Leaders Who Thrive//

Say Cheers to Wellness with a Good Run, Good Sleep, Good Food

Moët Hennessy India MD Stéphane de Meurville believes in leading by example—he brings his bottle of water, trains regularly, leaves work at 6.30 p.m., and takes active part in offsite activities.

Stéphane-de-Meurville, Managing-Director-India, Moët Hennessy
Stéphane-de-Meurville, Managing-Director-India, Moët Hennessy

Stéphane de Meurville is a Thriver. The Managing Director of Moët Hennessy, India runs daily, plays tennis whenever possible, surfs “from time to time” and carries his running shoes in his bag even when he is travelling. And that’s not all, de Meurville is a marathoner and used to play rugby. He says, “I’m very dedicated to exercise. I’m always thriving, sleeping, breathing, going outdoors.”

It was not always this way though. About 20 years ago, while de Meurville was still based in his native France and like all his peers, enjoyed his job, worked late into the night, and “felt tired during some parts of the day”. One day he approached his manager who did the same routine but still managed to look fresh in the morning to ask his secret. “He told me that he had this daily routine of an hour in the gym. I decided to try it. Like all big steps it was easy to take but difficult to follow through. I would follow the routine on some days and on others I’d not. Then one day the same colleague came by and said: ‘You are trying but not doing it frequently enough to make a difference. I’ll put you on a challenge, you have to run a marathon as a team and cross the finish line’.”

“At that point, running beyond five minutes wasn’t even something I’d recommend,” de Meurville laughingly adds. That the course was the New York Marathon (just over 42 km) meant serious work. Not averse to a challenge, he followed a regimen to prepare to run the marathon which was two months away. “I’ve never stopped since then. When I was preparing for the race, I wasn’t preparing to win, I was just preparing to be able to cross the finish line, to not lose face in front of my peers!”

“I’d train early in the morning or after work at night, at least four times in the week. I discovered that I was feeling better on the days I worked out. Today it is easy. I’m able to go for a run at 3 a.m. before taking a long-haul flight. I’d encourage everyone to find that time. I can skip lunch to go for a run.”

Helming the Moët Hennessy brand in India, de Meurville is tasked with developing and executing strategies to promote the business in the Indian market. Does it ever get stressful? “I don’t feel it,” he says, “I perform better with a little bit of stress. However, it is not stressful just because of work today. Communication has become so fast it adds to the load. Doing two things—exercising and sports—have helped me. Sports has that magic that makes you forget a bit, and a boring activity like running encourages you to reflect. I tend to solve a lot of issues on my morning run when I’m strategising my day.”

At the organisational level too de Meurville believes in encouraging his team to reflect and do some physical activity. The company regularly organises thriving options such as yoga courses besides replacing all the junk food snacking choices with fresh and dry fruits, eliminating soda drinks, installing air purifiers, and hard closing at 6.30 p.m. among other initiatives. The idea behind closing at a fixed time is beyond allowing a work-life balance. “It gives people the chance to go back to a sport or family and do what they want to do.”

An avowed fan of technology (“I love it! I’d buy every gadget.”), the father of two makes sure to keep the phone away while having dinner or spending quality time. “My 16-year-old son is totally against using the phone during conversations or while having dinner.” Since the last four years, he has adopted a new behaviour, “No calls or e-mails go out from me after working hours or on weekends.”

Though he has never faced burnout, a little exhaustion drives him back to the basics: “Good run, good food and good sleep!” And he makes sure he gets between six and eight hours every night as it makes him feel well. With a busy lifestyle that is not always possible. “But then I’m very lucky to be able to power nap almost anywhere!” When not going out, he likes to go to bed around 10 pm after reading a bit (his current reading list is eclectic—The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan and The Ultimate Secret by Pat Francis). Clocking consecutive late nights reflects on his productivity: “I’m slower and less smart the next day.”

So how to handle stress? “As long as you are not saving lives, you should breathe before you feel the stress taking over. In our world we feel the stress a lot more because we don’t reflect enough,” he says.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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