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Leadership Lessons I Learned As An Accomplished Female C-Suite Executive

Mitra Silva, CEO & Founder of SIMOUR DESIGN talks healing spaces, leadership and more!

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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Hello! Thank you for having me. 

I began my journey as a pre-med. When I looked into myself and realized I couldn’t see myself doing this, I turned to my other passion of design. Now, I combined these two passions of mine into the company we now know as Simour Design, intentional interior design for healing spaces.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The moment we put the intention that we want to go national, it just happened. That was the most interesting yet profound experience that showed the power of intention. 

The vision of my company is to design healing spaces around the world. I knew I wanted to do it one step at a time from local Beverly Hills to all of  California to national and then international. When my dream became a clear vision, I distinctly remember telling my team in one of our weekly meetings, “now we’re ready. Now we’re capable of serving clients all over the U.S.” We were talking about it and planning it and that same day, we got calls from future clients who found us on Google. In a matter of a single month, we had projects in four different states, in Washington DC, New York, Chicago. I believe the power of deeply wanting something and putting the intention behind it. Life is a mirror of who we are. Putting in the intention is saying “I’m ready to see what I’m capable of.” 

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was first starting out, I searched for my own projects. I started the fresh out of school, a solo start point with no team. I marketed my services online and got my first project: a dental office. A dental office manager found and hired me, and I was so excited to start my work. When picking out the paint colors, I chose white because I knew I wanted to open up the space, brighten it up and bring in light. The existing paint was green so I wanted to go white and simple. I selected a white that was bright but didn’t pay attention to the fact that it had a hint of pink. Turns out, whenever you select the paint, you always have to look at the bottom of the paint fan deck, or the darkest color; that highest saturation of paint will dictate the rest of the top layers. They believed in my expertise so the dental office manager bought many many gallons for the 2,000 square foot space. They were so shocked once that paint got up. I never heard from them again. I learned 3 important lessons:

 1) Know how to select paint 

2) If you are not confident, do research; the power of doing research is important

3) “Crystal Clear White” is in fact paisley. 

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?

The position of CEO is where I feel the most alive, even if it’s very challenging. I’ve always known deep down that this is where I belong; it simply feels right. I enjoy solving problems ,taking the lead, and being the very best version of myself so I can serve from a place of growth and confidence.

Most of our readers—in fact, most people—think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

A CEO is different from any other leadership position because being in the seat of CEO, it’s assumed that you know and understand all the mechanics and emotions of your own business. I’ve learned how to dance between the mechanics and the emotion of my business by zooming into all the different levels and layers of business as well as zooming out to see the big picture. This is a vital skill I am constantly developing. Focus on creating an experience for your clients. Then shape the perfect team and execute — that’s why I’m an executive, because I execute what is promised.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

This is my passion. Leading a high-performing team who shares that same love, vision, and mission for design and healing is so inspiring, and allows for my passion to grow even stronger as I share it with the world.

What are the downsides of being an executive? 

 I wouldn’t call this a downside, but there is a constant sense of growth and change in the world of design and business. In a field that is booming and revolutionizing healthcare, we are constantly adapting to thrive for excellence and become better every day. An executive must be responsible and have the ability to execute. That’s why it’s called an executive. No matter how hard it gets and how quickly things change, you must deliver, and walk your talk from your vision and mission all the way through to the execution.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean? 

There is a myth that a CEO can’t be vulnerable. Never being vulnerable is a fallacy because you’re constantly growing and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Constant growth means constantly facing your blind spot and getting better and better, such as navigating through your emotions. As an entrepreneur, the founder, executive and CEO, that is part of the whole process of growth and success. I embrace this challenge and encourage my team to do the same.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

For a while, it seemed like I had water and oil in one bottle — do I use my feminine energy to be fluid or really focus on data and numbers? After a while, I realized it’s not either/or; both were necessary to become a strong business woman. It’s a skill set that we all already have; it’s only a matter of developing it. By learning a lot about business, reading, training, having the right coach and right mentor, I developed that skill of harmonizing. Once you have that acceptance of yourself, then the world accepts it too. There’s some fractional challenge that comes after but the first most important challenge is internally finding the harmony within yourself. 

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be? 

At the beginning of running my own company, I believed I’d only have to focus on creativity and i could hire other people to figure out the rest. Turns out it’s a  lot of hard work, long hours, and new challenges everyday. Although my team is exceptional and my career choice is incredibly fulfilling,  I’ve learned all the expected elements you can imagine that come along with running a successful business. A successful business is like an engine; you have to familiarise with all the pieces so that it runs smoothly.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion,  which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

That is a great question, I’m so glad you asked. First, I believe that the most important trait is emotional intelligence. Learn to channel your emotions in the right direction and you are already on your way to being a successful  executive. Keep in mind that emotional intelligence comes from life experience.  I’ve fallen down and gotten up so many many times and continue to learn. That emotional resilience will help you on your toughest days, get you standing back up again, and help you look at it from a different angle. 

