As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Carina Rodriguez.
Carina Rodriguez is the Chief Commercial Officer at Sono Bello, the national leader in total body transformation. With over 60 locations across the U.S. and over 125 board-certified surgeons, Carina oversees a variety of services across the country in advanced micro-laser body contouring to help clients live the life they desire. Carina has a successful track record in driving results and building successful teams at Sono Bello, including training and supporting more than 150 employees. Visit https://www.sonobello.com/ to learn more.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I began my career at Sono Bello — and in aesthetics in general — by being at the right place at the right time. I graduated college in 3 years and initially planned to go to law school, but I wanted to take a break between undergrad and law school. In that time off, I responded to a job post for a sales consultant for an up-and-coming med spa. My heart was always in sales, and it was because I took that chance in the direction of my passions that I got in on the ground floor of a new organization. Inside of a year I was promoted to multi-unit management in New York City, running the North East region. I’ve never looked back from aesthetics since.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
As a young leader, I made the mistake of allowing people on my team that perpetuated a negative culture by lacking integrity or respect for others, even though many of them did achieve results on paper. Now, I have a “No Jerks Allowed” rule, and I never hire anyone I wouldn’t want to sit next to on a flight to Japan. People with a negative attitude may get you short term results, but the long term damage to the culture of your organization is much harder to fix.
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?
I would not be where I am today without the support of my parents. Their support and strong foundation allowed me to take risks, knowing they were cheering me on along the way. I’ve even based my leadership style on their hard work and the leadership I grew up witnessing from them. I will never forget being 11 years old and watching my dad bag groceries at our local HEB, where he was a store Director. At the time, I was horrified and embarrassed, thinking that bagging groceries was beneath his title. It was the first of many leadership lessons my dad taught me: Never ask your people to do something you won’t do yourself.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Our mantra at Sono Bello is, “It is your life, live it beautifully.” Our purpose is truly to serve as supportive partners to our patients as they take an important step toward their unique goals. Every patient has their own definition of what a beautiful life means to them, and we are so honored to give our patients actionable steps toward their future in that way.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
The pandemic has certainly been a lesson in uncertain times… In March of 2020, we had to navigate the difficult decision of closing down due to the pandemic. We ended up laying off every employee when it closed, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. At the same time, I was a new mom with a partner who also worked in healthcare, and we were so scared for our safety, future and health. Despite my personal and collective fears, I knew I had to be a pillar of support for my team, and so I went to work fostering a safe place that people want to return to. I’m proud to say we were successful in continuing our connections and supporting that strong community culture throughout the pause in our business, and now almost every employee has returned to their career at Sono Bello.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I definitely considered giving up at times. As a new mom experiencing postpartum depression, I struggled to see how I could be a mom to my son and a leader for my team. My purpose changed overnight, and I knew I had to forge on to make circumstances better for other mothers and women. Although nothing can prepare you for the love, pain, guilt, and challenges of being a mother, I knew I had a wide support system in the many women leaders at my company. Sono Bello’s workforce is composed of over 90% women, in addition to serving an 80% female client base, so I knew I had to come back and support my coworkers and patients. Every day, my son and my team are my “why,” my whole motivation.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
A leader must have the ability to inspire trust, and it becomes a critical aspect especially during uncertain times. Trust is really at the core of anything you hope to accomplish as a leader, because it informs your ability to make connections and partner with teammates to achieve successful results.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
One of the best ways to boost morale is simply to listen deeper. When we ask our employees and teammates directly to share what they’re thinking and feeling — and to foster a safe space around that — we help them feel more included. It’s through that inclusion and the opportunity to be heard that employees can feel engaged and inspired to continue forward, knowing they share in the worries and thoughts of those around them. It’s also equally important to keep it fun! Even in the most frightening or uncertain of times, laughter, joy, and pleasure are always important, so finding ways to share in that with your team will do wanders for long-term engagement.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
It’s best to communicate difficult news head-on and directly with the team member or customer involved. No matter how difficult the news, honesty and transparency are crucial for supporting the process.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
My number one principle is: Put your people first. At the end of the day, your team is the most important, because they’re part of the support network for our patients. If we want happy patients and a happy business overall, we also need employees who are centered, happy, and motivated by our shared vision.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
The most common mistakes I’ve seen are:
- Not being transparent
- Prioritizing profit above people
- Not properly articulating the reason “why” a process or plan is in place
In order to avoid these common mistakes, leaders must remember that humans are at the center of everything we do. Although we’re motivated also by the bottom line, at the end of the day, we’re hoping to make an impact in the lives of people: from our patients to our own employees who have chosen to share in our mission together.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Listen to your people. I learn the most important lessons from my front-line team members, and I feel that I learn way more from my team then they learn from me.
- Be available, have an open door. Let your people know you are there for them and mean it. This means being present and fully listening, inviting them to share their feelings transparently and cultivating the safe space for them to feel comfortable to do so.
- Explain the “why.” You need a culture where people know they can question and challenge, which comes from everyone uniting behind the bigger picture “why” of the company.
- Make it fun for your people! Work and uncertainty may always be an aspect, but it’s equally important and necessary to have fun with those you see every day.
- Inspire trust. It can be difficult to follow the advice above about creating a fun, available environment without trust as the baseline. This also ties into open and transparent communication, since repeated compassion and transparency are components for building that trust.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You are what you think. What you say or think to yourself becomes reality.” For me, this has been relevant through all of the uncertainty of the last year. As I’ve had to navigate new challenges as a mother and team leader in a pandemic, I’ve had to also support my own health and perspective. I noticed that on days when I had low-energy thoughts like passing judgement on myself, it perpetuates a negative outward flow in alignment with that negativity. Alternatively, when I say or think positively, I create positivity around me. I’m more able to see the world from an optimistic lens since my thoughts support that viewpoint of reality.