What does the average day of a CEO look like?

Business Leader Magazine recently interviewed a selection of CEOs to see what their average day looks like.

What time do you typically wake up?

Laura Kay, Laura Kay London: “I usually have an early start to the working day and I wake up at 6am.”

Gary Orr, Yarlington Housing Group: “I generally wake up around 6.30am.”

Steve Cliffe, Ultrahaptics: “I’m an early bird, always have been. I’m usually the first up at home, around 5.20am.”

Gary Sheppard, Helm Construction: “6.00am but it may take a further ½ hour or so for me to roll out of bed.”

James Phipps, Excalibur Communications: “6.45am. I have two young daughters so no need for an alarm!”

Brady George, Almeda Facilities Ltd: “I wake up at 4am. I read for 30 minutes and then go for a run.”

Matt Fiddes, MF Martial Arts: “I tend to wake up around 9am as I am usually up late talking to my franchises in Australia during the night.”

What do you typically have for breakfast?

Laura: “I don’t have time to eat a full breakfast and usually grab a banana on the run.”

Gary Orr: “Always at least one strong coffee with some porridge and honey.”

Steve: “Something light, a yogurt generally.”

Gary Sheppard: “Always Muesli – sets me up for the day. I’m also fond of a full English on a Saturday morning as a treat.”

James: “Decaf coffee.”

Brady: “I make a blend of fruit, vegetables and nuts in my juicer.”

Matt: “My meals are pre-prepped each week and my breakfast will consist of high protein. Protein pancakes are my favourite. They give me energy for the day.”

How do you decide how to prioritise your day?

Laura: “My dairy is organised around my training classes (I run a training academy) and my client appointments. I therefore ensure I set times in my day to return calls. I tend to have quite a few calls to return and I also catch up on my emails – this usually takes an hour or so.

“My PA will also inform me of anything urgent that needs my attention.  I also make lots of lists in my iPhone diary and I prioritise in order of importance for that given day.”

Gary Orr: “Prioritising my day starts on Sunday night with a quick scan of the week ahead and then a Monday morning catch up with the senior team and my PA. My focus is on strategic priorities but I’m not ashamed to confess I’m a performance junkie and like nothing better than obtaining a precise picture on whether we are on track. That progress, against our corporate plan, definitely shapes my priorities.”

Steve: “I have an action list that I look at every day, and I look at my emails that have come in overnight, and I review them together on the train in the morning. It takes around 25 minutes to do that.”

Gary Sheppard: “I work around diary appointments and emails.  I plan meetings so that they are productive and normally try to do a few in succession meaning that I can focus on each one and then address action points after.  I send myself emails on things I need to do and prioritise them as I go.”

James: “I have a to do list to work on, which keeps me organised.”

Brady: “I review my weekly and monthly priorities every night before the following day and decide the 3 areas I am going to focus on tomorrow.”

Matt: “I do a list each evening and cross off throughout the day.  I split my time between my fitness programmes, for instance one hour on MF Pilates and one hour on MF Dance.”

How would you describe your leadership style?

Laura: “Honest, friendly and affective.”

Gary Orr: “Authentic, engaged and innovative.”

Steve: “Inclusive. I think it’s about setting the destination and letting everyone else get there. If you start telling everyone else how to get to the destination, and plotting the course for them then they just become ‘mini you’ and what we want is a collection of individuals. It’s a matter of what’s the overall objective and letting people get there themselves.”

Gary Sheppard: “Collaborative.  There are a lot of skilled people around me who often know more on a subject than I may do.  I am keen for the team to get the opportunity to express their views and I certainly believe in letting managers manage.”

James: “Open, encouraging, passionate, informal.”

Brady: “I am outcomes driven and want to empower others.”

Matt: “Lead by example. I wouldn’t ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t do.  From a business point of view everyone is incentivised. Their earnings aren’t capped.”

Do you feel meetings are beneficial or a waste of time?

Laura: “Depending on who it is with.”

Gary Orr: “I enjoy strategic and purposeful discussions. I struggle with, and try to avoid, lengthy meetings but accept that – very occasionally – they can be necessary. I once took a personality profile exercise that revealed that you get the best from me when you are bright and brief, and that’s definitely the case!”

