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A day in the life of CEO Laurence Parkes

This article was first published by Econsultancy on the 22nd November 2019. Written by Deputy Editor, Rebecca Sentance.

Laurence Parkes - a day in the life as CEO


Laurence Parkes is CEO of independently-owned digital design and technology agency Rufus Leonard.

As part of today’s ‘Day in the Life’ feature, he talks about how he came to Rufus Leonard, the importance of trust and getting out of the way so that people can do their best work, and why his working days are defined by “dynamic stability”.

Laurence has also recommended an inspirational book to go with each of his answers – making this the first Econsultancy Day in the Life to have a reading list!

Read on to find out what Laurence has to say – and which books have inspired him most…

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I think my job is to create an environment for people to be awesome.

As a new CEO, I try to learn all I can from other people’s experience, through networking and reading. So, to impart some of what I’ve learnt to any other new CEOs out there, I’ve suggested book pairings that have inspired my answers below.

The inspiration: “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown (this is the book that Nike’s management training is based on)

Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

The org chart would have me at the top, part of our executive board and reporting into our Founder and Chair. But in day-to-day life I reckon I sit somewhere in the middle of the organisation, nested in multiple networks. Given it’s my responsibility to make sure we have a thriving workplace that works for everyone: I report to everyone (cf. the OKRs I mention further down).

The inspiration: “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

I think the essential skill is to build trust, be it with colleagues, clients, partners. Great things happen when trust is abundant. Things fall apart when it’s in short supply.

The inspiration: “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni

Tell us about a typical working day…

My working day seems defined by dynamic stability – like a bike: the more dynamism, the greater stability. To try to increase our opportunities as a business, I light lots of fires and then quickly focus on those that seem most promising.

The inspiration: “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations” by Thomas L. Friedman

What do you love about your job? What sucks?

What I love: the people.

What sucks: When you see the only thing holding someone back is a lack of confidence and a fear of failure.

The inspiration: “The Descent of Man” by Grayson Perry

What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

One of the first things I did as CEO was to introduce the process of OKRs to the company. OKRs are Objectives and Key Results, a goal management system used by Google and initially attributed to Intel in the 1980s. At the end of each quarter every team and every board member reports to the agency how well they achieved their OKRs for that quarter. This system drives a sense of direction, empowerment and accountability.

The inspiration: “Measure What Matters” by John E. Doerr

What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

Inspiring people with a general direction and then getting out of the way.

The inspiration: “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink

How did you end up at Rufus Leonard, and where might you go from here?

I have always been fascinated by the future of marketing and branding. I arrived at Rufus because it has the experience and essential ingredients to define this: imaginative brand thinking combined with innovative technological capabilities. I’d only leave if I felt that I could better define the future of marketing elsewhere.

The inspiration: “What is a 21st  Century Brand? New Thinking from the Next Generation of Agency Leaders” by Nick Kendall

Which campaigns/brands have impressed you lately?

#MeToo – there is still such a long way to go but in the last three years we have witnessed a sea-change in what is acceptable behaviour to the benefit of everyone.

The inspiration: “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger” by Rebecca Traister

Do you have any advice for new marketers?

Go listen to Mark Ritson.

The inspiration: “The Long and the Short of it: Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies” by Les Binet and Peter Field

If you want to discuss any of the topics covered in more detail or find out how we can help you deliver a meaningful difference to your customers, please get in touch.

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