At my store, we employ a sink-or-swim approach to hiring.
When someone expresses interest in joining our team, we don't ask a bunch of questions. We say hello, and then throw them directly into the salon, to talk to the team itself. What we're looking for is one thing, and one thing only - CONNECTABILITY.
The art of hairdressing can be taught, and we know from experience you don't have to be a hair genius to make a living in the salon. You can also go bust as a hair genius if you don't know how to connect to people. We're looking for those who want to raise the company to new levels by becoming top hairstylists. So we don't interview...we immerse.
Someone must demonstrate several of the following attributes in the initial and follow-up (active) interviews. These are all *skills* (not in-born traits) and we help new talent perfect them in Rock Star Communications classes in the company's core curriculum.
We all need a nudge from time to time.
I loved the TED Radio Hour that aired on June 24, all about the gentle prods that change our behavior. Big changes really do start small, and by understanding what's right about someone's thinking - even when their intuitive framework is wrong and does not line up with reality - we can discover the best way to persuade them to change their habits.
This approach places the responsibility for changing someone's behavior on the person who wants it to change, NOT the individual whose current behavior is a problem. This is important, and usually difficult. Whether trying to change yourself or others, pausing in your judgment and considering what feels right about the intuitive framework in error is much more conducive to problem solving than blame. We often think those whose behavior consistently produces undesirable results are idiots. This is lazy and uncreative and won't lead to persuasion of any kind. There must be some reason they adopted their current framework in the first place. It's our responsibility as agents of change to find out what that reason is and address it, so the behavior we want to see can start to feel just as right.
If I want to convince a client that the cut or color she wants either is not possible with her hair type or will not flatter her, there are many ways I can go about the conversation. It's tempting just to issue my professional opinion. This my-way-or-the-highway approach is only effective with pushovers, and it necessarily takes ownership away from the person whose very image I am designing, rendering my work useless if my goal is to help her true self shine through. Unfortunately, fearing this, too many talented stylists do the opposite and just execute what the client wants, shrinking away from offending anyone with the truth.
When people bring me outlandish photos, I have one big question. What is it that you like about this photo? We also look at photos of what they hate. If I can't find a way to address what they like in their photos, my clients will not take my hand and let me lead them into better hair. They pay me the big bucks to show them more is possible than they could have envisioned on their own, but the hair at stake is the only accessory they wear every day and if it expresses just me and not them, it's like I've given them a mask to wear instead of a window into who they really are.
With stylist behavior and building their businesses, it's the same way. I could just keep issuing information - do this, do that - and get frustrated when my students don't do the things that will thrill clients enough to grow their books. I wouldn't have made it very far as a coach with that attitude, though. If I want to bring out the best in someone, I have to constantly take little steps back and check my judgement. Persuasion, like love, starts with understanding.
One of the primary pieces of advice my grandmother imparted on me...was that one should always leave the house looking the best they can. I realize this might sound a little old-fashioned and possibly even oppressive — I Exist As More Than A Decorative Object, thankyouverymuch — but I took it to heart nonetheless because I know she didn’t mean high heels and rollers, but mostly that looking more with it than you might actually feel sometimes can trick you too.
Dressing (by which I mean putting oneself together, including hair, makeup and clothing) doesn't only influence how you feel about yourself and your situation, as my favorite food blogger points out. Dressing is also one of the most important means at your disposal to influence how others approach you. Nonverbal communication, in general, is understood to be far, far more potent than the words we use. Most people have no problem discussing posture or handshakes as important skills to develop, while many seem uncomfortable tackling the issue of how someone's get-up can affect their interpersonal relationships. Both personally and professionally, it seems shallow to focus on the effect of our outward appearance. Yet that appearance plays a huge role in likability, especially for women, and at the same time there is very little guidance and attention given to helping us make optimal dressing choices (optimal in that they earn you the precise reaction you want!)
