Best-selling author and researcher Marcus Buckingham helps companies unlock their employees'...
Best-selling author and researcher Marcus Buckingham helps companies unlock their employees' potential by focusing on their individual strengths.

Best-selling author, researcher and speaker Marcus Buckingham has made a career of studying what makes world-class managers tick, and sharing his findings with the world. His books and workshops focus on helping businesses discover the untapped potential of their workforce by focusing on people’s unique personal strengths.

At Serious Business 2015, which will be held in New Orleans, January 18-19, Buckingham will show salon owners how to get the best from their team members. But first, he chatted with SALON TODAY’s Stacey Soble about the value of focusing on strengths and the feedback a salon should seek:

SALON TODAY: You strongly believe focusing on an employee’s strengths rather than trying to improve weaknesses is the key to a company’s efficiency and growth. What advice would you offer a salon owner who wants to implement your “strengths revolution?”

Buckingham: “From an employee’s standpoint, the most important condition on a high-performing team is their answer to the question, ‘At work, do I have a chance to do something at my best every day?’ More important than money, is recognition, growth, and learning. Do you know ‘where’ your people are at their best? And by ‘where,’ I mean their state or environment.

“Salon owners who have those conversations with their teams, they have to be really inquisitive about when team members are at their best. Those who don’t end up with more turnover, worse morale, more absenteeism and more theft. Do they like working with a certain kind of client? Do they like a day packed with appointments or prefer spending more time with each client? Are they drawn to a specific technical skill? Have they shown an interest in being a team leader? If you’re going to play chess, you have to know how the pieces move. Too many salon owners are playing checkers with chess pieces.”

SALON TODAY: When implementing the strengths-first program, what type of feedback should a salon owner anticipate from her employees?

Buckingham: “The most common things a salon owner can expect to hear are, ‘I don’t know what my strengths are, and what can I do with them anyway?’ First off, a strength isn’t what you’re good at, a strength is what makes you feel strong. To think through how to leverage strengths at work, ask employees to take a pad of paper around with them for a week. Draw a line down the center and at the top of the left-hand column write ‘Love’ and at the top of the right-hand column, write ‘Loathe.’ Tell them that any time they are drawn to an activity, or time speeds up when they are doing a task, or they want to do a task again, put it in the Love column. If they opposite happens, and they find themselves procrastinating, time slows down and five minutes seems an hour, or they finish it and feel empty, put it in the Loathe column. Then have a chat about what they’ve discovered. Together, you can think about how to migrate their job over time to areas where they have real strengths.”

SALON TODAY: You have done a lot of research on the “best of” various industries—everything from maids to CEOs, asking them specific questions to get to the heart of why they are so good at their jobs. What questions would you ask the salon industry’s best owners to determine why they are so successful?

Buckingham: “I would ask, ‘Where do you spend your most time--with your best people or your struggling people? What business do you think you’re in? What systems have you put in place that have allowed you to be effective? What do you do to put yourself in your clients’ shoes? When you are alone late at night, what do you think about? What is your source of new ideas? How do you know what excellence is in your business?’”

SALON TODAY: You’ve written articles on the topic of the decline of women’s happiness. The salon industry is made up primarily of women. What is one thing these women—in particular those who own their own salon—can do to maintain happiness and satisfaction in their jobs and home life?

Buckingham: “The funny thing about studying people who are happy and successful--they don’t juggle nor do they strive for balance. When you learn how to juggle, you don’t learn how to catch, you learn how to throw. The key is to get it out of your hands as fast as you can. Balance is another tricky thing. It’s impossible to strive for, and it’s not satisfying even when you get it because you’re always worrying about going off balance. The happiest, most successful people learn how to catch and cradle the moments that strengthen them, whether those are moments with a coworker, a client, or a family member. Everyone has different fuel—different activities and moments that are precious and invigorating to you. What are the moments that fill your cup? If you don’t know, no one else does.”

For more information about Serious Business 2015: Naked, or to purchase tickets, visit

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