The more you put your real self out there, the more it hurts if people don't agree or appreciate your ideas and efforts. Clients see red where I see brown; break room chatter slams an attempt to help my team; people say they had expected something different from their experience with a stylist or assistant at my store; silence greets my attempt to reach out.
Rejection always stings. Some people deal with it by closing themselves off, but then they lose the valuable piece in every review, the piece that gives hints on how to become better. I want to use critiques as input, but not let them derail me. Yet I'm hypersensitive, define myself by my work and treat every little thing I put out into the world as a creative little piece of my soul - whether managing, hair, or ideas. My preferred reaction to rejection used to be buttoning my emotional trench coat up to the sky and running away, never to be heard from again. Not an approach that is easily available when you are responsible for over 300 clients and 30 employees!
So how does someone like me thrive in a hair salon? I have developed a slippery outer surface.
If you get inside that surface, things are really sticky and everything you say matters to me intensely. Only a few people who really count get all the way inside. They comprise my personal network of supporters who may judge me the hardest, but do so out of love and a desire to help me grow. When someone proves their worth as a mentor and earns my core trust, they get let inside.
What keeps me from crumpling into a ball of despair, and often, is that when someone else flings a complaint at me, I let it slip right off my slick exterior and dissolve into 2 buckets beneath me labeled "FACTS" and "FEELINGS". That is, my first step is to just silence my own feelings and encourage the other party to let it out. Once it's fully out, I isolate the facts from what the other person feels, and analyze both separately. I force myself to try to imagine why they may feel the way they do even if I disagree about the facts. I do all of this before allowing myself to feel my reaction, but when I feel it, I let myself feel it 100% - hopefully only in my own head. Finally, I decide how to express my emotional reaction. This depends heavily on whether I think the person complaining actually wants to make things better, or wants to pull me down. It also depends on whether I think they are honest. (Yes, we do get people who just want every haircut to be free, and someone recently tried to return a 3-year-old hair product!)
It's by having these standards that I've been able to build up a network of supporters who pick me back up on the days where my process just isn't enough to stave off doubt or disappointment. What I want most for myself and everyone I come into contact with is just this: that we will keep putting our true selves out there, even though it's harder than how most people live, and even though it means we will step on lots of toes. I'm not trying to be cool and I'm not trying to be right. I'm trying to keep trying.
And not just professionally. My dad wrote me the following in an email this week, when I was talking about taking on a new (exciting) risk in my personal life. I expected critique, but instead got the reassurance I most needed:
"We only get one life. I would rather go for what seems right and makes sense than overly protect myself and miss out. Knowing you can and will bounce back (and knowing you have lots of support) makes leaning forward a better bet in my opinion than missing out."
Leaning forward and sharing your creativity will earn you criticism. I promise. How you deal with that criticism will make or break you. It will give you greater traction or it will make you trip.
Developing emotional armor in all the right places ~ that's my favorite thing about getting older.
"Who we are is how we lead....You cannot take people professionally where you are not willing to go personally."
- Brene Brown on the Being Boss Podcast
I'm going to take Brene's advice. My Christmas list this year will be a list of those whose opinions matter. Assemble your team - show up - rise strong. Happy Thanksgiving!
Literally and figuratively in my case - I'm spending the first quarter of 2015 getting carpal tunnel surgery in both wrists while also going out on a limb to move my chair, lead a new team and take on a new position. As Eleanor Roosevelt said,
You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
I know I'm on the right track when something in me says, "this is overwhelming, I can't quite see how I'll get there." I always feel this way right before I surprise myself.
Are you going out on any limbs this year? If you want to be a master of anything, you are. Mastery starts with taking risks, and experiencing the necessary vulnerability for creativity and ownership. The confidence you gain from going beyond your comfort zone, letting yourself be seen and owning the outcomes helps you get to a place of resilience - it builds the strength to learn from your mistakes as well as external challenges. The people who spend their lives mastering something are willing to go through this process again and again, and it's a process they get better at tackling. It hurts so much the first time you really push yourself. But that rush towards the next level can become something you crave.
Wishing you an exciting, kickass year of going beyond your own expectations. Start by taking on the thing you don't quite think you can do. Because if the path before you is clear and straight, you picked one boring path! It's the muddy, thorny, twisty ones that make us grow.
Here is what I'd like you to do.