Hair stylists have an important role in this area. A lot of women don't have personal shoppers and many spend very little time and attention designing their wardrobes. Every woman, however, gets her hair cut. My business partner describes our staff dress code as simply, "look like you have an opinion," because the most important thing to us is that every stylist in our store is conscious of the statements he or she is making. We dress ourselves to inspire other women to express their true selves more clearly. I literally do dorky things like making mood boards to plan my wardrobe. Collaging with Pinterest boards is a must before I start shopping each season.
There is always, of course, the woman who says, "that's great for you to care about fashion and putting yourself together, but I have other priorities." Name me a priority that couldn't be advanced faster if you looked sharp and got your message across more quickly! Dressing is really a sign of respect and a signal of authority, and it can help put others at ease by conveying that you not only know what you're doing, but you know who you are.
Dressing doesn't have to be about every latest trend and it doesn't have to cost a fortune. I am fairly no-nonsense and classic. I don't like fussy clothing just like I don't like fussy anything else. I only wear trends that flatter my shape and show off my favorite features.
Recently, I moved into a new apartment and downsized from a roomy walk-in to a small hall closet. Partly to save space and partly to save money (unfortunately, my favorite stress relievers are baking tarts and shopping), I downloaded the Stylebook app and used it to organize my wardrobe. Seeing all of my items laid out in photos helped me realize where I had redundancies and holes. I sold or gave away everything I didn't actively look forward to wearing. I basically applied the KonMari decluttering method to my closet. The result is nowhere near a capsule wardrobe of 40 items, but it has reigned me in tremendously. I now only buy new items when I'm willing to give up something old, or when it will massively expand my styling combinations. I have fewer decisions to make each morning, and look more like my true self more of the time.
Another thing that helped me pinpoint my style was when a friend found the perfect celebrity inspiration for me a few years ago - actress Jean Seberg. I prefer to seek inspiration from historic icons, instead of copying what the Kardashians are doing this week. When I have a girl crush from 1960 informing my dressing decisions as I shop and style in 2016, I feel like I'm creating something fresh compared to the women around me. If I go aimlessly into my favorite stores with only modern-day celebrities on my mind, I feel less creative as I make selections. That's just my personal taste creeping in...the point is to find and then exhibit your own. Like all things in life, a little pre-planning and a lot of soul-searching are necessary to mastering this art!
Now please just take a second and admire Miss Seberg with me... <3 <3 <3
Less Hair, More Face
Many women sit in my chair for the first time hoping I can help them cover what they see as their flaws. They bring photos of the pretty hair and pretty faces of others, but their focus when we are looking in the mirror is on minimizing themselves. My hope is that by the end of the appointment, they think in terms of emphasis.
The second tenet of my philosophy is that hairdressing isn't really about hair.
It's about eyes.
Believe it or not, other people want to see you. They aren't looking for flaws; they are looking for integrity. They are hoping your actions and words align with your body language and your style. They are seeking your eyes to determine whether you can be trusted, and if you are going to be interesting. If your cut, color and style all accentuate your cheekbones, and if weight lines and color placement act like arrows to your eyes, it's a lot easier to appear open and approachable - and a lot easier for people to respond to you positively. If your look is unflattering or overpowers your features, what people will notice and think about is your hair, not you. Even if your hair is beautifully styled, when it overtakes your face, people will not feel fully at ease in your presence.
I recently visited "Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze" at the National Portrait Gallery. This exhibit struck me as being all about the humanizing effect of eye contact (and therefore, powerful facial framing.) I could have spent hours staring into the eyes of these celebrities because each artist captured something unique and honest about his or her subject. Stylists should design like these artists - not just appraising someone's face shape and coloring in a clinical way, but to bring out the true person.
.A hairdresser has a much different job than a painter or a photographer, though. Our canvas moves and grows and is attached to someone physically and emotionally. Such high stakes!
This is why the consultation is everything. A thorough consultation
You know what my pet peeves are in architecture? Extraneous embellishment. Shutters that have no intention of covering windows, pillars that provide no structural support, and frilly molding that overpowers a stunning view of the outside world.
