How to lead teams towards successful outcomes

Former Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Douglas Group, Caroline Schmitt, speaks with podcast moderator, Ingo Notthoff, about her leadership style, meetings as a leadership tool, and the importance of diversity in companies' success.

Caroline Schmitt
The Agenda Podcast

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with podcast moderator, Ingo Notthoff. #LeadingTogether

In this podcast episode, you'll hear:

Former Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Douglas Group*, and advisory board member of BeyondGenderAgenda (BGA), Caroline Schmitt, as she discusses:

  • Her leadership style focussed on trust and individual empowerment through responsibility, 
  • About meetings as a vehicle for leadership and promoting employees, and 
  • The importance of diversity in companies. 

After 17 years in the Automotive industry, occupying various positions, Caroline wasn’t afraid to step outside of her comfort zone. That is why, since 2018, she successfully led teams in the beauty industry at Douglas Group. 

Here are some of the topics covered in the podcast episode** that will help you discover more about leadership, and to shape your leadership skills:

  • The importance of trusting people and giving them responsibilities,
  • Why meetings are a leadership tool to help promote employees,
  • Striving for excellent results during times of uncertainty,
  • Diversity: The key in ensuring a company's success.


*Please note: At the time of recording, Ms. Schmitt was still CMO of the Douglas Group.

**Please note: The podcast episode is available in German.

How to lead teams towards successful outcomes with Caroline Schmitt

The importance of trusting people

"I used to think I have to know everything and I also have to see everything and not control it, but I have to be there for everything, so that I can actually answer everything. And I think that's the biggest change. 

Today is leading with trust, with empathy, but also with involvement of employees, and I give away relatively much responsibility. You have to be able to assess well who can take responsibility for what. And how independent people are, and how much they need to be controlled, or how independently they work. That's the biggest change. [...]

How has the team grown? How big was it at the beginning, and how big is the team now?

Size is also not always decisive, but I think the topics that you are responsible for are. Of course, if I look at Europe as a whole, there are about 100 people directly at my headquarters, and I have a few more in the umbrella team. But I don't think that's the decisive factor. I think what is decisive is the issues that you can move and the issues that you are responsible for and, of course, the results that come out of it. [...]

I think my employees tell me that I am definitely hands-on, very pragmatic and lead at eye level. So they know very well that I leave the responsibility to them. And if I don't hear from them and they don't hear from me, then I assume that everything is going well. But they also know that my door is always open, that if there's anything they can't get on with, I always have an open ear and an open door, and that if there's a problem, I'm always there to help. 

I'm also a big fan of the fact that when employees are responsible for their own issues, they also present them themselves at the board and all the meetings we have."


Why meetings are a leadership tool to help promote employees

"I don't think I've ever thought about meetings as a leadership tool. But actually that's true because it's actually a vehicle. So, of course, through meetings we address issues, present issues, clock in the issues as well. I also hold stand up meetings, short updates, where we exchange information, where the teams also exchange information with each other on certain topics. It's also an opportunity to have a meeting like this, whether it's physical or digital, where the employees can present themselves to the other managers and the board. 

I've never seen it as a leadership tool, but in the end, of course, that's what it is, the vehicle for leadership and for promoting employees. 

How do you avoid this flood of meetings and how do you ensure that meetings are really used efficiently?

I don't think you can hide from the flood of meetings. We have tried to always let meetings end five minutes before [...] for efficiency, I'm already a friend of an agenda and corresponding preparations. We also have meetings, the update meetings, which are where everyone exchanges ideas, without an agenda, because it's clear that it's a stand up meeting.

I'm a fan of efficiency, that you have clear structures and clearly address what's an informative topic or where you need decisions. That's why we always introduce at the beginning which decisions are desired today on the various topics. 

And at the end, time management. So you can only be efficient if you keep to the timing, if everyone doesn't rush from one meeting to the next."

I have a credo. I always say I have to do one thing each day that I would rather push back.

Striving for excellent results during times of uncertainty

"We're now at over a billion in sales that we're making in the e-commerce business, and we've simply grown insanely, and continue to stay strong in the store business. [...]

I have to admit that the beauty industry is relatively stable. Because you get the feeling that in times of crisis, people also want to do something good for themselves. We've seen now after Corona that people want to get out. We've seen more of a shift from online to stationary business. So, we have grown insanely in the online business and are still growing super fast.

We're also really seeing a big comeback in the store. Many people are just enjoying going into town again, finding the personal conversation. We haven't seen a crisis now, that demand for beauty has decreased."


Diversity: The key in ensuring a company's success

"I actually believe quite strongly that diverse teams are more successful.

I believe that diversity in all areas and openness also give you a variety of perspectives. So I stand by the fact that I believe that these teams are more successful. Diversity drives performance, creativity, and also innovation. [...] teams just look at the perspective from different angles.

[...] respect is the most important thing that also promotes togetherness. But this tolerance that these teams have, and looking beyond the kindness, I think that's what brings success as well. Yes, I believe that diversity simply makes our world more colourful, fairer and more successful."

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Caroline Schmitt
About the author
Caroline Schmitt is the former Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Douglas Group, the German perfume and cosmetics retailer. After joining the group in 2018, she was responsible for the global marketing and branding campaigns. Previously, she held various positions in the Automotive industry. Caroline is an advisory board member at BeyondGenderAgenda (BGA).