Ken Picton heads up Wales’ leading destination salon and has amassed a huge haul of awards over the years, including three times Wales and South West Hairdresser of the Year and a host of business accolades. In the final part of his series on his failproof tips for managing a team, Ken looks at when and how to give instructions.
Have you ever heard the saying ‘everyone rises to their level of incompetence’? Think about it! It’s very easy to fall into this saying when you’re a salon owner, manager or even a stylist or assistant. Why? Very often we have had no formal education or guidance on managing people or situations other than what we have experienced in the past. This could be from a previous employer or a situation you’ve witnessed. Most salon owners or managers say they want to do it differently from what they’ve experienced before but quite often end up managing the same way in the end because that’s all they know.
My last two columns have stressed the importance of feedback and regular team meetings - why?
Because it’s about communicating with your team on attitude or performance. Successful managers learn how to speak to their team on an individual basis; they change their hats continually, learn what it is that makes their team tick and are not afraid of change.
There is no point in being firm and direct with someone who responds better with the arm around their shoulder approach and vice versa. We as managers have to continually assess how we are performing and communicating and indeed what we are communicating.
We have a huge shortage of youngsters coming into this industry at apprentice age (16-17) yet we continually tell them how lucky they are to be earning minimum wage and they don't know they were born!
Who has heard recently someone saying in their salon “when I was a junior I used to have to get on my hands and knees and clean the skirting boards with a toothbrush” – really? That would make most assistants think twice about the industry they’re getting in to and what they’ve signed up for. With young assistants today, we have to speak differently if we want to keep them and grow them into successful employees and stylists. They have been used to being told what to do by their teachers and parents and quite often resent it. With my assistants I use the words “could you do me a favour?” or “would you mind doing this for me?” I find I get a much better response than when I just blurt out an order (which is what is sounds like to them).
The art of how and when to speak to individuals is vital and takes time and experience. Just say to yourself beforehand: “How would I like to be spoken to about this?” Not many people respond well to being shouted at, ridiculed or made to feel inadequate. That does not mean you don't challenge poor performance or attitude, it’s just how you do it. It’s very easy to get frustrated or annoyed, especially if the behaviour is being repeated; what is important is your team member leaves the conversation thinking about how they change (it’s only them that can change) and feeling supported.
It’s also the same with motivation, especially with your most creative people. Your team needs to believe that they can achieve their goals so you have to be clear with them on what you need from them to get there. These are the ‘dangle the carrot’ type of people that need to know their creativity will be realised. It’s not all about making money, these are the people who look to the future and that’s how you speak to them with phrases like “if you do this, you will achieve it in the end”.
Managers need to know their own strengths and weaknesses as an individual. So the moral of the story is that the one hat fits all approach doesn’t work in team leadership. The more hats you wear, the more choices you make. You’ll always make mistakes, everyone is different and reacts differently, which is why managing a team is so tricky! But to avoid confusion, be clear with your approach and don’t deviate – this is how you’ll nurture your team.