At which time do you wake up in the morning?
Generally I wake up about 0630. My kids are old enough to sleep in longer than me these days.
What is the first thing you do?
Apart from the obvious (I’m 51), I drink a pint of water. It’s incredibly energizing.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I flick through the FT app and the Guardian. I enjoy Politico’s Playbook emails for Brussels and London too. In the afternoon/evening, I read the daily update from Tortoise Media, and if I have time the same from the New York Times.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
It depends. I tend to split my time during the week in one of two places: home and traveling or home and office. That way I protect my family time as best I can. As a rule I sit down to my desk at about 0830, but mobile working means that I am usually online before that.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Too often. I have got very good in not checking emails though outside of working hours e.g. when I get up or in the evenings after I leave my desk.
When is your first meeting?
Sometimes about 8am. I have noticed that one of the impacts of COVID is earliest meetings tend to begin at 9am now.
How do you plan your meetings across the week? (spread them or concentrate on certain days and times?)
They usually get planned for me in the sense that more people demand my time than I demand of theirs. I do block out time during the week to do actual work and thinking. I try to put gaps between meetings: having them last no more than 45 mins is one trick. Fridays I try to avoid meetings where possible.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
EY can really suck lots of internal time from you if you are not careful. I would say I split the time about 50/50. I always prioritize external/stakeholder meetings over internal meetings. It’s the best and most important part of the job. That said, I do protect time with my team as a way of demonstrating my commitment to them.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I don’t. It is extremely rare for the news cycle to affect my work in such an immediate way.
How do you take notes?
I used to use notebooks but increasingly and almost exclusively I use OneNote on my iPad. It makes it easier to find notes later. Plus you can send them to others.
What is your relationship to Excel?
I am lucky to have others in my team who are excellent at managing the budget. I tend to use Excel as a quick and dirty way to collect and record data e.g. country surveys (I have 98 countries to cover in my role).
What is your favorite app & why?
Microsoft’s Office Suite because it is easy to retrieve files that you have been working with when on the move. MS Teams gets better and better. In my personal life, it’s a combination of Spotify, Blinkist, Audible, Strava and Untappd.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Ooh very few. Maybe 1-2 times a month.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
By talking to colleagues, peers, and our agency, afore. To be honest, I haven’t found much formal content on Public Affairs excellence that tells me something new. Maybe I am not looking in the right places! All tips welcome.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
COVID has shown us or me that we can work remotely and effectively. This has empowered me to prioritize family life with office and traveling having to compete for time. The other thing is to only have one calendar and to do list and put work and personal stuff on it. How can you balance work and personal life any other way? Finally, change your mindset (if it needs changing), having a life away from work makes you MORE effective at work and not less: it’s important for energy recovery but also ideas generation. Want to know more? Search up “self-actualization”.
What do you do to unwind? (big and small)
Generally I find exercise is the best medicine. I run, cycle, swim and play squash. A walk by the river or in the park with or without my dog always works too. I’m not adverse to the odd beer or two either.
What is your favorite collaboration tool?
MS Teams is what we mostly use. The more I learn about it the more powerful it gets.
How does your desk look? (tidy, mess)
We hot desk in the office so in short: empty. I find modern offices very practical at desk level but soulless. At home, I am lucky enough to have my own office. It is filled with pictures and plants. It is comfortable, but small. My desk tends to have paper on it, pens, a water bottle, and a really cool LED USB powered Anglepoise lamp.
Do you answer emails on your phone?
Yes but only ones that can be answered briefly.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I stopped doing it about 5 years ago. It imposes on the quality of the holiday (and not just for me). It also isn’t particularly welcomed by colleagues. I also don’t expect other colleagues to email when they are on holiday so it’s important to be a role model. Instead, my assistant, Linda, looks out for important emails and asks others in the team to assess whether it needs a reply before I get back; and to then deal with it if they can. In my out of office message, I also specifically ask people to text me or call my mobile if they need to contact me urgently. It’s easy to send an email, but for some reason we all think twice before calling someone on holiday.
Who is your idol?
I wouldn’t say I have idols. I am concerned about a lack of leadership in our political system, so I don’t find anyone there I would put on a pedestal although I am intrigued by leaders like Emmanuel Macron, Sanna Marin and Volodymyr Zelenskyj. I also tend to admire people who see the world differently and make me think. In that category I would put writers like Malcolm Gladwell, Caroline Criado Perez, Matthew Syed and Dieter Helm.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I am reading books about bringing up adult children and listening as an audiobook to Net Zero by Dieter Helm.
Do you read anything before you go to bed?
Not generally. I get too tired and fall asleep if I try and read anything off the vertical.
Which time do you go to bed?
About midnight. My kids are usually in bed by 10pm which gives me 2 hours to watch whatever miniseries I am watching. I am currently wading through Better Call Saul and The Capture.
Do you use LinkedIn and/or Twitter for work?
I used LinkedIn regularly for blogging, connecting, and communicating with people. It is also a very powerful recruitment tool. I have moved away from Twitter. It is too distracting and time intensive, but I do recognize that it’s an important channel for political commentators.
How big is your PA department (PA employees)?
In terms of public affairs professionals, my EMEIA team comprises 10 people at any one time. Globally we have around 50 dedicated FTEs. That said, many others have part-time roles in public affairs: all 98 EMEIA countries have a public policy leader who supports the local country managing partner with their stakeholder relations.
Where is the PA departments placed in your organization?
It’s in what EY calls the Executive function which in other companies might be called the Chairman or CEO’s office. It reports separately from Risk Management, Legal, Strategy or Brand, Marketing and Communication.
The idea of the blog is to invite a new Public Affairs pro each week to answer a battery of questions about their daily tasks, habits, routines etc. and thereby provide readers with a more realistic view of what Public Affairs is really about: honest and hard work! So with this blog we want to learn from all the good or bad habits from our peers in the industry. Small things, as well as bigger things.
The guest bloggers are chosen because they are the best in the industry and they each day contribute to make our discipline better.
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