As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tanya Kormeili, MD, FAAD Board Certified Dermatologist, Santa Monica, CA
Dr. Tanya Kormeili is a nationally recognized board certified dermatologist and leader in the field of cosmetic medicine. In addition to her exemplary medical education at UCLA School of Medicine, she now serves as a volunteer clinical faculty and educator at UCLA. She gives back to the community through education, consulting in her field and volunteering as a dermatologist at the Los Angeles Veteran Hospital. She has contributed to advancing her field through both clinical research and publication. She is proud to have received many honors and awards for her contributions to the field of dermatology. She is a frequent speaker to the media and the public in educating others about safety as well as efficacy in various trends in cosmetic dermatology. Her passion is healthy and beautiful skin for a lifetime.
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 just knew I wanted to care for my patients personally from the day I graduated residency! Joining a big hospital was never an option for me. So, I started my practice as it turns out during the last recession of 2007!
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?
I would not call it funny at all but at the advice of my CPA, I decided to do my own bookkeeping! He said it was easy, and that I didn’t need to hire a professional. It was a big mistake. I hated reconciling the books so much! I learned that everyone has their skillset, and more importantly things they enjoy or dislike doing. I have stayed true to my own skillset and always hire professionals to do things I cannot, or don’t want to do! I focus on doing the things I am skilled to do and enjoy. It is a much better system!
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?
My husband! He is so creative and always thinks outside the box. As a physician I tend to be very conservative in my tolerance of risk. Being married to him, I have learned how to stomach risk more and have a different relationship with the fear of running a business. I remember telling my husband how much my construction cost was going to be for the new office design. He said, “The hardest decision is the decision to start. After that you just do it.” That is all. I just then spent the money and didn’t entertain the analysis paralysis model too much!
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?
Simply put: my patients! I wanted them to have a beautiful and modern setting that offered the latest of dermatological and rejuvenation treatments with outmost ethics. I wanted to make them feel safe and welcome always.
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 been a challenge to everyone. Seeing patients and keeping everyone safe during this pandemic has truly been a difficult time for our office. I have been challenged so much as a person, a physician and a business owner. I feel that it was a huge learning curve that is yet continuing.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Just when I held myself a pity party, party of one! I think everyone during this pandemic has felt a bit of hopelessness mixed with overwhelm and a sprinkle of anxiety on top! The truth is that life is a constant game itself and full of various struggles. You just have to focus on making things just a little better for yourself and those around you every single day until things are great again.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
It is the role of a leader to set the tone and direction of effort for the group. It is a hard role because you have to be positive and find a direction to lead, even when times are uncertain!
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?
I think gratitude and perspective. For our team, it was finding a reason to celebrate: we focuxed that we are healthy and we can care for others. We need a perspective. To see that others have it as bad or even worse than you can help inspire you to help others and not be stuck in negativity too long.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I was completely transparent to my patients. In our newsletters I openly discussed my fears, my hopes and
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
I think a big part of being a leader is being able to be a good follower! For example, I look at friends, colleagues and other leaders for strategy, advice and help in creating the best plan for the future. No one can predict the future but we can be open to influence and help from one another to create a creative force for the future.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Be very sure of the reason you started that company to begin with. If your reason is to serve others, you will find a way to do that even in turbulent times.
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?
I think it is too easy to judge others and call their decisions “mistakes.” We might have made similar mistakes if we were in their situation. In general however, I have seen that businesses that lacked the following leadership have had the hardest times:
- Indecision. Even if you don’t really know the right decision you must have a plan to go forth. No decision means no direction.
- Lack of a team spirit. I think it sounds like a cliché to say “we are all in this together.” Yet, it is absolute truth! I think failing to come together as a business team definitely makes survival much harder.
- Poor communication. When leaders have failed to admit the needs and challenges of those they serve there is a greater resentment that ruins moral altogether.
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?
We focus on our reason why: the patient. How can we take care of our patients given the new risks associated with being around one another. I spent a great deal of time looking at various ways to be innovative and collaborative.
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.
- Humility. Being able to admit you don’t have all the answers but are willing to learn and serve on good faith is important. I have been very truthful to my staff about the pandemic. No one really has the playbook on this pandemic, but I was willing to learn and to protect them as we opened up our office again.
- Good communication. We often say so much and yet instill no value. I think as a leader you have to be very clear in what is expected from everyone. We write and have many discussions about safety protocols and various issues of concern on regular basis. Everyone is able to speak, and everyone is encouraged to contribute to the solution finding process. The final decision or solution is then clearly communicated to everyone.
- Decisiveness. Probably the hardest thing I had to do! It is so hard as a perfectionist to be sure of my decisions with so much uncertainty. I literally gave myself deadlines to execute on various issues. I spent a great deal of time gathering information from people whose opinion and information I trust on regular basis.
- Resourcefulness. I created a network of friends and colleagues, and we collectively put all of our resources and brains together to function as one! It was amazing to learn from other doctors or professionals. Our patients even helped us source various equipment based on their contacts. We felt so connected as one!
- Compassion. This comes easy to me because I chose medicine. Often it is easy to just focus on our own perspective. For us compassion has meant being flexible with staff needs, and making various accommodations for certain patients. It is really what makes us human and connected at the end.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When my grandmother had died I was only in the third grade, and completely devastated. I leaned into my mother’s arms and asked her how I could every go on without my grandmother. She brushed my hair aside, wiped my tears and said, “My little love, the greatest ability of a human is that of adaptation to anything the world throws your way.” I didn’t understand the profound statement that was shared with me as a child then. Today, I reflect on my mother’s wisdom daily. As humans we do adapt and that is something to take comfort in. It may hurt, it may be uncomfortable, and we can even resist it, but at the end, we do adapt and find a way forward.
How can our readers further follow your work?
@DrKormeili (IG, FB, YouTube)