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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 đŸ‘©â€đŸ’»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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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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Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Disconnected From My Department

In today’s anonymous career advice, we tackle a senior leader being disconnected from their teams and department and how to address their concerns.

Dear Focus, I lead a fifteen person department with four teams, I know I am disconnected from my department and it’s hindering performance. How do I reconnect?

In the world of work we operate in, there will be many department heads who have not thought about how connected they are or are not with their teams and department.

It is a positive sign you understand you have become disconnected or someone in your department has stepped forward and let you know.

You have a number of options that can help you and the teams make progress, the questions you need to answer are:

  1. Have the teams lost trust in you?
  2. Why did you lose contact?
  3. Are there internal influencers who can
  4. Has there been a hidden leader or a co-pilot who has stepped up and taken the rains?
  5. Has the department performance dropped?

Be A Leader

First things first, as a leader your job is to guide, shape and call out and address bad behaviours, as you know you are disconnected, you should call this out, whether this is on a call, a video call or in writing.
The more personal the better for you in your situation.

Secondly, you should connect with your managers but be completely aware that you should skip them and connect with all levels of your team and gain feedback, listening is far more important than talking here.

Take many notes, review and then evaluate where the team is and what type of leader they require currently, often a job of a leader is to get out of the way and allow those around them to flourish and step up.

Understand The Politics

In the workplace, we all experience politics at some level and many middle managers feel like they have to play the game. You should understand if there has been a move to help move you further away from your teams, this could have been a result of your stepping away or a powerplay, truly understand this and give the benefit of the doubt. Read your managers reviews is a great step to understand your manager’s abilities and how they have performed if you have disconnected from your management team.

Internal Influencers

Your secret weapon is likely the best person to connect with, they are typically an internal influencer and hold a lot of weight within the team and see if they are willing to support your move to reconnect. This cannot be fake and has to be for the best of the team.

Performance

Something you will need to ask yourself openly and honestly, has your department’s performance been impacted? Is yes is it positively or negatively? If positively, how will add to their momentum or add to the flywheel? If negatively how will you review, analyse and then inspire.

Be There & Be Present

From being disconnected you cannot then replace that with not being present and not being available in the future, it is important you are available and present in the meetings, in the standup and in planning sessions.

So in short: follow these actions to reconnect:

  • Do not fake your motives
  • Make the time to reconnect
  • Take the time to listen
  • Understand if you need to connect more deeply
  • Or understand if your management team have stepped up or overstepped
  • Encourage open comms and you will be available for coaching, mentoring and guiding those around and below you.

Here are some supporting Focus resources that will help you:

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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 5th March

This week’s Friday Focus I will be sharing five leaders letters (the Focus leadership newsletter) you should read to help improve your leadership.

1: One problem two solutions is a letter for leaders to help their teams with problem-solving and being able to present two solutions in an orderly manner to help the business progress.

2: Three questions is a leaders letter to help build better connections between teams and between manager and their teams.

3: Working from home has been a struggle for many, here is a way to run a workshop so leaders can improve working from home and plan for the hybrid office.

4: Soft skills are often seen to have lower importance vs the traditional more measurable themes of work on a spreadsheet, here is a way to measure and improve your business and your leadership by embracing softer skills.

5: Leadership principles are not new but are rarely rolled out in organisations. Leadership principles help shape the future leaders and hold existing leaders accountable for their behaviour(s) and decisions.

Important Follow Up Reads

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Career Going Backwards

In this week’s instalment of focus anonymous career advice, we cover something many of us face, is our career going backwards?

Dear Focus, I feel like my career is going backwards, I have not been promoted for two years, my manager cannot answer why this has not changed, unless my boss leaves I won’t get a title change, what should I do?

This sounds like an issue so many people face, you have hit your ceiling within your business and there is nowhere to go unless you feel like they leave.

There are a couple of sides you should consider:

– Have you evolved in the last two years?
– Are there any development opportunities within the company?
– Can you arrange a skip meeting with your bosses boss and discuss what potential steps there are?

The more obvious the question, the more important it is to answer the question.

Something that is important to keep front of mind and something you should continually ask yourself is what have I learnt and have I evolved?

Personal development and being the person who evolves your career is the easiest hack, you have the ability to learn from millions of resources online and the option to ask for specific training courses from your company. Not developing yourself in this situation is holding yourself back.

Often managers cannot answer these tricky questions, for many reasons, often this is because they are concerned for their role, for the competition from you, for losing you to another business and you are a secret weapon or hidden leader and rely on you more than know.

