Management Practices

Culture Corner: Clearly Focused

Stacey Soble | January 26, 2016 | 10:48 AM
Oliver Steinnagel, co-owner of Oliver's Hair Salon in Overland Park, Kansas.

After reading several great business books like Jim Collins’ From Good to Great over the past year, Oliver Steinnagel decided he needed to spend some quality time with his staff members. Steinnagel who owns Oliver’s Hair Salon in Overland Park, Kansas, with his wife Wendy, starting taking three employees at a time and hosting focus groups.

For each session, Steinnagel would hand select the three employees, bring in lunch and meet behind the closed door of his office. Ultimately during the session, the group would review the finer points in the salon’s client service cycle, including the greeting and consultation, shampoo and treatment, the service itself, pre-booking and product education, and escorting them to the front and closing. But, Steinnagel purposefully started each session with time to explore the feelings of each participant.

“I’d start by asking each of them, ‘Why did you choose Oliver’s for the landing spot for your career?’ and ‘Tell me who you are as a person,’” Steinnagel says. “I’d give them 20 minutes to think about it and write down some notes, then I’d have each one share.’”

Ultimately, that sharing would lead to other questions, encouraging the employees to share their favorite experiences over the past few years, their biggest challenges and their greatest successes.  “They shared things I never knew. One stylist’s mother passed away and other employees brought dinner to her house,” Steinnagel says. “Another was upset about a confrontation she had five years ago with two employees who no longer worked here – but she still needed to get it off her chest.”

When Steinnagel ran across issues where employees were harboring resentments against other employees, he coached them on how to have a fierce conversation with the colleague about the issue and told them he’d give them 30 days and he’d follow-up to see if they did so.

“During the group focus sessions, we laughed and we cried, and it left others in the salon wondering what was going on and eager to have their own session,” Steinnagel says. “But by having each person share his or her own personal story, it illustrated to the team the importance of finding out their clients’ stories.”

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