Hélène Poulit-Duquesne joined Boucheron as CEO and chairwoman in 2015 to steer the new direction of the jewellery heirloom company. She was determined to bring new life into the designs, grow the brand’s international presence and preserve its long-lasting legacy. So, from leading the way for a new generation of Boucheron devotees to keeping brand heritage intact, Hélène gives us her top tips for climbing the career ladder and how to thrive once you get there.
“I think the greatest mistake my younger self made was to postpone organisational changes, therefore letting my lack of organisation have a negative impact on me and the speed of change in the company. Now that I have experience in that field, I react more quickly, and change gets done so much faster and more productively. My biggest learning curve so far has definitely been the management of people, and this is something that you really have to work at as it’s an important part of having a senior role in a company.”
“I think it can be very hard to stay authentic in the fashion and jewellery industry, but for longevity it is critical. For me integrity and authenticity are part of my core values and values drive my life so I find it quite easy to do. I refuse to be a different person at work to the person I am in my private life and I do not want to succeed at the expense of integrity. I always try to be fair, as I want to be able to look in the mirror and be proud of myself. The way that you do business is as important as what you do. A personal anecdote I have from when I first took the job as Boucheron CEO is that prior to joining the company, my coach told me, ‘Hélène, you have to think about the new posture you want to adopt as the CEO of Boucheron, think about it during your vacation and let’s discuss it afterwards.’ I came back from my vacation and after a lot of deep thought my answer was, ‘I have decided to continue being myself. As simple as that.’”
“I think when you’re climbing the ladder or carving out you own company, humility is a priority. When you take on a new job or a new role never think you already know everything. Be open to learning and taking on constructive criticism. Listen, listen and listen again. Listen to your team, listen to your management and listen to your clients. I think so many people these days forget to do that and we all can learn so much and grow so much from doing something as simple as listening. I respect people who have been working for a long time in a company - they have treasures in their head. I have always been coached by older people in my career, but on the flip side younger colleagues teach me about boldness and new ways of thinking."
“I strongly believe both physical and digital presentation plays a huge importance in how you are perceived, whether that is a bad thing or not, they both generate respect and trust.
Someone who takes care of their looks tells you a lot about their personality. They are organised, structured and pay attention to detail. And indeed, good presentation always generates trust. In France, we say - what is clear in someone’s head, is clearly expressed.”
“Friendship and respect have never been paradoxical! The good old days when you needed to frighten people to be respected is fortunately over. On a personal level I am super friendly to my team.”
“This is very difficult to do, but you can be trained because it is always emotionally stressful to give honest feedback. I think the basis is empathy and respect. When you respect people, they can hear anything from you. On a personal level I prepare a lot for these kind of feedback meetings as they are important to me. The more prepared you are, the more factual you are, therefore the less you and the people you are giving feedback to are overwhelmed by emotion and the meeting can be respectful and productive. If you care about your employees they feel it.”
“I have my cats, horses, and my family and I try to keep a good work life balance, but I could spend more time at home dedicated to my family. This can be hard when you’re running a business, but it’s an important skill to learn. I have a house in the countryside and I’m passionate about horses, I do dressage to help me relax and am working on being able to do this more. Being in the countryside affords me this calm and balance - when I get there for a weekend retreat, I feel calmer and more energised. That’s my secret, and doing this more is a nice priority to work towards for the years to come. I think you have to work on finding your own secret; it’s like having a baby, there is no right time or way for everyone. For example, when I had my first baby I was really frightened that it would slow my career. In fact, I was promoted when I came back from maternity leave. My business idols are people with a vision and a strong energy, people who you would follow wherever they go because they create a strong sense of belonging, to be one of these leaders you have to stray from the pack and find your own balance and your own way.”