Makarios Consulting Blog

Leadership Lessons from the Hair Salon – Part I

I am amazed at the number of leadership lessons I run into while I am getting my monthly hair cut, of all places! Visits to the local hair salon have produced wonderful examples of how leaders should and should not behave as they attempt to get the most out of their people.

During a recent visit, my stylist informed me that she had resigned her position as Assistant Manager of the store. When I inquired as to why, she stated, “It is no longer worth the hassle. I can make almost as much cutting hair and I have far less aggravation.” Deeper probing into her “aggravation” led to some very interesting leadership lessons.

It seems my stylist’s District Manager is leadership-challenged when it comes to motivating her employees. According to my stylist, her District Manager has not once in three years given her recognition for all of her hard work in taking that particular store to number one in total revenue and profit in the district! Not a “Thank you,” not a “Good job!” Not even an “Atta Girl!” Nothing. No recognition for a job well done.

This inability/unwillingness to recognize the performance of their people is a tragic and terrible mistake that many leaders make. Your people desire recognition for their work! For many, this recognition is more valuable than money. Folks have a need to know that their work is making a contribution, that what they do matters to the organization and to you as their leader.

There are two (lame) excuses I hear as a leadership trainer and coach for why leaders do not give recognition for a job well done. First, I continually hear, “I don’t have time.” Really? How long does it take to tell one of your  team members who has performed well that s/he has done a great job on a recent task or project? I’ll give you a rough estimate based on my experience. In a recent training session I offered positive reinforcing feedback to a member of the class while another participant timed me as I did so. Guess how long it took me to give a descriptive feedback statement, state the benefit of the person’s behavior, and state how it made me feel as the facilitator?  Go ahead. Guess how long that process took. 18 seconds… 18 seconds! You don’t have 18 seconds to affirm your people for a job well done, to make them feel valued, to reinforce productive behavior so that it happens again and again? How did you ever get to be a leader if you don’t have 18 seconds to make an investment that has an astronomical return? Give me a break, you don’t have time. As they say in Mississippi, “That dog won’t hunt!”

The second lame excuse I get goes something like this, “Why should I praise my people for doing their job? Their paycheck is praise enough!” In the recent bad economy, such Neanderthals have added this chaser, “They’re lucky they have a job!” Really? For a great number of your people, a paycheck is not a primary motivator. Abraham Maslow discovered that 60 years ago and study after study has confirmed his research in the intervening decades. And if you feel “They’re lucky they have a job”, guess where your recognition-starved employees will go when the economy recovers? Right out the door and down the street to the welcoming arms of your competitor!  Perhaps if you lose enough high performers you will change your deficient philosophy and start praising your employees when they perform well.

So Leadership Lesson Number One from the Hair Salon: Recognize your people for a job well done…start today and do it often. No excuses.

© 2010 Makarios Consulting, LLC


  1. Loved it! The “lucky they have a job” mantra is alive and well at my place. Since union negotiations have just been agreed upon this saying has come up when discussing employee attitude and grievances. Going to print this out and give it to the other managers and executive director at our next meeting. Looking forward to the next installment! Non-profit is not a very lucrative career choice and when you have management that continually shows disdain and lack of respect for the employees, morale takes a dive. We have guests speakers for our annual employee “In-Service” day at the beginning of each school year. Most are motivational….few have succeeded.

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