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I offer this advice to all of my team members: work on yourself. Read. Exercise. Rest. Find quality food to feed your body, soul and mind everyday. Never settle for anything but the best and hold yourself accountable to the highest  of standards — your authentic self.

Performing  at such a high-level is a unique challenge so  you have to constantly take care of, not only yourself but also your environment. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and lift you up. Declutter your space, even if it’s just for 10-minutes. Set yourself up for success.

Lastly, do not get caught up in your current circumstances. I know it can be difficult  during times of  pain, growth, success, and expansion,  but try to remember to enjoy it and ask, what can I learn from this and what’s next?   

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?

There were many mentors, elements, and people who helped me get where I am and I’m grateful to all of them. If I want to mention one major person, it would be my grandma who passed away when I was 16. She planted a seed in my heart of entrepreneurship. She had her own business 80 years ago, drove her own car and cared for 5 kids. She never settled for anything but the best. Everytime I think about her and what I experienced in my childhood with her, it energizes me  and makes my fire for design and entrepreneurship more alive. She inspired me to become an interior designer through how she would live in her own home and interact with her surroundings. 

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I believe that one of the most important things I can do is mentor young  women.  It is my responsibility to inspire and encourage the next generation of women who possess a passion for entrepreneurship.  The women on my team are very important to me and my aspirations are to provide a safe and inspiring space for us all. I always open my heart and  set aside time to mentor. My mission, and the mission shared with my company, is to provide positive transformation for all.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be extremely comfortable in being absolutely uncomfortable

Being comfortable is not a familiar state to me. I used to think I had to be like other people. The moment I embraced this truth about myself, it brought me so much peace. This has caused immense growth and constant expansion of my comfort zone.

  1. The world is kinder than you think

There are plenty of preconceived ideas of how people may be.   As I walk  this journey, I see the world and am experiencing how much wonder exists within the people who live on this planet, regardless if you are in Beverly Hills or anywhere else  in the world. From the top billionaires who we came in touch with to the plastic surgeons, we all have this kindness that is irresistible. The world is such a kind place that, as we focus on media and news, it doesn’t justify what an amazing planet we live on. 

  1. We live in a world of abundance

There is so much opportunity in this world to grow and become better. On my  path to creating my company and to becoming  a leader, I never subscribed to  competition. Progress is the path I’ve always  chosen. Everything we ever imagined exists in this world for everyone, it’s only a matter of asking for it and believing you deserve it. 

  1. Healing through space is a major shift of perspective

Healing to me means becoming whole. If you look at your space as an extension of you, then you become very intentional about how to interact inside your space. This is the reflection of your inner world. There is a great need to create awareness around how we can be healed through our space and I am honored to help people achieve that perspective everyday.

  1. You are more capable than you could ever comprehend

When I was younger, when I would dream of doing  something or being  somewhere special, a little voice in my head would tell me, “that’s too difficult, or you can’t do that.” I would fill my head with doubt  and objections. I would do my best  to not let those doubts stand in my way and when I eventually achieved my goal,  I would think,  “Wow, I did it!  This wasn’t as hard as iI feared.” 

Sometimes we don’t truly see ourselves and all the possibilities we have inside us. 

I try to remind myself of this often. 

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 

I would love to perpetuate my passion for Intentional design. My hope is to awaken everyone to their surroundings.  The  space that we’re interacting with should be very intentional.  I believe that once this happens we will begin to see beauty everywhere.

Beauty means different things to different people but it is always something that is appreciated. What does that beauty mean to you?  From your bedroom to your office or car, your space should inspire, energize  and promote healing.

Can you please give us your favorite  “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

A poem from Rumi resonates with my heart and soul: 

“The way to heaven is within

Shake the wings of love

When love’s wings have become strong

There is no need to trouble about a ladder”

When I was first beginning, I was so concerned with making my way up and doing everything right, making sure that I focused on perfection rather than the progress. When I learned that the focus is not on the external ladder, but on my own self-healing and growth, then that took me and my company to greater heights than any level of perfectionism ever could. 

We are very blessed that some very prominent  names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 

Oprah Winfrey. Other people may admire her for many reasons. I admire her because she’s a symbol of human potential. Oprah to me means the highest level of potential as a woman, as a human, that you can evolve and overflow. Considering where she started and where she is right now, she allowed herself to overflow with so much abundance, love, creativity, and expansion; it’s absolutely admirable to me. They always say, when you admire someone and love to be like them, you already have that essence inside you. I would be excited and honored to meet with her. 

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. 

Thank you so much for having me. Looking forward to the amazing journey of abundance, kindness, and love that we are all on together.

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