From Stylist To Manager – How To Make That Leap

Leading people is vastly different from working as a therapist or being a team member.  If your mentality towards your role doesn’t change significantly, it is unlikely you will be able to lead your team.

You need to shift how you think and what you do in order to succeed in your new, very rewarding, but challenging role.

Think about great bosses you’ve had and make a list of reasons why they were so great.  Next think of bad bosses you’ve had and how they made you feel.  The reason this is so important is because we are influenced positively or negatively by how others make us feel, not how smart they are or how technically competent they are at their job.  Yet, technical competence is often the first thing salon owners assess when deciding to promote a team member.  

Research continually shows that the top two reasons people are promoted is because they have the longest service or were successful in a previous non-managerial role.  

While these are not bad reasons to promote an individual, it is important to remember that moving into a managerial role from a therapist role requires acquiring different skills and experience.  If salons don’t support their managers with leadership training and skill development necessary for the new role, a manager’s success will be limited.

Here are six steps you can take to transition to Salon Manager:

  1. Learn to delegate and focus on getting things done through other people, instead of doing everything yourself.  The primary measure of your performance is no longer about your column, it is about how well your team performs both as individuals and a group.  Carefully select and shape your team goals, so they align with the salon goals.  Plan and communicate the details at team meetings.  Consider how you will organise and delegate work.  How much guidance does each person need to achieve their targets?  Once the work is underway, what follow-on support is needed?  Great team leaders understand they cannot determine these things in isolation.  It takes productive conversations, meetings and real leadership skills to accomplish true success.

Every time you help a team member to overcome a challenge, meet a goal, take on something new, see themselves as more capable, or feel more engaged at work, you are making someone’s life better, not just getting work done.

  1. Connect with Senior Management, so that you can also help them to do their best.  Just about every decision you make at work impacts on your boss’s lives, and not just how they spend their working hours.  Salon managers have a huge influence on people’s livelihoods, professional growth, careers, and personal happiness.  Get to know your boss – what is important to each person and how you can best help them to thrive.  The more you help others succeed, the more you will succeed.  It’s a win-win.  Have regular one to one meetings with your boss.  This is dedicated time for building stronger relationships and discussing anything else the person requires from you or is needed to grow the salon.  You will have more meaningful, revealing conversations if you ask thoughtful questions and spend most of the time actively listening.
  2. Choose your words wisely, as your feedback influences others’ behaviour.  Well delivered feedback is one of the most powerful tools a salon manager can develop, because it helps to define and clarify your expectations, gives people insight into the impact of their actions, and provides clear direction on what they should be doing more or less.  It can also be hugely motivating, showing your team that you are paying attention, recognising their efforts and that you care about their progress.  To be sure you are giving adequate feedback fairly among your team, consider setting a weekly quota for the number of times you give feedback to each person.  
  3. Keep learning: There is no ‘perfect team leader’ but a leader that learns from their mistakes, makes adjustments and improves over time is the next best thing.  It is impossible to be great at everything you do, and the context of every situation matters.  An approach that worked with one person may not work with another.  Decide to learn from your mistakes, making adjustments and improving over time.  Identify some areas where you are weaker.  Get constructive feedback for yourself.  Learn how you are coming across to your team and what you could be doing better in specific aspects of your job.  It can be uncomfortable, but necessary to open yourself up to feedback.  
  4. Navigate a clear path forward for your team – you are supposed to be in charge.  Learn to lead through ambiguity and change, as sometimes salon priorities may be unclear.  If your team senses that you are struggling with your role, they will disengage very quickly.  It is your responsibility to communicate with your team about what you know and don’t know, and then lead them forward effectively.  Take a balanced approach to your communication, be clear with your team about what is going on, why and how it affects their work.  Always pay careful attention to how your team members respond and look for opportunities to unite and motivate the team, regardless of whether you see a potentially bright clear way forward.
  5. Manage your energy so you can work sustainably without burnout.  Your working day will be a variety of meetings, interruptions, mentally switching back and forth between big picture business plans and daily troubleshooting.  You will face salon problems and people issues, some days your to do list gets longer, no shorter, despite your best efforts.  Team leading is a marathon, not a sprint!   You need a clear, calm mind and a healthy body to be able to focus, manage your emotions and make good decisions.  To avoid burnout keep in mind that self care is one of your most important priorities.  Build a habit of regularly prioritising your most important work, so you keep your workload realistic and don’t waste precious energy.  Set work/life boundaries, work on managing your emotions, schedule regular exercise, review your diet and get enough sleep.

All of this takes a change in attitude.  The quicker you can make that switch, the more effective you will be as salon manager.

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