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 Cheryl Pierce. She has been a nurse entrepreneur, trainer, and coach for 14 years and has worked with thousands of people. She is the Founder & CEO of Skinworx in San Francisco and Founder of Soulworx, and author of the book ‘Soulworx: A Transformative Journey from Skin to Soul.’
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 was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 15. I attended nursing school at the University of San Francisco where I obtained my Bachelor’s degree. Eight years later, I went back to grad school and completed my Master’s degree in Nursing and specialized in skin and wound care. I trained nurses in a large home health care organization to become experts in wound care. What fascinated me the most was seeing how the body can heal from large gaping wounds to complete closure and it became sort of a metaphor for my life. I thought if the body can heal like that, then surely the mind and spirit can heal from past wounds, too. At the same time, I read books on positive psychology, attended seminars on neuropsychology to learn how the brain works and how it can heal from past traumas.
I attended High Performance Academy and immersed myself in personal growth, leadership books and seminars. I joined masterminds and traveled around the world learning from the best teachers such as Brendon Burchard, Tony Robbins, Byron Katie, and Dr. Bruce Lipton. Doing all these while running a business. I have built two successful businesses since 2007 and led teams. These all sounds cool, but it wasn’t always like this. I was actually a painfully shy provincial girl when I started. It took a lot of inner work, some deep soul work to break through many negative emotions attached to the past, anxieties, and limiting beliefs until I found my true authentic voice.
I believe we all have a voice, that each and every one of us has knowledge, wisdom and experience gifted to us and that what we have learned in our lifetimes, our struggles, our trials, and our triumphs can be used to help other people. I believe that the greatest gift you can give to the world is the gift of you, your voice, your story, and your leadership.
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?
The funniest story was when I launched my first business back in 2007 (Ageless Beauty Skin Clinic) when I was working with a client and she requested to have her lips plumped up. She kept requesting to add more filler to make her look like a Hollywood star with big lips. And she also requested Botox to give her a brow lift. I informed her that what she wanted might not look good on her but she insisted. So, I acquiesced in her decision. As a result, she had Spock brows (as in Mr. Spock from Star Trek) and lips like Angelina Jolie which she actually loved. I corrected the spock brows and made it look less pointy. LOL.
The lesson learned is that I need to express my thoughts and feelings in the beginning and not acquiesce in the clients requests knowing that it’s not going to turn out well. It takes courage to speak up and express your real thoughts and feelings.
As leaders, we need to use our voice for the good, for the welfare of the people we serve. If they want and request things that is not going to give them a positive outcome, we need to challenge that.
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?
The one person who really helped me become who I am today is my grandmother who raised me up from age 7 until age 15. She was the biggest influencer in my life. She was a high school teacher. She taught home economics and personal development. I am so fortunate to grow up with a loving and devoted grandmother and to experience unconditional love from her. Whenever she had a problem whether at home or at work, she would take me with her to church and pray. She taught me how to have faith, hope, and love. And my favorite prayer she taught me (which I believe would be appropriate in the context of leadership) is the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, let me sow pardon; where there is despair, let me sow hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy . . .” This prayer gives me the strength to persevere. I am grateful for my grandmother’s influence.
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?
When I first started my company, the purpose was to inspire self-confidence through better skin. I believe the power of confidence is essential for success in every aspect of our lives. Confidence is not something you’re born with but is something that can be developed. I believe confidence will help you overcome fears and tackle life’s challenges. So, my vision was to help women have more confidence starting with their own skin.
Then I started another company with the purpose of helping high achiever women find their authentic voice and step into their power so that they can regain their vibrancy, have more success, more joy, and more freedom. And to help them radiate their true beauty from the inside out.
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?
During difficult times especially now during a crisis, people tend to experience panic, anxiety, worry, and fear. Leaders need to stay calm and centered. I have remained calm and centered the whole time as I have anticipated difficult times three years ago. In fact, I have communicated to my team a year before this pandemic happened that a crisis might be inevitable (as we’re coming into this cycle), and to prepare themselves in mind and body as we don’t know what our business plan outcome might be. My team have an entrepreneurial spirit and when we had to close our store location due to prolonged lockdown, some started their own businesses, some of them went back to school, and I am so proud of them. They were with me for about 4 years. A crisis is an opportunity for growth and it moves us either in a positive movement or negative movement. Crisis leaders communicate effectively, they think creatively, show humility, and focus on constructive change.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
When I feel exhausted, yes, giving up crosses my mind, but I’ve learned not to always listen to the mind. First of all, recognize that almost all lost motivation comes from fatigue, burnout, overwhelm, and stress. So, in order to regain motivation, I start with self-care routines which includes skincare rituals (of course!), sleep, meditation, exercise, and hydration.
Next is motivation voices. I listen to positive podcasts, I listen to my favorite pastor, and I listen to personal development audible books. Listening to these motivation voices take over the voices of strife and negativity. Motivation is triggered by ambition and action. Without ambition and action, motivation does not last, and when they’re amplified, motivation grows. So, I look at my goals and dreams and I visualize my ideal future for my life and business. This is what sustains my drive. When you say you lost motivation, it only means you lost your touch to the future. Take action and the momentum sparks motivation.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is problem solver. We have festering problems in our country, in our states, in our communities, in our families, and maybe to many of us — in our personal lives. We are all leaders of our own lives. If we can’t lead ourselves, how can we lead others effectively? Unresolved problems keep us stuck in a loop of overwhelm and stress. Highly effective leaders solve problems and the dynamic of problem-solving is always win-win.