People want to see you. The part of your hair that is visible, the part that has left your skin, is dead matter. Shape and enhance your hair, but don't cling to it. Definitely don't hang your femininity on it. It's really your gaze we're after.
PR at Partners hosted the PR Awards Show at State Theater in Falls Church last night. One of my guests from outside the industry said, "your company parties make mine seem like a funeral luncheon."
I love my company for hosting this event; all the artists who came together to put on a solid show; all the product lines who support our education and sponsored segments; all the winners who got recognized for their hard work throughout the year (pretty sure my store, Tysons, placed in every category - so so proud of my team); and also my lovely model Sarah for trusting me with her hair.
Sarah first sat in my chair as a color correction last year, after her poor hair had been badly over processed at another salon. Last night she was a bright and shiny example of the PR at Partners brand experience, and what a consistent experience does to a woman's look over time. PR stands for Perfect Relationships, and we teach that there are 5 main conversations stylists need to have at every visit in order to build those relationships:
1. Rebook (maintenance schedule)
2. Recreate (at-home care and the ability to recreate the look in between salon visits)
3. Reinvent (looking with fresh eyes every time, constantly learning about techniques and trends, and applying that knowledge to improve your hair and keep it current)
4. Review (actively seeking feedback and a willingness to grow from critique)
5. Referral (asking for help growing our business organically)
Hairdressing is a social art. In order to push my artistic vision into reality from behind my chair, I have to be an effective communicator in all 5 of the areas above. My canvas is a human being, so my art requires that I build trust and excitement with my client. Sarah and I truly did Rebook, Recreate, and Reinvent her hair back to health and onto the stage last night. I'm no platform artist, and my passion is real hair for real people, so I was proud to showcase a fine-hair model who could stand up next to heads filled with extensions and very thick-haired ladies, and look stunning. Sarah was a testament to the 5 R's.
It was a good night all around and a reminder of all the things I love most about my job. More than anything else, I love working with such enthusiastic, dedicated artists, who never stop learning and always make time to take others with them.
Inspiration for the work that my clients commission on a daily basis doesn't just come from hair magazines and fashion blogs. It comes from a hike in the woods; live music; city architecture; or a gallery of installations like "Wonder," on exhibit at the Renwick.
Every artist has to decide what sort of beauty he or she wants to create. For my part, there has to be an element of surprise. Profound beauty creeps up on us; it doesn't yell in our face (the latter, all high contrast and harsh lines, is the "hairdresser-y hair" we pros love to hate). Beauty feels organic, like it grew out of the environment in which we found it (whether or not it took four hours and four liters of developer to bring it to life). Beauty has a lot to do with flourishing amidst the uncertainty and inconsistency of life.
I take a couple of high-intensity technique classes every year, and that keeps me reasonably disciplined. More curiosity is sparked, however, in questioning my overall approach to design and exploring art and business ideas beyond my own industry. When a woman tells me the pixie I gave her is the best cut she's ever had, she probably isn't impressed with the way I hold my shears, the exact angle at which I point cut, or how neat my sectioning looks. These are things hairdressers care about to keep themselves organized, and also to impress other hairdressers. Becoming remarkable to the people you serve has to do with how you hear someone's desires and how you work with - not against - the canvas of their natural hair. The twining stick huts in Patrick's Dougherty's Shindig are a perfect analogy to how I work with whorls and wave patterns in executing a haircut:
Each structure is unique, an improvised response to its surroundings, as reliant on the materials at hand as the artist’s wishes: the branches tell him which way they want to bend. This give and take lends vitality to Dougherty’s work, so that walls and spires are a record of gestures and wills.
"A record of gestures and wills." Beauty has this job to do. The best hairstylists use beauty to send messages. Since our canvas is a human being, our work is about discerning and projecting her through her ideal image. That image is a beacon to the world that tells others how to address her and take her in. The most important thing I have to know about everyone who sits in my chair is this: what is your most important message, and what is your life about? Because I want it to show.
