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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 62 – WTF Is Strategy

Dear Leaders,

It’s coming towards the end of the Summer here in the UK which typically means it’s long term planning and/or annual planning review cycle. This is likely the second time you are not in the board room or in a basement of a hotel planning your company’s future.

From recent feedback, many are finding asynchronous or hybrid planning sessions a challenge.

There are common questions that are being asked within businesses that leadership teams (and senior management teams) rarely address, through not knowing these questions that are being asked, but, also because the management team is not connecting to the “floor” and are rarely delivering Q&A to the business.

The usual questions being asked are:

  • What is our strategy?
    – This happens multiple times a year
  • Why are we doing what we do?
    – This is usually a follow up to what is the strategy?
    Or we do not support the strategy still
  • What does success actually look like?
    – A list of targets rarely helps employees to understand what success is and how to build towards it.

The word that stands out above the rest but confuses so many people within businesses is: STRATEGY

Strategy can mean so many things to so many people, everything became strategic.

I have recently experienced every team in a large department creating their own ‘strategy’. That was nine (yes 9) different teams, within one department with their own “strategies” that did not connect at all!

FYI: This is not ‘strategy’, these are actually plans of action, that should roll up to departmental action plans, rolling up into the company-wide strategy. (see image below)

The reason I am being so pedantic and why being deliberate is so important; when everyone has a ‘strategy’, the company strategy is commonly ignored and is then questioned as soon as there are disagreements or performance dips.

On the Focus blog, I recently wrote a detailed post about the difference between mission, vision, strategy and tactics.

The way to think about the bigger picture: Mission sits over & across the top of vision, strategy connects directly into the company vision. Strategy guides each department action plan, with team plans rolling into the department action plan. Tactics sit at the bottom and are often interchangeable but never dictates strategy!

The TLDR framework explainer I used for strategy in this framework:

  • Operating Principle: Strategy  
  • Explainer: One company-wide plan for everyone within the business to understand, everybody throughout the company should be able to repeat without any thought and all departments follow when crafting their own plans.
    No team or department should deviate from the strategy. 
    • Your Company Strategy build should be thought about in this simple way:
      • 💭 Think: 5 Years
      • 🗺 Plan: 3 Years
      • 📦 Deliver: 1 Year ahead
      • It is imperative: No department should have its own strategy. 
  • When To Review Strategy: Up to twice per year 
  • When To Change Strategy: Once a year, every year  

It is well worth reading what is mission, vision, strategy and tactics framework.

⬆️ This is an explainer of what mission is, what vision is, what strategy is, what departmental actions plans are and an explainer of tactics.

The mentioned issues are why you have to be so precise and deliberate with your company or organisations plans.

Are You Struggling?
Run A Strategic Audit Recommendation: If you struggle with strategy or how to answer what your company-wide strategy is, what I recommend regularly is running a strategy audit and then creating a one-pager to reexplain your company-wide strategy to the company.

This newsletter is to help guide you through your leadership journey, if you consider yourself a decision-maker within your business, it should be part of your role to improve your company and introducing and creating frameworks and guides for your teams to follow to be successful within your department and the wider company.
And, importantly, when team members move on to the next challenge.

Help those around you build the team and departmental action plans and roll them up into the actual company-wide strategy.
If you do not have a company-wide strategy or struggle with them or get gain buy-in, get in touch today.

Thanks and have a great week.

Danny Denhard


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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?

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 59 – Beware the empathy trap!

Happy Monday leaders.

This week’s leaders letter comes from a friend of Focus and Positive Psychology coach Sharon Aneja. Sharon will be breaking down the empathy trap and why you should put on your own mask first.

Have a great week and over to Sharon’s gems:


Leaders: Beware the empathy trap!

By now you will have heard a million coaches telling leaders to be more empathetic, show more emotional intelligence and practice active listening.

You’re expecting me to say the same. I’m not here to do that.

Why?

