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Company Culture Leadership

Why HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah Is Right About Doubling Down On Your Strengths

Over the past six months, there seems to be a great increase in the quality of podcasts where founders and co-founders speak openly and honestly about their experiences and the reasons why there is a trend for many business leads to suggest they are not great managers and shouldn’t be a people manager.

Conditioning

We are taught from early on in our careers we should become managers and this is the path to promotion and the natural evolution of your career.

Throughout my career, I have seen founders and c-suite execs who are terrible people managers and actively shouldn’t have any of their business reporting into them.

The impact this has the company culture and success of the business is hugely negative and leaves many with a bad taste in their mouth and many bad glassdoor reviews.

There are so many startups that rely on founders and cofounders to take themselves out of people management for the sake of their business growth, unfortunately, due to the conditioning and ego, this rarely happens.

Dharmesh Shah commented on the MLM podcast (which is part of Hubspot via an acquisition) that he is not a good people manager and has no direct reports.

This is uncommon, not just to admit this but also to not actually have a big line of direct reports.

Many more should speak out on this. Especially those who know it is their weakness.

Play To Your Strenghts Or Speciality?

If your strengths are Product and Product development like many founders, then why would you not double down on this? If you are a specialist and do not have the time or energy to invest in becoming a good people leader, why wouldn’t you bring in someone with better people skills and more time and skills for this?

Good Managers Are Hard To Find

Some of the best managers I have ever worked with are specialists and with the coaching and management team development and executive training, I have incorporated this and many years of experience to build these learnings into organisational design and exec development.

The Question To Answer For Leaders

This should be a question many people ask themselves now, and each quarter, should I be a people manager and if not, how do I go about organisation design to replace myself and bring in the right manager for this department or bring in a specialist manager.

Watch the 2-minute video (below) perfectly explaining why senior execs do not need to be people managers and why they shouldn’t be.

One note to take onboard:
Bad managers who think they are good managers rarely will remove themselves, look to review your teams feedback and ask for peer feedback on your management skills.

So ask yourself: Am I a good people manager and should I look to remove myself and work to my specialities.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 75 – Ending First In Last Out Mentality

Dear Leaders,

During my career, I have worked in house, agency side and had my own consultancy and a few unsuccessful side hustles. 

When you work agency side, it was (and mostly still is) as someone senior you have to be visible and has to be perceived someone whos committed – basically be there late. 

In the majority of startups you are expected to work more than the core hours and available, do what is necessary. 

When you become senior within organisations there is an unspoken and unwritten rule you should almost always be available. Whether that’s on the phone, late-night emails, long slack threads and early morning and late-night Zoom’s with other regions.

Is any of this effective?
Is this efficient?
Is this right? 

No! 

I have spoken previously on the internal dilemmas work ethic can have and how I used to think my ability to outwork colleagues was a superpower, it isn’t as it is not scaleable. 

The best companies I have worked in or worked with enable people to thrive by working smartly, rewarding working hard and celebrating others around them.

Great company culture should guide values and behaviours, reward behaviours and never ever reward bad behaviours. 

So why do so many businesses reward people looking like they word late versus working effectively? 

Can you scale and grow as a business with fear around ineffective working schedules and hours? And are you breeding the right environment for those to thrive? 

Rethink how you may be rewarding the old way of thinking, reconsider how you might embrace scheduling emails, not sending that non-urgent late-night instant message or how you may be suggesting there is a dominant office or timezone for calls and video conferences. 

Please remember: 

Scaling and maturing businesses do not win by appearing to be working more hours, it is working in an environment that promotes great work, great collaboration and great problem-solving

Never let your commitment be questioned because you are effective, work differently or deliver great work within your working hours.

This week consider how you develop your business out and move away from old ways of thinking. 

Danny Denhard

PS Maybe Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk might agree, but the small and agile are making waves and taking market share across all business sectors.

Great Related Resources

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Business Performance hybrid office

The Hand Over And Hand Backs Process

Is Your Company In Need To Introduce Formal Hand Backs?

