In Culture & People, Europe, Featured, HSMAI, HSMAI, Marketing, News, News items, Travel>Hotels, Upcoming

Susan is an HR professional, people & culture advocate, business trainer, coach & mentor with a huge passion for people, work cultures, equality, and development. For 20 + years, Susan has been the HR leader for Design Hotels ( She had shaped the culture since early start-up years and played a key role in building and navigating the organization through various changes. In early 2021, Susan started her own business with the mission to cultivate change within individuals and work cultures, and to thus contribute to a more human-centric work world. Susan inspires with her positive energy, authenticity and professionalism and thus paves the way for growth. She is a big believer in mindful leadership, new work tools to stimulate engagement, as well as diversity & cross-generational collaboration. Susan fosters female empowerment and encourages networking among female leaders.

Susan was born in Munich, Germany, lived in New York, and since 2004 has been living in Berlin together with her partner.

Susan has been a member of the People & Culture Advisory Board since 2019 and will take over the Chair as of January 2022.

Q: The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for everyone. What helped you cope with the uncertainty and stress?

A: 2020 was beyond challenging. As HR leader and member of the Senior Leadership Team of Design Hotels, I had put all my time and energy into managing the crisis, saving jobs, and making the situation for the employees as transparent and bearable as possible. It was a difficult time, and I must admit that it took its toll on me. What helped me tremendously, was my set of coaching tools, mental and physical practices, as well as spiritual routines that I have built over the years. I am still very proud when I think back at what we had achieved as a strong leadership team. I consider myself very privileged, as I was able to make a brave decision to change my life. I left Design Hotels at the end of 2020, not because I no longer loved the brand, people, and company. I made the step, because I realized that I could make a much bigger impact redirecting my focus. I spent hours studying, building my new business, and deepening meaningful connections. Also, my network of friends and like-minded colleagues was a huge support. We stayed connected, uplifted each other when someone had a particularly challenging period. Looking back, I can say that our networks of amazing women has even reached a new level of supportiveness and creativity. I am also extremely grateful for my wonderful family and my amazing partner Hik. We had both been travelling a lot before the pandemic. Now, we both work from our home and spend much more quality time together.

I also took time to reflect, sharpen my vision, life mission and purpose; I reconsidered my values, wishes, and needs as well as my potential contributions to creating a better work world. And I deliberately surrounded myself with forward-thinking and positive people. That helps a lot 

Q: Are there any new skills you have developed or that you want to develop in the future?

A: Oh yes, I developed many new skills. Some of then I just had to – like all the technical skills and new online collaboration tools that I need now for my training and coaching work. Others, I chose to develop further as I needed them to broaden my professional skillset and psychological toolbox. I find it amazing how simple it has become to upskill without leaving the house and without spending huge amounts of money. I took many online classed on, deepened my NLP skills, and took time for my spiritual practices, including meditation and energy healing.

I am a big believer in life-long learning and can only encourage everyone to use today’s amazing opportunities.

Q: What skills do you think will become more relevant in the years to come?

A: One thing is for sure – digitalization and automation will not stop. Tech proficiency will be key, but equally important will be the soft skills that help us to build connections, understand and support each other. Flexibility, adaptability, and courage, as well as self-knowledge, emotional intelligence, and communication skills will become more important.

There are many great reports talking about the skills that are required for the future – e.g. GDI (Gottlieb-Duttweiler-Institute) in Zurich or the World Economic Forum – just to name a few. All of them are valuable reads and give relevant input. Now, more than ever, organizations need to identify the competencies that they will need for their business, and then define strategies how to upskill and reskill their employees.

Q: The pandemic forced us to reconsider leadership. What are your thoughts and how have you adapted?

A: In my view, the pandemic was only an accelerator for the changes that have been under way for a while. Remote & hybrid working just added another layer. But for sure, leadership is shifting to a more servant, collaborative, and emphatic style. The leadership role is becoming more complex. To reduce complexity, leaders should engage their teams to contribute and take additional responsibility – i.e., also take on leadership responsibility – even without authority. Leaders should add coaching skills to their skill set. And leaders should be given to opportunity to work with a coach or a mentor who supports them navigate through the challenging times. A new trend that I find interesting is also to create leadership tandems, which allows for part-time leadership roles and more focus on actual leadership tasks.

Q: The entire industry faces the challenge of attracting and retaining talent. Do you have any thoughts on this that you would like to share with us?

A: I have many thoughts on this topic and as People & Culture Advisory Board, we will also put this topic on top of our agenda for 2022. We need to make the industry attractive again for young talents. To come up with practical solutions, we will closely work with our newly established Student Council.

I consider leadership as a huge lever. It is no secret that people do not leave organizations, but their bosses. We need to find ways to give more autonomy to people and engage them through vision, purpose, and meaningful contributions.
We also need to ensure good work conditions – wages, work hours, benefits, etc. It makes me happy to see that hotel companies here in Germany try out new concepts – such as a 4-day work week. Our new government will increase the minimum wage. I consider this also a positive trend.

Culture will be a key factor for success. It is the time now to assess and see what works well, what employees appreciate, and what could be enhanced. I can only recommend talking to your employees and then prepare for a cultural shift. Listen to the new generations and engage with them. We need to understand each other better, learn from each other, and create solution together.
Learning & Development will also be key. Mental health and work-life harmony are also topics to look at.
I believe that there are great opportunities to make big shifts. But one thing is for sure: Unhuman environments will no longer be sustainable. Employees – like guests – have a choice, and they make use of it.

Q: How would someone who knows you describe you?

A: Probably as highly energetic, positive, passionate, professional, and loyal. As a typical Sagittarius, I love people, travelling, and beautiful things – that’s why I love the industry so much! ☺

Q: Where does the next trip go, privately or at work?

A: Privately – I very much look forward to visiting my parents who live in the southern part of Germany, close to the mountains. Hopefully, the pandemic will allow for a short trip to the Alps over my birthday in December. This has been a tradition for many years.
My next business trip will be London in January for the HSMAI events. Very much looking forward to that!

Q: Describe a perfect weekend for you.

A: The perfect Berlin weekend starts with a visit to the local farmer’s market, followed by a long brunch and then coffee chats with friends or a visit to a local gallery or museum. On Sundays, we usually leave the city and spend time in nature.
A weekend travelling is even more perfect 😉 I love experiencing new places, beautiful hotels, fancy, or authentic local restaurants, and shopping at small places. Hopefully, 2022 will bring more of that again.

Q: Is there a book or podcast that recently inspired you and that you would recommend?

A: I highly recommend reading Keith Ferrazi’s book on ‘Leading Without Authority’. There are also many inspiring videos on YouTube. I fully support his leadership philosophy and believe that applying the principles can make a huge impact.
A tip for a nice holiday gift: ‘The Five Minute Journal’ – something to establish a daily journaling practice to plan the day and express some gratitude. (

Q: Is there anything else you want to share with us?

A: I look forward to many moments of connection, inspiration, sharing and learning with HSMAI in 2022!
Thank you, the HSMAI Europe team for your passion, inspiration, and great collaboration! You are amazing!
Stay safe, healthy & positive! We live in very interesting times and each of us can make a huge impact and support the shift towards a greater future!

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