Well, there’s an old adage: “Nice guys finish last”.

OK, I don’t totally subscribe to this loaded statement. Besides, Alan Sugar’s style of 80’s leadership has that pretty much covered.

What I am saying is that there is such a thing as being too empathetic a leader which can be detrimental to the team.

Categories
Anonymous Career Advice

Will a strict return to the office help my team get back together?

This week’s anonymous career advice question:

Will a strict return to the office help my team get back together? 

Dear Focus, Our office has been told they are expected back in the office in the coming weeks. My department’s performance has dropped and you can see cracks appear. Do you think this will help our department get back to performing? 

This is going to be a big question for many department heads and leads in the coming months. 

If there is a performance issue it’s likely not simply down to being remote and video call fatigue that we have all heard about in the last six months. 

It’s likely down to many more factors of work: 

  • The general blurring of work and life, 
  • Relationships falling apart 
  • Colleagues leaving 
  • A change to furlough or headcount 
  • A team subculture that requires more than a bandaid or an away day. 

Here are just a few categories of questions to ask yourself and your team around what the causes are and answer collectively. 

Bonding 

  • Has there been a breakdown in communications? 
  • Has there been a project, product or campaign that has failed? 
  • Has there been turnover or lack of refill of headcount? 
  • How do you propose to bring the teams closer together if there are numerous fractions or your internal influencer or secret weapon is unhappy?

Proximity 

  • Proximity is an important factor within interpersonal relationships but does it apply or add value in 2021?
  • Being close or within one office doesn’t mean better communications and the old bad habits won’t come back. 

Something I always recommend to read and develop out is the Allen curve within your business, as the study shows the closer and more frequent you are by proximity the better relationships were.

Here is a good LinkedIn post to understand more of an updated review. 

Being a good leader from anywhere 

  • Asking if this was going to be full time back in the office? 
  • Have there been consistent communications? 
  • Regardless of where your team are located your role shouldn’t have to change, often remote can be easier to manage times and interruptions 

Resentment for having to come back in

This is something many team members are expressing. 

Likely voicing their concerns or frustrations around having to return to the old way of working. 

Although it doesn’t sound to have been easy or plain sailing many people have realised this way of working works better for them and their situation. 

Can you adapt this for a team member?

Swamped in routine 

One common mistake is not mixing up routines and not listening to feedback. 

Old routines won’t likely improve the issues that occurred while forced working from home environment. 

Is this an opportunity to change the routine? I would suggest this is a great time to revisit and restructure routines.  

Cost of over-communication

Many businesses were telling teams to over-communicate, this was one of the common mistakes over the last year. 

Communications have to deliberate. 

There has to be for a reason and managed by channel. 

Can you reduce friction by reducing communication or more likely over communication? 

Ability to deliver anywhere

  • The question everyone seems to struggle with, have we set our teams to succeed and deliver from anywhere? 
  • Do you actually have one rule that applies all within your business? 
  • Where your team set up to succeed? 

Best of luck with your move towards going back into the office, as we suggested the office should be rethought as an arena and this is an important read to help reshape your office while returning to the office safely. 

Helpful Reads To Improve Your Management

Good Manager Examples

25 Bad Manager Examples

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 51 – Is It Time For Your Internal Podcasts

Internal Podcasts

Dear leaders, 

I have had a number of conversations with business owners, founders and leaders about how they gain more cut through with their teams and how to be more open, more transparent, help everyone understand what they are trying to achieve. 

There are a number of businesses that offer AMA’s, I am a huge advocate of AMA’s and opening up, there are many ways you can gain more feedback and answer questions, but enabling open conversations and allowing people to relax podcasts are often the way many professionals open up.
So much so, there are specific media training courses covering podcasts alongside TV interviews. 

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Focus News

Manager Coaching Courses

As Focus mission is to fix the broken world of work, we have spoken to a large number of “leaders” and managers about what is broken in their workplace and how we can collaborate on fixing fundamentals to complex problems that they are facing as a business or as a leadership team.