The handover hand back approach works for agencies, consultancies and businesses of any size. 

When you are looking for small optimisations in strategy and consultancy work, you have a few ways to address these, list a number of common problems and tackle them and stack rank the importance or you can go through common occurrences within businesses and optimise frustrations. 

One of the givens within any business is annual leave and long periods where colleagues have to cover each other’s work and ensure projects keep moving and in some cases complete complicated campaigns or deliver on projects and product launches. 

Handovers Win First Battle In The War

One of the best optimisations with holidays (vacations) is the ability to write detailed handovers, one of the common mistakes companies make is not creating a hand back.

This is where your colleagues write a one-pager (or more detailed if required) to enable the returner to understand where they are with their projects and what is critical to know. 

Handover Template

A handover requires the work, the status and the action required and typically the deadline. I personally am better with tables than a long list of bullet points and most businesses run off spreadsheets, therefore I recommend a simple table (example below) – this works best on a wiki or knowledge centre vs a document or a chain of emails. 

Work / Task New OwnerStatus Action RequiredDeadline Date 

The Hand Back Template

The hand back is important for more than just annual leave, maternity and parental leave, bereavement and sickness leave, especially if there was no formal handover a hand back often is going to set up your colleague up to re-onboard and pick up and enable them to pick up work more easily. 

As you can see the hand back template is slightly different, it is important you detail the steps (actions) taken and clearly call out the delivery date.

The important factor especially for long campaigns or project deliveries is to include the report URL and the performance metrics. 

Work / Task OwnerStatus Actions Taken Delivered Date (including report URL)

With the sheer amount of emails, instant message chats and threads, many colleagues struggle with coming back and getting through the number of updates let alone being able to cut through and understand what has happened and the performance metrics associated. 

In the hybrid work world, there will be fewer face to face meetings and many of the updates can be (and should be) asynchronous – consider how you integrated better templates that are more actionable within your organisation to set up colleagues and teams for success – this is ultimately what many companies are missing from building their intentional company culture

Categories
Trust

Are You Struggling To Connect With The Team Or With The Leadership Team

How to connect as a manager or department leader with a simple game

Do your team(s) think you just sit in management meetings, don’t know how the latest tech works and you ask repetitive questions and just cannot relate?

If you are being serious, at some point in your career you thought this and the chances are some of your team members think this right now.

The lack of face time, the lack of chances to get to know you and what drives you often causes disconnections and fear within teams. Department leads and heads are often disconnected by one to four managers.

Your disconnect or distance may be by design, however, it is important you build deeper and richer connections based on IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence). The old saying people don’t leave company’s they leave managers is true, but often this is indirect because your influence as a department lead is to be the inspiration point for the department and often your role as a leader is to be the active connector between your managers and their staff.

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 74 – Have A Wish List Of Roles You Want To Hire For To Reshape Your Business 

Dear leaders, there is something important many of us think about but rarely plan.

It is organisational design, creating a team and wishlist of roles we want to hire for. 

In one of my support networks, a question was asked about how other execs go about reshaping their team(s) and was there a method anyone used specifically. 

Away from old school methods of creating a skills matrix or having to question every January the bottom x% of staff, many thought about it but did not plan or have a plan. 

There are two main components for success for organisational design and reshaping your business to consider: (1) company culture / your own subculture and (2) company performance.

My recommendation is to always plan forward, I have a saying that is:


Always Be Auditing, Always Be Marketing.

Auditing helps you review, plan and understand if you are on the path you should be on and the timeline you are operating on.
Marketing enables you to guide, influence, bring others on a journey, alongside being able to attract talent and great team members and bring in senior leaders into your business. 

Many leadership teams are on a long term journey together and just started their journey, there are CEO’s and chairpeople who follow the adage, you should always look to change 5%-10% of their management team, especially if it is larger than single digits. (A good podcast to listen to on this is with PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejeda on BVP)  

Remember a large leadership team can be great and add more diversity, with more people there is always more bikeshedding (Parkinson’s law of triviality) and more opinions creep in and can become a politically charged status game and each decision can become death by committee. 

