  

Your next actions are critical: 

  • Arrange an exit interview, ask for the factors that led to your colleague wanting to leave, ask for full transparency, it is important you understand the decisions they made and how you could have improved the team or the role for that person. Even if you don’t want to hear what they say, transparency is essential
  • Set up times with the rest of the team/department individually to understand how they are feeling and how they can operate
  • Understand the morale of the team and the department and address the concerns and arrange actions that will help to bring the team or department closer together 
  • Transparently call out any issues you may have uncovered, show your workings out and how you will address this and how you would like the team to assist.
    Bringing the team closer together is essential when the high performer leaves. Many will want to step up, they will want to be asked
  • Team Design: Being deliberate about how the new team will shape is often an important step many overlook, replacing like for like might not the best for the team. Show how you are looking to reshape and design the team moving forward, consider those who are on the team and how there could be someone internally who can step up or move across to bring in a different set of skills. 
  • Break down the team goals and how you can focus the team’s efforts on the goal – focusing the team around the collective goals helps everyone to focus as a team and become together  
  • Arrange a timeline of the next actions and when they will take place, who you will want to be part of the process and think of how you can bring together the hidden leader and secret weapon together to help ask for their feedback and help coach them. 
  • Make time to discuss this situation with other leaders: Make time with your leadership team and discuss the steps you took and why you made the decisions you did, you likely would have brought this up at your management meeting but these steps will help those around you to improve their leadership skills. As suggested in management pods there always ways to grow as a leadership team. This is one.

This seems a daunting list however these are the most important actions you will take when this happens. The team will rely upon you and your leadership skills will come into question.
Your Company Culture is often shaped by those who leave and when they leave as much who those are in the business. Owning this and co-owning the performance moving forward is paramount.

Many times when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, you will need to operationally improve and make time to the leader, prioritise and attack, this is not the time to be on defence.

Have a good week and formalise this as a plan when this happens in the next few weeks.

Thanks and have a good week.

Danny Denhard.

Recommended Read: If you might struggle to gain support from the managers around you, consider reshaping into Management Pods

Read last week’s newsletter:

Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 11 – Bad HiPPOs

Bad HiPPOs‍


Dear Leaders,

I trust you had a refreshing weekend.

I know from speaking to a number of leaders recently they felt like August used to be the slow period but August 2020 has been unrelenting. With this, there is a lot of onus on leadership teams.

Unfortunately, there are many management teams that are top-down or CEO/founder lead aka led by a HiPPO (a reminder a HiPPO is “highest-paid person’s opinion” or the “highest-paid person in the office.”).

There are many people within organisations that suggest they do not know why they are asked to do the work that they are or the way they “have to” work as the boss told them to do it or do it this way.

I have worked in organisations where the most senior by title feels like they have to make the decisions and they want to be seen to lead so they refuse to listen, these organisations fail for many reasons but one of the main long term reasons they fail is HiPPO’s acting like this.
They kill the business by their actions.  This inspired me to break down the ten (yes ten) HiPPO’s that are ruining your business.

I recommend you review the 10 HiPPO’s and hopefully find out you are not one of them. I highly suggest you look out for if you are “The This Is My Way HiPPO” or “The Dominant” as you are likely killing morale.

As a bit of fun I recommend sharing this post to your leadership team and wait for feedback, if you do not receive any, you are likely one of the ten.

This week focus on: Connecting with your team, understand if they believe they are a HiPPO and how they are impacting your business. Consider how you can delegate more effectively and if there are decision-making frameworks you can introduce to take the onus off you and improve trust across the business.

If you need some HiPPO training or you need management team training, happily reach out by replying to this email or emailing here by clicking here

Thanks and have a great HiPPO free week,

PS I have written two important posts, traits of a good manager, and the traits of a bad manager.