Our dedicated weekly Focus newsletter, leaders letters, helps people with a senior title evolve and become leaders or improve their leadership skills.

The Elephant In The Room

Let’s address the elephant in the room, managers and above rarely receive or seek out management coaching or training.

This is a big problem…

  • for managers
  • for teams
  • and importantly for their businesses.

Why is this a big problem? Your personal development will slow, your career will likely stagnate and your business performance will only hit a certain level.

Managers of all levels and experience require constant improvement, yes you can learn on the job, however, typically you do not improve any of your core skills or arguably, more importantly, your core weaknesses.

How can you improve any baseline numbers or hit targets or KPI’s when you are failing to improve yourself?

Professional Business Requires Coaching

Sports and business have many parallels, the difference is in almost all professional sports you have dedicated coaches, you receive coaching daily for your professional career and the majority of the team you are coached on improving your weaknesses and improving your core skills and then applying this in a team and squad environment.

Even the worlds best and greatest athletes are coached seek help and receive coaching every day!
This should be no different for business professionals.

This very rarely happens in the work setting, the only time this happens is when executives are recommended a coach or a startup is maturing and the investment team seeks out a coach for a founder or the founding team.

Career Stagnation Is Your Problem

Almost every career stagnates at one place or another, this can be more many reasons, the most common; you stop wanting to progress and seek out help, seek out improving your weaknesses or seek out a mentor or a professional coach.

Step up and develop your career!

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Put on your own oxygen mask is a famous business quote that translates to look after yourself first, this could not be truer notably when it comes to actually helping your team or business improve, if you are not improving yourself, how are you improving others?

Invest In You

One of the big takeaways in talking to leaders is they end up not using their training budget or “wasting it conferences”.

Stop wasting your annual training budget on conferences you learn small and disposable pieces of information or fail to attend because you are too busy.

Get Focus: Professional Management Coaching

Focus offers a tailored package that has been built for managers across all levels, whether you are a:

  • A newly promoted manager
  • A Head of Team or Head of Department
  • A Director who is lacking confidence or delivery is slipping away
  • A VP who is too busy juggling meeting requests and sitting in back to back meetings to develop themselves or their team
  • A C-suite member who has become detached from their discipline or lost their influence over their team.

We work together with you, we then:

  • Build a tailored package to your specific situation
  • Build a growth plan together
  • Build your skills, session by session
  • Build out your confidence and communications skills
  • Build out a set of templates for you to use and roll out internally

The Packages

The Focus 1-2-1 Coaching Packages can be brought in blocks or per session.

Each coaching session is 60 minutes and virtual. Each session is one to one, with homework to improve your skills and actions to tackle and roll out after every session.

No Timewasting! To ensure we are compatible and you want to be coached, we arrange a quick 15-minute session to run your situation and see if we would be a good fit.

The packages can be paid for directly from your business or if you are looking to pay for this yourself this can be set up. This enables you to invest in yourself or your company to invest in your long term success.

Get in touch below to start your coaching with Focus.

Coach Quote Eric Schmidt
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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 43 – Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?

April 5th, 2021.

Dear Leaders,

For the past few months, I have been working more regularly with more founder-led businesses. 

Founder led businesses are notoriously more difficult if you do not know how to ask the right questions and you answer their questions quickly and concisely with a focus on delivery. 

One question that has bubbled up with each founder 

Have you been the boss for so long you try and boss everything and every situation?

The answer is 90% of the time, no, the 10% are the more open and transparent and typically say yes. 

The yes answer is good, they are aware of where they are and know they will be pushed to step back and challenged to understand where to let go.

The 90% have a few more sessions to go, they are unaware of having to control not boss each situation.

The 90% then split into two camps, those who want to change and those who want to control. The controlling group are those who need more coaching and guidance, you need to show where they are being too hands-on, too overbearing, too much talking nowhere near enough listening. 