Many businesses have top-down company culture, meaning your boss has far more influence on you than the business around you, it is important to understand if this is happening across the business or just in your situation. Be delicate in asking these questions, for yourself and so this does not fed back to your boss.

Something that Netflix openly encourage is for you to understand your worth and take external interviews, taking an interview or interviews will help you to understand where you are at, what other companies are looking for and if you can take a step up in another business. Often this is a great way to know if you are undervalued or underachieving or frankly in the wrong business.

Ceilings are everywhere, as the number of headcount and senior people has to be limited (despite some companies feeling the opposite).
This does not mean there are not any other opportunities or leadership roles internally or options to own other projects outside of your current roles and progress within this organisation.

Many times businesses are looking for leaders to step up and move laterally to improve the company. This is common in many of the larger orgs and something I and many others have benefitted from.

The harder truth might be, to develop or gain a promotion, you will likely have to move on or wait for your manager to leave, this is not a foolproof plan.

For what it is worth: Titles do not really mean as much until you look to leave a role, often titles are overly internally focused that what internal title you have is completely different externally.

Good luck with this, I would recommend having the open conversations with your boss or bosses boss, look for interview opportunities to understand where you are and consider how you might take the step up by taking on different projects.
The key here is to be super proactive and drive your own career forward.


Ask Your Own Question


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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 33 – Soft Skills Ignorance

25th January 2021

Dear Leaders,

This week you will be likely starting to arrange Q2 planning with your departments and understanding where you have landed and where you need to step up and improve.

Throughout leaders letters, there has been three main themes leadership, company culture and developing out your team through training, values and principles.

This week I want to offer some advice on tackling “soft skill ignorance”. This is an important part of my mission to fix the broken world of work.
Soft skills are typically elements within a business you cannot put a direct revenue figure on from spreadsheet management.

Soft Skills typically considered are:

  • Time management
  • Networking
  • Teamwork
  • Team building
  • Creative thinking
  • Conflict
  • Problem-solving
  • Work ethic
  • Communication.

Many of these soft skills would be classified under company culture, historically c-suite members have struggled to assign a pound or dollar amount to these skills. In more recent times these skills have been clearly called out and many tools are attempting to assign a revenue value to these.

Be a leader – Address the problem top-down

I have sat in leadership team meetings when culture was always an agenda point but there was a fear by many others on how to address this.

HiPPO’s are often the worst at understanding the importance of company culture and it impacts on organisational health.

I have advised companies where culture is something they knew was an issue but took a true leader to go first and call out the issue they were experiencing and come forward as part of the problem.

There are many times as a leadership team, you have to step forward, call out poor behaviour and address the elephant in the room head-on.

The problem for many businesses, there is still an ignorance on how company culture impacts bottom line and many execs do not want to or do not know how to look at soft skills.

How to tackle soft skill ignorance:

If you sit on a leadership team or part of a management team the easiest way to address soft skill ignorance is to first call out how bad your company culture and how it is impacting your business. Data points and examples of these are important but applying a framework will help for the rest of the management or leadership team to apply the same methodology.
By showing the data, you can show how your teams or departments are struggling from an output perspective and how you will have to work harder as a leader to address and bring the departments together cross-functionally.

You can use many matrixes to guide you in mapping these out, one that has worked for me previously: map out in columns: (a) happiness, (b) performance and (c) output mapped out by (rows) person by scoring 1 (low) to 10 (high) and as a team provides you with an easy to follow score and average.

When there is a conflict you can add this into the scoring matrix by team and department and apply cross-functionally.

Throughout large projects or products being rolling out performance will fluctuate, when the performance takes a dip you will likely see some respond positively and others respond with fear and performance anxiety if you are keeping track and on top of 1:2:1’s you will likely see this reflected in individuals, in teams and then departments.

By reviewing scoring as a leadership team and having open and frank conversations you will be more on top of soft skills, you will be more attuned to what is happening with your business and in places to tackle these issues reducing the performance anxiety, the friction and the conflict happening within your business.

This is just one blended method of tackling soft skills, you may have an org that needs management teams to be made aware of issues or act ignorantly, happily forward this letter them or send my email address to help you address this toxic management trait.

Have a good week thinking about how you could roll this or something similar out within your businesses and as ever let me know if there is something I can help you and your business with.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 28 – The Management Cult of CCF

Confusion, Chaos, Fear

14/12/2020

Dear Leaders,

I have been speaking to a number of different leaders in forms of meetings, panels, private slack channels and text (yes even text, remember that anonymous text helpline I offered).

The hottest talking points apart from the banned C-word and performance is leadership and leadership styles.

