Rania Abdalla, founder and managing director of Aspire HR Consultants: My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Rania Abdalla, founder and managing director of Aspire HR Consultants, a homegrown HR consultancy that works with over 100 multinational and local companies.
I’m Rania Abdalla and I’m the founder and managing director of Aspire HR Consultants (Aspire HRC), which provides HR consultancy and senior management recruitment. We started 12 years ago and we cover Egypt and the Middle East. I’m also an executive board member of IRC Global Executive Search Partners.
I lead Aspire HRC’s strategy and operations, working with the team to make sure we’re on track with our client deliverables. With the current situation, I can focus a bit more than usual on strategic growth and how to expand the services we offer in Egypt.
Working from home (WFH) was not a huge shift for us. Our client meetings, client visits and team meetings have always taken place at the office, but we also offer a flexible model that lets our team members work from home if they feel it will help them be more efficient. Our focus is always on achieving results and client deliverables, irrespective of the hours worked. WFH is all about trust and creating a sense of ownership, so that team members feel very engaged in the company’s growth.
I am very goal oriented. I follow the Wheel of Life system, where every month I set goals in several core areas, including family, business, personal growth, career, exercise (still a work in progress), spirituality, and finance. At the end of the month I record my progress.
Since we’ve been on lockdown, my morning routine begins the previous evening, when I select one of the blue chip projects I’m working on and prepare to work on it, making a list of the resources I need and the people I will need to call, so I can hit the ground running in the morning.
I have my first coffee at around 7am, and read Enterprise for at least half an hour. Then I lock myself away for 90 minutes, working on the blue chip project I selected the night before. I always feel very good once I’ve accomplished this. Then I send out a 2-minute audio message, ‘Aspire Daily,’ for the team. I don’t look at my emails or WhatsApp first thing in the morning, because I know it will be very difficult to then shift my focus to my project. I have another coffee and chat with my family a little before I start checking my emails and reviewing my to-do list.
Online meetings on Zoom and Skype take up a big part of the day. We’ve shifted our client meetings and candidate interviews online, and I also regularly set aside time for meetings with the team. A call at least once a week is important for team focus and morale, but you don’t want to take it too far. Most teams don’t need to have calls twice a day unless necessary.
When lockdown began, I faced WFH challenges too. Limiting my working hours and supporting my younger son with his schoolwork were the main issues, but putting systems in place helped a lot. I now allocate at least an hour a day to one-on-one time with each of my children, where they can choose an activity for us to do together. It might be making cupcakes or coloring, making TikTok videos or playing soccer. My husband, who also happens to be my partner at Aspire HRC, and I have divided up our son’s school subjects so he helps with some and I help with others.
The lessons of 2011 help me keep this situation in perspective. I’ve learned that limiting my news consumption to 30 minutes a day is essential for me to remain calm. And reflecting on the political and economic turmoil we passed through in 2011 reminds me that this situation is not permanent. If we can try to cultivate a mindset of growth, risk appetite, innovation and efficiency, it will enable us to keep going. This approach fueled Aspire HRC’s recent partnership with a US–based company working on Objectives and Key Results (OKR), as well as our appointment of a new partner in the HR consultancy division last week.
Laying good groundwork now will help your company emerge all the stronger. Communicate core decisions to your team so they feel valued and informed, and make sure they are working on something meaningful. Some of our clients are using this time to encourage their employees to think about self-development, which is very smart. This period could lead to a long-term transformation of working culture, so it’s important that people think about how to build their skills and remain agile