‘TV is a place where na­tional con­ver­sa­tions start’

Dame Car­olyn Mccall was CEO of Easyjet be­fore tak­ing on the lead­er­ship of ITV in 2017. She is mar­ried with three teenage chil­dren.

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - I -

was born in In­dia and lived there un­til I was 15, when we moved to Sin­ga­pore. As a re­sult, I be­came adapt­able, very used to change and cu­ri­ous about dif­fer­ent cul­tures and ex­pe­ri­ences. Now, home is any­where, as long as I have the peo­ple I care about near me.

I didn’t have a ca­reer plan. Af­ter univer­sity I got a job at The Guardian as a re­searcher and climbed through the ranks. I had just be­come CEO when I had my first child. The then deputy ed­i­tor, Ge­orgina Henry, said, ‘You are the first se­nior wo­man to have a baby in this com­pany. You have to take ma­ter­nity leave to show oth­ers they can take it, too.’

It was great ad­vice. I did it, but I was avail­able on the end of the phone and peo­ple even came to work at my house with me. I wor­ried that oth­ers would think I wasn’t in­ter­ested any more. Hav­ing a baby is a big thing at any level, but when you’re run­ning a com­pany, ev­ery­one is watch­ing. Less than two years later, I was preg­nant with twins. I had a ma­jor panic, telling my mum I’d need to quit. She said, ‘This pe­riod is a blink of an eye in your life. It’ll be dif­fi­cult, but as long as you’re happy and man­age it prop­erly, you’ll be fine.’ She was ab­so­lutely right, but it was a stretch.

Leav­ing The Guardian felt like a huge risk. I’d gone from the most ju­nior per­son you could be to run­ning it. My first six months as Easyjet’s CEO were chal­leng­ing. BA boss Wil­lie Walsh said to me, laugh­ing, ‘You had more in six months than most air­line CEOS do in six years, but it’ll stand you well,’ al­though you don’t see that through the haze of vol­canic ash clouds, oil price hikes, French air traf­fic con­trol strikes and cus­tomer com­plaints! But it es­ca­lated my learn­ing curve. Dur­ing my time there, the share price al­most quadru­pled.

I loved work­ing at Easyjet and I was there for nearly eight years – a long ten­ure for a CEO. When I got the ITV phone call invit­ing me for an in­for­mal con­ver­sa­tion, it was serendip­ity. ITV is an amaz­ingly strong con­sumer brand and it’s a great lev­eller –

ev­ery­one loves ITV, whether they’re young or old, af­flu­ent or not. The chal­lenge also ap­pealed; I wouldn’t have moved on if there was no agenda for change. TV is a big part of Christ­mas and we plan for it ex­ten­sively. There’ll be big soap sto­ry­lines on Coro­na­tion Street and Emmerdale, as well as Christ­mas spe­cials of For The Love Of Dogs with Paul O’grady and Long Lost Fam­ily. I ab­so­lutely love Danc­ing On Ice and we have a drama about Torvill and Dean’s early years – my one to watch over Christ­mas. I also love Christ­mas ads! The TV or mu­sic is al­ways on dur­ing our fam­ily

Christ­mas. My favourite way to spend the fes­tive sea­son is with my hus­band and chil­dren – just the five of us – and that’s how it’ll be this year. It’s very re­laxed.

In Jan­uary, I’ll have been at ITV for a year. It’s hugely stim­u­lat­ing, the peo­ple are fantastic and our view­ing fig­ures in 2018 have been the strong­est in nearly a decade. We have mo­men­tum and there’s lots to do.

We’re fo­cused on three big things. The first is in­vest­ing in TV, es­pe­cially the ITV Hub. We’re im­prov­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence so we can rec­om­mend pro­grammes to viewers and recog­nise what’s liked the most. The sec­ond is to grow ITV Stu­dios, where we make lots of our drama and en­ter­tain­ment pro­grammes. The third is to cre­ate deeper, more en­gaged re­la­tion­ships with the fans of our key shows. Part of that is a stream­ing ser­vice, which we are aim­ing to launch in 2019, that will con­tain a lot of our cur­rent and past pro­grammes. Be­cause ITV en­ter­tains mil­lions of peo­ple and of­ten starts na­tional con­ver­sa­tions, it has a real emo­tional con­nec­tion with the pub­lic. It also shapes Bri­tish so­ci­ety and cul­ture and we take that re­spon­si­bil­ity very se­ri­ously.

The big­gest lead­er­ship les­son I’ve learnt is that your lead­er­ship style is you. There are dif­fer­ent types of leader and they can all be ef­fec­tive, but don’t try to be some­one else. Find your own way.

The TV is al­ways on dur­ing our fam­ily Christ­mas

Car­olyn loves to watch TV with her fam­ily over Christ­mas

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