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?
The best way a leader can do to inspire and motivate their team is to give them a vision of the future. Engage them with their goals and dreams. Spark their ambition, their desire for more. Everyone wants more success, more joy, more happiness, more productivity, more meaning. Everyone wants more out of life. Leaders must acknowledge their teams’ successes, wins, and all the good things they’ve done for the company’s success. Leaders must show they care and give them a sense of certainty and security.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Just tell the truth. Tell it as it is. As the saying goes, “The truth will set you free.” The truth might hurt in the beginning but people are resilient. People are stronger than they think. So, just tell the truth.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Highly effective leaders are amazing strategic planners. They have the ability to look ahead, to anticipate with some accuracy where the industry in the markets are going. They have the ability to anticipate trends well in advance of their competitors. They continually ask based on what is happening today, where the market is going, “Where is it likely to be in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years? What will the customer want?” And they do this through thoughtful strategic planning. Leaders always focus on the needs of the company and the situation. Leaders focus on results and what must be achieved by themselves, by others, and by the company.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Defining a noble purpose aligned with a compelling vision, and taking massive action is the number one principle that can help us through turbulent times. It’s like a “North Star” that aligns our energy, emotions, and actions in the service of our vision. Though it is not always simple to find one’s North Star, once it appears, its guidance helps simplify one’s choices.
Another principle is to just take the next right step with integrity. Ask yourself, “What is the next right step?” Then, take action.
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?
First mistake is that they don’t have clarity on where they are now and where they want to go. Business owners need to know where they really are and create an effective business map. They might need to pivot their business especially during a crisis. If you’re a business owner, ask yourself these questions: Where are you in the economy, industry, your company, yourself and your core team, and the season of change? How do you need to prepare for the next season?
Second mistake is they don’t know who their customer is and who their customer needs to be, what they value, need and want and what will fulfill them. Businesses need constant strategic innovation, making things better — products, service and delivery, and adding more value to products and services. Customers don’t care unless they know you care about them.
Third mistake is they are more “in love” with their products than the customers. Businesses need to produce, deliver, and serve the customer in a way that produces raving fans. Customers come and go. Raving fans stay, they are loyal to your business, and they refer their family and friends.
Again, customers don’t care unless they know you care.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
The best strategy I use to keep forging ahead is maintaining my relationship with my customers. Business is about building relationships. Give so much value than anyone else out there. Always find a way to exceed your customers’ expectations or desires. Give them more than what they ask for — give them what they truly need, and as a result, convert your customers into your most powerful sales tools through word of mouth and referrals so that no matter how difficult the economy, they all want to stick with you because they know that you care about them. Some of my clients have been with me for ten years or more. And even though some of them have moved to another state, they still fly back just to buy from me. I am blessed with loyal customers.
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.
1. A leader must solve problems. We have many festering problems in our country, in our states, in our communities, in our families, and in our personal lives. Unresolved problems keep us stuck in a loop of overwhelm. Highly effective leaders solve problems and the dynamic of problem-solving is always win-win. Last year, I had to make a tough decision of closing my brick and mortar store and pivot in order to keep forging ahead. I turned the business into an E-commerce and learned a few lessons along the way.
2. A leader must have Courage. While most people like to remain in their comfort zone, highly effective leaders challenge the status quo and it takes courage. The way a leader can help people get over their fear is to give them a vision of something that’s worth striving for, that’s worth taking a risk for. The natural instinct of any institution (whether it’s a company, a business, a board, a family, or a university) . . . the natural momentum of any organization is to preserve the status quo. Why? because people who have positions of power and influence want to keep them. And so, they invest their energies in maintaining their position of power and influence. It’s not because people are bad. It’s just human nature. You have to understand the momentum that works against you is the power of the status quo. It’s always there and that’s why change is hard, and the other power that pushes against change is fear . . . basic human fear. Highly effective leaders must have the courage to take action in spite of fear.
I remember years ago when I reorganized and “re-branded” my business to build a spa retail boutique, everyone around me was hesitant and afraid for me. I needed $500k to make it happen and no one could support me. In spite of fear, I cashed out my 401k and forged ahead. I had to muster up all the courage within me to follow my vision.
3. A leader must have humility. Humility doesn’t mean weak. Humble leaders recognize the value of others without feeling threatened. They’re willing to admit that they could be wrong and give credit where credit is due. This pandemic crisis has been a humbling experience.
4. A leader must be intuitive in strategic planning in which they have the ability to look ahead, to anticipate with some accuracy where the industry in the market are going. And have the ability to anticipate trends well in advance of their competitors. They continually ask based on what is happening today where the market is going in 3 months, 6 months, one year, two years. What will the customers want? And they do this through thoughtful strategic planning.
5. During uncertain and turbulent times, a leader must lead by values, not by pressure. Sometimes, pressure can get the best of us. That’s why it’s important to write down and really know your values. Values are what’s important to you and they become your boundaries.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“BE the change you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi
People want things to change but they don’t want to start with themselves first. I, too, wanted others to change until I realized that we live in a reflective reality. People I meet reflect back to me what I need to work on within me. For example, if I meet someone who is being negative, instead of judging the other person, I ask myself this question, “In what area of my life am I being negative? and how can I make this better? How can I change this for the better?” I learned the hard way not to take things personally. I learned not to make assumptions about people, and to always do my best. I learned to be the change agent, to have a role model mindset . . . to be the leader.
How can our readers further follow your work?
They can follow me in Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. #myskinworx, #mysoulworx