Crisis is an accelerator. We’ve seen so many massive accelerations to existing trends this year — things like digital commerce and virtual meetings. Leveraging these lets us leap forward in directions we know are better but that that we may otherwise be slow to adopt.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cherylanne Skolnicki.
The founder and CEO of Brilliant Balance, Cherylanne is an authority on well being, work-life balance, and human potential. As expert guides for working moms, Brilliant Balance equips women to get the most out of work and life through content, coaching, and a tightly knit community. Cherylanne hosts the top-rated Brilliant Balance podcast and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband John and their three children.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I spent the first 15 years of my career in marketing at a top consumer products company. I changed course at the end of 2009 to start the business that would eventually become Brilliant Balance. In short, I felt a really strong calling to do work that had more meaning! I was a working mom, and so were most of my friends and colleagues, so I had a first hand look at the issues we were all up against. I decided to just start solving the biggest problems for that audience and see where it led.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
My favorite thing that has happened in my company is the decision to host live events! In 2019, we hosted our first two Brilliant Balance Live events and it was the MOST fun I’ve ever had professionally. I can’t wait to get back to hosting events post-pandemic.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Always! The two big things underway are 1) a long awaited book and 2) the development of a membership program to better serve our community. We know that women live complex lives, and helping them own the intersection of their various roles is a mission we take seriously.
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 about that?
SO MANY people have helped me, but the one I have to mention is my mother. Not only did she help me recognize my gifts early on and encourage me to use them, but she also served as the nanny for my three children for the last 16 years — providing support that allowed me the freedom to use my gifts and pursue my dreams. There is absolutely no way I’d be where I am without her.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
The pandemic threw my two teams onto a collision course — my “work team” infiltrated our home life via near-constant Zoom meetings while my “home team” regularly made unplanned guest appearances on my work calls and broadcasts. Reshaping the way BOTH of those teams operated so that I didn’t get crushed in the middle was the core challenge of the pandemic.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Addressing these challenges required my husband, three children, and I to sit down and redistribute the work of our home team so that none of us had too much of the burden. My husband and I divided the day into shifts to accommodate virtual school until the kids were back in class in person. The kids also were great about helping each other make breakfast and lunch so that they could do that independently. My work team and I established core working hours so that we could flex to the needs of our families outside of those.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
The biggest work challenges of the pandemic have been around recognizing my team’s varied home situations in a way that also protects the efficiency and output of the business. We have a dynamic cross section of situations represented on our team — from a single mom of two, to married moms of up to three school age children, to a single empty nester and a soon-to-be-newlywed! Staying in touch with the emotional and practical needs of each person has been really important, because if you don’t have that taken care of, the work will never get done.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The key has been robust and courageous communication. Asking early and often about their situations at home gave us all a heightened level of empathy. Practically speaking, tools like Slack and Monday.com are enabling asynchronous communication and a daily all hands meeting is helping us feel connected even without office time. I also love our Slack “watercooler” channel where the best funny posts, photos, and gifs seem to get shared!
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I think it’s important to know how you like to work. Harvard Business Review introduced the language of “integrators” and “segregators” and it turns out we all fall pretty naturally into one camp or the other. I’m a hard core segregator so I prefer to work in a room with the door closed and limited distractions vs. at the dining room table in the middle of the hustle and bustle of our household. Knowing that means that I establish working hours when I can focus on my business and parenting hours when I’m fully available to the kids. Someone who is more of an integrator may do better in a more blended environment, rapidly switching between the needs of their children and their work team.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Honestly, it’s nearly impossible to stay serene with 5 people, a dog and two cats under one roof. It’s definitely lively around here. But with that said, my saving grace has been the knowledge that this chapter, no matter how long it lasts, will be a very short aberration in the grand scheme of our lives, and we’re making memories that we’ll talk about forever.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
My 5 Reasons to be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis:
- This is temporary. Pandemics don’t last forever. They just don’t. So no matter how bad things get, this chapter will close and a new one will begin.
- We’re doing it! Whatever “it” is, we’re already proving to ourselves that we can do it! Now we just have to KEEP doing it until we get to the other side of this.
- Crisis is an accelerator. We’ve seen so many massive accelerations to existing trends this year — things like digital commerce and virtual meetings. Leveraging these lets us leap forward in directions we know are better but that that we may otherwise be slow to adopt.
- We’ve learned new levels of resilience. This chapter in our collective history has shown us JUST how resilient we are as individuals, as societies, and as a species. We’ll never lose this awareness, so think of the courage it can unleash!
- Light always follows darkness. Always. Whether I’m comforting a child who’s afraid of the dark or a friend going through a crisis, this phrase gives me so much reason to remain hopeful and I hope it inspires you, too.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I know for sure that I initially underestimated the level of mental health crisis this pandemic has created. While I’d recommend all the basic things like limiting access to the news, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, making time to be outdoors, and talking about how we’re feeling, it’s also been important to connect family and clients with mental health professionals who can help assess the level of help they need to get back to center. The average person waits five years before seeking professional help; my advice would be to seek that help MUCH sooner.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is “Be where you are.” This is the mantra I repeat to help me stay fully present no matter how complicated my day gets, and as a working mother with a growing business, it often gets really complicated! When I drop in to each important moment, not letting myself feel guilty or distracted, my life feels so much more fulfilling.
How can our readers follow you online?
On Instagram, I’m @cskolnicki. On Facebook, it’s CherylanneSkolnickiOfficial. Our website is https://brilliant-balance.com and you can access the Brilliant Balance podcast through any streaming service.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!