The Power of Risk-taking

Leadership in a professional skin care setting may be challenging. The reason: In order for spa professionals to thrive, they must do more than give great treatments. They must also offer client education, giving the customer knowledge that can be used at home. This requires a paradigm shift from the boss and from the team, and this shift, like any change, represents a form of risk. But how can spa professionals push themselves to take on this risk? Many who are in this business got here because they love touching skin, giving treatments and helping clients feel healthy. This is still the core value, but today spa professionals must also position themselves as active partners in their clients’ ongoing health.

This is parallel to the personal trainer who develops a series of killer moves that will build your best body; the trainer may coach you once or twice per week, but you’re the one who has to actually work the program. Building a long-term partnership of trust based upon your expertise is the best thing that you can do for your business.

I vividly remember my early years as a skin therapist. My feet always hurt, and I really thought that I would never finish doing the laundry and folding the towels. Late nights—not the glamorous kind—and early mornings. I always had a pain reliever and a chocolate bar in my uniform pocket. Were my chakras misaligned? Was my third eye bloodshot? Oh, I’m sure. And I am also sure that there was no other way to get where I was going and to make my business grow.

In reality, you have to walk right on the edge of what you know, beyond the barrier of where you feel safe and familiar, in order to grow and achieve. This is what risk-taking is all about. In order to achieve beyond the status quo, spa professionals need to push themselves more. You must become more willing and eager to be uncomfortable. In fact, you should seek it out, and encourage your team members to do so as well.

Many spa professionals stop themselves before they get anywhere near the edge. As much as some women complain about the famous glass ceiling, many of them are secretly comforted by knowing that it’s there. Keeping that barrier in place provides an excuse for not being pushy, for not pushing yourself, for not going too far.

A pushy woman is, by definition, a pariah in American society. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a classic example. She’s direct, to the point, sometimes a bit blunt and not frilly or giggly—and for this she has often been derided by the American press. Men who behave the way Clinton does are called straight-shooters; instead, she is critiqued not only for her manner, but also for her hairstyle and the cut of her pantsuits.

This kind of thinking persists within the spa industry. For many women in the world, luxury might be defined as having enough safe, clean water to last more than 24 hours. They are used to pushing—pushing back. Doing so every day is the only way they have survived. In many places, women literally must scrape for scraps. These women have much to teach about courage and perseverance, and their fierceness is what spa professionals need, in far more privileged terms, in order to create their own success. Take and own your power, even if this bold ownership of yourself and your destiny upsets some people.

Stay hungry, and be willing to sacrifice something—maybe a lot—in order to get what you want. The first thing to sacrifice: the dangerous cultural fallacy of balance; the fantasy that it is possible to stay comfortable and perfectly calibrated and ever get anything done. Your work and your ongoing education may have to trump all other demands.

When you walk the edge, you will occasionally slip. It is inevitable. What I’ve learned from more than 25 years of building and running a business is that the process of falling and landing is when you begin to understand your power. When everything’s smooth and easy, you have no idea what you can do if you have to.

If you are serious about making tracks, just be sure that whatever you’ve got on your feet makes you feel powerful and ready to step over the line like it’s not even there.

Jane Wurwand is the founder and owner of Dermalogica, Dermalogica Skin Treatment Centers worldwide and The International Dermal Institute, and is a Luminary Circle member of the Step Up Women’s Network. She serves on the boards of the Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at The Anderson School of Business Management at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and Skincare for Kids in Need.

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