My Working Day – Lesley Gulliver – The Engine Room

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Lesley Gulliver, Managing Director of strategic brand consultancy The Engine Room, about her working day.

What time do you usually wake up?

I’ve got a pretty good morning routine. My alarm is set for 06:50 when I get up and take our new puppy out for a walk. He’s a 15-week-old chocolate Labrador.

What do you typically have for breakfast?

Usually a protein shake, to set me up for the day. I don’t ever feel particularly hungry in the morning, but I almost force myself to eat so I don’t snack throughout the morning.

What’s the rest of your morning routine before you start work?

I have a shower, then a cup of tea while I make breakfast for my son. We spend a bit of time together before he’s out the door for school, then I sit down to start work at 08:30.

First thing you do at the start of a workday?

I check the bank – I look after the commercial side of our business and pandemic or not, I like to have an at-a-glance look at where we’re at. I also revisit my calendar to make sure I’m clear on my commitments and priorities.

How do you prioritise your day’s work?

Let’s face it, we have to be extremely fluid – especially now. But I always try to think carefully about what truly is or isn’t a priority – much like what genuinely is or isn’t urgent. Some things need more reflection and consideration, so I will block time out of my days to work on the more ‘thoughtful’ elements, rather than making a knee-jerk reaction to tackle them straight away. However, it takes discipline to allow yourself to vary the pace accordingly.

One of the most helpful ways I’ve found to do this is to balance my time between focusing on client projects and running the business. I’ll even separate out chunks of my day if possible. Otherwise, it’s too easy – albeit understandable – to focus on what keeps customers happy and pays the bills. But we all know there’s more to it than that.

Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?

Meetings are important, particularly in our world as they’re core to us building relationships and getting under the skin of our clients’ brands. But meetings must be balanced with doing. I can’t get excited about a meeting for meeting’s sake. They don’t have to be a full hour just because that sits neatly in the calendar, and they also don’t have to be back-to-back merely because we don’t have to commute anymore.

In the current climate, I think ‘get togethers’ are vital with colleagues too. That’s why we have a 09:00 cup of coffee as a team, virtually, every day. It could feel like a waste of time, but I know if we stopped, we’d risk quickly becoming distant from one another. We also have a five-minute check-in at the end of the day.

Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?

Under normal circumstances, I’d happily have a working lunch – generally something light and healthy. However, I learnt very quickly during the first lockdown how important it is to take a break, get out for a brisk walk and some fresh air, and reset.

When does your working day finish?

I’m fairly strict at the end of the day, in that I cut off at dead on 17:00 to spend time with my son. We catch up on his day and eat. I often check back in with emails at around 18:00 to catch up on any things that have come in as other people have been finishing up, and this feels like an effective way to close the day.

My laptop is always there, of course – and there are times when I enjoy delving into something at a different time of day when I may find it easier to look through an alternative lens. But as my career has progressed, I’ve become more comfortable with protecting ‘me time’ in the evening. I think business owners and colleagues alike are gradually getting better at this – presenteeism shouldn’t signal effort or value added to the business.

How do you prepare for your next day’s work?

I review progress on my ongoing to-do list and ensure, above everything, I’m as prepared as I can be for any client meetings. I also find it quite therapeutic to cover off some tactical stuff or email replies that are quickly resolved and don’t require ‘thinking time’ the following day.

What’s your favourite piece of technology?

Two systems underpin our business – Xero for our book-keeping, and the job tracking system Workflow Max. The two talk to each other seamlessly and empower us to run the business effectively.

I must give a shout out to Mural too, which has proven fundamental to us maintaining our level of interactive work with clients, since the outbreak of the pandemic.

How do you switch off?

I’m a keen tennis player.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Silence is OK. Don’t feel the need to fill it. Listen to it. Silence can be very noisy and you can learn a lot from that noise.