When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Alexandra Trower: I check my iPhones: personal and work. The first apps I check are WhatsApp and my texts. Then I jump to emails. I always wake up to a bunch of messages, and I scan to see what’s happened since I went to sleep.
TG: What gives you energy?
AT: Sitting around the marble table in my office with my incredible team solving a crisis.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
AT: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Give help to others—even when it’s not asked for. Reach out to someone who might need your help.
And also, order Fresh Direct during boring conference calls. But be careful – I once accidentally ordered a whole case of cauliflower instead of just one.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
AT: I am a big reader and always have a stack of books on my bedside table. I love great fiction and memoirs. But truly, it was Scruples by Judith Krantz. I wanted to be like Billy Winthrop living in New York! This was the first trashy novel I ever read, but it was so important because it showed me what a woman in business could do in the world of luxury. Very early 80s, very aspirational, very fun. Not at all elevated literature!
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
AT: My relationship with my iPhones is…very complicated. Even though I have great Arianna aspirations to follow her best phone and sleep protocol, this is challenging for me. I am sure I have an overinflated view of how essential I am to my colleagues and friends around the world…but I may need to go to a 12-step program to get it under control.
TG: How do you deal with email?
AT: I love email.
First, I scan it to see who has written me, and I look at the most important emails based on what is currently happening in the business. I try to keep very current with my email so that I’m always on top of what is happening, and can quickly respond.
Then, depending where I am and what I’m doing, I will leave the non-urgent emails for a bit, but then my compulsive self tries to go back and respond within the next few hours.
There are times, however, when I’m travelling that I may miss something, and I get a bit overwhelmed, and then epoxy myself to my desk to answer everyone!
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
AT: Call my family and friends. My husband used to say that I had “black cord fever” back when phones actually had cords because I loved talking on the phone—still do.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
AT: About a year ago when my husband was going through a tough surgery treatment and recovery (thank heavens he is fine now). Around that time, I also had several deaths of close friends and family, while two others were battling breast cancer. And my beloved 18-year old dog Charlotte died. There is nothing more important to me than my family and friends, and this was a hard, scary time. And it was coupled with a time when a lot happening professionally. It wasn’t until some time went by and I was in London on a work assignment that I began to feel really energized again.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
AT: One of my most important failures was in my early days at The Estée Lauder Companies. I started my job, and let’s just say I took my org chart too literally. This led to me not fully appreciating and understanding the culture of the Company at first. As a result, during my first year (she’s now been at ELC for ten years), I stepped in a number of mud puddles. After these stumbles, I learned to ask the right people the right questions, in the right way. It’s all about knowing your audience when you are in the strategic communications world. And I am so grateful for those lessons.
Today, when I am dealing with a specific issue or matter, my first questions are: “What do you need from me? What does success look like? And what aspects of this issue are most important to you?”
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
AT: My wonderful Grama Trower, who was the world’s best cookie maker and very pragmatic, had a framed card sitting on her bedroom dresser. It said, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday and all is well.”
This card now sits on my office desk and reminds me of her and how thrilled she’d be that I get to work with some of the most amazing people at one of the best companies in the world.
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