Putting food on hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders’ plates means there’s plenty on Cecilia Robinson’s, the co-founder and co-CEO of My Food Bag. Here’s how she manages her time.
What’s the ideal way to start your day?
With my family. The craziness of having two children to wrangle means mornings are not peaceful. We tend to snuggle up in bed together for ten minutes before the day begins and having the ability to stop and smell the kids’ hair and share our goals for the day is always the best way to start.
Do you have any morning rituals?
I like being organised so we have a pretty good routine in the mornings. Ensuring we have breakfast together as a family is very important to me to get the day off right.
How soon do you begin doing work-related things, i.e. checking phone or emails?
If I am honest, pretty much straight away. I like to stay planned and have a clear idea of what my objectives are for the day and I always tend to scan my diary to get a feel for what is coming up and what my priorities are. Working alongside my husband as well means that the work chatter begins basically as soon as our eyelids open (for better or worse).
What’s your media consumption or interaction like from the morning onwards?
My morning ritual includes always reading the newspaper and sometimes flicking on the TV if there is any urgent or interesting news going on. I noticed myself during the election campaign watching TV for about 10 minutes in the morning to get up to speed on how it’s tracking.
What takes up most of your time?
My responsibilities are mainly to focus on our people. I always joke and say that I am never at my desk before 9.30 am as I spend the entire morning walking from team to team and having a chat with everyone. This gives me a good overview of how everyone is feeling and how the day is set to track. It quickly enables me to get a feel for everyone’s priorities and understand if there are any pain or pressure points.
I believe as a leader it is my responsibility to set the tone. I try to always come into the team with a smile on my face, say hello to everyone and ask how their day is going. If I walk in feeling glum and down (yes that happens on occasion) I see this immediately rubbing off on my team. So, I try my best to keep the mood high, play an upbeat song and make sure we all feel energised.
I rarely have projects assigned to me. If you look at the RASCI approach I am the Approver of what is going on inside My Food Bag. Alongside James, I set the vision, the direction and steer the ship but my role is not as a doer anymore.
A typical day in the life of Cecilia Robinson
Where do your best ideas come from?
From being around our team and our customers. Taking time to think about what the problems are and how we can best solve them. There is this saying ‘Leaders think and talk about solutions, followers think and talk about problems’ and I love it because it so clearly shows the difference between mindsets. I often have to stop myself from ‘giving answers’ and ensuring I am coaching my team to give me the answers (before I try to give it to them)!
How do you juggle all your responsibilities?
With clarity, direction and delegation. I make sure that I give my team clarity and direction and then I delegate. From there, I make sure that I give my team breathing space and responsibility to learn and grow. We are a very collaborative team though and I very much dislike the ‘hero’ mentality so I prefer our team to work alongside James and I (or other team members) to resolve issues.
Do you use social media?
Yes, I like to use Instagram, I dabble with Twitter and I use Facebook but only for occasional personal use. I love watching My Food Bag’s social channels as it quickly gives me an overview of the business and its pulse. I’ve done this since the day we were founded. I fundamentally believe that great leadership is very simple, first you listen and then you act. Social media is such a great tool for this.
What kind of breaks do you take throughout the day?
I believe that if you as a leader don’t take time-out, no one else feels as if they can. So, I make sure that I take time to have lunch, often this is going down into our development kitchen to see what our chefs are cooking. Having lunch by your desk is a big ‘no no’ and leading by example in this space is critical.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?
Picking up my son Tom from school and opening the door in the afternoon and being greeted by my happy and squealing daughter Leila (our 15-month-old). I also enjoy eating dinner together as a family each night as it gives us an opportunity to catch-up on the day that’s been. Once the kids are in bed, snuggling up on the couch with my husband and a well-deserved glass of red is the best way to end the day.
Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?
No. What I measure is the happiness of our customer, the wellbeing and energy of my team and the balance I get to achieve in my life through meeting both my day to day needs as mum but also as CEO.
Having lunch by your desk is a big ‘no no’ and leading by example in this space is critical.
Is there anything you think is unique about your day?
I think it’s unique to be a CEO who openly talks about the challenges of managing the requirements of life. We are very open with our team, whether that’s ducking out early to tend to a sick child or attending a school recital. It’s all equally important and I think as we foster a new generation of leaders the idea that you can only be successful through being at work from 7 am – 7 pm is obsolete. We don’t live to work, we work to live. For most people it’s simply an enabler and for me, I choose to be at work because I love My Food Bag.
What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mother/father/husband/wife? I mostly get to the end of the day and have 20 txt messages unread. This is probably the same both for the weekend and business day. Through the working day I prioritise anything that’s urgent which comes in relating to work or our kids. So, for example if my parents have our kids I make sure I check messages from them, but if they don’t they get deprioritised for later (sorry mum and dad)! Outside of that, most things must wait until after 7 pm once the kids are in bed (and the next part of my day begins).
Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?
Everyone gets stressed and I certainly do. However, when dealing with an emergency or crisis I take pride in working in a clear and calm way, endeavouring where possible to stay measured and not become emotional. As CEO, it’s important to be able to rally the troops from the front and to set the pace and the direction. If everyone sees that you are stressed, it increases stress levels. If people see you dealing calmly and logically with a difficult situation, they tend to follow suit. People are mirrors.
Do you exercise? If so, what do you do? And for how long each day?
Yes, I try to exercise 3 days a week for up to 30 minutes. I’d love for it to be longer, but something else must give, and right now I am not prepared to take more time away from sleep, kids or work. I’m lucky to be able to fit this in before the family wakes up and it’s currently enough to keep me sane.
What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?
As I mostly leave work before 4 pm I do often end up opening my laptop again post 7 pm when the kids are in bed. I don’t necessarily mind doing this, my only problem is reminding my team the reasons why I do this – as I don’t want to set a precedent that they need to respond at 8 pm at night (unless they, like me, have ducked out for other reasons)! I am starting to learn to set delays on my emails so that they get sent the next day instead.
What time do you go to sleep? Any special techniques for a good night’s rest?
I try to be in bed by 9.30 pm and asleep by 10.30 pm at the latest on week nights. I like to have 8 hours sleep under my belt. Having two kids to run after and very busy days is my best technique for a good night’s sleep. I used to wake up in the night and think of things that went undone during the day. I don’t do that nowadays.