Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Sibel Terhaar is a Motivational Influencer, Kindness Activist and the Author of Chasing Kindness Against the Wind. She is also an experienced Sourcing Specialist that is skilled in Negotiation, Pricing Strategy, Strategic Sourcing, Leadership, and Supply Management. She currently works at Graco as a Senior Sourcing Specialist.
We had a Q&A session with Sibel where she spoke about her background, career and what it means to be a Kindness Activist.
We would like to start this interview by looking at your origin story. Please give us an overview of your background, key career milestones, when and how you got into the writing profession as a book author?
Sibel: I am the youngest of two children and was born in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. My parents were from Eastern Turkey, and they were married at the age of fourteen and moved west at the age of eighteen. My father suffered from many addictions, and as a result, we were poor and often without food. He was also abusive, especially to my mother and brother, and I questioned how the world could be so cruel. Due to this, the slightest act of kindness from a stranger was life-changing and felt like finding a drop of water in a barren desert.
As a teenager, I was not allowed to do much outside of school except to visit our local library. It was here I met Shakespeare, Dante, and Tolstoy, and so many others. Every page I read was an adventure and an escape from my experiences at home, but there was one book that changed my life: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Dale spoke about smiling, showing a genuine interest in people, listening, and other behaviours that all of us need in our lives. I decided to incorporate these principles into my life. I made it my mission to engage with everyone I could and be a positive influence on others.
I wrote daily, mostly journaling, and in college, I had my first opportunity to share my perspective with others as a host of my college radio station, and it was one of the best experiences in my life.
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I had another opportunity to share a message of hope and kindness, this time on LinkedIn. So many were impacted negatively by the pandemic, and I decided to post quotes about hope and kindness. The reaction I received was very positive, and after many months of writing, I decided to publish a collection of these quotes in my first book,
How much of your background and environment can be attributed to your success as a business leader, author and motivational influencer?
Sibel: Although my father had his challenges and worked sporadically throughout his life, he was well known for his skillset and took great pride in it. My mother excelled as well with sewing and would often sell doilies and other crafts to our neighbours, which was our only source of income at times. My mother was a great inspiration to me and worked hard to ensure we were cared for and rarely rested or took time for herself. She also has a heart of gold and treats everyone with respect and love. All these things influenced my life and made me the person I am today.
What are the key challenges you have faced in your career, and how did you navigate these?
Sibel: I immigrated to the United States in 2003, and in many ways, I had to start over in my career. I worked hard to improve my skills, including English, and I utilized LinkedIn to network with many fantastic business leaders in my state. Ultimately, I decided to become my own advocate, identified a few target companies to pursue a long-term career with, networked with the right people, and landed a job with a great company.
Your brand is strongly based around your advocacy for Kindness. Is there a story behind this?
Sibel: It started at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a time of great worry for so many of us, and there seemed to be little hope. Many of us were transitioning to remote work, isolated and afraid, and others had it much worse.
The lessons I learnt from my childhood reminded me that we cannot always choose our circumstances, but we can decide how to act in them.
I wanted to share that message and started writing daily quotes about kindness on LinkedIn. The response was overwhelming and confirmed that so many need a kind word to get through their day, and I'm happy to be one of many who share that message.
On LinkedIn you describe yourself as a “Kindness Activist”. How would you define “Kindness Activism”?
Sibel: I love that term. A Kindness Activist lives their life following the golden rule and treats others as they would like to be treated. Sadly, I'm afraid this rule has been thrown out the window and replaced with groupthink and tribalism. That's why I believe we should teach kindness in our schools, at every level of education. Many children are never taught this at home and lack the skills to manage emotions, interact with their peers, and choose how they respond to challenges and adversity.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better." How better would the world be if we encouraged this mindset and teach our children to never give up on others?
You authored the book “Chasing Kindness Against the Wind”. Tell us what this book is about, the inspiration behind it, and who its target audience is?
Sibel: Chasing Kindness Against the Wind" is a collection of positive and motivational quotes. The title was inspired by the idea that choosing and pursuing kindness is not an easy task. We live in a fast world, and it's easy to get tired and discouraged. I believe we can all use a little help each day to stay motivated and remind ourselves that the real value in life is the connections we make and the lives we change.
You work as a Senior Sourcing Specialist at Graco. What does your role entail within the larger organisational context of Graco?
Sibel: My primary role is to build and manage relationships with Graco's suppliers, facilitate the sourcing process of commodities, and negotiate deals and contracts to ensure budgetary compliance. The key to success in my role is working quickly to identify solutions to complex problems and execute them promptly. I am fortunate to work for Graco; they genuinely care about their employees and foster a culture of accountability that is rewarding to all involved.
What initially attracted you to the Sourcing industry as an area of specialisation within the business ecosystem?
Sibel: Bargaining and negotiation are the norms in Turkey, and procurement is a natural fit for me. In Turkey, you cannot go to the market without negotiating, and we have a lot of fun with it; in fact, it's considered rude not to bargain when shopping. The lessons I've learnt in life have also shaped my understanding of the business relationship between customer and supplier. I believe in being firm but also kind and fair in all interactions. Although I have my priorities, I must understand the challenges my suppliers face. I find that it helps navigate challenging situations, identify solutions that benefit both parties, and strengthen our long-term relationship.
Before we end the interview, please give us some tips on how to become an advocate for kindness within the business ecosystem, and the benefits of this?
Sibel: I think it's important to acknowledge that you can be wise, strategic, and unrelenting in all matters related to business but still choose to be kind. One example I can think of is speaking honestly instead of side-stepping difficult conversations and prolonging or worsening situations. This might include coaching an employee who is struggling in their job or having a difficult conversation with a supplier who is not living up to their commitments. Both can be unpleasant but are necessary for resolving bad situations, and are ultimately the kind and right thing to do.
We have come to the end of the interview, and would like to thank you for participating in this Q&A session.
Sibel: Thank you for your time and for inviting me to participate!