At which time do you wake up in the morning?
I am quite an early bird. I am usually out of bed latest at 6 AM. I prefer an early start and love getting things done in the morning, when I am normally not disturbed.
What is the first thing you do?
I turn on the radio, read the news and check my phone for messages, social media and emails. I check my calendar for the day and then I go for an early morning run 3 to 4 times a week.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
I still – despite living in Belgium for more than 10 years – check the main Danish news. Of course, I also check the EU news from different platforms and then lastly check Le Soir to see if there is something going on in Brussels that I need to be aware of – like one of the many strikes or demonstrations.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I usually bike to the office around 8.00. I prefer working from the office as many days as possible as I like the going-to-work feeling and the social aspect of meeting colleagues and other people. We are part of a shared office, so there are always people. I found out during the pandemic that for me it is good to have a change of scenery. I am more efficient and I am more aware of when I am working and when I am off, when I go to the office. That doesn’t mean that I cannot work at night from home, but I prefer to have a clear separation.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Way too many times – I think it is at least once an hour. I work best this way – and I do not feel it distracts me. However when I have a day off or it is weekend, then I try to limit checking emails to a minimum. Also, I try to tell my employees that even if working should be flexible, I don’t expect them to answer emails in the evening after work or during weekends. If there is something that is urgent I can call them, but I do try to send the signal that time off is important.
When is your first meeting?
I am not very strict with this. I have to be flexible. But I prefer meetings to start around 10, and if you ask my team they would say don’t do meetings with me at 12h as I tend to get hangry 🙂
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
That is not very strict either. I have to be flexible as I have to adapt to my clients and their plans. I always start Monday morning with a team meeting where we go through the week and also report back from the previous week. Otherwise, I try to plan weekly client meetings at the beginning of the week and then external meetings with stakeholders are often Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
We are a small team, so we have one planned meeting a week on Monday mornings, but we do speak every day and do small exchanges and brainstorms during the day.
Most of our meetings are external so that I would say is the majority. Many meetings are still online – I think both stakeholders and PA professionals prefer the mix now and it has been good for the sector as well as it is much easier to call in an expert than it was earlier having to fly a person to Brussels.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I have turned off news notifications on my phone – that disturbs me a lot so easier not to have it turned on. I follow from time to time when I have a break, but I mostly do the news in the morning and in the evening.
How do you organize your calendar?
It is not very strictly organized in the sense of timing, but it is strictly organized in terms of keeping track and order. I put everything on my calendar. I have to be flexible and able to adapt my calendar from week to week.
How do you take notes?
I prefer taking notes on paper if I am in a physical meeting. I feel like a computer is making a barrier to the person(s) I am meeting. I also have the worst handwriting so I am sure I can write anything without anyone besides myself being able to read it.
If I am in online meetings I take notes on the computer. I am quite fast in taking notes and as well I have a good memory and can remember the smallest details from meetings that happened years ago. That helped me many times over the year.
What is your relationship to Excel?
It is a love-hate relationship. I love things being ordered and it gives me a quick overview. But I also hate the fact that I don’t still know all the details of what the program can actually do 🙂 We use it for stakeholder management and as well for time-tracking.
What is your favorite app & why?
My favourite app is my app for podcasts. I love listening to podcasts when I am biking, walking, driving etc. I like listening to different podcasts – all from pure entertainment to more EU nerdy stuff or stuff about politics or history.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
This is the question I get the most often from people not working with Public Affairs. How many fancy dinners and lunches do you pay for? I have to say it is very little. I do prefer meeting stakeholders over a quick coffee, in the fringe of an event and/or a phone call. I think networking is top-priority – I just find fancy lunches and dinners to be part of the past. But if you don’t like coffee or tea then Public Affairs is a tough job 🙂
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
I am doing courses in Public Affairs, and together with my training partner, I have trained boards and staffs of different associations in Public Affairs, public speaking and networking. We try to follow the news on Public Affairs quite closely. I also must say that for me doing courses is giving me a lot of inspiration on how to do things, how to see things from a new perspective and also try different methods.
I also read books, articles and LinkedIn posts from different relevant people. I do also listen to The Persuaders Podcast.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
For me, it is about creating time for myself. Getting time off and doing some sports. I love running during the week and at the weekends I row on the Brussels canal and do horse riding in the Belgian countryside. And of course, spend time with friends and family.
As I mentioned earlier time off needs to be respected and I try also to provide a flexible working environment that allows time for family, friends and activities that has nothing to do with Public Affairs.
What do you do to unwind?
Rowing in a team boat where you need to focus 100% to make sure that you are in the same rhythm as the others. You cannot think of anything else. Or horse riding – getting the horse to work with your instructions. If you are not clear you don’t move or the horse will not do what you want it to do.
Also, I try to go on at least one hiking holiday per year. Getting out where the phone signal is weak and nature is amazing can do something and that is often where I find out what the new strategy and plans for Lykke Advice should be.
What is your favorite collaboration tool?
We use SharePoint and WhatsApp at Lykke Advice. It is not really high-tech, but it works.
How does your desk look?
Always tidy – both at the office and at home. I don’t work well if it is too messy. I always have my weekly planner, a screen cleaning product, a hand cream and post-its on the table.
Do you answer emails on your phone?
I do answer emails on phone, but I prefer doing it from the computer, so try to do that as much as possible.
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why ?
I have worked with many people whom all inspire me in different ways. I find it very hard to mention one, but I think there are many that are doing a great job, that work seriously with the issues and that provide relevant input to politicians.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I do but I try to limit it and only check once or twice a day. But since I am running my own business then it is also part of it to be available. I try to make sure that I have a clear inbox before leaving and as well as most admin stuff you can do in advance, but if needed I can always work.
Who is your idol?
I don’t really have idols. I have people that I admire a lot for different reasons. I admire strong women able to fight for their right to influence and be an inspiration – that can be all from Marie Curie (chemist), Margrethe Vestager (if I should have a political idol it would be her), Jina Mahsa Amini (fighting for something that important and paying the ultimate price), Angela Merkel (for her courage to put EU above her Member State when it had a high price)… but there could be many more mentioned here – and the list keeps expanding as thankfully more and more women are getting to play a role in society.
Do you read anything before you go to bed?
It is not often I read, but I might listen to a podcast before falling asleep. Quite a big fan of the sleep function in the podcast app.
Which time do you go to bed?
For me, the best is to get 8 hours of sleep. Ideally, that would mean going to bed at 22, but it is more likely 22.30 or 23 before I got to bed.
Do you use LinkedIn and/or Twitter for work?
Yes, I use both and I find LinkedIn very useful and also use it to find interesting articles etc. Twitter I use mostly for getting updated on events and news.
How big is your Public Affairs team?
Lykke Advice is quite small – we are now a team of 4 people working only on Public Affairs.
- Mette Lykke Nielsen, 40, Danish nationality
- Founder and CEO of Lykke Advice (Brussels-based consultancy providing tailormade public affairs advice to companies and associations)
- Education: Political Science at Aarhus University in Denmark
- Work experience 13 years
- Previous jobs: CEO of the European Fur Sector (6 years), Head of Public Affairs EFBA (4 years), Secretary General of Danish European Movement (3 years) and before that active in politics at the European level at the board of LYMEC.