When Susan deGrandpré, author of Common- Sense Workplace Mentoring, was getting her hair cut at one of the Acapello Salons & Spas in southern Maine, she wasn’t planning on studying the organizational structure of the salon. But the consultant soon found herself observing the salon’s owner June Juliano and how she used delegating and mentoring as strategies to grow the company. “Her business remains entrepreneurial even as it expands thanks to her creativity in developing her employees,” says deGrandpré. “June is an industry expert, a technical expert and a business expert. With the growth of her business, she realized that she cannot be the only expert. It made sense to her to mentor her employees to realize their various potentials.”

Workplace Mentoring

Until recently, Juliano had managers at her three Acapello locations, as well as her Men’s Room salon, but felt the role seemed too heavy for people who gravitate toward artistry and guest service. So she transformed the leadership role to one of “salon coach.” Individuals applied for the coach jobs, and were carefully selected according to their strengths and aspirations. “The goal is to get everyone to where they want to be,” says Juliano. “I partner with people who want to be successful.”

Building a Coach

Learning to be an Acapello coach is a rigorous process. Their job is to oversee their individual locations, learn the business, understand how benchmarks affect the business, and take responsibility for reaching goals. They do not do bookkeeping, although understanding productivity goals numerically is critical. They then coach and lead the salon’s staff to achieve these goals. Coaches must become as knowledgeable and skilled as Juliano in delivering world-class customer service, creating corresponding goals, and leading the staff members to excel ever-shifting guest expectations. Juliano has equated the role to “super cheerleader.”

“The coaches’ team meets once a month as a group,” says deGrandpré. “They plan new projects, report back on prior projects and observe each other’s work. June designs project challenges to build on the coaches’ strengths and at the same time pull them beyond comfort.”

Juliano roots every class session in Acapello’s vision and mission, and how to live them. “Our mission at Acapello is to explore our every gift and talent, never wasting our potential to bring goodness, beauty, laughter and light to our guest and the world around us,” she shares.

One significant project has been for each coach to choose an aspiration, set corresponding goals, identify a mentor, and talk with the mentor in weekly sessions. One coach chose a locally prominent restaurateur as a mentor, another selected her father who is successful in real estate, one coach selected the head of Aveda esthetics, another asked Juliano, and the fi fth coach chose a peer who has achieved every goal she set for herself.

Through the process, the coaches shared their learning with each other, and built alliances with their mentors, which benefit not only themselves, but the business in general. They learned to think critically and give feedback. In fact, the coaches recently participated in their own version of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover when they swapped salons for a week, reporting back to each other the areas they observed that could use improvement.

“They have to learn to be fair, listen, look for opportunities versus problems and find solutions. They are learning to delegate,” says Juliano. They are such experts that they often feel it’s easier to do it themselves. But, others must have the chance to develop, too. I’m teaching them leadership skills.”

The Mentoring Steps

By definition there is no “cookie-cutter” approach to mentoring. Expert deGrandpré has worked with many different types and sizes of businesses that have evolved their mentoring processes according to the organization’s and learners’ needs. “The mentoring content is significantly different from each other. I have discovered, though, that all of these businesses have fundamental components of mentoring in common. These six steps must be present to have a true workplace mentoring system and, clearly, June’s delegating and mentoring system encompasses each,” she says. Following are the steps as outlined by deGrandpré:

1. Evaluate people’s strengths, needs and aspirations individually. We learn uniquely. No two people bring exactly the same qualities to a job. The development process is much more effective and efficient when it is shaped to the individual.

2. Create opportunities to learn on the job. We learn by doing. Use the workplace as the classroom.

3. Define teaching and learning roles. We learn with clear expectations. Set clear goals and responsibilities for the mentoring process, including content and pace. Review and revise continually to reflect progress.

4. Give direct feedback. We learn with encouragement. Mentoring is a two-way process. Both people need to exchange feedback, with emphasis on what is working well.

5. Measure learning. We learn when we build on success. Set incremental measurements, both formal and informal, to give the mentee and mentor frequent, meaningful marks of success.

6. Reward the team effort. We learn when we feel energized. Imbed a culture of mentoring by recognizing mentee and mentor efforts and successes. Make it rewarding and fun to teach and learn.

Getting Started

How can a salon owner establish his or her own mentor program? “Just the way June did,” says deGrandpré. “Select one person with high potential. Delegate work that will develop that potential into high performance. Mentor him or her, using the six steps of a workplace mentoring system. Watch the strengths multiply. Then ask that person to mentor someone else. Give yourself and the new mentor the training needed to mentor skillfully. Watch your workplace mentoring system grow and strengthen, and with it, your business.”


Susan deGrandpré, MS Ed, is owner of Collaboration Consulting, a consultant, speaker, trainer and mentor to mentors. In addition to publishing numerous articles, she penned the book Common-Sense Workplace Mentoring, a do-it-yourself system for strengthening businesses one person at a time. CLICK HERE to read deGrandpré’s entire case study of Acapello Salons.

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