Salon & Spa Leadership: More than Written Words

August 14, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Salons and spas aren’t the only businesses that struggle to get employees to consistently follow procedures, rules, read important information and vital internal communication. All businesses struggle.

That’s why I cringe when I hear owners say, “I’m writing an employee handbook to get my business organized.” No matter how big or small your business, handbooks and operations manuals are an absolute must.

FACT: Handbooks, manuals, emails, text messages, group text apps, group project management apps, and other non-verbal tools are merely words that scratch the surface of true leadership.

Reality Check: To ensure that every member of your team understands the game plan, rules, procedures and expectations, nothing surpasses verbal communication.

  • Leadership brings words to life
  • Leadership makes it important
  • Leadership creates the sense of urgency to get it done
  • Leadership reinforces the culture
  • Leadership implements change and sees it through until it sticks

Perfect Example: Posting “invisible” Scoreboards

The purpose of daily scoreboards is to communicate progress and to focus the team’s energy on achieving that day’s goals.

If you think posting your scoreboard in the back room is communicating the day’s goals and creating team urgency and focus, think again. A few employees will look at it … most will not.

Without the benefit of a daily huddle and verbal leadership communication, posting a scoreboard for team members to check on their own is essentially “invisible.”

  • Leadership brings a scoreboard to life
  • Leadership creates the energy and urgency to achieve and surpass goal

Here are my five No-Compromise Leadership strategies to bring words on paper to life:

  1. Rethink how you lead: You are the leader of a labor-intensive service business. The ability to execute consistently extraordinary service experiences is the single most important “outcome” you strive for every day. The “drivers” to achieve that outcome are the “systems” you design and “thinking and behaviors” that you instill in your team and your culture. If you’re a full-time service provider in your company, you have little time to work on the drivers. If you’re more a full-time leader, but channeling little of your time on the drivers, that important outcome you seek will continue to elude you. Now is the time to rethink your approach to leadership.
  2. Written words are for reference: All those manuals, handbooks and written procedures you’ve amassed over the years are nothing more than “binders on the shelf,” or an impressive list of Google docs. As time passes, rules and procedures get fuzzy and degrade, or become obsolete. And just because an employee or new hire signed the “I read and understand all this stuff” paper, it’s a safe bet they didn’t read the bulk of it and understand even less. To achieve the outcome you seek, reference materials must be repeatedly reference and updated to keep pace with trends and laws. When was the last time you verbally reviewed a key operational element in one of your manuals or handbooks with your team? If it’s been longer than three months, your extraordinary service experience outcome is internally compromised.
  3. Say it until it sticks … and then some: Written words do not automatically morph into world-class technical and customer service. Proof of this can be found in the most often asked question in the history of leadership: “How many times do you have to tell them?” No matter how many times you try, the shotgun approach to leadership cannot and will not work. You can’t just “hold a meeting” or write a new rule or policy. Achieving excellence in the execution of any discipline is the relentless commitment to repetition. It’s hard work but it’s the work of leadership. It’s okay to sound like a broken record if the outcome is to achieve the extraordinary.
  4. Accountability and “speeding tickets”: There are speed limit signs and police with radar, so why do so many drivers still break the law and get speeding tickets? It’s no different in your company with that fine collection of manuals, handbooks and thoroughly documented systems. If you devoted an entire day to observing and auditing how many infractions, deviations, misinterpretations and outright “I don’t cares” are happening in your company, you’ll understand how much higher you need to raise the accountability bar. Your salon/spa’s ability to deliver consistent extraordinary service experiences is in direct proportion to the level of accountability that supports it. Got it?
  5. Everyday is a “No-Compromise Day”: The Ritz Carlton has to be “THE Ritz Carlton” every minute of every day. Anything less is a massive compromise to its brand and its customers. Excellence is both a choice and a discipline. The bar is set high on purpose. It’s meant to be tough and rigorous to maintain, and consistently maintained at all cost. That’s why Disney is Disney, Tesla is Tesla and Apple is Apple. The excellence bar doesn’t hang from a bungee cord that bounces up and down. It’s anchored solidly on the highest rung possible, so everyone can see it. If you’re ready to lead your company to extraordinary places … YOU have to go beyond the words and make every day a No-Compromise day.

Here’s my challenge to you: Stop trying to achieve excellence by accumulating words in manuals and handbooks. Only you — the leader of your salon/spa — can bring those words meaning and life through your voice and deeds.

Implementing and living these five strategies is a bold undertaking that will test your leadership abilities to the max. Do not be intimidated or fear them. It’s what creating a world-class salon/spa is all about. It’s what No-Compromise Leadership is about. Do it.

Categories: Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up

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  1. You make a very good point with the handbook. If you just toss it at a new employee very little is read and most is not understood. We solved that by reading the handbook to new hires and making sure questions are answered.


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