Steve: “They are beneficial if you manage them properly. You stick to an agenda, you stick to the time frame. Have an objective, what you want to get out of that meeting? Don’t have meetings for meeting sake, focus on that, not just having a little chit chat.”

Gary Sheppard: “Beneficial to the extent that meetings should be about helping create structure and enabling decisions.  They should not be too detailed, there should be a clear agenda and there should be a clear objective!”

James: “Most are waste of time but I do think face to face is still the best way to run a business or deal with customers. I hate email and social media.”

Brady: “Useful if there are clear objectives agreed prior to holding the meeting. I don’t believe in meetings for meetings sake.”

Matt: “Good question.  I like to use Zoom Conferencing for meetings. I don’t need to leave my office and you can cut to the case and the video meeting can be emailed to all attendees and their PAs afterwards.  Our worldwide staff meeting is done like this every Tuesday.  Wherever the team are in the world, they can join in.”

What time does your day typically finish?

Laura: “I find it hard to switch off, so I normally finish around 10pm.”

Gary Orr: “That’s a difficult one as I don’t follow a typical routine of start and finish times. It’s not unusual for me to have meetings or events in the evening or for something to emerge that requires immediate attention past 5pm. I do like to feel a sense of completion on a Friday evening though.”

Steve: “As I arrive at the office at 7am, I like to be out of it by 5pm, it doesn’t always happen, but if I’ve got additional things to do, I like to do them at home after dinner, rather than turn up home late.”

Gary Sheppard: “Between 6.00pm and 7.00pm.  There must be a work life balance and I continually advocate this to the team.  I certainly don’t believe in working weekends.”

James: “Whenever my to do list is done. This might be early and it might be late.”

Brady: “I leave the office for 5pm to be home to give my daughter who is 18 months old her dinner, bath and story time. I then work for a couple of hours in the evening before exercising.”

Matt: “When all of the goals have been achieved I will turn off my phone and sleep. This can vary depending on what is happening.”

Do you believe it’s good to work after 6pm?

Laura: “I think it’s a clever idea to set yourself boundaries.  I am sure like other business owners and entrepreneurs, when you have your own business, it can be very difficult to switch off.”

Gary Orr: “I’m not a fan of late-night office presentism. I encourage colleagues to get home at a reasonable time and if they need to re-engage with some work later, that’s their call. At Yarlington we value outcomes and the things you achieve in your working day, not the length of it.”

Steve: “Generally, not. You do need to have that down time, but sometimes you must. And if I must, I will do.”

Gary Sheppard: “In truth, it’s often quieter between 5.00pm and 7.00pm and therefore it’s an appropriate time to clear actions or prepare for the following day.  I am a firm believer in working smarter however!”

James: “Absolutely not. I do not think it is productive or helpful for a good family life and the same for anyone who works for me.”

Brady: “If it productive and there is a clear outcome then yes. If this just forms part of the working day everyday then no.”

Matt: “It depends on your personal goals.  I work out of normal office hours as I run an incredibly busy organisation and even though it can productive to have a night off (family time is important), equally if you want to become a leader in your field, you should expect to work evenings. It is all about balance – just don’t become obsessed.”

How do you switch off?

Laura: “When I get some downtime I love reflexology! I find it so relaxing. I would recommend it! I also like to unwind with my family?”

Gary Orr: “It’s easy for me to relax at home with family and friends, particularly if we’re all out enjoying my new hobby of middle-aged cycling!”

Steve: “I listen to my music, or I go cycling. I typically do 50-100 miles a week on my bike. I love being out on the bike in the Wiltshire countryside.”

Gary Sheppard: “Mainly with my wife catching up on one another’s day.”

James: “I have a holiday home in Dorset so spend lots of time with my family there, watching films. I also love sport and travel all around the world to watch it from African Cup of Nations football to boxing with Manny vs Mayweather in Vegas. I also have a charitable foundation for young people and find it relaxing away from the business world to help others in need.”

Brady: “I run, mediate and read. I also love walking with my partner and taking my daughter on day trips. Spending focussed time with them is the best way for me to recharge and helps me draw my focus back to living with purpose.”

MF: “Weight training. It is just me and the bars. This is ‘me time’.”

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