Thursday, July 28, 2011

Team Problem-Solving

Every now and then a salon gets in a funk. Growth slows down or business may even contract. More idle time creates more drama in the break room (you know what they say about idle hands...). It's tempting to bark out instructions to everyone on what they need to do differently to turn things around, but it's rarely successful when it's just an order from the top. I recommend addressing the issue in a staff meeting and asking the team how to fix it.

I can hear the rebuttals now..."I've tried that before and it didn't work..." I've heard this from many owners before and want to offer a process that may work better for you.

Owner complaint - They came up with a bunch of ideas that I know won't work or they cost too much money to implement.

Solution - OK, this happens a lot. You put together a group of your best stylists and ask them "What do we need to do to make our salon better?" Invariably they will throw out suggestions like "advertise more, remodel, pass out coupons, etc." Meanwhile as an owner, you're reluctant to keep tossing money at the problem. Your team means well, but they don't have a solid enough grasp of the business side of things to be helpful. You're going to have to lead them a little more to get the good ideas flowing. And remember, even if you know what needs to be done, it's better if you can lead them to the idea because then they will own it and make it happen. Try starting with an exercise. Ask them "Describe to me the ideal guest experience. The experience that will make them want to come back and tell all their friends." Write down all their answers. Working from their list you will have a road map for great client service. For example you may end up with a list that includes:
-Phone is answered promptly and cheerfully
-Receptionist is competent and friendly when booking
-Client receives a confirmation call the day before visit
-Client is greeted promptly upon entering salon and is offered a beverage
-Technician greets client by name and leads them to chair
and so on...

How many of these things do we do ALL THE TIME, WITH EVERY SINGLE GUEST? Identify where you may be failing your clients. Ask them which of these things can we start doing better immediately? Get a commitment. Have someone make a poster with the Ideal Guest Experience outlined. Put it in the breakroom for everyone to see. Talk about it daily in huddle.

This procedure works for a variety of issues. Recently in one of our salons we were going through a period of negativity...people nitpicking at each other, talking behind backs, etc. It was affecting morale and had to stop. Our manager brought up at huddle once or twice that we needed to quit being gossipy but the problem continued. We used a variation of the exercise above to get the group back on track.

At our staff meeting we gave each person 3 brightly colored post-it notes and a marker. We asked them to list the top three things that they want out of their work environment. What are the 3 most important things to you? When they were done we asked someone to share their notes and put them on a poster board. Respect, Fun, Busy. We made a separate column for each idea and had anyone with similar post-its to add theirs below the first ones. We kept adding post-it's until they were all on the poster board. There were a few dominant themes like fun, friendship, respect, teamwork. Only one person mentioned money as a top 3 item.

With all the answers in front of them, lined up by theme, we asked them what actions or inactions could prevent us from having the environment they just described. This got the discussion flowing. Our bitchy, gossipy ways were keeping us from having the work environment we want. How will we get it back? We talked about how it's everyone's responsibility to create the environment we want. It's not enough to not gossip - you also need to not tolerate gossip from others. We talked about dispute resolution rather than airing out grievances in the breakroom. The meeting was a breath of fresh air and our environment is no longer negative and toxic.

The key to getting your team to solve their own problems is to creatively lead them to their own answer. Think about the outcome you want (busier salon, less negativity, etc.) and work backwards from there to craft the exercise that will lead your team to solve the problem. You'll be surprised at their creativity and how much knowledge comes from a group versus one individual.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, I admire the writing style :) A little off topic here but what theme are you using? Looks pretty cool.