IoD fellow Rachel Turnbull talks creativity

Rachel Turnbull, CEO of TT2

Rachel Turnbull, the chief executive of the company that manages the Tyne Tunnels – who is also a consultant, non-executive director and IoD fellow – offers her insights on finding the space to be creative

I start my day by tackling emails. I work across a number of organisations, so I don’t have much of a routine, but getting those emails out of the way clears my mind and leaves the rest of the day for me to focus on listening to peers, customers and staff.

I value the opportunity to get my mind and body aligned. I tend to go running on my own, as it gives me the space to consider issues and find a creative response, without the noise that large teams can generate.

I try to get moving as much as possible because a lot of my work is office-based. My daughters are active little girls who are very much into their crafts. We love doing anything that gets us out and about or busy creating. We live in a scenic coastal area, so we have surfing lessons and go horse riding, enjoying all of the beautiful sights around us.

Driving relaxes me, but this has been known to backfire. Having half an hour alone in the car helps me to gather my thoughts, but there was one time when I became preoccupied with TT2 when I was meant to be focusing on another organisation. I actually found myself in TT2’s car park at the end of that journey.

I think traditional team-building exercises can be overrated. I’m not aware of many firms here in the north-east that run such activities any more. Taking my team out of the office for some quiet time is as effective as making them build a raft somewhere.

Flexible working is a priority for me. When there’s a particularly complex issue that requires my full attention, I’ll work on it at home. Because I have so many roles [including non-executive director at Darlington Building Society and consultant to Tier One Capital], the firms I’m involved with also have to be comfortable with the fact that there could be issues in one that would give it priority over another on any given day.

Enabling people to work flexibly is good for both them and the business. By supporting their work-life balance you’re also improving their productivity.

An open-plan workplace helps me to stay connected to my team. When I’m actually in the office, it’s important for me to sit with my colleagues. I’ll never turn away anyone who comes up to my desk and asks for five minutes with me.

I’m a bit greedy when it comes to mentors. I’m quite young compared with a lot of my peers, so my mentors have really guided me. I’ve leant on them on several occasions when I’ve come to a career crossroads. They are phenomenal women, who’ve been so encouraging.

My local business community has been an inspiration. The north-east offers a great network, which has been extremely supportive to me. The IoD membership plays a big part in that. The types of people you can meet here – skilled, innovative, creative, ambitious – make it a fantastic community.

Where do you get your headspace? Email us

Find out more about Rachel Turnbull

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About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Until she left the magazine in August 2019, Hannah Gresty was the assistant editor of Director. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team as editorial assistant in 2016.

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