Business coach Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book last year that pretty much sums up everything you need to know about behavioral change.
If you've ever wanted to lose or adopt a habit; build stronger, smoother relationships; make more money for your business; eat cleaner; run farther; or keep your apartment tidier, then you are well aware how difficult it is to change yourself in ways that last.
Maybe you owned your failures and still struggle to get better, or maybe you threw up your hands and blamed your poor results on others or on your environment. Forces are always at work to pull us off the path we have chosen. The second we start feeling confident in our progress is the second we risk reverting to old habits. He probably isn't singing about habit change, but Tame Impala's "It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" is the song I turn to when I'm really feeling this chief human struggle - the ceaseless, near-impossible climb towards consistency that is the first step towards excellence.
There is no better microcosm for personal growth than a hair salon. Stylists have such control over their own progress, and behavioral change yields speedy and proportional results. Becoming a marathon runner is a slog. Becoming more successful as a stylist, assuming your cut and color skills are already in place, can happen very quickly. Even doing all the "right" things for a single day can produce progress, raising average indicators for financial success. Positive and negative reinforcement signals are sharp, direct and personal when you're dealing in one-on-one conversations about art that define's someone's image of herself.
Yet it's still hard to grow. Even in an environment where your actions directly impact your results, and the connection between effort and payoff doesn't involve lots of middlemen - where your income each week is 100% based on the habits you have in place and the level of passion you bring to your job - you don't necessarily meet your goals or act the way you want to act all the time.
For the last 5 years I've been intensely interested in why it's so hard to do what we want to do. My company had a formula for success long before I got here, but it doesn't necessarily matter. We all know what we should do - the conversations to have and how to have them - but the trick is doing it, and then doing it again tomorrow, and then doing it every day until it becomes part of the rhythm of our lives and we couldn't cut hair except by performing these rituals. It doesn't matter how many people prove the formula by growing quickly when the apply it, or how much time and money gets invested in teaching people how to adopt the wording, the posture, or the timing to do it right. Most of our stylists still aren't consistent in their brand experience, and our average full-time stylist across all levels of experience is only taking home $35k/year plus tips. The scariest thing is that this is good for our area. Meanwhile, those who tackle behavioral change make six figures. What gives?
Recognizing the colossal difficulty of changing one's own behavior was a start. My salon chain has three arms to its education system - cut, color and communication. I created an offshoot of the communications program that was less about interpersonal relationships and more about your relationship with yourself. I ran several iterations of a six-week course in which stylists were accountable to the group and talked about all the ways it was hard to do what they promised themselves each week. We talked numbers for the first time, and in detail. It helped, but over time that level of investment wore off, and old habits crept back when stylists stopped coming to the studio each week. So to acknowledge the long-term nature of change, I started an online club. This closed Facebook group exists to stay in touch with those who most want to change, to give them a forum to ask for support and a reason to check their own progress constantly (participants share results on a weekly basis.)
It all helps, but I've always known there's a factor I can't provide, a factor each person has to bring to the table. The big deal about Triggers is that Goldsmith names and addresses that factor. Someone who wants to grow has to really accept that change is hard; has to strongly want to change; and then has to reframe every end goal in terms of the small efforts that lead to gradual improvement. The focus has to be on what the person in question can control all by himself, and has to be renewed daily and with help from others. In Goldsmith's case, as the sort of guy who writes self-help books and coaches very successful business people, Goldsmith pays a lady to call him every night and ask him if he did his best at each of the goals he previously set for himself. He calls this ritual the Daily Questions. He recognizes that he lacks discipline and instead of getting frustrated, he got realistic. He chose a coach, and told the coach what he needed to stay on track. He didn't expect change to be easy, so he planned for a long-term siege.
