Salon team meetings. Why bother? And how do you keep them positive?

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OK – I’ll admit it.  For the first few years of owning my salon, my salon staff meetings were pretty awful.

Thing is, I had only worked in one salon previously.  And in my whole time there, I can recall only two full salon staff meetings.  They were about a year apart but had a familiar feel to them.  We’d sit in a circle, my boss would rant and shout until people cried, then we’d all get on with our day.

So when I got my own salon we didn’t have meetings at all.  Then I suspect I read a book or attended a seminar where someone said that salon staff meetings were a Good Thing To Do.

So I did.  Like a good student.  Every month we would sit in a circle.  And I’d rant and shout until people cried.  And I would wonder why team performance wasn’t improving.

So we stopped.  For years.

Why was I so afraid?

About 2 years later I thought that maybe salon staff meetings could be a Good Thing To Do after all.  I think I managed three meetings before I gave up.  Only this time, the negativity wasn’t coming from me.  It was coming from a team member – we’ll call her Heidi.

Heidi hadn’t been with us for very long. She was an apprentice and hadn’t sat through the ‘bad old days’ of team meetings, so I knew that wasn’t the reason she was so negative.

It was like a hobby for her.  She’d sit, avoiding eye contact, arms folded, scowling.  Maybe you can picture someone in your meetings like that? She hardly spoke until it was time to try and derail the meeting with a negative comment or by bringing up something controversial in the hope of causing a row.

Why bother at all

The thing is, there are a ton of benefits to regular salon staff meetings.  Most are obvious – preventing gossip by giving everyone news at the same time, a training opportunity, celebrating wins, etc.  But the big two for me are:

  • Getting help.  Salon ownership can feel lonely at times. And I’m not too proud to admit that there are occasions when I genuinely don’t know the best way to approach a challenge.  So use the resource you have!  Your team are part of one of the most creative industries in the world.  Let them loose on your business challenges and watch them put that creativity to work.
  • Sharing your vision.  Your job in a team meeting is to sell your vision of the salon business, now and for the future.  Get everyone’s buy-in on what you’re trying to achieve and all those targets, those standards and those policies and procedures will make much more sense to your team – and they’ll perform better with the context.

How do you keep your meetings positive?

So how do we stop Heidi from messing things up?  Believe it or not, the answer is as easy as a proper agenda.  Let me tell you more.

I put a piece of paper on the staff room wall asking for items that people wanted to be included on the agenda.  The positive stuff got included.   And nobody could add anything after the paper was taken down.  No ‘any other business’ or ‘does anyone have anything else they’d like to discuss’.  I was ruthless with that rule.

So the next time Heidi tried to railroad me I would shut her down straight away: “Sorry Heidi, we’re short on time – we’ll only be discussing agenda items today”.  Instant results.

What about the negative stuff?

The thing is, the quickest way to demotivate Heidi even further would be to make her feel unheard and that her opinions weren’t valid. What can we do about that?

Well, any time she brought something onto my list that I thought was going to disrupt, I took her quietly to one side and suggested that, though the matter was important, the salon staff meeting may not have been the best place to discuss it. Then I’d schedule a separate meeting with her to talk it through and bring in anyone else it directly related to.

Did it work?

Yes – in the main. After about three meetings Heidi stopped trying to bring negative matters to the meetings. It would be a wonderful end to the story if she had remained with us and become a vital member of the team. Truth is she left about 6 months after that.

But in the meantime, I had fallen in love with team meetings and really found a way to connect with my staff in the long term.

Heidi’s legacy? The pre-agenda remains to this day. Thanks Heidi!

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