A Day in the Life with Ellie Hearne, CEO of Pencil or Ink
Whether growing into a leadership role, navigating office politics, or preparing to launch a new product, it helps to have a communications expert weigh in. And that’s just who you get with Ellie Hearne —leadership consultant, workshop facilitator, and company founder (not to mention mom, coffee-lover, and New Yorker).
On the day we trailed her from her Brooklyn home to her SoHo office, she was a little of each. Her official role is CEO of Pencil or Ink, a leadership-communications firm headquartered in New York City. But read on, as there’s a lot more to it than that...
My days vary, but as a leadership coach (and parent) I know that even a loose routine can make the difference between order and chaos. So it here goes...
6.00 a.m. My day begins in Brooklyn Heights, where I live with my family. I always set an alarm, but usually, our two-year-old daughter Beatrice (or Labrador Retriever, Mycroft) takes care of waking us up.
Breakfast is important to me — today was banana and waffles — and a cup of something caffeinated is a must. If I’ve slept well, tea will do.
Today is a coffee day.
8.00 a.m. I read with my toddler before school. My husband gets back from walking our dog as we’re wrapping up. Our little one loves her daycare, which makes me feel as good as any parent can about drop-off. She’s two-and-a-half and has a lot to say, so I pick up a few cute quotes before I say bye to her. A couple of days a week I go to the gym, but even then I try to be around for a family breakfast.
As a working parent, I try to embrace my dog’s crumb-scavenging as a nifty way to keep the floors clean. I also try not to look at my phone until 9am. Mixed results.
9.00 a.m. Time to head to the office. Pencil or Ink headquarters is in SoHo, which is where I’m headed today, but a day or two a week my commute will take me straight to a client's office. Colleagues joke that I get more value from my MetroCard than anyone else in the city. Winter snowstorm or summer heatwave, you’ll find me flitting around this great city — my home for the past decade, and probably for life.
9.30 a.m. Following some inbox triage, I’ll check in with the team. My business partner is in Europe, so we try to stay connected via video call when email won’t cut it. We’re no strangers to video and travel, as a number of our clients are outside of New York.
10.00 a.m. This morning, I’ve got a coaching client coming into the office. While no two sessions are the same, this one is with the founder of a fashion brand and will cover some standard topics for leaders. We talk about her company’s positioning and the challenges of running a business when “life happens.”
Beyond just talking, we devise a few concrete techniques for her to try out and I offer up some targeted skills. When it comes to communications, even a small tweak can significantly impact results. Coaching sessions are hyper-tailored and highly collaborative, so listening is vital, as I learn nothing when I’m the only voice in the room.
11.15 a.m. Post coaching session, I head uptown to meet with a creative agency, a long-term client of Pencil or Ink. For them, we’re creating a messaging strategy around a new service they’re offering, and it’s time to present our work thus far.
As a third party who knows their world, we offer insight into how they’re perceived and what they can do to enhance their approach. This particular agency is a fantastic, collegial one (which in itself makes for a fun and productive meeting).
We close with clear next steps and plan to regroup next week. I make some notes to bring back to my team before heading back to the office.
1.00 p.m. Lunchtime and we’re downtown again. I grab a dosa from the place across from my office, but some days it’s a salad or a pastry (Yeah, I know).
If it’s not a working lunch, I try to actually take a break when I eat, even if that just means closing my laptop and leafing through a business book. Currently, I’m reading When by Daniel Pink, but I’m very book-disloyal...I am also midway through Women & Power by Mary Beard...plus a couple of novels.
2.00 p.m. Back to work. This afternoon, we’re facilitating a leadership-skills workshop for a growing startup. For them, it’s a chance to enhance the soft-skills that impact everything: communication, feedback, and even how to make their meetings run more smoothly (and quickly). Every team is different, so our workshops are, too.
Though I’m naturally quite shy, I’ve come to love being “in front of the room” and guiding teams through challenges. So often people end up in senior roles not because they are born delegators and love giving constructive feedback, but because they are gifted at other things. We get to help them fill those gaps.
4.30 p.m. Post workshop, I have a few minutes to spare to revisit the inbox and tie up some loose ends. As a completist, the notion of “inbox zero” appeals to me, but as a human being in 2018, some days that’s more aspiration that reality.
After most meetings — be they coaching sessions, workshop facilitations, or just informal catch-ups — I like to send some kind of follow-up note. Something I’ve learned in my years in business is that the little things make a big difference.
5.30 p.m. Back in Brooklyn and picking up Beatrice from school. She says they learned about frogs and baked some bread. She’s excited to see her doggy and read before bed. What could be better than that?
8.00 p.m. After Beatrice’s bedtime routine (dinner, bath, stories), my husband and I make time for a grown-up dinner and relax after the workday.
I check in with work just in case, but tonight we have a chance to fit in some Netflix before bed. No complaints from us.
Photography by Arrow Images.
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