Leader2Leader: Steve Hessen and Caitlin Carey

Photo By
Hannah Ziegeler

We sat down with Steve Hessen, Managing Shareholder/Partner at Kreis, Enderle, Hudgins, & Borsos, P.C., and Caitlin Carey, Associate at Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, & Cohn, L.L.P., to hear what they had to say about leadership, hiring, time-travel, and more.

What does good leadership look like on a day-to-day basis?

Steve Hessen: Leaders must be willing to say and see what makes others uncomfortable. Without this, a leader is simply preserving the status quo. It is also important that the team knows our goal is to get better every day.

Caitlin Carey: A leader is someone who’s actively engaged, takes pride in their work, and goes out of their way to set goals and be involved. Anyone can be a leader. Your actions throughout the day are what make you a good leader.

How do you establish the culture of your organization?

Steve: Our culture was initially established by the founding members of our firm, and we are fortunate to have attorneys and staff still with us who experienced that culture. Like many professional organizations, our culture is tied to the governing personalities and vision for the future of our firm. Our governance has changed over the years, but the values of hard work, accountability, and respect still remain our culture’s bedrock.

Caitlin: I am an attorney. In my field, there is a lot of unpredictability in day-to-day tasks, and you often have to put yourself in uncomfortable positions. Culture becomes a matter of how we choose to approach projects. Maintaining confidence and a positive outlook is how I try to strive to maintain our culture.

How do you maintain your team’s daily motivation?

Steve: Fortunately, I am part of a team [where motivation maintenance] is not really necessary. Our employees are dedicated and hard-working, and they do not need me meddling in the daily performance of their duties.

Caitlin: Every day is a new challenge. I have to know what motivates a paralegal to do one task, and what motivates the other associates to do their tasks. I’m a puzzle person; I know that I am not going to wake up in the morning with all the pieces put together. I have to be able to find what each teammate needs and help them put their puzzle together.

What is the most important factor you consider when hiring?

Steve: A person’s ability to generate business. Someone who is excellent at delivering legal services is very important and is a must, but we are always searching for people who have
or will have the potential to generate business.

Caitlin: My firm makes sure that each hire is a good fit. To assess fit, I am involved in taking candidates to lunch, having conversations, and getting to know them. Our firm wants our feedback. We look for someone who is self-motivated, takes pride in what they do, and has a passion for their work. I think passion is the most important: You’re going to be working with these people every single day, so you want someone who is just as engaged as you.

Who has had the most significant impact on you as a leader?

Steve: My father. He is 82 years old and unfortunately going through dementia. When he had his faculties, he always said what needed to be said. I think he probably was far more polished in his delivery than I am, but talking about the difficult [things] is frequently the only way to progress.

Caitlin: For me, it was one of my high school soccer coaches. Not only did he teach the importance of hard work and running sprints, but he instilled in us the need to be prepared for the task ahead. He would hold brainstorming sessions. It’s funny to think about now of going to a soccer practice, and instead of actually doing soccer drills, we would be sitting in front of a whiteboard, defining what makes a team.

What do you do to continually improve your leadership?

Steve: I found early on that simply relying on other lawyers at my firm resulted in a narrow focus. I have a group of longtime trusted clients whom I will meet with regularly and discuss different business issues. It is amazing how sometimes solutions are obvious to someone with a fresh, non-legal perspective.

Caitlin: At my firm, we have an electronic bank of resources with lessons on everything from leadership to team-building. I also learn a lot by watching, so I try to put myself in situations every day where I can be with a veteran attorney and see their everyday practice.

Who was your role model growing up?

Steve: My mom. I have never met a more welcoming and forgiving person. She was always concerned about providing a place in our home for others, particularly at holidays. It did not matter how sordid a person’s backstory was or how much trouble my brothers and I caused; she would always welcome you and treat you respectfully. I ask myself regularly, “What would Mom do?” It usually leads me to a better response.

Caitlin: My father has been in the sales field for 40 years and taught me the importance of hard work and how to navigate life’s obstacles. In sales, there are great times and low points. He taught me to approach adversity with a sense of pride and to not let that one failure define you.

Where would you go in a time machine?

Steve: The first day of college. I loved my entire college experience at Central Michigan University and would love to do it again.

Caitlin: I could flip through a history book and pick out so many different events that I would love to be a part of, but where I want to go is to the future. Will there really be flying cars and hoverboards? Is the University of Michigan ever going to win a national championship again? I would love to fast forward 100 or 50 years from now to see where we are as a society and see what kind of thumbprint I left on the future. Did I leave an impact in some way, however small?

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Steve: Using my definition of a holiday, it’s attending the Detroit Tigers home opener every year. I have attended approximately 40 home openers with my parents, brothers, children, closest loved ones, and friends. Every single year it is among my top days
of the year. April 4, 2019!

Caitlin: My family members all live in different places now. For us, a holiday isn’t necessarily a certain date; it’s the time that we can all spend together, sitting around the table, having good conversation and good food. It’s a few hours we can spend together playing many rounds of euchre while not being distracted by phone calls and emails. As a kid, I took that for granted; I’d be sitting at the table thinking, “Hey, let’s get to dessert. I’m ready to go play with my toys!” Now, there is not enough time.

What would be the title of your biography?

Steve: It has to be something with some kind of baseball meaning, like “Can of Corn” or “High Cheese.” Let’s go with “Covering the Bases.”

Caitlin: I don’t know if I can answer that yet—the story is still being written. It’s exciting to think about the legacy I could leave behind, but I still have time to decide what twists and turns my story will take. I am not ready to publish yet.

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