Thursday, August 29, 2013

Do We Need Assistant Managers on Every Shift?

We schedule one-on-ones with our team members regularly. Our usual process is they meet with their immediate supervisor most of the time, but each quarter they will have one with me, the owner. We have an open door policy, so theoretically anyone can come to us any time with an issue, but the formality of a one on one allows us to reach out and specifically ask if they have any concerns. It's also an opportunity for us to communicate any performance issues we may have with them and to talk about what's going well.
On our last round of one on ones, as I was speaking to people, there was a theme. At one of our locations, they all seemed to think something was missing in our management structure. Of course no manager can work all the time, so there are entire shifts where she is not there. The common complaint was that when she is away, about half the people slack off. (Interestingly, everyone agreed that half the people slack off, but no one admitted to being in that half). Meanwhile, the manager was going through a rough time - feeling very frustrated with her position and considering giving up the manager role. Something had to be done!
The team seemed to think that we need an assistant manager or shift leader of some sort so there is always a "manager on duty". I have always been opposed to this, as adding a layer like this seems to me that you are creating a position of "tattletale" and no good would come of it. Plus, I have empowered each of our employees to take care of issues as they arrive as they see fit. If we disagree with how something was handled we'll talk about it later, but they have the power and authority to "make things right." Of course that works more with customer service issues as opposed to teammates not pulling their weight. But we agreed to consider having "someone" in charge at all times.
I won't just throw someone into an ill-defined role, so we asked for interested parties to attend some leadership classes before we decide on who will lead what shift, and what the specific role of the shift lead will be. We had 3 volunteers (actually 2 volunteers and 1 we asked to attend because of her potential). I ordered each of them the book "The Speed of Trust" and we are using that to lead some of our discussions.
In our first meeting we talked about what the Shift Lead should and shouldn't be responsible for. We used the Manager's job description as a guide since, presumably, they would be taking on some of those roles in her absence. The consensus of the group was that they don't want to be responsible for discipline or having talks with people who aren't doing what they should. They really do see this as a tattletale role. One of them said she felt like the mere presence of an authority figure would keep people in line. Maybe she's right. But I still hesitate to create a tattletale role. I pointed out to them that others will look at them differently. How will they feel when conversation stops when they walk in the break room? Do they understand that their every move with be examined under a microscope? If they "report" to the manager someone's failure to take clients to chair promptly, will the rebuttal be that the shift lead was 3 minutes late to work so who is she to talk? I agree with them that we have a problem if people aren't doing what they should in the absence of a manger, but I disagree with this approach.
The more I think about it, I see two separate issues that we need to deal with, and neither of them will be solved with a shift lead. First, the team wants a go-to person because they feel uninformed. They want someone there who can answer all their questions, all the time. 99% of the time, the question is something that has been answered (repeatedly) already. So we need a resource people can go to as needed to get information. We decided on a Team section of our website. It's not visible to the public because it doesn't appear in the navigation bar, and it's password protected so only the team can access the information. So far I've put general news/current event/current promotion type things on the front page, plus I've added two other pages, one with important dates (meetings, Christmas party) and one with Team FAQ to answer some of the questions we get a lot. We will keep this updated so instead of information just being deseminated at huddle then posted on the wall for a while then tossed, they have a permanent location for information.
The second issue is trickier. We have let our culture deteriorate to the point that we have slackers. We need to work on our culture so everyone on the team feels an obligation to the team and the clients to perform at all times. We need to work on accountability and respect. I don't have an easy answer for that one, but it will be the primary focus of our salon-wide training coming up in 2 weeks. We have a coach from Live, Love, Be coming in from CT to spend two days with us and we'll see if we can unleash a little more passion for what we do. Then we need to continue working the culture so we don't let it deteriorate again.
I haven't told the team yet, but the managers and I have decided not to add the Shift Lead positions. Instead we want to harness the energy of those potential leaders to help us shift our culture to one of accountability. I don't want to keep people in line by having a company tattletale looking over their shoulder. That's not the environment I want for our salon and I think it would damage our culture even more. But it will take the efforts of many to make the change. I'll keep you posted!


  1. Cindy, I would love to email you about a situation I am in. I found your blog this morning and have been reading and learning so much. How can i contact you? I would love if you can mentor me through a problem I am having regarding TBP. Looking forward to hearing from you and thank you so much for taking the time to run your blog. It is greatly appreciated by your readers.

  2. I've added a contact form on the right so you can reach me outside of the blog. I hope I can be helpful.

  3. Such quality content! I find this article very informative. I am waiting for your next post. Keep it up.