Plan: Be Strategic, Not Reactive

The plan can be simple, you ideally would like this role for these reasons. 

You can build out another dimension and create an org chart with names and responsibilities and how you look to develop out the people and reporting lines, some do this with their right-hand person and create a timeline for such moves.

Often the unspoken truth is; the more senior you become the less turnover and change occurs, the longer it can take to improve your senior leadership and the longer teams and company culture can suffer. 

Why not look to plan the people evolution of your business for the next 24 months ahead, this helps you to reshape the business, refocus the teams and create a window where you are the company and the employees openly embrace change.

Remember: Organisational design has to be proactive, never reactive.

This week start planning the two years ahead, what you would like your team to look like and operate like and where you can transfer the next generation of leaders into your business and smartly and proactively evolve your business. 

Thanks and have a great week,

Danny Denhard 

Categories
Strategy

The Key To Winning Business – Be The Power P: The Partner, The Platform, The Piping

Why The Three P’s Is Winning & Will In The Future

Throughout time, businesses have had to evolve past just selling widgets. 

We went from specialists selling a smaller number of SKU’s, to selling huge amounts of SKU’s just to compete. Many then moved to rely on everyday people to sell their products on your platform to compete on search engines and drive enough people to drive another round of investment or keep the lights on. 

Many of these changes were necessity, rarely strategic and survival becomes the name of the game, while slowly killing development, product improvements and investment into true growth levers

In the age of the internet, faster more convenient apps and prime expectations, we have seen the way we browse, broker and buy evolve quickly and many times we did not see the landscape shift and change, why? Because of how discreet and smart these new players are. 

In today’s market, we have seen the three P’s step up and win as operating models: 

The Partner 

The Platform 

The Piping 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 71 – Pitching The BIG Idea

Dear leaders, this week I am going to tell you about a personal experience that might be a lesson or two to take forward. 

I had a BIG idea, I crafted an aesthetically and numbers perfect 22 slide deck (with a huge FAQ and appendix), the idea was reshaping the business I was on the local leadership team and opening up the business to offer three new services that would have answered more customer problems, enable a global launch and create a bigger impact. 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 70 – The Fear Of Your Discipline Moving Ahead Of You 

Dear Leaders,

For a recent keynote presentation, I created a dedicated list of fears leaders go through and stack ranked those fears. 

When I create leadership lists and content for larger presentations, I always run it through a group of c-suite connections who then suggest what they are going through.

One of the agreed-upon biggest fears leaders had was the fear of their discipline moving on ahead of them.
This is something I know many department heads struggle with, you have team management, getting your work done, being an executive and then juggling the work admin. 

I recently spoke to a group of Product and Marketing leaders and when I raised the fear of being left behind, many had not considered it but almost all admitted they hadn’t been in a place to keep on top of the latest moves. 

Losing Subject Matter Expertise?

One of the biggest challenges for department heads is how to be the best department heads (ensuring the right work is being delivered + internal politics), and how to keeping on top of your industry and the movements. 

This is one of the juggles many professionals go through and is rarely discussed. 

How do you know how to prioritise, keep up and lead from the front with so many challenges?

Hint, collaboration and internal training and coaching from your team and those around you. 

The question for you to ponder this week is: 

How far removed from your discipline are you and how do you intend to get back on track? 

Or do you believe you are serving the team best by being removed? 

Actionable Recommendations 

Something I recommend is to have monthly sessions where you discuss the industry changes with your department, what those in your market and importantly outside of your market are rolling out and how they did this. 

For your own personal development, I would recommend you create a list of five news sources you trust and create a list to block out time to keep up to date with their content, if not daily then weekly. 

Lastly, always have an ongoing and updated inspiration board/wiki/note to help you (and the team) rethink problems and be inspired by what others are doing and how you could apply this to your business.  

