August 2012

Shannon Wells

Better Business | by Neil Ducoff


Sweeping Annoying Blips Off Your Radar

Leaders have this innate ability to see all the little things that are wrong in their salons. Call it a blessing or a curse; leaders see what many employees do not.

From employees taking shortcuts and not following the system or rules, to lackluster customer service, dress code issues, bad attitudes, and poor follow through, it all shows up like blips on your leadership radar. It's all the little stuff that drives you crazy. And just when you think you've fixed one issue, another one pops up in its place. What's that all about?

Your job is to be working on the big stuff that drives growth, performance and profits, so when your leadership radar screen gets overrun with little-stuff blips, you do what many frustrated leaders do -- you hold a meeting.

You prepare for the meeting by writing bullet after bullet of little stuff that needs to stop and go away. Just writing them down seems to relieve the frustration because for some strange and mystical reason, you believe that firing off each bullet in the meeting will kill off the unacceptable behaviors and performance. Guess that's why they call them bullets.

So here's the big enlightenment: you, fearless leader, create or enable most of the blips on your leadership radar that drive you crazy. Here are ways you do it along with strategies to sweep all those annoying blips off your leadership radar:

1. Bullet meetings don't work. Firing off bullet after bullet of "things" your team must stop or start doing is an exercise in futility. You felt good building the list, but as you fire each one off at your employees, you see and feel the funk building in the room. You see them putting up their shields, mentally checking up and praying the "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre" will end soon. When the last bullet is finally fired, everyone is demoralized. "Way to go, fearless leader."

THE CURE: Every bullet represents a missing or poorly designed system. Every bullet represents a breakdown at some level in leadership accountability. Peel back the layers and address the cause because every bullet on your list is a symptom of a problem. Find and fix the problem.

2. What's the vision? Salon cultures get contaminated with negative behavior and indifference (I don't care thinking) when the vision of the salon becomes blurred or lost. All that funky stuff and blips on your leadership radar that drive you crazy is actually your salon trying to grab your attention and get you to engage. Your salon is in pain when your culture is contaminated. That pain shows up in poor performance, sluggish sales, rising costs and cash-flow challenges.

THE CURE: Rather than holding a "bullet meeting" that beats your team down even more, hold a "vision meeting" to speak humbly, openly and honestly about where the salon is at and where it's going. Empowering visions give teams something to fight for. Empowering visions turn average teams into champions because they believe the destination is worthy of their best efforts. Take the bullets out of your machine gun and lock it away.

3. Clarify what needs to get done. Now that you've got the vision out there for all to see and feel, it's time to detail and clarify what needs to be done to achieve the vision. What systems need rebuilding or reintroducing? What policies need to be revisited? How will information flow freely to every nook and cranny of the salon?

THE CURE: I just led an all-staff meeting at a magnificent upscale spa. Prior to the meeting, the leader handed me her two and half pages of bullets to pepper her team with. I put the list down and asked the leader to trust me to lead the meeting. I started with an update on the progress the salon has made in the seven months we've been working together. I also openly discussed the challenges and setbacks. I talked about the salon's potential, where it's going and how everyone can and will win. The team opened up. They shared their pride and frustrations. We did address a few bullets and resolved them quickly. The meeting ended with everyone feeling empowered and proud -- and ready to fight for that next level. It was awesome.

4. Employees want to be heard. Information flow must flow both ways. When it only flows from management (I chose not to say, "leadership."), those on the receiving end eventually feel pummeled, beaten, unappreciated, disrespected and taken advantage of. You can't the best of people when resentment replaces salon pride and teamwork.

THE CURE: People want and need to have their voices and concerns heard; I mean really heard through intense listening without distractions. I mean being present, engaged and making eye contact. No mobile phones or peeking at the latest text message that just buzzed you. Take notes. After listening, use clarifying statements like, "So I want to really understand you, your concerned about ____________ and how that is creating challenges in delivering extraordinary customer experiences. Am I correct?"

Intense listening and allowing your employees to be heard is a powerful leadership tool. Just be sure to deliver what you promise.

Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies, a business training and coaching company specializing in the salon and spa industry. His is author of Fast Forward, No-Compromise Leadership and Wake Up! For signed copies, go to You can email Neil at