“Why it’s important to empower your team.” With Tyler Gallagher & Sabine Hutchison

I believe in empowering my team. If you guide and support your team, they will work for the business as if it is theirs. Not only the business will grow, but they will grow too with it. I think that one of the most difficult things in management is to not hand over solutions or […]

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I believe in empowering my team. If you guide and support your team, they will work for the business as if it is theirs. Not only the business will grow, but they will grow too with it. I think that one of the most difficult things in management is to not hand over solutions or give demands to your employees, but to ask more questions and help them come up with their own solutions. Allow them to make mistakes, but also give them the opportunity to learn from it. My management style is all about giving space and being the safety net for my team when needed.

As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sabine Hutchison.

Sabine Hutchison, CEO and Co-Founder of the three unique businesses, Seuss Consulting, Seuss Recruitment and Zocket, is a trained chemist and industry expert turned entrepreneur. After graduating with her Chemist degree at Maryville College in Tennessee, USA, Sabine decided to move overseas and further her career. She had been working in the Life Sciences industry for several years, before she decided to step up her game and build up her own companies from scratch together with business partner Kieran Canisius. Strong but also down-to-earth; Sabine knows what it takes to be a successful leader. On top of that, she volunteers on the board as Vice President of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Europe Chapter, and has been deeply involved with the annual EU Leadership Summits — as organizer and speaker. Sabine is not only passionate about her profession, but also about life. She believes in giving back to the community and does not only constantly develop her businesses, but also herself.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My journey has been strange and unorthodox. I studied chemistry and wanted to save the planet, which I ended up doing for several years. I worked in hazardous waste disposal — I feel very Tony Soprano every time I say that — Through a safe technique, I cleared the world of dangerous chemicals. But then, I took a sidestep that always raises eyebrows when people read my CV. My best friend from college visited me when I was living in Salt Lake City, and he was working on the David Copperfield Tour (magician) at the time. He was having such an adventure and my inner voice said “How cool is that? You need to go on that tour!” So, I asked my friend to get me a job and of course, he was shocked. Looking at me wide-eyed, he asked if I was sure about it, which I was 100%.

From there on my adventure started and I went to Atlantic City for the interview. I got the job and within the shortest period of time I sold my house and car, took my beloved dog Max to my sister who became his mother, and went off to Stockholm. During the tour, I met a wonderful German man whom I fell in love with and decided to follow my heart to Germany afterwards. It was in Germany where I found my love career-wise; the Healthcare Industry. After some twists and turns, I ended up starting my first business in 2012 with my best friend and business partner Kieran Canisius. Three businesses later, I am here today and still on an ongoing journey filled with wonderful experiences along the way.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Well, there are a lot but there is one in particular that I find most interesting. I am not sure though whether I should be telling this but here goes!

When we first started off, we worked from a very tiny office. The building used to be a school, but was transformed into office spaces and our office was in the teacher’s lounge. One day, we discovered a large business opportunity and the potential clients wanted to arrange a meeting. However, the size of our office was simply too small and we only worked with three people at that time. But we needed that deal at all costs, so we came up with a crazy solution. There were new offices available, which were three large classrooms. We decided to rent all three offices and go to Ikea to buy everything one needs to create a thriving office. So, we painted and decorated the new offices and were ready for the meeting. There was still one little problem though; all our desks were empty since we only had one employee besides Kieran and me. We asked our friends if they wanted to pretend that they were employees and sit at the desks during the client meeting, in order for us to look impressive. It worked! We got the deal and finished the project successfully. From there on, we were able to actually fill the desks with real employees.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently working on several exciting projects. One of them is our new business Collective whereby Seuss Consulting, Seuss Recruitment, Zocket, iGina Marketing and GCP Central are joining forces. Our goal is to provide an all-inclusive and robust service portfolio to our clients. We are hoping that through this collaboration we can offer our clients a unique experience that exceeds their expectations.

Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I believe that a lot has to do with the expectations that have evolved around “connectivity” and “being online”. We live in an amazing digital world that brings many advantages, but also many complications. I find it astounding that I can receive an E-mail and afterwards a phone call to assure that I have received the E-mail and when I will be responding. Our days are filled with jumping from one meeting to another. There is little time to support the career and personal growth of individuals. Managers are often not given the tools to be inspirational leaders, however, are still expected to take their teams to new heights. There is often a feeling of not being able to realize achievements.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