The idea of personal trainers in fitness is totally standard, but there's often an aversion to personal trainers in the rest of our lives. This is why my site is called (cut+color)CULTURE. Culture is that sneaky something. Naming culture the multiplier effect of change makes the point that it is much harder to dredge up the personal discipline every day to act in ways that will get us closer to our ideal state than it is to immerse ourselves in a culture that automatically rewards the small efforts that we all know add up, over time, to greatness. If people everywhere would pay a coach to call them each night and ask them their Daily Questions, the world would be a much better place. Barring that, though...culture is the biggest tool we have to improve consistent behavior. If you can change the feel and the values and the reactions of a group of people, individual change starts to happen almost as an impulsive response. What we all desire most, all the time, is connection to others. This desire can trump a lot of the other concerns that pull us off our bandwagons. By steering a culture, you can create a more habitable environment for positive change. Self-change is hard, and it will always be hard. The right culture, though, can make everything a lot easier and a lot more fun.
I know from experience that changing culture starts with individuals who are ready to change themselves. Reading Triggers inspired me to craft my own Daily Questions exercise. Choosing my specific goals was the hard part - I tried to think about when I feel happiest at the end of a long day, and what goes into those days that doesn't go into the less-great ones. You don't have 100% control over your results on any single day, but if you focus on what you do control (your own effort), you can't help but improve eventually.
I made the following spreadsheet of questions about the behaviors that I believe most impact my business using the Numbers app on my iPad. I welcome any and all of you to poke me at any time and ask if I'm keeping up with the self-discipline of recording my answers every night! I have a chair by my bed where I plan to sit for the 30 seconds it takes to rate myself before bed.
What would your Daily Questions be?
A controversial issue for the restaurant industry has a lot of parallels for salons, as well.
Danny Meyer gave an interview at South by Southwest last month that my business partner, Mary, attended. I've been researching the restauranteur's dramatic no-tipping policy roll-out ever since, and find it fascinating. If anything, stylists could make an even stronger case for wanting to go the no-tip route, as we are only half a service industry. We also see ourselves as artists and technical professionals - and neither of those groups are usually tipped. Obviously there would need to be a major compensation restructure to make sure nobody took a drastic pay cut, but if this high-level restauranteur has found a way to address that in his world - could there be a way in ours?
This idea has the potential to elevate my profession beyond any change I've yet seen in my lifetime. Whatever your opinion, it bears consideration!
Here are two sources - the SXSW interview that brought Danny Meyer to my attention....
...and a Freakonomics radio episode that aired March 9. Thoughts??
Live interview from Rainey Street in Austin last week.
Emily Ford has been my client for about 5 years, and a client of PR at Partners for 10. Hear her perspective on what we do (hair), what she does (marketing) and how she approaches personal branding and presence.
After talking to some of the queens of self-promotion, I've made the following list of hashtags for my iPhone notepad. Up until now, I've been adding each hashtag on each photo like the Instagram dufus I am. Now, I can copy and paste my main list each time and just tailor it as needed. (Duh!)
First, a couple important notes brought up at the PR Color Director's meeting last week:
1) If you weren't aware (and as a Partner, I wasn't) that the PR at Partners homepage has a feed for photos tagged with #pratpartners, make sure this hashtag is on your master list.
2) Create a brand hashtag and get it added to your bio for your own personal feed when people are sussing you out. So many of my first time guests find me by searching our website and reading about everyone. Several have said they chose me because of my Instagram photos - people who aren't on Instagram, but saw that feed.
3) If you're late to the party for the PR Awards, have no fear. Each salon got an email describing the contest. As a slacker who kept putting that on the back burner, I plan to go back and add the appropriate tags to photos I want to use as entries. There's still time!
And now, my personal master list:
#cutcolorculture (my personal brand hashtag)
#pratpartners (makes it go to company feed!)
#behindthechair (great one to get noticed)
#shorthairdontcare (I always want to attract more shorties - usually get new likes when I remember to use this one)
#blondeshavemorefun (specialize in blondes and highlighting)
I'm not saying it's the best list ever, but it's a start. Any bright additions for me?!