As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine?
Business Leader spoke to Adrian Blair – CEO of Receipt Bank about his working day.
What time do you usually wake up?
Early. I’m up and out before the kids are even awake. I’m naturally a morning person, at least on the right side of caffeine. After a few espressos, I’m at my most creative and optimistic.
What is the rest of your morning routine before you start work?
I leave the house around six in the morning and try to exercise a bit before work. The trade-off I make to see my family in the evening is to start early and avoid the rush hour by commuting long before most people are up.
One of the things you realise as CEO is the value of time. It’s the most precious commodity we have. You can make more money, but it’s impossible to create more time. Which is why you have to be ruthless about making the most of it. Something simple like leaving before rush-hour makes a huge difference.
What is the first thing you do at the start of your working day? How do you prioritise your day’s work?
Your workload as a CEO is potentially infinite, and the amount of work you could be doing, limitless. In a sense, every part of the business is your responsibility. To manage communication coming in from every angle, I deal with emails and Slack between my commutes and aim to have my inbox at zero at the start and the end of each day.
When documents come across your desk, you have to make a judgement call quickly, even on complex, fifty slide decks. Within two minutes I have to decide whether I need to schedule more time for a detailed review or deal with it right then. It’s surprising how much you can focus on in such a short period of time.
One of the biggest challenges as a leader is to make people know that you care, while also being careful about managing your time. Devoting the right amount of time to my colleagues and their work is critically important, and requires sustained focus.
When does your working day finish?
I’ll generally leave the office between half-six and seven. More often than not, I’ll miss dinner but be home to put the kids to bed and read them bedtime stories.
Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?
It is although you have to think about how every part of the day is spent. I’ll eat in the mornings and evenings outside of work hours, which frees up the 45 minutes I might take for lunch. My colleague Helen who sits next to me will often leave a bag of bananas on my desk out of kind concern; but I’d rather use that time and get home at 7:15pm rather than 8pm to see the kids.
I’ve been away on a global leadership offsite for the past few days and really missed the bananas.
The important thing is to use time as effectively as possible while also being fair to yourself. Everything you do has to be sustainable. You have to preserve your sanity without assuming you can operate like a machine indefinitely.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
To think about work like a sports match. If you’re playing tennis and your opponent just taps the ball into the middle of the court every time, you’re going to get bored. You want them to smack the ball to every corner and truly stretch you.
Of course, we’re all human and it can be hard when emotions come into the picture. Framing work like a game of tennis, or any other competitive challenge, helps you start with the right perspective.
One of the best things about being CEO is your ability to shape the culture around you. When you surround yourself with like-minded, positive people, that’s when work becomes genuinely enjoyable and stops feeling so much like work.
How do you prepare for the next day’s work?
I’ll go to bed at a reasonable time and try to avoid drink during the week. When I get up so early, it’s really important not to burn the midnight oil.
How do you switch off?
It’s hard, in all honesty! I’d love to say I switch off by relaxing with my children yet at four, nine and eleven years old, they are not the most chilled out company to keep. I do play the piano though.
I grew up in Southern Africa (Lesotho). One of our neighbours had a piano in his house and would leave his front door open when he was out. He did so to let me play during the day. I would go round regularly and grew to really love music.
Although we have a piano at home, I’ve never pretended I’m good enough to play professionally. But it’s always nice to aspire to be brilliant at something outside of work.