Leaders Letters — Your Weekly Install Of Leadership Inspiration
Each week I write a weekly letter (leaders letters) designed for leaders to read first thing on a Monday, this has one piece of content to read, listen or watch and then an action to take for the week ahead.
Here are a selection of letters you will find useful from the last couple of months.
I trust you had a good weekend and look forward to making incremental improvements this week.
Working smarter not harder is something you have likely heard.
Working smarter has always been something I have been an advocate of, however until a few years ago I wasn’t sure what it truly meant.
A personal story: I would go into the office earlier than almost everyone, I would have back to back meetings and book time in for deep work. I would then work many evenings and wonder why I would be shattered and feel like I didn’t deliver my best.
What I realised over time was; I was working hard but not as smartly as I could have been. I started to review the schedules I had, the times I was working and the slots where I was productive or not.
I would review my calendar weekly and then categorise the time into themes and work out which meetings could be reduced, could be removed, or could be delegated.
There were meetings that were unproductive and I sort out to address these. Yes, this can sound like extra work but the upfront effort to save your time and sanity is worth its weight in gold.
I would make more time for when I knew I was more productive, I would schedule times in with the teams that suited them better and would save some energy as I worked for an American business, mid to late afternoons meant you were due in important management meetings and were supposed to be designed for decision making — these meetings have a higher cognitive load and can be taxing.
The hybrid office is going to suit many people, there were times where I would work from home in the mornings and dial into “lite’ meetings and then come in for team-based meetings or deeper more immersive meetings that worked better in person.
I would book in mentor sessions and catch up coffees where I knew I could recharge and re-energise before lunch. I know personally I get an energy boost from mentoring and could rely on them to act as a refresher.
Working harder than everyone is often something you will hear an athlete say in interviews, or I would outwork everyone, yes it can work, however, most athletes will tell you coming towards retirement they came close to burn out. Sir Chris Hoy’s explains high performance and the shift in his career really well on this Podcast.
In more recent years, when athletes met sports psychologists, the psychologist would highlight they were running their body and their mind into the ground.
They needed to be smarter with their efforts.
The business world is ruthless, time is precious but keeping your sanity in check and knowing how you work and when you work best is incredibly important. This is just one of the many reasons why I built out Focus.
There are going to be times especially when working remotely that feel impossible, or you need to be across every project, however, taking a step back or planning a 30-minute slot to plan, review and optimise is going to save you hours per week.
This is part of the growth mindset that I highly recommend you become a follower of. Matthew Syed has many books that explain the growth mindset.
His book is part of my most recommended business book post I wrote recently.
In lockdown, on average, a recent study has found our workdays are 48.5 minutes longer than they were previously. This isn’t harder or smarter, it’s just longer!
This week focus on: Stepping up as a leader, lead by example, help those around you to use their time more wisely, enable colleagues or your team to work smarter.
Something you can work through is surveying the company around their meeting habits and seeing if they plan and how they review their week.
Thanks and have a great week.
PS. Here is a quick Matthew Syed Video explaining Growth vs Fixed Mindset
Good morning leaders,
I hope you feel refreshed from the weekend and you are looking forward to a good week.
This week’s leader’s letter is about Givers and Takers.
Adam Grant the organisational psychologist is well known for his books, podcast and his TED videos.
Adam has created excellent phrases and uses very clear messaging (sprinkled with some humour) from findings and his studies to improve businesses and teach the next generation of leaders.
I highly recommend you watch his TED Talk Are you a giver or a taker?
The Givers and Takers talk and his findings really stand out and will stand the test of time.
As we have all been challenged recently humans show the best and absolute worst of ourselves. However, some people have something baked into them that just cannot be shaken off. In problem raisers, problem solvers and problematics I break down in a slightly different direction.
The TLDR of the Adam Grant findings:
Takers are ‘what can you do for me’ people. You are likely surrounded by them. Takers progress in the short term and seem to be rewarded. Takers like the name suggest take and rarely think about those around them. Although they raise in organisations quickly, they drop just as quickly.
Givers on the other hand, are for the long game, Givers think about others, they want to improve those around them, they teach, they share, they bring others together for the right reasons.
To quote Adam….
“Givers make organisations better”
In this time of change, consider how you want to progress, how you wish for your people to understand you, your leadership and the culture you are trying to create or recreate with the ever-changing landscape.
Right now is a great time to address existing issues and issues potentially bubbling up under the surface.
Find the Takers and consider how that one bad apple can really impact your team.
If you are a Giver who was burned, consider how you can embrace your giver side again. Attempt to remove or dilute that bad experience.
Remember when you picture a taker from the present or your past, they generally lose.
If you are a taker, I would recommend you look around you and see how quickly you have impacted the team and consider how you move yourself into giving more and taking a lot less.
Go and give!
Thanks and have a great week.
This week I took a couple of mornings away from creating workshops to focus in on personal and professional SWOTs.
When leading a previous business, I would often make the time to take a step or two away from delivery and dedicated into planning and reflection.
Reflection is great to understand where you are currently, why you might have missed something and what can be improved and what you should ultimately improve on.
Planning is vitally important especially when the world is in constant flux.
Jeff Bezos didn’t get to his famous ten-year strategy by not reviewing his personal and professional life.
I personally find frameworks help me and frameworks help many people frame problems in different ways and allows adjustments in their approach to a task or important future decision-making processes.
We all strive to improve but until we can review and decide to either build new skills or products or double down and excel at something we are often in limbo.
So Why Personal And Professional SWOTs?
SWOT’s aren’t just for executive presentations and analysing a specific business situation, they are opportunities to honestly review yourself and your professional work.
Personal and professional are interconnected, although many experts suggest you are not different, many people want to be and act differently at home and at work.
Personal SWOTs are great to review where you are at, what you see as achievable opportunities and where you can remove any weaknesses or threats.
The trick I have found is to think two fold, the first as you and the second as your critic. This will enable you to address the differences between the two.
If they aren’t very different I’d suggest you have a start over.
SWOTs always start out easy but should be challenging to complete and action.
Professional SWOTs are great to drive you forward as a leader and helps to drive the team forward.
Right now professionally you will likely have a few more negatives than positives however this is to be expected and is an opportunity to address and pick sections of your business that might want to optimise or drive forward.
As remote management is vitally important, take the opportunity to focus on personal and professional development.
This can be exercises you go through with your team.
Here are ten remote management tips to improve your remote management experience and help guide your team.
Thanks and have a good week.