Individuals spend more time checking off their to-do lists and less time on developing new concepts and ideas to move businesses forward. We are currently providing a leadership workshop at Seuss Consulting where I also have personal coaching sessions with the participants. During the coaching sessions, I encourage them to block a minimum of one hour per week in their agendas as “Think-Time”. They should use this Think-Time to reflect on anything that can help the business move forward. It could be for example: the company’s products/services, their teams, possible improvements that can be made or the development of new products/services. This will ultimately have a larger positive impact on the profitability, than when you only check off your to-do’s. It also teaches leaders to reflect on their input and added value to a business. The health and well-being of employees is a very important factor to take into account, especially as a leader. When employees are working in a nice atmosphere, feel good and fulfilled, they are also more productive.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  1. Make sure that you are providing and encouraging “creative time” to develop new ideas for clients and the industry. An outcome of this within our own businesses is a project whereby we have created a “Women on Boards” training program, that helps advanced women taking on-board positions, leading to great diversity.
  2. Do not send E-mails after 7 pm and expect an immediate response from your team. As their well-being is important, you need to give them the time to regenerate at the end of a workday. They need their personal time in order to come into the office the next day feeling refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges.
  3. Encourage your team to take part in other activities as well, such as volunteering. Provide them with a certain number of hours during the month to spend on these activities. When employees can focus on other areas that they are passionate about, they will bring this enthusiasm back to the office too. I am an example here, I have taken some time away from work to volunteer for the HBA (Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association). Our mission is to promote diversity in the workplace and this has inspired some of our employees to get involved as well.
  4. Create a clear business plan and communicate this openly to the team. This has been critical for us. We presented the “2021 Plan” to our team and we stimulated a lot of input and ideas from our employees on how to reach our targets, their positions and even a new charity idea.
  5. Have a robust recruitment process and do not make panic hires. We have started a recruitment process in which our employees are very involved. They interview the applicants before Kieran or I meet them, which creates a spirit of empowerment. Letting your employees be a part of the decision-making processes creates an encouraging and pleasant working environment.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

Spend more time having meaningful conversations and being truly present when you are with someone. Friends of mine have a son who has Down Syndrome and he has taught me so much about being present and focusing. When I am with him, he always makes me feel like the most important person in the world since he is so focused on what I am saying. He listens attentively and shows such wonderful emotion when he sees me, while nowadays when you spend time with someone they are often only half there, because they get distracted by their phones or because their thoughts are elsewhere. He is the perfect example of how we should interact with one another at the office to create a great work culture.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I believe in empowering my team. If you guide and support your team, they will work for the business as if it is theirs. Not only the business will grow, but they will grow too with it. I think that one of the most difficult things in management is to not hand over solutions or give demands to your employees, but to ask more questions and help them come up with their own solutions. Allow them to make mistakes, but also give them the opportunity to learn from it. My management style is all about giving space and being the safety net for my team when needed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There is certainly a person in particular who has made a great impact on my career and life, his name is Cemal Kuyas. Unfortunately, he passed away several years ago but I will never forget him. When I first moved to Germany, I had no clue about what I wanted to do. I did not speak the language and could not even get a proper interview. I was introduced to Cemal and he took the time to speak to me in English. He saw something in my desire to start a new life in Germany. He offered me a job that was about ten steps back in my career, but it was also a new beginning and an opportunity for me to rise. I took the job and during the time that I worked with him, I learned so much. He was an amazing person who always believed in me and I am grateful to have known him.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe that in this world, good deeds are crucial, no matter how small they are. A group of friends and I are involved with helping the homeless community in Hamburg. Several times a year we collect different items and donate them to the people who live on the street. This shows that there is no official charity organization needed to do good; just a couple of friends and dedication.

We have a giving back mentality at the office as well; there is always an active charity project going on. I have also created an app with a friend that involves a platform to gather donations, we provide this app to other businesses.

But I believe that when interacting with clients, you can do good deeds too. As one aspect of our businesses we provide recruitment services and when someone calls and asks for advice, I always make sure that I take the time to speak to this person and give tips. You can make a huge impact with the smallest positive action.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Always ask for what you want, no matter how crazy it seems” — I have a beautiful story about this. During my time at college I worked several jobs to get by, but in my last year, I really wanted to enjoy myself and have more time to optimally focus on my studies and thesis.

I worked at a restaurant at the university that was owned by a wonderful family that really treated me as their own daughter. One day I was having a conversation with Tom Taylor, the owner of the restaurant. I was talking about how overwhelming it was to work multiple jobs and how I wished that there was a rich person out there who was willing to help me out financially during my last year. He suggested that I put together a list of how much I needed because he had an idea, and so I did. About a week later he came up to me and said he had found someone who wanted to help me, Tom would be the middle man and provide me with the funds every month. I was shocked that my crazy wish had become reality…

After my graduation, I wanted to express my appreciation to Tom and the mystery funder, and let them know how much it had changed my life. I asked Tom whether he could arrange for the three of us to have dinner together. To my surprise, there was no mystery funder and it was Tom who helped me all along! He then told me the story about how his father needed money to pay for his college education and that a wealthy member of the community supported him. When his father had asked how he could repay her, she said that the only thing she wanted him to do was to maintain a lifestyle where he would always be willing to help others and give back to the community. His father continued the tradition with Tom, and Tom continued it with me, hoping that it would be an endless cycle.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Wow, what a question. I would like to encourage individuals to not judge so quickly and become much more tolerant of others. As an American who moved to a different country, I have experienced many prejudices and often felt like an outsider. For example, I experienced cruel words because I did not understand nor speak the language. I look back at it as a learning experience that also helped me to grow as a person. However, I do believe that it would make such a great impact when society would be a bit more tolerant of each other. Do not look down at those who do not speak or look like you, but give them a chance. You never know what journey people have had, and which struggles they have overcome.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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