One leadership style I have always despised is the cult of CCF:

Confusion, Chaos and Fear.

There is a particular age range of members of the bad managers club aka CCF club, and they have allowed the tactical and channel-ification of work to hide behind.

Confusion

There are many leaders who actively choose to lead by confusion. Yes, confusion.

Confusion is based on lack of or poor communication. Other traits include hoarding information to protect themselves, make themselves feel indispensable and they make everyone else constantly second guess themselves.

Confusion can mean handling everything on their time vs when it makes sense on others.

Confusion to Chaos

Once the confusion is worked out by individuals or team, they actively create chaos (just like politicians).

Chaos is often created by making changes to projects, to budgets, to headcount, and ‘shuffling the pack’ as there was a ‘bad egg’ or someone just wasn’t at the level they wanted.

Chaos is a way to control situations for weak managers, anyone who decides to use confusion or chaos as tactics to lead are not leaders.

Chaos To Create Fear

Once chaos works, they create fear around themselves and then the deliverables that have to complete. Fear is often inherited by rank or title but can be leveraged in situations to create uncomfortable working environments and deliberately build a horrible working environment for everyone in and around your team or department.

These managers have learnt these behaviours and believe this is the way to take control vs building the right team and environment to hit targets and develop their team. It takes a while for businesses to gain enough insight into this or takes a few brave individuals to come forward and address with the company.

Management styles shape company cultures, do not allow these behaviours to shape your organisation.

If you are in the position to, I recommend reviewing your management roster and see how they manage their team or department and if you are a manager and believe you have adapted this, I would highly recommend addressing this ASAP.

This week focus on improving your layers of management, remove this selfish and ignorant style of management and reduce the level of the stress by clearly and proactively calling out these behaviours.

Have a great week ahead,

Thanks,

Danny

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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 13th November

In the second instalment of Focus Friday, I recommend five actionable tips around company culture, the Hybrid Office, preplanning training and organising an internal conference.

  1. Remote company culture has reduced collaboration and communication between strong links in businesses. Encourage more collaboration and informal chat around projects and themes.
    Read how remote work has impacted company culture.  
  2. With Christmas Parties and traditional annual celebrations being limited or removed this year.
    Encourage a Secret Santa or present exchange. This will boost morale and encourage people to get to know one another. 
  3. Hybrid Office Preparation – Start preparing plans for the Hybrid Office. Work with your colleagues to understand when they will need to be in the office, when off-sites will likely need to happen, when team onsite’s can happen safely and what tech tools and software you will need to improve the experience
  4. Plan Training – Something that is always discussed and added into a budget line but rarely is planned out effectively. Your junior to mid-level staff will have limited exposure to planning, budget management and forecasting, set up training for these staff and create a culture of sharing important business skills. This not only improves team connections and a culture of sharing and training it increases the quality of the next level of management coming through your organisation.
  5. Introduce Management Pods – In this week’s blog, I suggested a different concept in tackling poor management team connections and a way to develop collections ties and departmental connections.

If you have any tips you would like to share or contribute to, happily email me below

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 19 – Write Your Team A Letter

Write Your Team A Letter

12/10/2020

Dear Leaders,

I trust Q4 has started to click for you and your team. Something I run in one of my workshops is a simple task, it is handwriting a letter to your team.

I’m 95% confident you haven’t written a handwritten letter to your team before.

Why a handwritten letter?
A letter is more personal, it shows personality, shows you are really thought through the words and the sentiment you want to share with your colleagues.

There are even behavioural sciences that back this method up.

Say thank you, show you have seen the team develop, identify great behaviours, call out wins, say when you have been proud recently and welcome feedback, yes feedback away from your 1-2-1’s. 

I give people up to 30 minutes to write and rewrite their handwritten letter. 

There are two kickers of the exercise:
(1) You have to give a copy to each member of your team or department (send as a PDF right now)  

(2) The letter will be shared with the other managers and leaders and the letters are shuffled like a pack of cards and each letter is read aloud to the group. 

This might seem like a trial on a bad reality TV show, however, the openness is imperative and this will push you and your leadership to be more open and more transparent with your team. 

It offers you a chance to say things you wouldn’t normally say, it allows you to continue ongoing in-jokes and an opportunity to be the most authentic you vs the leader you believe you have to be on chat, email and in-person. 

This helps introverts, ambiverts and even the extroverts who will want to read their letters aloud first 😉.

I guarantee you will learn something about you, about your fellow leaders and importantly about how your team or department react. 

Have a good week and happily reply to let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Danny 

PS Next week, leaders letter 20 will be 3 tips to optimise your meetings.