So the question for you to ask is have you been the boss for so long, you attempt to boss everything? 

If yes, step back, challenge yourself to listen more and understand where you need to take a leap back or leap into action and where possible bring in external help or hire more people to remove some friction. 

Have a good week and remember being the boss doesn’t mean making every decision and kicking every ball it means knowing when to bring others to the table, bringing support in for you and the team and then being clear and concise when delegating. 

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 8th January

In today’s five for Friday, we share five must read or watch pieces of content to set you up for the day ahead.

One – Want to disrupt an industry? Here’s how Haus did it to the wine industry and how they are so quick to create great new product.

TwoThe best books I read over the last twelve months

The list includes: The Netflix no rules rules culture book, The Instagram backstory No filter, Rebel Ideas, Thinking in bets and Trillion Dollar Coach.

Three – The business lesson from Jeff Bezos

Four – How Ring started and why KPI’s are mission-driven vs money driven

Five – Simon Sinek on why now id the time to reinvest ourselves.

Have a good Friday and weekend ahead.

Categories
Strategy

The Most Read Focus Articles In 2020

Here are the top 10 most read and most helpful articles from Focus this year.

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Bonus: The Most Discussed With Clients

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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 26 – Productive Working Relationships

30/11/2020

Dear Leaders,

How are you shaping up for the end of the year?

In today’s leaders letter, I am going to cover working relationships. What could come under company culture or company performance.

The older you become, typically the higher you progress, the more likely you have to proactively work on your working relationships between colleagues and fellow members of management and leadership teams.

If you are not working on this, you are, unfortunately, likely losing.

Often you will have to develop “productive working relationships”. In life, there are going to be people you just don’t get on with and in the professional world you will encounter this (I know I did) and you will have to proactively work on ensuring you can work together for the best of the company and for the best of your colleagues.

I personally would struggle with two behaviours.

  1. Colleagues who would be ‘independently motivated’, those who would work behind the scenes to put their interests first or proactively work to have dedicated time with the HiPPO to force their agenda through. Providing you get Face-time and zoom-time and build a relationship, you will beat those who don’t work on this.
  2. I would also struggle with people who would be CC warriors, say one thing and then pounce on any opportunity to CC in leaders or leadership teams into emails. This is and will always be unprofessional behaviour.

We all face these behaviours and have to develop our own approach.
The most professional and the best way I found to tackle this is to speak directly to said person and make them aware that their behaviour can and likely will cause issues and typically you both decide how you move forward.

With some individuals, their motivations will not change but it is something you have tackled and typically allows you both to be on the same page and will be able not to let this behaviour creep into your interactions and with your teams.

Throughout my career, I have seen many co-founders drift apart, some co-founders proactively take each other apart, build a CC warrior culture, and lose the company around them based on their working relationships.

One, in particular, was so messy it went into administration from misalignment and distrust of each other. Part of the culture became deciding which founder you would side with and proactively back. For the younger and less experienced it was unfair and uncomfortable. For the older, it became more than work.
This behaviour filters through the business and this behaviour can become the norm if not managed correctly.

When the chips are down and performance is struggling, you need to come together and coordinate fighting external factors, not the internal factors.

Working on relationships is an essential part of the business world, it doesn’t have to be political or have an agenda other than wanting to improve your working environment and remove poor behaviours and subcultures within your business.

In the coming weeks leading up to Christmas focus on:
Planning in sessions where you get to know each other professionally and personally, understand the motivations of your colleagues and when you feel comfortable to have feedback sessions where you have open discussions around how behaviours and actions can influence the company and causes rifts.

As recommended previously, create agreed principles and share throughout the business. Reduce company anxiety levels by reducing friction points, 2021 will hinge for many businesses on company culture driving company performance and how you will fight for the same cause vs internally fighting over many.

Have a good and proactive week,

Danny

PS if you need help with company culture, happily get in touch below