The key to being an effective team leader and boss

Effective boss

With all the pressures on salon owners and managers, Hellen Ward explores how to find time to be an effective leader. 

I often talk about how hard it is to be a salon owner, and never more so than now. What with Brexit, hikes in business rates, political uncertainty, the apprenticeship levy and a challenging economy, not to mention the changing high street, it’s easy to feel demotivated.

Most areas – even Chelsea, where we are – are becoming a faceless sea of conglomerate brands that are driving out the small, independent retailer. Greedy landlords don’t help. I can see a future where every high street is an identical mix of Zara, Starbucks, Costa and O2.

As great as those brands might be, what a tragic thought if there isn’t the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker (not to mention the hair and beauty salon) to sit beside them?

Most salon owners are the core “nation of shopkeepers” that Mrs Thatcher talked about in the ’80s. But is what we bring, and our resulting footfall, being cherished? I fear not always.

Juggling your goals

It struck me recently that having a business, or indeed any position that involves management and leadership, is like playing with a Rubik’s cube. You twist and turn to get all the greens on one side, focusing only on them. But when you turn it over you realise that now all the yellows, reds and blues are mixed up. And in trying to sort them out, you’re going to have to take your eye off the greens. No wonder it’s overwhelming at times.

Either we let that swamped, negative feeling seep into our psyche and suck the joy out of our jobs, or we realise that dealing with the twists and turns actually is the job.

I’m a great believer in the power of positive thinking. If you focus on the outcome you want, not the problems you might encounter, you can only naturally make positive steps towards your goals. But to do that, we need to allow ourselves the time to be business people.

We’re notoriously bad at time management in our industry. The busiest therapist or nail tech is often the salon owner, who makes little time to undertake her key role of management.

Leadership qualities

Someone who recently came on one of my training courses admitted that she actually felt guilty marking out her column to do admin and HR work because the others might think she wasn’t pulling her weight. I asked her are you first and foremost an operator like your team members or a manager? If it’s the latter, you can’t be expected to do your job after hours. How could you possibly be effective if you did?

I went to a seminar on time management recently. The young university grad who was delivering it gave us delegates a powerful analogy: “eat the frog”. He says if there’s one thing on your plate that you hate (like Brussels sprouts or frogs) you should eat it first and save the things you like best until last.

This, he thinks, is how we should work our to-do lists. He’s a great believer in allowing 30 minutes to tackle only the frog, not worrying about the 101 other things on your list.

After that, have a break then go back to the frog, setting another 30-minute timer with a rewarding break to follow. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Hellen WardHellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London’s Sloane Square and chair of Trailblazers for the hairdressing sector