Thanks for reading today and have a great week,

Danny Denhard 

Helpful Resources

Read or watch my recent presentation 

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Is it possible to have a non subject expert as a department lead?

This week’s anonymous career advice centre’s around a common issue where the department lead is not a subject matter expert and struggles with driving their own teams forward.

Dear focus, my department lead (my direct boss) is not a subject matter expert. They struggle with having the right level of in-depth conversation with the team and it’s impacting our department and delivering important products.
What would you recommend? 

This is more common than you believe and something many of the readers will be questioning or have questioned recently. 

There are often a number of ways to look at this and typically falls into two sides or two schools of thought. 

The Two Sides 

Categories
Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 69 – Why It Is Ok To Be On The Fence

Dear Leaders, recently we have learnt the lesson that life is often too short. 

Something that is often questioned in upper management is people’s commitment.
Is our team fully committed?
Are they on the bus?
Do they bleed the company colours?

For years I was a BIG believer in this, I was a big advocate of: are you in or are you out? 

Until a few years ago when I had to really consider what it meant to be in the middle, not fully in or fully out.
And you know what, it was and is ok. 

My Experience: 

On one occasion, in an away long-range planning session, I was called out “for being on the fence”, a set of the leadership team were not convinced I was fully committed. 

Why?

I was fully committed to doing my job and getting the best results for the business, however, I had pushed myself to the brink, I pushed my colleagues to step forward to take on important projects and I knew we were up against a challenging period and I knew deep down I was not going to be able to give my usual 110%. 

I was however aware at that business I was not progressing at the same velocity I had for a few years before, the company openly couldn’t match my ambition and importantly, I was not 100% brought into the lack of vision and I would often question a number of decisions we as the leadership team were making. 

I was often pushing for different (in mind much smarter) outcomes vs wanting to just “disagree and commit” as the others did. 

What this made me realise was this and something I teach in my coaching sessions

  • Commitment is a two-way street – you and the company have to show you are both committed 
  • You can be a professional and disagree with decisions but still get your job done right and keep pushing and developing those around you 
  • Some companies will never match your own ambitions – this is for you to work out or work through — or leave 
  • Being all in or all out is more poker than real working life, having the right beliefs and making the right sets of bets is best for the company 
  • Companies evolve, as do professionals, sometimes you drift apart – this does not mean you do not want the best for the company 
  • Vision is a big part of leadership, if some struggle with vision or sharing a long term vision, then that’s a personal discussion to have or a point to discuss as a management team 
  • It is then natural for people to assume you are interviewing, hearing about other roles and taking other opportunities when you take a step back from being in every conversation or taking on more projects others who know you will notice – you must deal with this and a challenge coming
  • There are risks and benefits to being in a company for a prolonged period of time – on many occasions salary is just not going to be enough for your sanity
  • It is ok to know there is more out there and for you to pursue opportunities – as an individual you have to decide if you discuss this with your line manager or CEO, be wary this will 99% of the time play against you.

Unfortunately, my commitment being questioned did ultimately help me decide to leave for another opportunity that was right for me and my future.
However, when someone is on the fence in your business, it doesn’t mean they are working against what you want, or what your business needs to achieve, it can mean they are opening up potentials for them and the business. 

This week I recommend you think about your own situation, you consider how you and the company might be pushing people to consider their options and lastly, ponder how you could actually benefit from different discussions and reconsidering leading with paranoia when your colleagues are considering their next steps, it could be the best for the company and enable you to bring in someone else to refresh the management team. 

Have a great week. 

Danny Denhard 

PS if you and the business are always doing strategy and AOP the same way, you have to read this strategy article.


Other Leadership Articles To Improve You As A Leader:

Why the next big business will be people-powered 

Why Management Pods will help you improve your leadership

Why a rotating contrarian role will help your leadership team 

Why Microsoft CEO thinks Hybrid is a paradox

Watch my keynote presentation on fan clubs, communities, tribes and herds