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During a staff meeting in September 2016, Kellie Johnson, owner of Elan Hair Studio in Sea Girt, New Jersey, passed out a questionnaire with the names of each of her 45 team members on it and a blank space by each name. “I asked everyone to write one positive word that described each person on the list, then I collected the sheets and moved on with the meeting. Pretty soon, the team forgot all about the exercise,” she says.

But Johnson didn’t forget, in fact she had a special plan in place. Over the next few months, using her computer and Microsoft Word, she created a work of art for each team member with their name at the top and the salon name in the center surrounded by a heart created from the words that were listed to describe that person. She then printed and framed her love art as special gifts for the team at the salon’s holiday party.

The heartfelt gesture was but one way that Johnson strives to lead with love. “I frequently tell my team that they are my first focus, just as the client should be theirs,” Johnson says. “But I also want them to connect with each other and support and love one another. This was a visual reminder to each one of how the team feels about them—something they can take a little inspiration from when they need it.”

While the motivation was to generate love and respect among the team members, Johnson says it also spurs a definite trickle-down effect. “Many team members proudly posted theirs on their social feeds to share with others and I put mine in my office,” she says. “The spirit of the idea though becomes something that clients can feel.”

To keep the positive energy going, Johnson enacted a Week of Love last February. Inspired by an idea shared by Mindvalley’s Vishen Lakhiani at Serious Business 2016, she took her list of employees and assigned another team member to each one. Then she charged them to create random acts of kindness for their designated person all week long. “People went out of their way to help their person out that week, leaving candy or small gifts in their lockers or cards on their stations,” Johnson says. “For our team, it’s always about the client, the client, the client, so it was really nice to take a bit of time to focus on one another.”

Love at Elan Hair Studio is not a one-way street though. When Johnson recently took six weeks off to recover from surgery, her team welcomed her back with a tongue-in-cheek, fun-filled video where they took turns donning a curly blonde wig to portray “A Day in the Life with Kellie Johnson.” “I both cried and laughed so hard at the video,” Johnson says. “It was a bit of a roast but very eye-opening to see how many of my mannerisms they nailed.”

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