Katerina Schneider, founder of Ritual. Photo illustration by Lincoln Agnew.
Over the past year, Katerina Schneider's vitamin company, Ritual, doubled its revenue. But with that success came stress and hard lessons--which is how Schneider learned that her outward display of perfection was limiting her ability to lead. --As told to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin
As a founder, I didn't want people to see my vulnerabilities or to think I wasn't perfect. Having come up in the finance and music industries, I thought I had to have a tough exterior--to put on a mask as a fearless leader, mom, and partner--something many women feel. But that mindset kept me from developing deep personal relationships.
The pandemic has made it impossible to separate the realities of life from business. At times over the past year, I would be nursing a baby while leading a call of 20 people. I'd just had my third child, and I had postpartum depression. My whole family got Covid-19. Our nanny quit. It sucked. But the business was growing so fast, I couldn't take a break. Then one day on a leadership call, we started talking about our personal lives, and I started crying.
At first, I was horrified. But it turned out, that moment of vulnerability was a huge relief for people--that they could also feel different things and express them, and acknowledge that we are all going through something crazy together. I started to understand people on a deeper level--and I think it's made our business stronger. Having open, real conversations has already proved to us to be a preemptive safety net against burnout--which is a reality in the workplace and not just at this time. We are spotting it early and creating super-flexible work schedules. Now, our productivity has never been higher--and I've never felt happier. I'm not embracing the burnout, but instead am figuring out a way to navigate it.