Boss It Like

How To Boss It Like… Sally Gunnell OBE, Olympian & entrepreneur

By Kitty Knowles 19 January 2017

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. From Sheryl Connelly to Federico Bolza and Tracy De Groose, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to Sally Gunnell who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

British icon Sally Gunnell first made a name for herself through her heroic sporting achievements.

The track and field athlete rose to fame in the 80’s before becoming an Olympic gold medallist in 1992. After retirement, the inspiring sportswoman remained a household name with regular charity, presenting and TV appearances.

She remains the only woman to have won the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic 400 metre hurdles titles.

But Gunnell has also been carving out success in the world of business.

The entrepreneur launched her own corporate wellness programme in 2010, and most recently, has joined forces with up-and-coming digital fitness platform Fitbug.

This aims to help companies to improve staff health, so that we can all live happier, more productive, positive lives.

A busy woman, with big ideas, The Memo asked Gunnell how she gets it all done.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I typically get up at 6.40am, which starts the mad dash to get the kids up and off to school.

Meanwhile, I do check email and twitter, but just to read what’s happening – I’ll wait until later to post anything of my own.

I like to have BBC One Breakfast on in the background while we get ready, and then I’m off to the gym or for a run once everyone is at school.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

It probably won’t come as a surprise that I’m a fan of Runkeeper, as it talks to me in the mornings and tells me about my pace and running distance while playing my favourite songs.

I’ve also got Fitbug’s Kiqplan app, keeping me motivated and making sure I’m balancing things like sleep with my exercise and nutrition.

 What smartphone do you have?

I have a white iPhone 6 Plus, 64 GB at the moment, but it’s a bit bulky to run with.

I got an iPad Mini for Christmas, so I’m thinking of getting a smaller phone for workout time and do my other work on the iPad instead.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

It really depends on if I’m out doing a speech or working at a wellbeing event.

It can range anywhere from about 2,000 people, to working from home completely on my own (that’s if we don’t count the dogs, Diggy and Bumble!).

I think it is good to have the variety of high energy days alongside quiet times when I can focus on other work.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

The Chimp Paradox, by Steve Peters, really relates to my experiences when I was running, and to positive thinking and the mental side of the game.

Keeping those inner voices quiet when I was in competition is a perspective that has stayed with me ever since, and I think this book helped me to deepen my understanding of my mental processes in this next stage of my career.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

Besides really knowing your stuff, I think it is vital to always have the right support. This served me very well as a runner and I’ve applied those same lessons now as a business person and coach.

I’ve just partnered with Fitbug, to create and implement corporate wellness programmes in the workplace. It’s exciting, as it allows me to scale my coaching advice and tips to thousands of people via their smartphones.

Always make sure you are working with experts who can really help you deliver and drive you forward.

Did your childhood influence your career path?

I was very lucky to grow up on a farm, so really it was just my imagination. I was an active child and spent my time outdoors playing and building dens and forts.

Research even shows now that this sort of childhood influence may even help with success in sport.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

I try to stay offline in the evening – part of real wellbeing means not working around the clock or burning out.

So I eat a good dinner (not too late), watch a little telly, have a warm bath and then to bed. I got a lovely aromatherapy vaporiser for Christmas and I put a few drops of lavender in that before drifting off to sleep.

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

It’s really more about role models for me – I’ve always tried to learn as much as I can from the successful people, especially women, who I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

Life lessons about work-life balance, resilience and wellbeing are always what I want to know more about the most.

Everyone has a story to share.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.