Interview originally compiled for Motivatem. A company that helps organisations improve performance by tapping into and releasing the full potential and motivation of their employees. Updated in August 2016.
As curious as it might seem, I didn’t imagine I’d be where I am now. I left university after taking my architectural diploma in June 1993, and just started on a path. Ultimately it led to being appointed Editor in Chief of ELLE Decoration in May 2004. I’d always loved magazines, but never seriously considered them as a potential profession.
I’m not sure if I had a vision of what I wanted to achieve so much, as a realisation that I’d found something to do that I enjoyed. And that for me is key. The next step is simply to want to do your best at whatever that thing is. That has always been my motivation — rather than money, fame, recognition or power. Of course if these things come my way I will feel I have deserved them, I work very hard! But they are not my motivation, and I believe this is really crucial; what compels you to do what you do? It’s always worth examining that. I also make sure, when composing a team, that I surround myself with people who feel the same way ie we’re driven by passion for what we do.
It’s certainly not always been easy. There have been times when my commitment or loyalties have been sorely tested, even moments when I’ve wanted to quit it all and sell peaches on a Barbados beach. But in those moments I’ve looked inside and chosen the option that felt right. Integrity is everything to me. I believe that the truth always comes out in the end. It’s just that sometimes, you have to be patient.
Do I follow my instincts? Absolutely. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt, to never second guess myself. I can seek other opinions/sleep on something/discuss options, but I’ve learnt the hard way to never go against my gut.
Determining your strengths and weaknesses is always a tricky one as your strengths are what propel you forwards, and to some extent they also dictate your weaknesses. You can’t have one without the other. But hopefully they balance each other. I’ve always been open to constructive criticism on my work, in fact I positively invite it. To take a defensive position is a waste of time, the point is to hear what people have to say, then make up your own mind. But as I’ve grown more experienced, I’ve got better at knowing who I should listen to, and who I just hear out so that they feel listened to!
But I love what I do, so that’s what keeps me going. Also in the world of magazines, you’re driven by the constant need to evolve; standing still is not an option. I do need to remind myself to take breaks though. You can’t, and shouldn’t, work if you’re tired. An essential part of leading a team is precisely that, to lead them, ie motivate, encourage, support, enthuse… you can’t do any of that if you’re tired.
I love to feel like I’m still learning though. That’s why I’m really enjoying the new avenue of TV presenting that’s recently opened up for me. Also, learning by going back to my roots as an interiors consultant with the launch of the ELLE Decoration Style Consultancy.
I subscribe whole heartedly to the following statements… 1. There’s no such thing as making a mistake, only gaining experience. 2. Get something wrong the first time, that’s life. A second time, that’s really unfortunate and you need to learn the lesson. But get it wrong a third time and you’re a bloody idiot. Thus I’ve never made any ‘mistakes’ as such, just learned a lot. If something doesn’t feel right though, I wouldn’t just sit there, I’d change/do something/speak up/move on.
Deciding what to do with your life is one of the most important challenges a young person faces. In fact, I think life is essentially a quest to find your passion. What is it that you really love to do such that you find your flow and time disappears? What is that thing that you can lose yourself in? Life has a way of testing you to see if something really is your passion. But these tests should be embraced, as they will help you decide. Nearly every person I’ve ever admired or interviewed, has a story about a time they were told no, or that they wouldn’t make it, or some other such obstacle was thrown in their path, but these became the turning points in their lives that made them stand up and really own their life choices. It was the moment they decided that this was the thing they really wanted to do, whatever the odds, and no-one was going to stop them.
I’ve learnt that there are many ways to achieve a goal. The question is only how hard are you prepared to work for it? And what’s it really worth to you? But it’s also important to remember that sometimes not getting something you thought you wanted, can be as pivotal as getting it. Life has a funny way of nudging down the best path if you let your instincts guide you.