I accidentally fell into the hairdressing industry over 35 years ago, an industry I loved from day one and an industry I am still very proud to be a part of. However, all those years ago, I was struck by the hard-hearted and often unsympathetic practices of many salon owners/managers.
Because of this behaviour, staff turnover was high and salon leaders lived with the threat of people leaving. Growing up, my parents taught me that for people to give their best you had to be kind, empathetic and show respect. So I found the behaviour by salon owners/managers confusing.
When I was 20, my then boyfriend (now my husband) bought his first salon and we were thrown into salon leadership. It was not in either of our natures to be anything other than kind and to encourage. On occasions, we did doubt our leadership style; we were in the minority and were often told by other salon owners: “You’re too softyou need to get tougher”. But we could see this ruthless behaviour towards staff didn’t work and it was easy to see why!
Another aspect of salon owners/managers behaviour that we failed to comprehend was the dislike and contempt they held for other salon owners, particularly in their own neighbourhood.
They saw them as a threat and treated them so.
To us, this seemed bizarre because being openly disrespectful to other salons didn’t reflect badly on the other salons, but on them. They were doing far more harm to their own business, in turn, making the other salon look holier than thou!
So, we continued in the way that felt right to us. We have had to make some tough team decisions and to do this we had to grow a backbone: a backbone that demonstrated to our team that our kindness was not to be manipulated or exploited.
Leading with kindness is still seen as a weakness by some, but by others it is now being recognised as a great leadership strength. It is a big part of what Mary Portas calls ‘the kindness economy’.
She explains, “It’s going to be about care, respect, and understanding the implications of what we are doing.” Thankfully, there are now many shining examples of salon leaders who are lifting others as they climb, who lead with empathy, truth, authenticity, respect and empower those around them to achieve their dreams. They have built strong salon cultures which is imperative to their salon’s success, where nobody wants to leave.
They are a fine example of great salon leadership.
But all too often, we still hear stories of individuals, not just assistants but stylists too, being treated unfairly. As an industry, we cannot and should not ignore it. We must continue to discuss, inform and educate. Let’s collectively make #kindnessinhairdressing a hot topic.
POLLY’S #KINDNESSINHAIRDRESSING TOP TIPS
1 It takes a strong and thoughtful person to lead consciously.
2 Instead of trying to ‘get’ the best from your employees, inspire employees to ‘give’ their best.
3 The emotional health and happiness of your individual team members is paramount. It leads to increased loyalty, engagement and service, resulting in bigger growth for the salon.
Polly Rose has been in the industry for 35 years and has always led with kindess, she now runs Grace Salon Leadership.