Therese S. Kinal, co-founder and managing director of consulting firm, Unleash, lets us into her diary.
Roll out of bed and head to the kitchen to put on the kettle. I really like getting up before anyone else in the house and have a quiet breakfast/working session. A supersized cup of Assam and a piece of toast with honey is, at this time in the morning, my little bit of heaven. At Unleash, we do a lot of collaborative work with our clients and today I want to finalise some slides for a client’s upcoming board presentation before it’s 10am in Helsinki.
Presentation done. I take a shower, get dressed and kiss hubby goodbye before heading to the tube. Squeezed in between a random collection of Londoners who mostly look depressed, I take out my notepad and start prepping our company meeting and what I need to get done this week. Sometimes I fantasise about just randomly blurting out ‘If life’s that bad, change it!” on the Piccadilly line, but alas I never do.
Arrive at our office on Euston Road. Have a quick chat with Robert who just got back from a business development trip about the meetings he’s had. We discuss the issues a couple of the executives are facing and what they’re options are to move forward. One’s going through a messy post-merger integration and the other’s R&D pipeline has dried up. At Unleash we don’t believe in spouting best practice and selling clients standardised tools so we spend a lot of time understanding and discussing each unique challenge.
We gather around our vibrant orange collaboration table on one of those rare days we’re all in the office. Today we’re discussing our upcoming summit on Leading Knowledge Organisations and getting aligned on priorities. We founded Unleash in 2011 with just the three founders, no clients under contract and a strong desire to change the face of consulting. In less than a year, we tripled in size and have a wonderfully diverse team. We have a lot of energy and discussions in the office where we constantly challenge each others’ thinking and get to new insights together. It never feels like work and I’m determined to keep it that way.
Meeting runs over a bit, but we have a new design for the summit sessions and we’ve agreed what to focus on for the next week. Ferociously smart and talented people like we’re lucky to have like a lot of autonomy and constant challenges, and they certainly don’t like to be told what to do. Yet everyone’s unique and have their own personal preferences. Harnessing the energy, enthusiasm and creativity of the team is less about management and more about coaching, stretching and aligning. After we finish, I sit down at my desk for an hour to do some emails and a bit of research on a renewable energy technology that a new client’s involved in. I’m easily bored and love getting my head wrapped around something completely new.
I get a call from a contractor who’s confused about his scope (work and life is one, and at the moment we’re building a house). I do a quick impromptu conference call with the other contractor and we sort it out. I send a quick message to the team to let them know what we agreed. Crisis averted! I used to think the drama on TV’s Grand Designs was exaggerated, but trust me, building a house is a hard work.
Working session with the New Revenue Streams Project Team while munching on salads from 49 Café (a favourite local takeout). As an entrepreneurial company we think of ourselves as a business, not just a consulting firm. Joneal, Sam and Cecilia are working on a project to develop new products and services that will complement our consulting business. I’m coaching them through the process of finding pain points and shaping ideas into opportunities.
Conference call with a client team leader in one of our pharma clients. He’s been tasked with the implementation of Collaboration for Innovation, part of the new corporate strategy that involves establishing cross functional knowledge sharing and product development. We all know there’s no such thing as strategy ‘implementation’, but sometimes we have to dig our way out of the trenches created by other consultants. The team is about to have their first kickoff meeting and we discuss the makeup of the team to get the right diverse balance of expertise, experience and influence across R&D, sales, marketing and business development. We get on to an interesting discussion about how the team can balance their desire to try out new ideas while still achieving corporate targets and how to best manage the different stakeholders in the process. One of the biggest issues organisations struggle with today is the successful execution of strategy. Unlike many other consultancies, Unleash does not believe in telling clients ‘the answer’. We take client teams on a journey to solve real, pressing and complex business issues for themselves which of course is messier and harder, but so much more worthwhile when you can see real lasting change in client organisations.
Straight into another call with Susan Alvey, one of our advisors who’s based in Boston. Early on in Unleash, we decided to form a group of inspired thinkers and practitioners to challenge and stretch our thinking along the journey. We are fortunate to have a wonderful and diverse Advisory Board who all help us with different kind of challenges. This together with the development of our Core Beliefs have been the best investments we made early on as a business. Today, Susan and I are discussing how to ensure we scale up our governance and leadership model while ensuring we maintain our strong entrepreneurial and collaborative culture and passion about Unleash and what we want to achieve.
Back at my desk I have a quick chat with Fiona who helps me get some materials printed for tomorrow’s client workshop and (bless her) gives me my boarding pass for the 7:20am to Oslo. Sam and I have a chat about a project that’s about to start where she’ll have the role as Team Leader.
Time to sit down and get some things done. I can’t remember a time in the past four or five years when I was on top of everything so it’s a constant juggling of what needs to be done/will have most impact. The helicopter view can be both a blessing and a curse. I decide to review some of the new executives we’ve been talking with over the past six months and reach out to a couple of them to share some thought-provoking articles. I catch up on some emails and go on LinkedIn to read up on some of the executives I’m targeting.
I print out materials the clients’ sent me to read before tomorrow’s workshop (perfect airplane reading) and pack up some other things I’m working on as I won’t be back in the office for a few days.
Back home I fix a simple supper and share it with my husband. Cooking is one of my creative outlets, but these days I don’t have as much time for it as I’d like. I’ve been fortunate to live in four countries and travel many more, so I’m a big fan of fusion and experimentation.
I pack my suitcase and get ready for bed while reflecting on some of the meetings and discussions of the day. Time to think, learn and grow is the most precious thing there is. Without it we’re all just headless chickens running around randomly.
Lights out. As I lie there, my mind wanders back to Unleash, but I know I need to get some sleep so I force myself to switch gears and think of something relaxing (what I’d like to do for my next holiday) and before I know it, I’m out.