So many people in my company have said they feel their success is limited by their personalities, that they are quiet and thoughtful and definitely not good salesmen so they can't own their space and their relationships with their clients like the more stereotypical diva hairdressers among us. But when I look around the shops I visit, the reality does not support their fears. Some introverts have leveraged their strengths and are successful precisely because they don't come on too strong.
Quiet does not equal meek. In fact, it can convey serious presence and in a noisy world may stand out as refreshing if accompanied by a deep sense of self. We need to start coaching individuals from the beginning that there are many ways to skin a cat - introverts and extroverts need different ways to approach conversations with guests and different ways to approach marketing themselves.
This TED talk explains why introverts are often more creative and trusted leaders, despite the culture of personality that exclusively values loud, social types. Introverted means you need to recharge by being alone because you are hypersensitive to external stimuli - whereas extroverts are less sensitive and therefore need far more stimuli to feel "on." Susan Cain offers a compelling case for structuring our work groups to better balance introverted and extroverted strengths.
Old Town re-launched their coaching program this morning with a bright and early meeting. Coaches Rachel and Donn hold contests with drawings. Any stylists who improves his or her own numbers receives a ticket and and has a chance to win. Can't wait to see where this team goes over the next year!
The down and dirty, as-of-today situation - and yes I realize those sparkly letters are peeling, and after a year and a half we need to replace our fading markers. But a part of me hates to do it because this is the Velveteen Rabbit of whiteboards! It represents a truly remarkable year. Here's what we do:
1. Cycle through 3 weekly contests: 1) Hit all 3 R's (Rebook - % clients who book before leaving salon, Reinvent - average services per client, Recreate - average products per client), 2) Highest Recreate, 3) Biggest % increase in service sales over your own 3-month average.
2. Award the winner a gift card each week, remind other coaches and managers to high five them, and write name of winner in the back on whiteboard.
3. Print MA245s every morning and coach writes comments, reminders and encouragement on everyone's copies before placing on stations. It's the first thing each stylist sees when they come in. You hear them mumbling to themselves about it and making excuses or bragging. :)
4. Random, public and enthusiastic high fives when people go beyond their comfort zones and do something awesome: sparkly balloons, drawing stars on someone's mirror, hugs, yelling, etc. The occasional congratulatory text doesn't hurt to build comraderie either, especially if there's a sexy wink involved (Hero!)
5. Salon meeting or cocktail hour every 3 months, as a casual open forum to discuss direction of program. Coaches meet once/month to discuss challenges and support each other.
I can think of a million more elegant setups, and they would probably all work just as well, but this is what evolved in our store. This simple game plan helped the average Oakton stylist increase weekly service sales by $300/week in the first year of our coaching program.
I believe the key factors that led to our growth were:
1. The coaches met regularly amongst themselves and grew their relationships with each other first. We provided a unified front and could all influence and reach different stylists. One person could not have changed the climate. It started with growing our leadership team and committing to each others' growth.
2. The coaches were committed to consistently holding weekly contests and rewarding winners - we have been late countless weeks but we have yet to miss a week, no matter how busy we get.
3. Anyone who asked for help was showered with attention and support, while the attitude of anyone who wanted no part of the program was politely ignored. Low hanging fruit first!
4. There was a head coach who took responsibility for organizing meetings and holding the other coaches accountable, and who regularly checked the whole shop's progress and presented it to the rest of the team. It takes a team to change culture, or do anything important. It also takes a leader who is 100% committed to keeping her team focused. Every team needs an organizer and clear roles and responsibilities for all members to get things done and move towards a goal.
5. We were ruthlessly open about where everyone stood along the way - we posted everyone's R's each day and made charts and graphs showing who was growing quickly (and not growing), and everyone knows where our Partner keeps the weekly service sales report, and a lot of us check it! This allowed everyone to see the full range of what was possible (someone had almost a $1000/week increase in 2014, while one stylist went down) and started the process of associating certain habits and attitudes with progress. The more openly we talked about money and the R's the more we came together - because it was no longer a mystery why some people grew faster. Any jealousy, competition or negativity melted away when we showed that there was a path open to everyone and IF/WHEN you want to go down it, we all have your back.
I'll be going around to each PR @ Partners location after bringing their head coaches into our company-wide team and documenting 13 other approaches. I can't wait to see how everyone improves on our process!